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Mayoral campaign begins with charges and countercharges

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 by Austin Monitor

It didn’t take long for the sniping to begin between mayoral candidates Brewster McCracken and Lee Leffingwell. The Mayor Pro Tem took potshots on a talk radio show Sunday night at several of Council Member Leffingwell’s key proposals.

McCracken, a guest of Lisa Fritsch, a conservative talk show host on KLBJ-AM, took Leffingwell to task for his proposal for an election for a downtown rail system, a bond election to funds other transportation systems and a program to let electric utility customers buy carbon offsets. McCracken’s charges came in response to a phoned-in question by, Jason Meeker, who ran against Leffingwell in last year’s Council election.

Meeker asked McCracken if he knew about Leffingwell’s idea for “a program where people could buy credits to offset their carbon emissions.  Is this another thing that the politicians want to do to take more money out of our pockets?  What is that?”

McCracken responded, “I’m not really sure about what he’s talking about on that, Jason.  And also I saw that he’s saying he wants to have a $500
million dollar bond election in 12 months.”

In response to a question from Fritsch, McCracken said he does not want to hold such an election. He said, “You know, we are having to freeze hiring at the City of Austin. People’s family budgets are hurting. I don’t think trying to do a massive bond election in 12 months makes sense. And the idea that Jason brings up, I think this is the wrong time to be socking people’s pocketbooks.  We need to be all hands on deck trying to create jobs for the future.”

 

Asked Monday about McCracken’s comment, Leffingwell said it was good that his opponent was at least paying attention.

 

“I said on Saturday that I hoped this campaign would be a contest of ideas for a city of ideas, so I’m glad that one of my opponents is already focused on the proposals I’ve put forward.” He said. “While I haven’t proposed a specific dollar amount for a transportation bond or rail election, I was surprised to see such strong opposition to the idea of holding a transit election from someone who has been such a strong proponent of the same idea in the recent past.”

 

As recently as last summer, McCracken was one of the leading

proponents, along with Mayor Will Wynn, of holding a local rail election in  November 2009.

 

McCracken also supported the Austin Climate Protection Plan that had many Austinites buzzing last year.

 

“Another area where Lee Leffingwell and I are different is that Lee was in favor of prohibiting homeowners from selling their homes until they got a government-approved energy upgrade on their home they were selling.” he said. “I did not think that was a good idea. You know, I think that we should be helping people sell their homes not prohibiting them from doing it.”

 

Along with Wynn and Leffingwell, McCracken was an original co-sponsor of the Austin Climate Protection Plan, which contemplated mandatory energy efficiency upgrades for new homeowners. The idea, which went through a lengthy stakeholder process, eventually turned into an audit only requirement.

 

“I’m concerned that the revival of the so-called ‘green home tax’ issue does not bode well for a dialogue among the mayoral candidates that prioritizes new solutions over old scare tactics,” Leffingwell said. “I obviously never supported prohibiting homeowners from selling their homes.”

For his part, Meeker confirmed that it was indeed he who called into the program. He denied that his call was part of anyone’s agenda.

“I’m engaged in the process as a voter, heard it (on KLBJ), had a question about Lee Leffingwell’s platform.” he said.  We need to have a civic discussion without it sounding like a war, especially today (Inauguration Day). Can we talk about a plan? That’s very important.”

 

Meeker added that he has not yet decided if he will run for Council this year.

 

Here is a partial transcript of this show:

 

KLBJ TRANSCRIPT:

 

Lisa Fritsch:  Jason, welcome to KLBJ.

 

Jason Meeker:  Thank you for having Brewster on tonight.  That’s great.  I hope you have all the candidates on.  I have a question for Brewster but it has something to do with something that Lee Leffingwell has put in his platform, and maybe he can illuminate us on this.  Lee Leffingwell said something about he wanted to have a program where people could buy credits to offset their carbon emissions.  Is this another thing that the politicians want to do to take more money out of our pockets?  What is that?

 

Brewster McCracken:  Yeah, I’m not really sure about what he’s talking about on that, Jason.  And also I saw that he’s saying he wants to have a $500 million dollar bond election in 12 months.

 

Lisa Fritsch:  Do you agree with that ?

 

Brewster McCracken:  No I don’t.  You know, we are having to freeze hiring at the City of Austin.  People’s family budgets are hurting.  I don’t think trying to do a massive bond election in 12 months makes sense.  And the idea that Jason brings up, I think this is the wrong time to be socking people’s pocketbooks.  We need to be all hands on deck trying to create jobs for the future.

 

Jason Meeker:  Yeah, I think that’s the way to go.  I understand that

there’s a concern with green technologies and a green economy, but

penalizing people or giving them this thing where they have to buy credits that obviously this credit is something to offset a cost somewhere else, I don’t know, I think that needs some explanation, and I don’t like it already.

 

Lisa Fritsch:  I don’t think people are ready to be going to buy like a gift card to say you’re a good person for the environment.  I just don’t think we are there yet at all.

 

Jason Meeker:  Thanks Brewster!  Thanks for running for mayor!

 

Brewster McCracken:  Thanks, Jason.  You know another area where Lee Leffingwell and I are different is that Lee was in favor of prohibiting homeowners from selling their homes until they got a government-approved energy upgrade on their home they were selling.  I did not think that was a good idea.  You know, I think that we should be helping people sell their homes not prohibiting them from doing it.

 

Lisa Fritsch:  Oh, the whole thing that you had to go through all these

hoops to make sure your home was green enough in these areas.  Wrong idea.

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