David Chincanchan

David Chincanchan

Please list and describe your top three priorities.

The pandemic has laid bare some of the worst disparities in our community, including lack of access to quality healthcare in Southeast Austin. “Pre-existing conditions” like housing instability, food insecurity, and lack of economic opportunity allowed the pandemic to wreak havoc in our community, especially in our District 2 neighborhoods where so many of our neighbors serve as frontline workers and risk exposure to the virus with little choice, protection, or compensation. We must address these injustices and build real community resilience. In addition to addressing the most immediate public health challenges – three of my top priority issues are:

  1. Access to Safe, Healthy, and Affordable Housing: As our City continues to grow and the cost of living rises, our focus is on preserving and creating more affordable housing opportunities.
  2. Access to Frequent, Reliable, and Affordable Public Transit: After housing and childcare, transportation is the next highest expense for families. Access to reliable public transportation that provides access to schools, employment centers, grocery stores, and health and childcare services is a matter of social justice.
  3. Access to Quality Education and Economic Opportunity: As we take on the housing and transportation crisis, we must also work to provide more support and opportunities for working families in our community including access to affordable high-quality childcare and higher education, career training programs, and job opportunities with living wages, good benefits, and worker protections.

If you are running in an open seat please discuss your priorities and why you think voters should pick you over your opponents.

I am running to serve District 2 on the City Council to bring long-overdue services and infrastructure improvements to Southeast Austin, to create more educational and economic opportunities for our working families and small business owners, and to do all I can to improve the quality of life for all Austinites. And, with my depth of experience in city policymaking and coalition-building, I believe I am the best-equipped candidate to make real progress.

Despite being historically underserved and underrepresented, the Southeast Austin community I was raised in has given me so much. Since my time as a first-generation college student, I have worked to meaningfully give back to my community and, through my work in public service, am dedicated to creating more opportunities for families in Austin who still face enormous challenges. 

Serving in this position would allow me to continue that work in an even more impactful way. I’m running for Austin City Council because I believe that everyone, regardless of where we come from, deserves to be treated fairly and to be afforded the opportunity to pursue their dreams and achieve their potential. I’m running to help build a community where every family has access to safe, decent, and affordable housing, quality healthcare, childcare, and education, reliable transportation, and good jobs that pay living wages. I’m running because as a lifelong resident of District 2, I know we deserve to have an effective representative who understands and cares about our community.

My parents immigrated from Mexico to seek a better life for our family and laid down roots in Dove Springs, a working-class neighborhood in the heart of Southeast Austin. This is the community I have known and loved my entire life – long before it was called District 2 – and it is where I still live today. This lifelong connection has given me unique insight into our District 2 community, and will allow me to effectively represent our values and needs at City Hall.

In addition, my years of experience in city policymaking and campaigning have prepared me to be an effective advocate for continuing Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza’s work to address the decades of institutional neglect our District 2 community has faced. I have spent my entire professional career in public service, policymaking, and campaigns, including working as a campaign staffer for Congressman Lloyd Doggett, a Deputy Campaign Manager for the single largest transportation bond package in Austin’s history, and as a Campaign Manager and Chief of Staff for an Austin City Council Member.

These experiences have allowed me to build strong relationships with many of the advocates, stakeholders, and community leaders active in city policymaking, and have helped me develop strong legislative and policymaking skills – all of which I will use to hit the ground running if allowed the opportunity to serve our community on the Austin City Council.

In short, I have a deep personal connection to the district as well as the conviction and values needed to push for progress, the trust and relationships needed to build strong coalitions, and the experience needed to serve as an effective and fierce advocate for our community.

Please discuss your philosophy of a Council Members’ role and responsibility when it comes to ensuring the provision of basic City services to citizens.

We must be good stewards of tax-payer dollars and recognize that our budget puts our values into action. We have limited resources to allocate to many different, important city services, and the way we decide to allocate those resources indicates our priorities as a community. 

As a former Chief of Staff to an Austin City Council Member, I have worked on multiple city budgets, which has granted me with a depth of experience that will be invaluable when facing the difficult decisions that will accompany next year’s budgeting process. These past processes have taught me that one of the most important skills to bring to budget deliberations is knowing where to look and which questions to ask to ensure we are optimizing the use of our limited resources.

In looking to balance our budgets, I will focus on maintaining the city’s ability to provide the essential services our community expects from its local government, including on public health and safety – as well as ensuring that we are continuing to support our most vulnerable families through services that are essential to their daily lives, such as childcare, food access, and more. I will pursue this through a data-driven approach that identifies our budget’s highest-need services and highest-need communities and will prioritize those accordingly through an equity lens. And I will work to do this with robust community input by working to implement more participatory budget processes and working to proactively engage and empower community members who have historically been underrepresented.

How would you have voted on the police budget that the Council approved in August? If you did vote for it, or would have, please explain your reasoning.  If you would have taken a different approach please explain.

I have publicly and vocally supported reallocating funding from the Austin Police Department to serve other community needs in ways that better advance the safety of our community, such as investments in our housing and public health services and infrastructure. Our community has faced decades of institutional neglect, which has resulted in deep injustices and disparities as it relates to basic services and infrastructure like housing, public transportation, food security, and access to healthcare and education. But there are few places, if any, where those injustices are more visceral and stark than in instances of police violence directed at our community. 

Moreover, I have called for far-reaching structural change to the Austin Police Department and our public safety institutions, including efforts to balance our investment toward services that can yield better outcomes for all of our residents, especially communities of color and other underserved communities, and also better align with our community’s values. 

Currently, police officers are asked to respond to a wide range of calls for assistance and to perform functions for which they do not have adequate training. Our community would be better served by having other trained professionals respond to non-emergency calls in instances in which their skill sets are more appropriate.

A recent Austin Office of Police Oversight report showed that in 2018, the majority of Austin’s officer-involved shootings occurred in District 2, and the victims were primarily Latino men – men who look like me. For that reason and many more, our commitment to ending police violence is not just theoretical, it is deeply personal. We launched our campaign to do all we can to better the lives of working families, to ensure our community has a voice when decisions that impact our lives are made, and to help create an Austin for all – where every single family has the opportunity to pursue their dreams and achieve their full potential. We need to bring an end to police violence to accomplish those goals.

This mistrust and fear between the Black community and APD comes from a very real place and it’s the result of a system rooted in racism. I myself have experienced racial profiling and have been arrested for documenting excessive use of force (though not in Austin). Those charges were dropped for what the prosecutor called “lack of evidence,” but I recognize that if I were Black I may not have even had the opportunity to walk away from the situation, yet alone have access to due process to fight the case.

In order to make the kind of changes that our institutions meant to uphold justice require, we need to build public trust. In order to build public trust, we need to have real measures of accountability. And in order to have real accountability we need to make sure that the voices of our most impacted communities are included. That all needs to be underpinned by strong civilian oversight and public safety leaders who actually understand that their role is to work in partnership with the community for progress and accountability.

We have continued to see deep, tragic disparities in policing outcomes – and I believe we will continue to see such disparities until we restructure the way our public safety services are managed and institute training programs supported by a healthier departmental culture. I’ve worked on past efforts to change the police contract to include improvements to transparency on reprimands. I also believe that these improvements, however meaningful, have not gone far enough – and look forward to pressing for reforms that can ensure a more transparent and accountable police force.

For years, the city deployed police instead of public health officials – providing tickets instead of treatment – as its default response to calls involving people experiencing homelessness. Rather than providing the support and stability needed to better address the root causes of homelessness, the city adopted laws that criminalized it and pushed people farther out to the margins of our society.

Criminalizing those in need of assistance, care, and treatment is cruel and does not serve our community or make us any safer. As we continue to find solutions that re-imagine public safety this is an area we must prioritize. We need well-equipped, trained professionals responding to calls for assistance that involve individuals suffering from mental health crises or struggling with substance abuse. We need to allocate significant resources into programs that will divert individuals away from the criminal justice and immigration detention systems and connect them with the services they truly need.

In this recent budget, I supported investments in low-barrier programs that promote wellness and safety in our community, including harm reduction measures for those who engage in substance use, family violence prevention and shelter needs, shelter and housing for those experiencing homelessness, and programs that build pathways out of poverty. 

I also believe the City should fully invest in Integral Care’s EMCOT, MCOT, and the Crisis Call Diversion program, which diverts mental health calls received by 9-1-1 to qualified mental health professionals who can provide a mental health first response for individuals in the midst of mental crisis. This type of investment would ensure that qualified mental health professionals could assist individuals in crisis 24/7 in most situations without a police officer. 

Lastly, I believe that as a community we must invest in preventive programs and resources to ensure that we break the cycle of violence. One example of such an investment is in the realm of gun violence prevention. My community in District 2 is disproportionately impacted by gun violence and I have loved ones whose lives have been forever changed by community violence and gun violence in schools. I am deeply passionate about addressing gun violence for what it truly is: a public health crisis. 

I supported the creation of the City of Austin Task Force on Gun Violence and I wholeheartedly endorse the recommendations put forth by the Task Force, especially the newly established Office of Violence Prevention which I view as a critical component of how we re-imagine public safety and a better approach to prevent gun violence in Austin. I support the remaining recommendations of the City of Austin Task Force on Gun Violence, including evidence-based violence prevention and intervention strategies, hospital-based violence intervention programs, investments in cognitive behavioral therapy, and the expansion of our social safety net to include outreach workers and social workers in communities that have sustained trauma and violence. 

I fully support a public health-oriented approach to public safety and I supported funding initiatives meant to prevent violence, reduce harm, and promote community wellness. I have a strong record of work in this area, and I look forward to pushing for continued progress going forward.

(Please find our statement on the ongoing protest for Justice that we published in June here – https://www.davidford2.com/statement-ongoing-protests)

Please describe your approach to homelessness. As part of that, state your position on the camping ban, but please do not limit your answer to that.

One of the most important aspects of ending homelessness in our community is prevention – making investments and implementing policy that truly address the root causes of homelessness. Housing is a human right and our community must work in unison to remove the barriers that prevent people from accessing fair, decent, safe, stable, and affordable housing.

I supported the Council’s repeal of the camping ban because I believe that criminalizing our unhoused neighbors for being without a home is immoral, harmful, and counterproductive: it pushes individuals even further into the margins of our community where they are far away from critical services that can assist them on their path to housing. 

I support Housing First policies, which show that when our unhoused neighbors can access housing quickly and with fewer restrictions, they are more likely to stay housed. I support the recommendations put forth in the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) report, “Recommendations for the Redesign of Emergency Shelters in Austin,” which describe recommendations to reform our shelter system to become more trauma-informed and housing-focused. Austin’s research shows that most people who are unhoused in our community have brief episodes of homelessness, but that some program rules and requirements create longer periods of homelessness and do not necessarily address an individual’s housing barriers. Based on the data, I support low-barrier entry requirements for shelters and programs and I support NAEH and Org Code’s diversion training methods which helps us prioritize our shelter resources for those of greatest need.

The 2020 Point-In-Time Count revealed that 1,574 people are living unsheltered and 932 people who are living in a shelter at any one time in Austin. And we know that there are thousands more in our community who are experiencing homelessness while they live in their vehicles, the far reaches of our community’s greenbelts, or are doubled-up in insecure housing situations. We also know from the data that 63% of people experiencing homelessness in Austin became homeless for the first time in Austin. 

We are making strides for certain populations experiencing homelessness. With LifeWorks’ Youth Demonstration Grant, youth homelessness has dropped significantly. The number of veterans experiencing homelessness was reduced by 40% last year due to the award-winning Ending Veteran’s Homelessness Initiative.

But we need to recognize that homelessness in our community is disproportionately experienced by people of color, especially Black Austinites. And that addressing the longstanding inequities in our community, including disparities in services and opportunity for communities of color, is integral to truly taking on this challenge.

I believe that addressing community homelessness requires the community and I am deeply appreciative of the collaboration between the City, ECHO, the Austin Apartment Association, and many other providers to work with property owners to relax screening requirements to accept rental applications for veterans experiencing homelessness during the Ending Veteran’s Homelessness Initiative. Coupled with the commitment from social service agencies to provide continued wraparound services to individuals after they are housed, I think this initiative is a great example of how different stakeholders can collaborate and work to create a better system for our unhoused neighbors. 

The ECHO and City of Austin’s COVID-19 Homelessness Response Plan presents a valuable opportunity for Austin to leverage and optimize the influx of new (and more flexible) HUD dollars to address racial disparities in our homelessness community, pilot new processes to improve our community’s response to homelessness, and permanently end individuals’ homelessness for both those who are unsheltered and those currently residing in the City’s protective lodges and isolation-facility. 

I support deeper and more significant City investment in Permanent Supportive Housing, Rapid Rehousing, and homelessness prevention services, such as low-barrier rental assistance or direct cash assistance for costs such as medical needs, to keep folks housed and prevent displacement that can lead to homelessness. And I support the City’s investment in hotels, motels, or other residential structures to ensure that high-risk individuals experiencing homelessness and survivors of family violence have a place to stay and do not have to choose between staying in an unsafe situation or experiencing homelessness.

This year, the City contracted with nationally renowned consultants to see how we could maximize our investments in our homelessness response system. Their report, “Investing for Results: Priorities and Recommendations for a Systems Approach to End Homelessness” was released on July 23, 2020, and presented to Council on August 4, 2020. The report, produced by Barb Poppe and associates, offers recommendations and strategies to help ensure that “public and private investments into programs and initiatives to address homelessness in Austin have the maximum impact.” The report describes ways in which we can reduce inflow into the system (prevention and diversion), address crises, and stabilize people once they are in housing. 

We know what works in our community. Low-barrier shelters, an abundance of available and safe housing, and strong wraparound social services to keep people housed. The City’s role in this system is to expand the availability of affordable rental homes. An abundant supply of affordable, low-barrier rental housing helps reduce the likelihood of homelessness in the first place and it also means that when a person experiences homelessness: it can be brief and non-recurring. 

And throughout all of this – expanding our system, strengthening programs, making funding decisions – it is imperative to center the voices of people with lived experience and use a racial equity lens in our planning processes and investments so we can address the deep and glaring racial disparities in our homelessness response system.

How would you have voted on the Land Development Code (LDC) that was before the Council on second reading of the LDC — or, if an incumbent, how did you vote? Feel free to elaborate on your position and the approach you would take on the LDC going forward

I support a comprehensive land development code revision that addresses and mitigates the impacts of displacement, gentrification, and sprawl; creates more opportunities for the creation of transit-supportive, affordable housing; reduces allowable city-wide impervious cover, improves city-wide water quality, and reduces overall flood risk.

In addition to supporting this form of a new Land Development Code, I also support updating our Transit-Oriented Development plans and implementing our Strategic Housing Blueprint. Our housing shortage is a major factor that is increasing housing costs and driving displacement and gentrification. We need to take bold actions if we are going to deliver greater affordability and ensure longtime Austin families have the ability to stay in and return to their communities – and I am prepared to do that by implementing our Strategic Housing Blueprint and by pushing for a new Land Development Code that meets the challenges Austin faces today.

The central focus of my campaign is building an Austin for All – a community where every family has the opportunity to pursue their dreams and achieve their full potential. Stable and affordable housing is critical to realizing this goal, which is why we must follow through on the Council’s direction to prioritize “all types of homes for all kinds of people, in all parts of town.” 

We can make good on this direction both through well-designed land use policies that better deliver housing options for working and middle-income families, as well as through strategic city efforts to provide housing opportunities for our most vulnerable residents.

These strategies include: implementing a citywide density bonus program, allowing more opportunities for missing middle housing and smaller homes on smaller lots, streamlining the permitting process to preserve and create affordable housing, aligning our Land Development Code with the city’s Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice, collaborating with employers on a housing fund to create workforce housing, incentivizing the production of living wage jobs, pursuing strategic land acquisition and land banking, and constructing affordable housing on city-owned property.

Additionally, as we take on a comprehensive revision of our Land Development Code, we must review our other zoning tools, such as our Transit-Oriented Development districts. The regulating plans for our TODs still offer strong visions for ensuring growth is transit-supportive. At the same time, the city adopted these TODs over a decade ago – so it is critical that we review each of our regulating plans to ensure that they are consistent with the policies we are putting forward through the new Land Development Code.

Continuing on the LDC, do you support petition rights for property owners and nearby property owners as prescribed in state law? Would you continue the appeal seeking to overturn the Judge’s ruling which, among other rulings, said that the Council erred in trying to deny appeal rights in the proposed mass upzonings in the LDC?

Determining what is prescribed in state law – in the case of a comprehensive land development code revision – is what’s at issue in the courts. I would not seek to overturn the Council majority’s decision to appeal and I look forward to analyzing the results of that appeal because it will have a significant impact on how Council can act to make changes to land use policy that impacts our City’s ability to preserve and create more affordable housing and to protect our environment.  

Will you commit to opposing and voting against transition zones – like those in the LDC rewrite — in single family neighborhoods? 

Increases in density should be prioritized in activity centers and along major corridors in a way that meaningfully produces mixed-income housing opportunities, supports our transit network, and protects our environment. This should include appropriate transition areas that are context-sensitive like Mayor Pro Tem Garza has suggested through the Equity Overlay proposal based on UT’s “Uprooted” Report. In my past work, I collaborated with several Council offices to identify the funding for UT’s “Uprooted” report, which details specific strategies to curb displacement and allow families to remain in their homes and neighborhoods. The Equity Overlay ensures that transition zones are not mapped in areas that are vulnerable to gentrification and displacement. 

In addition, while poorly planned density can result in harmful impacts to the environment, well-planned density can be one of our most essential tools in promoting diverse and inclusive neighborhoods, sustainable development, environmental protection, and climate resilience.

We know that favoring sprawl over responsible planning damages our regional ecosystems, increases our carbon emissions, and overextends our utility and mobility infrastructure. If we are to reverse these damaging trends and curb sprawl, we’ll need to adopt forward-looking policies that incentivize long-term, income-restricted housing and allow for a diversity of housing options, especially along our transit corridors and activity centers. 

By fostering greater affordability and housing opportunities, we will be better able to meet the needs of Austin’s working families who might otherwise be priced out and pushed out of the city. Meeting these housing needs within the city – rather than forcing our families out – will allow Austin to remain a racially and economically diverse community for all residents, lower the demand for sprawling greenfield developments that damage our Central Texas ecosystems and biodiversity, and better support our public transit system, which will in turn help lower vehicle miles and carbon emissions.

Casey Ramos

Please list and describe your top three priorities.

My top three priorities for District 2 are fighting displacement and gentrification, fixing flooding in District 2, and ensuring that all residents of district 2 have access to healthcare and healthy foods.

  • Displacement and gentrification – I oppose CodeNext and any other rewrite of our land development codes that calls for density and transition zones in established single-family home communities. I commit to supporting neighborhood-based planning that is not developer-driven. I also commit support income-based housing that is truly affordable for our residents.
  •   Fixing flooding  –  I propose that we take out a bond to update our stormwater infrastructure system. The City of Austin has neglected our flooding issues for too long resulting in the displacement of hundreds of residents. If given the opportunity to serve my community at City Hall I will fight to ensure that contracts are awarded through this bond will be  awarded to local companies. 
  •  Healthcare and healthy foods. District 2 has been hit the hardest by our COVID pandemic and this is a twofold issue. Not only do we have the highest number of essential workers in our district but we also have one of the highest uninsured populations in Austin. People in our district have numerous comorbidities that put them at greater risk for COVID and I believe that District 2 is in dire need of an additional grocery store that can offer fresh healthy foods to our residents. 

If you are running in an open seat please discuss your priorities and why you think voters should pick you over your opponents?

 I am a third-generation resident of District 2 and I have long-standing ties to this community. I plan to raise my daughter (who was just born today 10/1/20) in District 2. I have worked with the youth in our community as a community advocate for over 10 years. For decades the City of Austin has allowed developers to build unbridled without paying their fair share or adding to the affordable housing fund. I’ll put a stop to prioritizing special interests over citizens’ needs. I will fight to ensure that what happened to District 3 does not happen here in our community.

Please discuss your philosophy of a Council Members’ role and responsibility when it comes to ensuring the provision of basic City services to citizens.  

I believe that the two key responsibilities of being a Council Member are to fist listen to the members of the community and to then lift the voices and concerns of those you represent while on the dais in City Hall. This position has been used as a springboard for Council Members’ political aspirations for too long its time that someone stands up as a true community servant and advocates for the needs of our community. 

How would you have voted on the police budget that the Council approved in August? If you did vote for it or would have, please explain your reasoning.  If you would have taken a different approach please explain. 

We are a growing city and our police force is a crucial component to our community. I don’t believe that it makes sense to take away funding and at the same time demand that APD improves training procedures. I do feel we need police reform but it will take a full budget to achieve the change we need. We must recruit more police officers of color and place more effort into rebuilding trust within the community. Cutting funding also directly hurts our community, the PALS program is at risk of being taken away from our city. Growing up in Dove Springs many of my family and friends took part in the PALS program and this helped them grow into fantastic husbands, fathers, and citizens. 

Please describe your approach to homelessness. As part of that, state your position on the camping ban, but please do not limit your answer to that. 

I believe that the repeal of the camping ban does nothing to truly help the homeless population. We need to invest in job training programs, mental health programs, and support more initiatives like the ‘community first! village’. Turning a blind eye to the issue of homelessness and claiming it is fixed because the homeless population is no longer being ticketed for camping is not a real solution.

How would you have voted on the Land Development Code (LDC) that was before the Council on second reading of the LDC — or, if an incumbent, how did you vote? Feel free to elaborate on your position and the approach you would take on the LDC going forward.   

I support the adoption of the Peoples’ Plan which includes: Establish interim land restrictions in East Austin to limit the degradation of the natural and cultural environment; Establish a Low-Income Housing Trust Fund that would make public investments exclusively in low-income housing; Use city-owned public land to create 2,000 low- income housing units on eight city properties; Implement an East Austin Neighborhood Conservation Program with Conservation and Historic Preservation Districts to restrict land use; Enact Right to Return and Right to Stay programs to help seniors and low-income residents stay in and return to their communities; Enact a local Environmental Quality Review Program to ensure environmental justice.

Continuing on the LDC, do you support petition rights for property owners and nearby property owners as prescribed in state law? Would you continue the appeal seeking to overturn the Judge’s ruling which, among other rulings, said that the Council erred in trying to deny appeal rights in the proposed mass upzonings in the LDC? 

I believe that every citizen should use their voice to advocate for themselves and their community, this value has been instilled in me by both my mother and grandmother who have been advocates for District 2 my entire life. I agree with the Judges’ ruling that City Council erred when attempting to deny appeal rights to citizens.

Will you commit to opposing and voting against transition zones – like those in the LDC rewrite — in single-family neighborhoods? 

Yes, I commit to opposing and voting against transition zones! We must preserve our single-family neighborhoods.

Vanessa Fuentes

Vanessa Fuentes

Please list and describe your top three priorities.

Health Equity – Nearly 30% of District 2 are uninsured. Several areas of District 2 are classified as food deserts. Lack of healthcare access and limited access to healthy food are just a few of the issues that my community faces. I plan to advocate for the addition of community health navigators (FTEs) focused on serving disparate populations so that our neighbors in need can access resources and provide the information needed. I also plan to advocate for the establishment of a healthy food financing initiative to help spur the development of grocery stores or co-ops to help address food insecurity.

Community Engagement – I want to let the people in. We’ve had several big issues confront our community in the last few years including school closures and a comprehensive update to the land development code. These big issues fundamentally change how our communities are shaped and connected. My neighbors in Southeast Austin feel left out of the process. They feel that they are being ignored and dismissed. I want to bring the community’s voice to City Hall and reshape how the City makes decisions that impact our daily lives. I will accomplish this by championing 21st community engagement practices including virtual testimony from anywhere in the city, childcare availability at city hall during city council meetings, electronic polling of the district on council agenda items, and make it easier to follow along with City Council proceedings. I’d also like to host town halls (albeit virtually for now), bringing city experts to a part of the city they don’t normally go to. It’s time that the City comes to the people. 

Financial Stability – The coronavirus pandemic has also dealt an economic blow to our community. City Council will be tasked to balance priorities and social services with a limited budget due to the loss of economic revenue (sales tax, hotel tax, alcohol sales tax, etc.). It’s important that we remain vigilant to ensure that the budget isn’t balanced on the backs of hardworking Austinites. I want to ensure that our most vulnerable populations have the necessary resources needed to make ends meet. We can do this by providing direct financial assistance to those in need, offering grants to small businesses and nonprofits, and partnering with organizations to ensure a stable safety net. 

If you are running in an open seat please discuss your priorities and why you think voters should pick you over your opponents.

I am the only candidate who comes from a healthcare background which is one of the top issues that my community confronts. We have a nearly 30% uninsured rate and food deserts in Southeast Austin. I am the only candidate with actual plans on my website, ranging from community health, business, and engagement.  

Please discuss your philosophy of a Council Members’ role and responsibility when it comes to ensuring the provision of basic City services to citizens.

The number one job of a Council Member is to listen to their constituents. I value the process in which we engage our community. I also believe our city should not lose sight of the importance of basic city services like sewers, trash pick up, water, streets, libraries, schools, and first responders. These are the first priority goals for this city.

How would you have voted on the police budget that the Council approved in August? If you did vote for it, or would have, please explain your reasoning.  If you would have taken a different approach please explain.

Recently, the City Council reinvested city funds from the cadet class in staffing and programs outside of APD, including new ambulances, mental health response, community health paramedics serving the homeless, domestic violence shelters, substance use, and violence prevention programs that will save lives and make our community safer for all. We are using limited city resources more effectively for greater public safety.

In fiscal year 2019, our city council allocated $434 million to law enforcement or $444 per resident. This was more than Dallas at $385 per resident, Houston at $388 per resident or San Antonio. Austin like many cities in our country has seen it’s police budget grow even as violent crime decreased. It is not anti-police to say maybe we don’t need so many new police this year, we need specialized skills that help ensure police can spend more of their time focused on serious crimes.

I would have voted yes on this action.

Please describe your approach to homelessness. As part of that, state your position on the camping ban, but please do not limit your answer to that.

The City of Austin has been left to solve a problem that would be more easily solved with partnerships within our region, state, and the federal government. The sad truth is that our Governor and President have politicized the unhoused in the City of Austin, working to score political points instead of working with us to solve the problem.

The City of Austin is currently facing one of the most severe affordable housing crises in history. Not surprisingly, those living in poverty are the most significantly affected. The supply of low-cost housing has shrunk, rents have continued to rise, all while lower-income Austinites have experienced slow or stagnant wage growth. Too many Austinites spend at least half of their income toward housing, putting them at risk of housing instability and homelessness.

The solution to homelessness is straightforward: housing. We need to invest in connecting our unhoused neighbors to housing AND services. This gives us the foundation in which we can address other areas that may have contributed to their homelessness — such as employment, health, trauma, and substance abuse.

We need to dedicate more funding to permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing. The goal is to help our unhoused neighbors obtain housing quickly, increase self-sufficiency, and stay housed.

The courts have made it clear that we can not criminalize the act of not having a home. I wish that the council would have laid out a fuller vision of their plan for addressing the unhoused as part of their effort to end the sit/lie ordinance.

How would you have voted on the Land Development Code (LDC) that was before the Council on second reading of the LDC — or, if an incumbent, how did you vote? Feel free to elaborate on your position and the approach you would take on the LDC going forward. 

I would have voted no. The equity overlay was included in the draft at the 11th hour which suggested that these changes were an afterthought and not a focus in creating the plan. I would like to see a process where everyone feels heard.

Continuing on the LDC, do you support petition rights for property owners and nearby property owners as prescribed in state law? Would you continue the appeal seeking to overturn the Judge’s ruling which, among other rulings, said that the Council erred in trying to deny appeal rights in the proposed mass upzonings in the LDC?

I served as a Democratic Precinct Chair under Judge Soifer when she served as the Travis County Democratic Party. I always found her to be a fair and just arbiter. Judge Soifer has ruled that Austin City Council has erred in how they proceeded in their effort to rewrite the Land Development Code. Austin City Council must work within the framework of state law. I believe we end up with a better process when we include the voices of our community.

Will you commit to opposing and voting against transition zones – like those in the LDC rewrite — in single family neighborhoods?

I have huge concerns with transition zones in low-income communities of color. I worry that their use in these areas will only speed up gentrification. 

Alex Strenger

Alex Strenger

According to media reports Alex Strenger has dropped out of the race and endorsed Casey Ramos. The Austin Independent was unable to confirm before press time. We leave Mr. Strenger’s answers here anyway because he remains a potential factor in the race.

Please list and describe your top three priorities.

If you are running in an open seat please discuss your priorities and why you think voters should pick you over your opponents.

We need a more Affordable, Accountable and Accessible Austin where the people who comprise the character of the city can afford to stay here.  We need meaningful, non-divisive solutions that are going to address affordability, homelessness and police reform.   I am an entrepreneur who drives a pedicab. I am the working person who are “progressive” City Council claims to care so much about, yet everything they’re doing: from shutting down the economy, to raising taxes by close to 25%, to how they defunded APD, to writing a landcode based on urban density (while we are in a pandemic) is actively hurting me as well as people like me.  We need actual working people in office who are not politicians and who are not connected to special interest groups.  I am that working class person who the city has forgotten about, and I will fight with every ounce of my being to make sure that you no longer feel the way that I’m feeling. 

Affordability, Homelessness and Meaningful Police Reform

Affordability: We need to double the homestead tax exemption to 20% and keep our tax rate at a sustainable level so that working families can afford to stay in Austin.  We also need to incentivise developers to build affordable housing at 30- 50% MFI specifically for working class people who make up the backbone of Austin. Eg. artists, musicians, students, teachers, Healthcare workers, city employees and blue collar professionals.  The density bonus fee in leau should be waived if developers agree to these terms. 

Homelessness: We need to offer effective and compassionate solutions for our homeless that will actually keep people off the streets.  My biggest concern, and this is a concern shared by other people as well, is the amount of refuse encompassing our homeless camps.  I am afraid that if we don’t address this issue, then you are going to see an extremely powerful anti-homeless backlash. And this backlash is going to overturn everything that our city has worked so hard to do in terms of providing care to our homeless.  That being said, here is what we need to do in order to address our homeless situation.  

Offer Tax Credits for businesses that conduct food drives, clothing drives and cleanups of homeless encampments.  We also need to utilize cleanups as part of diversion programs for people who commit misdemeanors or low-level offenses.

Utilize parking meters to donate money to homeless services organizations that are selected by our City’s Homelessness Advocate.  Let’s encourage all Austinites to take an active role in providing the essential services that our homeless need in order to get off and stay off the streets.

Remove the double standard for littering.  The amount of refuse covering our streets is a hazard to public Health, our environment, and our quality of life here in Austin.  The longer we wait to clean up our streets, the more likely it is that the camping ban will be reinstated.  It pains me to say this, but we need to start citing and possibly arresting people (as a last resort) for littering at a homeless camp.  If a citation and/or an arrest is made, they should be given the option to clean up a select number of homeless camps in order for their case to be dismissed.  

Police Reform: Our City is more divided than ever and we need meaningful police reform for the safety of our communities as well as our police officers.  Our cops need to be better trained, they need to be EMT Certified, and all allegations of police misconduct need to be investigated by an independent and objective third party.

Training- proficiency in grappling (bjj, judo, wrestling, sambo) should be a requirement if you want to become a cop and you should have to train consistently (2-3X/wk) in order to keep your job.  Proficiency in grappling will substantially decrease the likelihood of a police officer using excessive or deadly force in a stressful situation. It will also negate the “I was afraid for my life” argument when trying to justify a shooting since the officer now has a much better set of de-escalation tools that they could have used.  

EMT Certifications: Oftentimes police officers are the first people on the scene of a horrific accident. It would therefore stand to reason that they should have an EMT Certification so that they can administer proper care while waiting on paramedics. A countless amount of lives would be saved as a result of this and it would help shift the narrative for how society views police officers in a positive light.

If you are running in an open seat please discuss your priorities and why you think voters should pick you over your opponents.

We need a more Affordable, Accountable and Accessible Austin where the people who comprise the character of the city can afford to stay here.  We need meaningful, non-divisive solutions that are going to address affordability, homelessness and police reform.   I am an entrepreneur who drives a pedicab. I am the working person who are “progressive” City Council claims to care so much about, yet everything they’re doing: from shutting down the economy, to raising taxes by close to 25%, to how they defunded APD, to writing a landcode based on urban density (while we are in a pandemic) is actively hurting me as well as people like me.  We need actual working people in office who are not politicians and who are not connected to special interest groups.  I am that working class person who the city has forgotten about, and I will fight with every ounce of my being to make sure that you no longer feel the way that I’m feeling. 

Please discuss your philosophy of a Council Members’ role and responsibility when it comes to ensuring the provision of basic City services to citizens.

As a city council member it is my job to be as transparent as possible when it comes to how you can provide effective services as well as the types of services that you can realistically provide.  Ultimately, this really comes down to who I hire in my staff. We need competent, reliable and trustworthy people that are working beside our city council in order to ensure that those needs are actually being met.

How would you have voted on the police budget that the Council approved in August? If you did vote for it, or would have, please explain your reasoning.  If you would have taken a different approach please explain.

Everybody agrees that we need meaningful police reform. However, the way in which we defunded our police was both divisive and irresponsible. My biggest criticism for how we defunded was the fact that none of that money ($170 million) went towards helping the industries that were most affected by the pandemic. Eg. Bars, restaurants, live music venues, musicians and members of the service industry.  These people shape the fabric of our culture. They play a tremendous role in influencing people to move here. So by offering nothing to these industries, we are effectively turning our back on the people who make our city special. 

That being said, we do need meaningful police reform. And we should not be removing officers and slashing our training budget in order to enact these reforms.  Here is what we need to do in order to address policing in Austin. 

Our cops need to be better trained, they need to be EMT Certified, and all allegations of police misconduct need to be investigated by an independent and objective third party.  We also need to substantially increase the amount of money that we spend on community policing in Austin. 

Training- proficiency in grappling (bjj, judo, wrestling, sambo) should be a requirement if you want to become a cop and you should have to train consistently (2-3X/wk) in order to keep your job.  Proficiency in grappling will substantially decrease the likelihood of a police officer using excessive or deadly force in a stressful situation. It will also negate the “I was afraid for my life” argument when trying to justify a shooting since the officer now has a much better set of de-escalation tools that they could have used.  

EMT Certifications: Oftentimes police officers are the first people on the scene of a horrific accident. It would therefore stand to reason that they should have an EMT Certification so that they can administer proper care while waiting on paramedics. A countless amount of lives would be saved as a result of this and it would shift the narrative for how we view police officers as a society. 

Please describe your approach to homelessness. As part of that, state your position on the camping ban, but please do not limit your answer to that.

We need to offer effective and compassionate solutions for our homeless that will actually keep people off the streets.  My biggest concern, and this is a concern shared by other people as well, is the amount of refuse encompassing our homeless camps.  I am afraid that if we don’t address this issue, then you are going to see an extremely powerful anti-homeless backlash. And this backlash is going to overturn everything that our city has worked so hard to do in terms of providing care to our homeless.  That being said, here is what we need to do in order to address our homeless situation.  

Offer Tax Credits for businesses that conduct food drives, clothing drives and cleanups of homeless encampments.  We also need to utilize cleanups as part of diversion programs for people who commit misdemeanors or low-level offenses.

Utilize parking meters to donate money to homeless services organizations that are selected by our City’s Homelessness Advocate.  Let’s encourage all Austinites to take an active role in providing the essential services that our homeless need in order to get off and stay off the streets.

Remove the double standard for littering.  The amount of refuse covering our streets is a hazard to public Health, our environment, and our quality of life here in Austin.  The longer we wait to clean up our streets, the more likely it is that the camping ban will be reinstated.  It pains me to say this, but we need to start citing and possibly arresting people (as a last resort) for littering at a homeless camp.  If a citation and/or an arrest is made, they should be given the option to clean up a select number of homeless camps in order for their case to be dismissed.  

How would you have voted on the Land Development Code (LDC) that was before the Council on second reading of the LDC — or, if an incumbent, how did you vote? Feel free to elaborate on your position and the approach you would take on the LDC going forward. 

We need a fair and balanced land code that keeps local Austinites in Austin. Rezoning single-family homes for multi-use facilities will either push working families out of Austin or it will lower the property value for long time residents, both of which are extremely unfair to the homeowner.  Not only that, but implementing a new landcode based on urban density (while we are in the midst of a pandemic) is extremely irresponsible, especially since close proximity to other people is literally how you spread pandemics.  

Continuing on the LDC, do you support petition rights for property owners and nearby property owners as prescribed in state law? Would you continue the appeal seeking to overturn the Judge’s ruling which, among other rulings, said that the Council erred in trying to deny appeal rights in the proposed mass upzonings in the LDC?

Everybody should have the right to petition for both zoning and taxes.  if you are a single family homeowner, I believe that you should have as much agency as possible as to how your neighborhood changes and develops.  I will not be continuing in that appeal because the judge was correct. Everybody has a right to appeal upzonings within the LDC.

Will you commit to opposing and voting against transition zones – like those in the LDC rewrite — in single family neighborhoods?

Yes.  

_____________________

District 4 Questionnaires

District 6 Questionnaires

District 7 Questionnaires

District 10 Questionnaires

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