Nobody needs to be told that this was a significant election season in America. At the national level, the campaigns were contentious, personal, and emotional. The results of that election and what they will mean for Austin and for the world, will surely be discussed and debated in the upcoming weeks, months, and years.
One thing that this election season exposed is the need for better civic education in this country. We need to learn how to actively participate and make a difference at all levels of government. We need to learn how to listen to people whose opinions are different than our own. We need to learn how to lead. We need to learn how to create a government and a country that is a model for the world.
That is why we are doubling down on our Civics 101 initiative, designed to teach all Austinites how to engage and participate in local government. Stay tuned for what we’ve got in store next…
In the meantime, let’s talk about how the election played out here at the local level.
In case you missed them, here are the results:
Prop 1 – $720 million mobility bond
For – 59.10 percent
Against – 40.90 percent
Austin City Council
Delia Garza – 65.16 percent – winner
Casey Ramos – 19.62 percent
Wesley Faulkner – 15.21 percent
Greg Casar – 60.95 percent – winner
Gonzalo Camacho – 22.85 percent
Louis C Herrin III – 16.20 percent
Jimmy Flannigan – 55.90 percent – winner
Don Zimmerman – 44.01 percent
Leslie Pool – 71.94 percent – winner
Natalie Gauldin – 28.06 percent
Sheri Gallo – 48.23 percent
Alison Alter – 35.52 percent
Rob Walker – 14.10 percent
Nicholas Virden – 2.15 percent
In Austin City Council races, a candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the vote in order to avoid a runoff election. In District 10, incumbent City Council Member Sheri Gallo led the field, but only received 48.23 percent of the vote, which means that she is headed toward a runoff election against the next highest vote-getter – Alison Alter. That election will take place on Tuesday, December 13th.
An important note about runoff elections – Turnout in local runoff elections is notoriously low. In 2014, voter turnout in the Austin mayoral and City Council runoff elections was less than 16 percent. So, if you live in District 10, don’t forget to vote! (And if you need a refresher course on Sheri Gallo and Alison Alter, be sure to read through our District 10 Voter Guide).
What do these results mean for Austin?
This election did not bring in a dramatic new slate of City Council members. In Districts 2, 4, and 7 the incumbent City Council members all won their races handily. And of course, only half of Austin’s City Council was even up for election this November. The City Council candidates from Districts 1, 3, 5, 8, and 9 will continue to serve for at least another two years.
The big story of the City Council election comes from District 6, where Jimmy Flannigan beat out incumbent City Council Member Don Zimmerman in a rematch of the 2014 election (in which Zimmerman beat Flannigan by less than 200 votes).
Throughout his two years on City Council, Zimmerman gained notoriety for his persistent denial of climate change, as well as his disagreement with nearly every current city policy and program.
In an earlier interview with the Austin EcoNetwork and Shades of Green radio, Flannigan said that Zimmerman’s temperament was one of the main reasons why he decided to run against him this election cycle. “He’s [Don Zimmerman] very good at being angry about things, but he’s very bad at proposing and executing solutions. And that’s why ultimately I’m running for council,” Flannigan said.
So Prop 1 passed, now what?
The other big story of the night was that the $720 million transportation bond passed by a fairly wide margin. In an interview with KUT, Mayor Steve Adler (who spearheaded the bond effort) said that “now the real work begins.” He is encouraging the community to stay engaged so that we can help direct the implementation of the bond program. In his KUT interview, Adler also said that the projects laid out in the bond will be worked on in a very transparent and open way, with regular reports to the public tracking progress. The goal is that all of the work will be completed within 8 years.
And if you need a refresher on which projects will be including the bond package, you can check out our Prop 1 Voter Guide here>>
What does the election mean for the environment and climate change?
The very existence of climate change does not need to be a partisan issue. In fact, polls say that it isn’t. A recent University of Texas study shows that 79 percent of Americans (and 91 percent of Americans under the age of 35) believe that climate change is occurring. The majority of Republicans now believe so as well. But you wouldn’t know it if you looked at our newly elected government representatives.
President-elect Donald Trump has denied the very existence of climate change, famously claiming that it was a hoax “created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” In keeping with that sentiment, he has said that he will cancel the Paris Agreement (which just went into effect last week) and role back the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan, which is designed to cut U.S. power plants’ carbon emissions one-third below 2005 levels by 2030.
So then what’s next? The world doesn’t have time to waste. If we are to prevent the worst effects of climate change, we need to be aggressively reducing emissions now. To hear what some local and global climate leaders are saying on the issue, be sure to check out our latest blog, “Waking the Sleeping Giants.”