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ANC backs Morrison wholeheartedly, Kim ‘with concerns’ for Council

Monday, March 31, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The Austin Neighborhoods Council has issued its endorsements in the Austin City Council races. Following a candidate forum Wednesday night, the group unanimously endorsed former ANC President Laura Morrison in Place 4, incumbent Council Member Jennifer Kim in Place 3, and did not issue an endorsement in the Place 1 race.

 

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, ANC leaders said those members participating in the vote Wednesday night were split between the incumbent in Place 1, Council Member Lee Leffingwell, and challenger Jason Meeker. According to the statement, “the incumbent’s disappointing performance on neighborhood and planning issues led to the conclusion that he has not lived up to ANC’s 2005 endorsement.” However, not enough of those at the meeting backed Meeker, either, leading to the lack of any endorsement in that race. The concern with Meeker, according to ANC leaders, is that “ANC is not confident that his challenger has an adequate grasp of city government and neighborhood issues.”

 

ANC backed incumbent Jennifer Kim in Place 3, despite the fact that “concerns remain about Kim’s accessibility and consistency.” However, ANC leaders say the group “recognizes her voting record and behind-the-scenes problem-solving in support of individual neighborhoods.”

 

In their endorsement of former ANC President Laura Morrison in the Place 4 race against Cid Galindo and Robin Cravey, the group praised her connection to neighborhood organizations. “Her record of bringing together disparate stakeholders and building consensus-based solutions will serve Austin well throughout the broad range of challenges that face the community,” the ANC leadership wrote.

 

That support was echoed Thursday when the neighborhood, environmental, and labor groups that have endorsed Morrison gathered at City Hall to show their support. “Laura clearly has the most experience when it comes to demonstrating her commitment to the community at large. “She respects workers rights and understands that for the working families, affordable housing here in Austin is becoming more difficult,” said David Adamson, President of the Austin Central Labor Council.

 

During the candidate forum on Wednesday, ANC leaders questioned rival Place 4 candidate Galindo about his business experience. Galindo explained that he owned his own urban-planning firm, Cid Galindo, Inc., and was currently working with two major clients. “My main client owns a 38-acre town center site in Pflugerville,” he said, “and I’m working on a plan to transform downtown to create an urban area in Pflugerville.”

 

Galindo also faced questions about his tenure on the Planning Commission. ANC leaders wanted to know if Galindo had ever read a neighborhood plan from start to finish. “Neighborhood plans could be up to an inch thick,” Galindo said. “I can’t say that I ever read one from start to finish, but I did the very best I could to hit the highlights of all of them to understand what the issues were.”

 

The ANC leaders asked Galindo and several other candidates, including the two incumbents about their opinion on the enforceability of neighborhood plans, pinning candidates down on whether they believed those plans to be legally binding documents or merely advisory. That issue was raised in the lawsuit filed by several neighborhood groups over the city’s plan to build a new animal shelter in east Austin. The judge in that case decided that the city could build the shelter on city-owned land on Levander Loop, even though that use was not specified in the neighborhood plan.

 

Galindo told ANC he concurred with the opinion that neighborhood plans were advisory documents. Morrison provided a more nuanced answer to that question, telling ANC that “there are zoning cases that come out of neighborhood plans, and those are not advisory. I have seen very explicit things in neighborhood plans, such as conditional overlays, that get ignored and I don’t agree with those kinds of things,” she said. “Many features of neighborhood plans are at too high of a level to say that they’re actually enforceable.”

 

When faced with a similar question, Leffingwell said he would not choose to argue with the city’s legal position. “This particular use was a public use and was not covered in the neighborhood plan or future land-use map,” he said. “Even though the FLUM is a planning tool and is not binding as zoning is, we would not make a zoning change that did not conform to the FLUM. We did not do that in this case.”

 

Both Leffingwell and Kim were also asked why they had not worked to get ANC’s Growth Management Plan adopted by the Council. The answer from both Kim and Leffingwell was that they had not been asked to do so. That plan is on the ANC web site at http://www.ancweb.org/, along with the written answers to the group’s candidate questionnaire.

 

In Place 3, challenger Randi Shade faced the question of why she chose to run against an incumbent. “I heard a lot of dissatisfaction….the pet shelter, the panhandling ordinance, there are a lot of issues where it seems Jennifer Kim changed her mind and didn’t hear from all the constituencies,” Shade said.

 

The group gave Kim a chance to respond to that charge during her portion of the forum. “I realize I’ve made mistakes during my term in office,” she said. “I’ve learned from those mistakes and they’ve been valuable experiences, and I’ve been able to turn them into hard work for you on affordable housing and for small and local businesses.”

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