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Shade and Tovo scrap at candidate forum

Wednesday, April 27, 2011 by Michael Kanin

Council Member Randi Shade publicly challenged Kathie Tovo, one of her opponents in the race for the Place 3 seat, on Tuesday afternoon over Tovo’s signing of the city’s fair campaign pledge. “According to your expense report, you took advantage of the loophole in the so-called ‘fair campaign law’ and violated (its) limits just 72 hours after you signed the pledge,” Shade said.


“My question is: Did you ever intend to honor your pledge or did you instead sign the pledge with the intent of immediately exploiting the loophole to secure $60,000 in public funding? It has to be one or the other. Which is it?”


Tovo kept her response to a neutral, just-following-the-rules tone. “I’m not exploiting a loophole,” she said. “It’s part of the fair campaign provision — and I am the only candidate in all of these races who has signed it – that if somebody has entered the race and has not signed it … no one is obligated to abide by them.”


The exchange took place at the Real Estate Council of Austin’s Power Luncheon Candidate Forum. KEYE-TV News anchor Judy Maggio moderated.


Shade and Tovo shared the dais with most of the rest of their fellow candidates for the Place 1, 3, and 4 seats. Forum attendees filled a large ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel downtown, providing the largest audience so far for an exchange of views by the candidates.


As with past 2011 election forums, the Place 3 race provided most of the action — particularly when it came time for the candidates to ask one another questions. Each of Shade’s challengers predictably directed their attentions to her.


Tovo suggested that the group behind an Austin Formula 1 track would ask the City Council for $4 million in public funds. “When they do—and they will—what will be your vote: yes or no?” she asked.


Shade said that she hadn’t heard that the Formula 1 developers would ask the city for money. “Right now, as I understand it, a local organizing committee is responsible for raising $4 million from any number of sources,” she said. “It can be from our government entity, it can be from private sector sources, and I don’t know what the approach will be in terms of what the city’s participation is.”


Max Nofziger asked Shade about her “yes” vote on Water Treatment Plant 4. “What if it turns out that the real issue is not water treatment capacity but having enough water?” he asked, referencing the late dry spell.


Shade agreed that water conservation would be key but also said, “Water treatment capacity is a separate challenge and one that we also have to meet.” She then defended her vote on the treatment plant.


“I think the costs with being too late with that decision are much higher than being a little bit too early,” she said.


Kris Bailey wondered why Shade held up the approval of a permit for downtown golf cart shuttle service. Shade noted that the operator of that business, Chris Nielsen, “chose to enter a business that is highly regulated” and that she didn’t understand “the expectation that the City Council will create a business niche specifically for him.”


That brought about Shade’s turn and the question about Tovo’s fair campaign pledge.


In a straw poll conducted by RECA after their forum, Place 1 challenger Roger Chan beat out incumbent Chris Riley, Shade won over her three opponents, and challenger Eric Rangel beat Place 4 incumbent Laura Morrison.

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