In the District 4 Council race incumbent Greg Casar faces two opponents. One, environmental engineer Louis Herrin III, ran for the seat in 2014 and 2016, topping out at 16% in 2016. Casar’s second opponent, Ramesses II Setepenre is a political newcomer.
On his campaign website Casar cites as accomplishments: leadership in passing the biggest affordable housing bond issue in the City’s history; banning the use of chokeholds by Austin police, ending “all arrests for personal possession of marijuana;” and having “passed the first Paid Sick Leave policy in the South.” Casar touts the “Paid Sick Leave” policy twice on his website, but does not mention that no one has received sick leave as a result of this policy — because it has been blocked by Texas courts, an outcome many warned about at the time the measure was brought forward.
Casar was indeed, however, a leader in the affordable housing bonds and in banning chokeholds. Casar is running again, explains his website, “to heal our community from the effects of COVID, to transform our system of public safety, to end racial discrimination in policing and prioritize low-income communities, and to tackle our mobility and affordability challenges.” (The image at the top of this article is from Casar’s campaign website.)
With the housing bonds and banning police chokeholds alone, Casar would seem to merit what the American-Statesman editorial board wrote about him, “The council’s leading urban progressive has made Austin better.” The editorial board though added, “At times, we wish Casar’s good intentions were matched by better planning. Consider his efforts to end the homeless camping ban, pass a paid sick leave ordinance (later struck down in court), and cut Austin police funding this year to invest in other priorities, such as mental health services and a family violence shelter. Casar was bound to face opposition. But he could have been more effective if he had meaningful discussions with critics and clearer communication with the public.”
The Statesman didn’t mention what could be described as the Council Member’s proclivity for putting personal publicity ahead of the overall cause, and sometimes the good of the City. The most glaring example there, was, as mentioned before in these pages, his tweet and email to supporters announcing: ““We won: We did it!! Austin City Council just reduced [emphasis added] APD’s budget by over $100 million and reinvested resources into our community’s safety and well-being.” Actually the Council had cut $21 million from the APD budget and put a much larger chunk, $129 million into “transition” funds. That $129 million pays for functions such as 911, forensics, victims services the police monitor’s office and more. During the next six months the Council and staff will explore whether these functions should remain under APD or be transferred elsewhere.
Casar, who issued his tweet after preliminary votes on the police budget, but before the actual budget even passed, left his colleagues — including the others running for reelection and particularly his faithful ally Mayor Steve Adler — in the position of explaining that the Council had not actually “reduced APD’s budget by over $100 million.” His colleagues though were busy on the dais working through the rest of the budget. In the meantime, Governor Greg Abbott quickly jumped into the fray — before Adler and some Council Members could start explaining. Abbott vowed that the Texas Legislature would get involved in the issue when they arrive in January. The Governor later floated specific proposals to prevent cities who “defund” the police from annexing and for the Texas Department of Public Safety to take over operation of the Austin Police Department (APD).
Another issue the Statesman did not mention is the Land Development Code (LDC) rewrite. There, like on so many other issues, Casar was a Council leader. During many of the LDC deliberations it was clear that he was the most influential in deciding which amendments got passed and which didn’t. Casar was a member of the Council pro-LDC majority on that issue.
Louis Herrin III
Louis Herrin III, in answers to the Austin Independent candidate questionnaire, says his top three priorities are:
- “Crime, I am for refunding the police, will need to be adding officers not reducing their numbers. . .
- Homelessness, we need to repealed the open camping ordinance,
- A complete independent city Audit of all their program and constructions project.”
Herrin adds, “This council plays to special interest groups, it is not looking for the health, safety, and welfare of the common citizens in Austin.”
So Herrin’s stance on the police budget and the camping ban are virtually the opposite of Casar’s. Unlike the Fight for Austin PAC, which has endorsed him, Herrin goes into more detail regarding his views and proposals on the homeless: “For the homeless, who want to better themselves and put skin in the game, I am for working with organizations like Mobile Loaves & Fishes to help people get back on their feet and with local businesses to help train them with a job skill and help them find a job. The ones with mental health problems, we need to be working with the state to help solve these problems. The ones who have drug and/or alcohol problems and they want to kick the habit, we need to set up programs like they have in San Antonio. For the ones who want to live off the grid, they need to go somewhere but not Austin. I am willing to help people who want to help themselves, but not the one who are looking for a free handout.”
Herrin also offers a contrast to Casar on the LDC. He opposes transition zones — as in the LDC supported by the Council majority. And on protest and notice rights Herrin writes that he is “on the side of the citizens suing the city on the propose code.” He further explains that he supports updating the code and trying to make it less onerous for citizens to obtain building permits, then concludes, “The part of the Code I oppose is the whole sale reclassification of all of the single family properties,” adding, “this would destroy neighborhoods.”
Ramesses II Setepenre
Ramesses II Setepenre (photo not available) does not appear to have a campaign website and did not respond to the Austin Independent candidate questionnaire. In a KUT-Austin Monitor forum, he explained his platform and his reason for running, “I’m a self funded gay eco socialist. I’m pro black, brown, LGBTQIA, women’s rights, indigenous rights, health care for all, college for all. . . abolishing police unions and qualified immunity, getting money out of politics, publicly funded campaigns, enacting ranked choice voting, a Green New Deal and all things progressive overall.”
He said the primary reason he is running is that for two years Casar failed to respond to his emails or social media, “has failed thus to represent me.”
For more on the District 4 race see the Independent’s candidate questionnaire. In this race neither Casar nor Setepenre responded.
Also please remember that journalism costs money. Please consider subscribing or donating. Funds will go primarily toward expanding the Independent’s reach, web redesign, and paying photographers and artists.
To receive notification when the Austin Independent posts stories, to subscribe, or to write to the editor please send us an email under Contact on the home page,or click here.
To go to the Austin Independent home page click here.
The Austin Independent, a publication of The Austin Independent, LLC
All Rights Reserved