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Mike Kanin is the Publisher of the Austin Monitor. As such, he doesn't report on much--aside from the workings of the Monitor--any more. In his previous life as a freelance journalist, Kanin has written for the Washington City Paper, the Washington Post's Express, the Boston Herald, Boston's Weekly Dig, the Austin Chronicle, and the Texas Observer.
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Tovo launches Council campaign, picks up endorsements
Friday, March 25, 2011 by Michael Kanin
Kathie Tovo has had a good week.
Yesterday, she kicked off her campaign to unseat current Place 3 Council Member Randi Shade in front of a group of about 30 supporters. “I believe in a City Hall that listens and respects citizen voices, from the volunteers – like many of you here today – to the citizens who spend hours waiting for their three minutes in front of the City Council,” she said, making a veiled reference to recent revelations about impolitic emails among Council Members.
Last night, she ended her pitch to a number of Democratic organizations at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center with a recap of the past few days: On Monday, the former Planning Commissioner picked up the co-endorsement of the NXNW Democrats. On Wednesday, both the Black Austin Democrats and the Austin Neighborhoods Council (ANC) formally backed her. She has served as vice president of ANC.
Soon after her remarks, she won support from the Capital Area Progressive Democrats and the South Austin Democrats.
Shade, meanwhile added the endorsements of the Circle C Area Democrats, the NXNW Democrats, and the Victory Fund to her list of 750 Austin politicos. That group, according to a campaign release, includes “over 200 Austin Community leaders.”
Tovo’s challenge represents the most serious race on May’s ballot. Though Council Members Chris Riley and Laura Morrison will also have to defend their seats against opponents, Shade is facing three challengers including Tovo and former Council Member Max Nofziger. Tovo boasts a strong campaign team headlined by veteran campaign consultant David Butts.
At the rally, Tovo’s supporters featured many familiar Water Treatment Plant 4 foes, including Save Our Springs Alliance’s Bill Bunch and Colin Clark, the Sierra Club’s Roy Waley, Water and Wastewater Commissioner Sarah Faust, and Stop the Shaft’s Sharon Blythe. Tovo has repeatedly stated that she would not have voted for the construction of the new facility if she had served on Council when that decision was made.
After the event, In Fact Daily asked Tovo if, as a Council Member, she would act to stop the massive project. “I am talking about the Water Treatment Plant as a bad decision that was made in terms of affordability for our community,” she said. “Any decision with regard to (stopping the plant) would have to be really, fully considered in terms of its legal and economic implications for the city.”
Shade has been a steady yes vote on the plant as it has moved forward over the past 18 months. She, Council Member Sheryl Cole, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, and Mayor Lee Leffingwell have made up the block of four votes favoring construction of the plant. Council Members Chris Riley, Laura Morrison, and Bill Spelman regularly oppose it.
The Austin Neighborhood Council forum homed in on the Water Treatment Plant and the recently approved Park PUD (Planned Unit Development) on Barton Springs Road. There, Tovo shined, garnering the near-unanimous support of the organization’s voting members.
The Gardner Betts event featured a more rapid fire format, with selected representatives of the interested clubs lobbing questions at the candidates. There, Shade again found herself on the defensive, forced to explain her votes for the extended parking hours and, somewhat preemptively, the Water Treatment Plant.
Tovo filled what has become a familiar role, delivering her take on that plant. She also took the opportunity –unprompted by any query – to question the wisdom behind the new parking schedule.
“I think it’s another example where our City Council is not taking into … account the kind of economic hardship that many of our Austin families are suffering from,” she said.
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