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Riley and Morrison dominate early endorsements

Monday, March 28, 2011 by Josh Rosenblatt

Last week the political season started in earnest, as Democratic organizations began passing out endorsements for City Council races. On Thursday evening, four groups — the Austin Tejano Democrats, Circle C Democrats, Capital Area Progressive Democrats, and South Austin Democrats — put aside whatever differences may exist among them and threw their unanimous support behind two of the three incumbents up for re-election, Council members Chris Riley and Laura Morrison.


Riley is facing three challengers for his Place 1 seat, Roger Chan, Josiah Ingalls, and Norman Jacobson. Neither Chan nor Jacobson attended Thursday night’s endorsement event, so it was left to Ingalls, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2009 and the State Board of Education in 2010, to take it to the incumbent. 


Ingalls went right after Riley over his role in the recent open meetings controversy. “We were promised transparency,” Ingalls said. “What we got was more secrets and lies.” Ingalls promised more accountability if he were elected to Council. 


In his campaign literature, Ingalls said he would increase transparency and accountability by proposing a resolution mandating that the city post full minutes and video footage of Council meetings on the city Web site. He also said he supports single-member districts because an at-large Council “ensures that only the wealthy and the special interest groups have representation.”


The city currently posts closed-caption transcripts of all Council meetings, and full videos of those meetings can be found on the city Web site’s Channel 6 Austin page.


When asked about single-member districts, Riley explained that he felt it had been impossible for Council to take up the issue prior to receiving the results of the 2010 census. “Now we do, so it’s going to be on our next ballot,” Riley said.


Riley came under the most fire for his vote against a settlement with the family of police-shooting victim Nathaniel Sanders. It was a controversial decision, “the toughest vote I’ve had to make,” he said. However, Riley didn’t make his reasons for voting against the settlement clear on Thursday, saying only that many people he spoke to at the time had “grave concerns” about the proposed settlement amount.


When asked what he would have done in the same situation, Ingalls said he would have voted for the settlement. “The true impact of Council’s decision on the African-American community will be unmeasured for centuries,” he said.


In the race for Place 4, meanwhile, Morrison went toe-to-toe with Eric Rangel. Morrison’s other opponent, Toby Ryan, did not attend the event


Rangel, the son of the first Hispanic Council member in Lockhart’s history, started the evening out on an odd note, telling a representative from the Circle C Democrats that the best way to alleviate congestion on Route 71 in southwestern Austin would be to fix congestion downtown.


“Growth needs to start in and grow out,” Rangel said.  


Meanwhile, Morrison seemed to enjoy the support of a considerable portion of the crowd for her vote against Water Treatment Plant 4 and her time as president of the Austin Neighborhoods Council.


Morrison called WTP4 an “undue burden with an increase in water rates” and said she voted against the project because she felt the city had more efficiency and conservation work to do before such construction should have been considered. 


“We don’t need a water treatment plant,” she said to applause. “With more restrictions on water use, we would save $1 billion for the city. The issue has to do with peak use … and we just need to limit that use.”


Rangel earned some good will with his promise to pass a resolution that would force police officers to live in the neighborhoods they patrol. Citing the “collateral security” a neighborhood enjoys when police officers live there, Rangel said, “We are paying for the sense of security of people in Manor and Dripping Springs but not here in Austin.”


Support for Morrison has thus far been unanimous among city Democratic groups. In addition to the four groups at Thursday’s meeting, last week she earned the official support of the Black Austin Democrats, the Austin Neighborhoods Council, the NXNW Democrats, the Capital Area Asian American Democrats, the Capital City Young Democrats, and the Austin Progressive Coalition.


Riley’s support has been almost as comprehensive. In a statement released Thursday, the Austin Neighborhoods Council made no endorsement in Place 1, saying that, “on balance, (Riley’s) record does not rise to our standards.” 


Riley, Morrison and Council Member Randi Shade all earned early endorsements from the Central Labor Council, the Austin Police Association, Austin Firefighters and the Austin Travis County EMS Employees Association.

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