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Shade, Tovo both claim small business support in runoff campaign

Friday, June 3, 2011 by Michael Kanin

Backed by a cross-section of leaders from the Hispanic and African-American communities, Council Member Randi Shade portrayed herself as a friend to small and minority businesses at a press conference on Thursday morning. “I have been able to work with the people on this stage directly, and many others, to ensure equitable economic opportunities for minority and women owned businesses,” she said.


Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Committee Chair Celia Israel, MBE/WBE Advisory Committee Chair Adrian Neely, and former Hispanic Chamber President Andy Ramirez all spoke on Shade’s behalf. Meanwhile, the Council member used her support of the construction of Water Treatment Plant 4 as an illustration of her willingness to go to bat for small and minority businesses.


“I worked with city staff to do something that had never been done before,” she said. “Ensuring equitable economic opportunities for minority and women owned businesses was not an afterthought when it came to the construction of Water Treatment Plant 4; it was something that was part of the vision of the project from the beginning.”


Shade finished second to former Planning Commission Member Kathie Tovo in the May 12 City Council elections by a 13 percent margin. Tovo, however, was unable to reach the vote threshold for outright victory and the two are still locked in a battle for Shade’s Place 3 seat. The issue will be decided in a run-off on June 18. Early voting in the contest begins Monday.


The incumbent attempted to recast criticism from the Tovo camp about her alignment with business interests. “My opponent’s primary backers love to talk about how I am the candidate of big business, but here’s what they don’t understand – hundreds of people working on (the treatment plant) are people like you – local business owners and your employees, working in jobs you created.”


For her part, Tovo cited quotes from an Austin Chronicle interview that she says illustrate her understanding of the impact that a work stoppage on the plant might bring for small business.


In a conversation with the Chronicle’s Wells Dunbar, Tovo said that any decision to halt work on the project would have to come after a “much fuller consideration of all of the impact.” She added that she “spoke with some folks” that “talked about another type of impact, and that is on the contractors involved in the project, many of whom are small businesses.”


“There are many, many issues there that would need to be considered,” she told Dunbar.


Tovo added that, considering those statements, Shade’s comments were “uninformed.”


“I have a very broad base of support … and small businesses are among that broad base of support,” Tovo added.


Last week, former Mayor Gus Garcia said he would not support either of the candidates in the race but many other prominent people have lined up with one side or the other (see In Fact Daily, whispers, May 27).


On Thursday, Shade provided reporters with a list of notable backers from the Hispanic  community. It includes Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez, Water and Wastewater Commission Chair Mario Espinoza, and State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez.


Her remarks seemed to imply that a heavy turnout would be good for her effort. “We need to show up in full force for this election,” she said. “This is everybody’s Austin … We choose its future by the votes we cast. That’s why I’m asking for your vote. That’s why I am also asking to get your friends, family, employees, and neighbors to vote too.”


Tovo wasn’t so sure that a higher turn out would make “any difference.” She noted the support she’d received “after just eight weeks of campaigning” and added that she feels “very optimistic about the runoff.”


“I have a lot of reason to expect that new voters are going to go to the polls and vote overwhelmingly for change,” she said.

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