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Place 3 and 4 candidates get in last word in TV debate

Thursday, May 8, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Three challengers in the race for City Council Place 4Robin Cravey, Cid Galindo and Laura Morrison – were on hand for Wednesday’s KXAN televised debate, although Cravey was late due to traffic.

Galindo has made a strong showing in the race, telling In Fact Daily Wednesday he had raised $210,000 for his campaign after a slow start on fund-raising. Morrison has obviously raced enough to put her ads on TV news programs regularly also.

Although Cravey has not been in the money, he has garnered editorial support from both the Austin American-Statesman and the Daily Texan. Morrison won the Austin Chronicle endorsement.

As the debate began, Morrison and Galindo were presented with the anticipated $20 million city budget shortfall and asked how they would handle it. Morrison said the city’s stabilization funds could make the difference. She pegged social services and human services as priorities. Galindo spoke about a focus on process, with a reliance on city employees to note what was necessary and what might be expendable.

Asked about the recently unveiled downtown light rail plan, Morrison said that she would not rush into anything. Light rail should be part of a comprehensive regional transportation plan and should be measured, objectively, by a cost-benefit analysis, Morrison told the moderators. The rail line could cost anywhere from $70 to $500 million, Morrison noted.

Galindo noted he was the only candidate with a comprehensive plan to control traffic congestion and sprawl development. He noted his commitment to increase infrastructure, both in terms of rail and maintenance, as the city matures. The city should have a good idea of what routes would work and what should be shelved.

Cravey, who arrived during the question, said he supported light rail but also supported improving the city’s transit system now. Issues such as the frequency of buses – and the building of ridership along high-demand routes to establish ridership for potential rail corridors – should be addressed before a commitment is made to pay for light rail, Cravey said.

All three candidates supported a single-member district system of representation on Council in one form or another. Galindo favored a discussion of single-member districts in concert with a strong mayor form of government. Morrison also favored single-member districts, noting a concern from communities that Council is not responsive. A single-member district system could provide better understanding, she said.

Cravey said he always had voted in favor of single-member districts, adding he, like Morrison, would prefer a hybrid system that combined districts with at-large positions. Cravey would do so to preserve the representation of the African-American community, which has expressed concerns about representation.

Asked afterward to clarify her position on the Green Water Treatment Plant, Morrison said she was not opposed to any particular plan. Instead, she preferred to see an input process that included community input on the use of public land.

In the Place 3 contest, it was obvious that incumbent Jennifer Kim and challenger Randi Shade can barely tolerate each other.

Kim and Shade sniped at each other – most of it Shade attacking Kim on both her leadership style and her campaign tactics — during live streaming debate on Wednesday afternoon. During a discussion of the recent robo-call controversy, Shade said she was embarrassed for publicity the tactic had garnered the Kim campaign. When Kim said she had no idea who “Lisa” was in the robo-call ad – that her campaign had handled both the print ads and robo-calls — Shade jumped in to say that she would never have anyone she didn’t know speaking on her behalf.

Kim, for her part, took fewer swipes at Shade but clearly bristled at Shade’s attacks. Often, when the camera caught the two of them, Kim would have a look of distaste on her face at Shade’s comments. In her rebuttal to Shade’s charges, Kim emphasized she stood, and even stood alone when necessary, on votes when it was the right thing to do on issues such as toll roads. The community understood she stood up for what was best for the community and would not cave in to special interests, a vague dig at the strong support Shade had from big-dollar developers.

Shade, for her part, said she had support from the broad spectrum of the community, from the individual to the developer and even Kim’s former supporters.

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