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Shade gets progressive coalition endorsement

Monday, March 28, 2011 by Michael Kanin

The initial surge of momentum behind former Planning Commissioner Kathie Tovo’s run for Randi Shade’s Place 3 council seat has hit something of a speed bump. On Saturday afternoon Shade earned the endorsements of four Austin democratic clubs, including those of the University of Texas Democrats and the Central Austin Democrats.


The thumbs up from those groups also earns Shade the endorsement of the Austin Progressive Coalition – an organization that comes into existence and combines its efforts behind any candidate who garners the collective support of both the UDems and their Central Austin colleagues. The plaudit comes with the key benefit of publicity: The coalition will now distribute door hangers throughout the central portion of the city that announce their support for Shade.


“I’m thrilled with the support in that room today, and I’m looking forward to a great next couple weeks before we get to May 14, and we win this race decisively,” Shade said.


Tovo has positioned herself as the Shade alternative. Over the past week, she repeatedly cited the incumbent’s yes vote on the city’s fourth water treatment plant and hinted at what she perceives as Shade’s unresponsiveness her constituents. “I’m running because I believe that we need a City Council Member who listens and respects the people of Austin,” she said again Saturday.


The Place 3 race represents the tightest contest on May’s ballot. Earlier in the week, Tovo grabbed the official backing of the Black Austin Democrats, the Austin Neighborhood Council – where she once served as vice president – the Capital Area Progressive Democrats, and the South Austin Democrats. She split the NXNW Democrats’ endorsement with Shade.


With the four groups present on Saturday in a general caucus, campaign proxies for both Tovo and Shade engaged in something of an impromptu debate. “There is a very strong, broad perception that Randi has not been good on the environment because of her strong support of water treatment plant 4,” said Tovo campaign manager Mark Yznaga.


Shade aide Glen Coleman fired back. “The environmental community is not anti-treatment plant number four,” he said. “Some people within the environmental community like Mark Yznaga and Bill Bunch (of the SOS Alliance) feel that it is the wrong thing, and those concerns are tied mostly to growth.”


Then the cost of living in Austin came up. “The affordability thing is a major part of the campaign because, honestly, the council has not been as responsible as they should for that area” Yznaga said. “But affordability goes beyond housing; affordability is going into the water rates … it’s also going into electric rates … it’s going up into new drainage fees, it’s going up, also, into the new downtown parking proposal.”


Again, Coleman responded. “If you want affordable housing in Austin, build some,” he said.


“The good thing about this race is that you have two candidates with very distinct records: Kathie Tovo has been on the planning commission for some time now, and Randi Shade has been on the City Council. Compare their votes when it comes to building density in the city, and you will see – and this is iron clad – an enormous difference,” said Coleman


Yznaga, who has spent a considerable amount of time working on the issue, told In Fact Daily afterward that “high-rises don’t equal affordability.”


“How many affordable units are there downtown?” he asked. “Other cities are taking other approaches – mid-rises. There are ways to do things if we want. The Council has not done them up to now.”


For her part, Shade told In Fact Daily that she was excited that “people are starting to focus on the election and the distinctions between me and my opponents.” She added that “every vote is going to count in this race” and that she is going to “need all of the support that I can get.”


The other Place 3 candidates, Max Nofziger and Kris Bailey, have failed to win any Democratic endorsements so far.


Incumbents Chris Riley and Laura Morrison easily won the groups’ endorsements Saturday also.

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