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Alvarez announces county commissioner campaign

Thursday, October 8, 2009 by Austin Monitor

On Wednesday evening, before a crowd of about 50 supporters and with a mariachi band by his side, Raul Alvarez officially announced his campaign for Travis County Commissioner in Precinct 4.


Alvarez, a former two-term City Council Member and current Place 5 Trustee for Austin Community College, is running for the seat currently held by fellow Democrat and Capital Metro Board Chair Margaret Gomez, who has been the Precinct 4 Commissioner since 1995. In her last campaign, in 2006, Gomez defeated Yolanda Montemayor by 505 votes, winning 57 percent of the total vote. She has not yet announced if she plans to run again.


Though he didn’t mention Gomez at last night’s event, Alvarez made it clear he feels it’s time for a change in representation for Precinct 4, which includes southeast Austin, Del Valle, Creedmoor, Elroy, and Mustang Ridge. 


“It’s imperative that we have new leadership in Precinct 4,” Alvarez said in a short speech. “There’s a lot at stake here. The community expects more from Travis County than what they’re getting right now. There is no doubt that our community is changing, and we need leaders who will change along with our community.”


Alvarez told the crowd assembled on the patio of East Austin restaurant Juan in a Million that his priorities as County Commissioner would be similar to those he had when he was a member of the City Council: economic and educational opportunity, affordable housing, environmental sustainability, and increased community involvement in the political process.


“I will work to expand economic and educational opportunities for our community by standing up for workers, for working families, for local businesses, and for our most important asset – our children,” he said. “I will also work to prioritize affordability, by working to ensure that our neighborhoods can accommodate all families regardless of their income. I want to elevate environmental sustainability because we cannot achieve our goals for air quality, for water conservation, for renewable energy, for waste reduction unless every individual, every governmental entity, including the county, and every business large and small does their part to help us reach those goals.


“And finally I will fight to promote community involvement and community collaboration because by providing the opportunities for public involvement and intergovernmental cooperation, we can make better decisions at the county and we can do a more effective job of addressing our community’s challenges.”


Alvarez served two terms on the City Council, from 2000 to 2006, during which time he, along with Council Member Danny Thomas, oversaw the creation of the Community Preservation and Revitalization program, which provides loans for small businesses and supports community-development and job-creation initiatives on the Eastside. He told In Fact Daily that his desire to maintain that sense of community involvement and local economic development in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods of East Austin helped him decide to run for the County Commissioners Court.


“Development is happening very quickly in East Austin,” he said, “and that’s putting a great stress on homeowners and local businesses concerning affordability, and I believe there are ways we can support them to preserve the character of our community and make sure our local businesses are strong. I also believe the county can play an active role in helping us achieve our goals for air quality, water quality, renewable energy, and waste disposal. But we’re only going to meet those goals if we tackle them as a community.”


Though the mood at last night’s event was festive, Alvarez did admit that working for development, the environment, and affordable neighborhoods at the same time wouldn’t be easy. 


“It’s a balancing act,” he said. “You have to look at everything that’s occurring, not just in terms of expanding your tax base or job creation. You also have to look at some of the drawbacks of this development, of this gentrification. With my work at the City Council we showed that it’s possible to balance economic development by supporting local businesses, including minority- and women-owned businesses, and caring about environmental sustainability. Now I think we need to bring that perspective to the county.”

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