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Galindo, Morrison spar over unwritten energy efficiency ordinance

Monday, June 2, 2008 by Mark Richardson

Some errors in this story have been corrected.–Editor.


The Place 4 City Council runoff election finally has an issue – and just in time for the June 14 election. The clash comes over the alleged existence of an ordinance that would force Austin homeowners to make thousands of dollars of green upgrades to their homes before they could be sold.


Candidate Cid Galindo has been accusing his rival Laura Morrison of supporting the idea, saying such a measure would force homeowners to get the city’s permission to sell their homes. Morrison and her supporters say Galindo is using scare tactics on voters.


In a forum last Thursday, sponsored by the City Ethics Commission, the topic was not raised during the 45 minutes of questioning, but that did not stop Galindo from bringing it up during his closing remarks.


“One of the major differences between me and my opponent is her support for an ordinance that would force homebuyers to get the city’s permission to sell their homes,” he said. “It would force homeowners to upgrade their homes to the city’s green standards, costing them thousands of extra dollars before the sale. We need to retrofit homes to green standards, but a mandatory rule like this isn’t the way to do it.”


Morrison had no opportunity at the time to reply, since she had preceded Galindo in making final remarks. And Galindo followed up with two glossy mailers hitting mailboxes Friday and Saturday. One is headlined, “Pay a big tax just to sell your home! Laura Morrison is for it. Cid Galindo is against it.”


Morrison responded quickly to what her campaign calls “absurd claims” over the weekend.


“This just isn’t true,” said Morrison in an automated call to voters received by one journalist Sunday night. Morrison says she would not support an ordinance that would make living in the city less affordable for Austin families.


Morrison followed that up with a letter set to go to voters today calling Galindo’s accusations “a deceptive attack” that takes “underhanded tactics to a new level.”  She cited reports of a push poll received by many voters where the attack is repeated and used to scare the elderly into believing that would not be able to sell their homes.


What is causing much of this is an energy efficiency  task force that has been meeting for a few months now, looking to develop ways to upgrade many of the city’s older homes to make them more energy efficient.  There is, however, no proposals to require any home to be brought up to minimum energy efficiency standards at the time of a sale.


One observer of the task force tells In Fact Daily that the panel is discussing a wide range of options to improve the efficiency of Austin’s homes, but is far from making any concrete proposals to the Council.


Mayor Will Wynn and others have criticized the Austin Board of Realtors, which backs Galindo, for putting out a “blatantly misleading” campaign aimed at both the public and their members. Wynn noted that ABoR has a seat on the task force, and should be fully aware of the task force’s progress.


Galindo, who bills himself as the only candidate with a background as an urban planner, has leveled other charges at Morrison. In a campaign flyer mailed last week, he said Morrison supports a $36 million computer system to track all messages to and from Council members that could invade citizens’ privacy, and that she want the city to drag its feet on developing residential neighborhoods in downtown Austin.


Morrison, in her letter to voters, called his charges just more scare tactics.


Sadly, these deceptive tactics are consistent with his entire campaign where he has continually misrepresented himself and hidden his development interests,” she wrote. “This deceptive campaign is a disservice to voters and Austin deserves better.”


Early voting in the runoff election begins today and runs through June 10. Election Day is June 14.

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