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Place 1 candidates stake out their differences

Friday, April 17, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Place 1 City Council candidates Chris Riley and Perla Cavozos discussed economic development, the city’s building permit process, and transportation at Thursday’s candidate forum sponsored by the Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA). Forum moderator Judy Maggio, co-anchor at KEYE News, asked questions posed by RECA members.


Next to the mayor’s race, the run for Place 1 is the most competitive in the current election campaign.


The RECA candidate forum, which was lively and got to bottom-line business issues, attracted an attentive business crowd of around 350 people to the Four Seasons Hotel. However, the crowd did not approach last year’s numbers. The candidates were completely civil. And, sadly, the late Jennifer Gale was not there to sing “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling.” (See In Fact Daily, April 18, 2008.) (


Both Riley and Cavazos said they supported incentives to businesses for economic development. But Riley pointed out that he opposed Proposition 2, known as the “Stop Domain subsidies” charter amendment, while his opponent supported it. The controversial amendment was designed to stop the city from paying tax rebates to development projects containing retail—which would apply to the Domain—and to prohibit the city from entering into future subsidy agreements for projects containing retail.


Riley said that he had some concerns about the agreement the city made with the Domain, but “we’ve got to stand by our word.” Cavazos said she supported Proposition 2 because she saw the need to send a message to City Council that the public’s concerns should be addressed upfront.


While differing on Proposition 2, Riley and Cavazos generally agreed about the need to streamline the city’s development process.


“People all over town are having problems with the city design standards,” Riley said, adding later that the various interests need to work cooperatively to make sure that the city codes are simplified.


Cavazos drew a chuckle from audience members when she said it has been suggested that each City Council member be required to walk through the city permitting process. She said the city’s upcoming comprehensive planning process would be a good opportunity to make needed improvements.


Riley and Cavazos advocated the need for light rail to help address ongoing traffic congestion. 


Riley said his top pick, if given a choice of any transportation project, would be a north-south commuter rail line from Georgetown to San Antonio (MoPac corridor) or from Pflugerville to East Austin (MoKan corridor).


Cavazos said she thought the best transportation investment would be a commuter rail along the MoPac corridor. “But we need to increase rail transportation throughout Austin,” she said. “We are behind the curve.” 


RECA has scheduled a separate forum for mayoral candidates for noon, May 1, at the Hilton Austin Hotel in coordination with the Austin Chamber of Commerce.

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