Civics 101 – The Race for Austin City Council’s District 10

District 10 Mural - Deep Eddy
This mural is located at Deep Eddy Pool, which is in District 10. The Austin EcoNetwork is using outdoor art this election cycle to help highlight the unique and creative aspects of each district. By showcasing these murals, we're hoping to spread one important truth this election season - elections are fundamentally about people. It's our voice, our vote, and our city. Elections are not about politicians or special interests. Elections are about us.

*Please note – since no single candidate in District 10 received more than 50 percent of the vote in the general election, the District 10 City Council race is headed toward a runoff election on December 13th. Incumbent City Council Member Sheri Gallo will face off against Alison Alter. In the general election, Gallo received 48.23 percent of the vote and Alter received 35.52 percent of the vote.*

Choosing your City Council member is a big deal. This is the person who will represent you in City Hall for the next four years. They’ll make policies that will influence the city’s transportation infrastructure, affordability, environment, and your own neighborhood. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to who is actually running and what their plans are for Austin.

But, following along with local City Council races can be hard. They often don’t receive a lot of news coverage and it can be difficult to learn anything more about a candidate than what his or her yard sign looks like.

We’re trying to change that.

Here at the Austin EcoNetwork, we are taking our Civics 101 series to the next level this election season. (For those who aren’t familiar, Civics 101 is designed to teach Austinites how their local government works and to empower a new generation of citizens to get involved.) Throughout the month of October we will be publishing voter guides focusing on each of the five City Council districts that are currently up for election.

Today’s post focuses on District 10, which is located in northwest Austin. (If you don’t know which City Council district you live in, you can look it up here).

City Council District Map

This is the map of all 10 City Council districts in Austin. District 10 is located in the northwest part of the city.

The four candidates who are running for the District 10 City Council seat are:

  • Sheri Gallo
  • Alison Alter
  • Rob Walker
  • Nicholas Virden

Below you will find additional information about each of the candidates, as well as a podcast interview with Alison Alter. The interview was produced in partnership with Shades of Green radio show on KOOP 91.7 FM. (Sheri Gallo, Rob Walker, and Nicholas Virden did not return our requests/were not available for an interview. Details about their positions has been supplemented with information from the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government).

Sheri Gallo

  • Current City Council Member
  • Former Realtor
  • Currently serves as the Chair of the Austin Energy Utility Oversight Committee; Vice Chair of the Mobility Committee; Member of the Housing and Community Development Committee; Member of the Planning and Neighborhoods Committee
  • Campaign Website
Sheri Gallo

Austin City Council Candidate Sheri Gallo, photo courtesy of the Sheri Gallo campaign

Why she’s running

During her time in office, Gallo says that she is proud to have focused on improving Loop 360, improving parks and libraries, creating safer routes to schools, and fixing sidewalks.

“Over the past two years, I have been an advocate for affordability and controlling city spending. I have voted to implement the full 20 percent homestead tax exemption, increase the senior and disabled tax exemptions… I voted against the new budget because it will result in higher tax bills and utility bills.” – Sheri Gallo, during the LWV Candidate Forum

Prop 1

How she’s voting – Supports Prop 1, will be voting for

  • Supports Prop 1…”because I think it’s what we need now. We have only passed a little over $600 million in the history of doing bonds for transportation in Austin. It’s time to do it.”
  • Advocated for District 10 projects to be included in Prop 1, including Loop 360, Spicewood Springs, and local sidewalk improvements

“The reality is that we have failed as a community to address our transportation needs over decades, and the traffic that we have now is not necessarily the result of the people moving here, but it’s the result of the fact that we have not continued to improve the roads, and improve our vehicle and pedestrian and bike capacity to meet the growth.” – Sheri Gallo, during the LWV Candidate Forum

Alison Alter

  • 2015 graduate of Leadership Austin
  • Says that she is known as the Parks Lady – led a $500,000 renovation of Ramsey Park (public/private partnership)
  • Served on the Austin Parks Board
  • Has a PhD from Harvard in political economy
  • Endoresed by the Austin Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Bike Austin, and the Austin Environmental Democrats
  • Campaign Website
Alison Alter

Austin City Council Candidate Alison Alter at KOOP Studios

Why she’s running

  • “I think that what sets me apart is my interest and my goal of really thinking about how we grow responsibly in Austin, how and when we grow, and what the consequences are of that, and who benefits from doing that,” Alter said during her AEN/Shades of Green Interview.
  • “I also come with a longstanding interest in environmental stuff…we need to have that consciousness be part of who’s on council.”

“I’m running because over the last several years, I’ve seen how the sausage is getting made at City Hall, and I”ll be honest, I really don’t like what I’m seeing… I believe that city government should be solving problems and creating an environment in which we can all thrive, and I’m worried about the kind of city we will be if we let special interests write the rules, dictate the agendas, and tie our city in knots.” – Alison Alter, during her AEN/Shades of Green Interview

Prop 1

How she’s voting – Supports Prop 1, will be voting yes

  • Recognizes that it’s not going to fix everything overnight, but thinks that it’s an important first step
  • “We have $9.5 billion of identified transportation infrastructure needs in the city and this is a first step towards meeting those needs. Austin has refrained from investing in our transportation infrastructure for decades and we’re seeing the consequences of that.”

Cap Metro/ Public Transportation

“I think we have to have public transportation. The challenge we have, particularly in District 10, is we have a lot of areas that don’t have the density to support the public transit.” – Alison Alter, during her AEN/Shades of Green Interview

  • Concerned about Cap Metro’s plans (with Connections 2025) to reduce service to District 10
  • Wants to see more coordination between the city’s land development/transportation plans and Cap Metro
  • Says that contrary to popular belief, District 10 residents are using public transportation now, even if there are some areas of the district that are too impractical to be served by public transit

CodeNEXT

  • Doesn’t think that CodeNEXT will necessarily be a panacea for all of Austin’s problems – “I think that’s putting too much pressure on what’s going to come out of this process.”
  • “We have to be mindful as we go through this process that we don’t just create density that creates a lot of housing for wealthy people and misplaces people who are already living in affordable housing…”
  • Wants to make sure that mom-and-pop stores and small homeowners are able to follow a more simplified code that allows them to complete their projects more quickly. “Right now the existing code and the existing permitting process is favoring the large entities who have the time and money to hire somebody to help them navigate through the system.”
  • Thinks the code does need to be cleaned up and made more efficient
  • “What I like about the corridor plan is that it has the density going where the transportation infrastructure is most likely able to handle it.” – Says that this is in contrast to problems in District 10 where new developments are going up in areas where the transportation infrastructure cannot support it

Affordability

  • Wants to see linkage fees imposed on new commercial and residential development – to fund permanent low-income housing

Parks

  • Sees two major issues when it comes to parks – not enough funding and not enough parks
  • “We don’t fund our parks commensurate with the level that people value our parks…”
  • Believes that Austin does a poor job of funding the maintenance of our parks – says that they need safety renovations, lights, etc.
  • “As we densify, access to public space becomes more and more important, because you don’t have the backyards, you don’t have the space for your kids to play.”
  • Big proponent of protecting green spaces and improving parks

“Parks matter for many, many reasons… they really are an important, integral part of who we are as Austin. And every neighborhood deserves to have a park in it that we can walk to safely.” – Alison Alter, during her AEN/Shades of Green Interview

Austin Energy

  • Supports the retirement of Fayette, Austin’s sole remaining coal-fired power plant
  • Wants to continue seeing conservation education for Austin Energy customers
  • Thinks it’s important that we always keep on eye toward affordability and keeping rates low, especially for low-income residents and small businesses

Zero Waste/ Curbside Composting

  • “My first reaction to the [citywide curbside]composting is, I can’t wait…”
  • Wants to look into additional recycling in our city’s parks – and trying to make that a cost effective process
  • “As we move forward with our zero waste goals, we do have to be mindful of the costs, and figure out exactly how we can make this work for everyone.”
  • About the additional $5 composting fee (which will be imposed on Austin Resource Recovery customers once the city’s curbside composting program is rolled out) – “Sometimes you have to invest in things that are the right thing to do, and then you need to provide mechanisms for those people who are on the lower end of the spectrum so that they can take advantage of it too.” – says that she understands some people will be upset by the fee, but explained that curbside composting is important and perhaps council can get creative in coming up with a solution for those folks who could really suffer under the additional fee
  • Supports educating Austin students about how to compost and reduce their own waste, both at school and at home

Climate Change

If elected, would work closely with other members of council who advocate for environmental responsibility, as well as help to make Austin’s environmental goals a reality.

“I think some of the most exciting efforts to address climate change are coming on the local level…and I think that Austin, as an environmental city must be at the forefront of that…” – Alison Alter, during her AEN/Shades of Green Interview

 

Rob Walker

  • International Tax CPA
  • PhD from the University of Texas in Taxation and Finance
  • Campaign Website
Rob Walker

Austin City Council Candidate Rob Walker, photo courtesy of the Rob Walker Campaign

Why he’s running

  • Believes that there are three big issues that Austin faces – traffic, taxes, and planned unit developments (PUDs)
  • “My hope for this city…is ease of living…,” Rob Walker said during the LWV Candidate Forum. “I want to see things done that will bring back some of that ease. I don’t think we’re ever going to get back to where we were, but…”

“I have the tools – the analytic ability, the accounting ability, the budgetary ability – to do the analysis necessary to bring our city back to the more affordable level.” – Rob Walker, during the LWV Candidate Forum

Prop 1

How he’s voting – Opposed to Prop 1, will be voting against

  • Against the mobility bond because, “… one third of it is going to beautification, rather than traffic relief.” – Doesn’t agree with the $482 million for what he sees as corridor beautification projects ( This is in reference to the $482 million from the bond that will go toward creating smart corridors along roads like North and South Lamar Boulevard. It should be noted that according to the City of Austin’s official Voter Information Brochure, the primary priority of the corridor improvement projects is reduced traffic congestion. Beautification is not even listed as one of the main priorities. However, there has been some debate in the community about how effective corridor improvement projects will actually be in improving traffic flow. For more information on Prop 1, be sure to check out our Prop 1 Voters Guide)
  • Wants to see an alternate bond of similar magnitude, but with more money going directly toward what he sees as traffic relief (especially to Loop 360)

“We have serious problems throughout the city and we need to do something about it. This bond issue is not the answer.” – Rob Walker, during the LWV Candidate Forum

 

Nicholas Virden

Nicholas Virden

Austin City Council Candidate Nicholas Virden, photo courtesy of the Nicholas Virden Campaign

Why he’s running

  • Wants to see more transportation options for Austin
  • Wants to see more tech innovation in Austin

Prop 1

How he’s voting – Opposed to Prop 1, will be voting against it

  • Wishes the bond would have been broken up into three segments, so that people could vote on the pieces that are most important to them
  • Feels like it’s actually a beautification project and that it will only add to our traffic problems – doesn’t like Prop 1’s plans to take out middle turn lanes and add bus-only lanes along some corridors
  • Would’ve liked to see something more cost effective  – such as updated traffic lights/adapted signal timing

 

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