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Morrison, Rangel square off in Place 4 Council candidate forum
Thursday, April 14, 2011 by Kimberly Reeves
Place 4 incumbent Laura Morrison and challenger Eric Rangel sparred over a variety of issues at last Friday’s forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters and the city’s Ethics Commission.
Place 4 candidate K. Toby Ryan Hill said he had to miss the forum due to a death in the family but he has not participated in the majority of forums this spring. He registered to vote in January.
Morrison, in her comments, said she was running for a second term to serve as the public voice at City Hall. She said she was guided by three principles: Does this benefit the community? Can this be fiscally and socially responsible at the same time? And is all our work transparent and accountable with authentic public participation?
“We achieve better outcomes when the public is involved in decision-making, and we have all stakeholders at the table,” Morrison said.
Responding to questions, Morrison said she was a supporter of a balance between single-member and at-large positions on Council. She expressed support for the city’s zero waste proposal, seeking additional general obligation bonds to pay for affordable housing projects and the formation of a city-county-Council committee to address common issues.
On transportation issues, Morrison said the issue had to be looked at from three perspectives: so-called quick-and-dirty fixes like those that have improved mobility at the Y in Oak Hill; a full strategic mobility plan that could include some urban rail component; and small decisions about growth and development that would discourage suburban sprawl.
Morrison expressed support for more community input on budget issues, noting that she had pushed for commissions such as the Library Commission to have a direct say in what should or should not be spent in the library department’s budget. She also supported Council-initiated changes that provided more time for feedback on Council briefings and strict guidelines for testimony and public input on various economic incentives the city has offered to outside businesses.
Challenger Rangel touted his service to the community and his commitment to view Austin from the perspective of 1.5 million residents and not just the current 800,000 that live in the city. “My vision is a long-term vision.”
In his response to questions, Rangel supported a “slower and more organic transition to single-member districts,” the local market driving affordable rental property prices, scaling back tax breaks that have cut income to the city and school district and the inclusion of urban rail in a long-term transportation plan.
Rangel did support a freeze on affordable housing projects in East Austin, however, saying the area had handled more than its fair share of such properties. “They keep carrying this burden, year after year,” Rangel said.
Rangel, a local small business owner, said he preferred to promote and support local business in Austin, rather than chasing companies such as Google. He also suggested the city should work with the school district and college district in order to promote apprenticeships and hands-on training for low-income residents.
Answering one question, Rangel was critical of the public input at Council, saying the public often got frustrated because the body just “didn’t stick to its agenda.” People should up to speak on an item at a specific time and end up waiting for hours to address Council on important issues, Rangel said.
The city’s municipal channel has committed to playing the forums at regular intervals. The videos also can be accessed at http://www.cityofaustin.org/channel6.
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