Friday, July 18, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Five residents seek to represent Southwest Austin’s District 8

If you are looking for wide-open spaces and lots of nature, Council District 8 if your kind of place. The Southwest Austin district has the natural beauty of the Texas Hill Country and other assets such as the Barton Creek Greenbelt, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and myriad examples of nature at its best.

It also has the city’s biggest and most infamous traffic bottleneck – the Oak Hill Y, the convergence of US 290 and SH 71, squeezing traffic heading to and from South MoPac Boulevard and out into the Hill Country. Neighborhood activists and highway engineers have been trying to find a solution for the intersection for more than two decades. And they are still trying. It is also home to proposed SH 45 Southwest toll road, which has pitted environmentalists against residents who want the road built since the mid-1980s.

District 8 contains three distinct neighborhoods, Oak Hill, Circle C and Travis Country. The district is bounded on the east by Brodie Lane, on the south by the Travis-Hays county line, on the north by Bee Cave road and on the west by the winding Austin city limits line.

The area is almost 70 percent white, with about 18 percent Hispanic and 8 percent Asian, with 5 percent identifying as non-citizens. It is an affluent area, with the median family income sitting at $109,000 and the poverty rate just over 5 percent. It is a sizable area, 43 square miles, with the second smallest population density in the city — 2.4 persons per acre. It has more than 3,400 acres of parkland.

Home ownership in the district is the highest rate in the city, 63.3 percent. Its population has seen significant growth in recent years, up 37 percent between 2000 and 2010.

Politically, observers see it as a swing district, almost equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. They split the vote for president in 2012, but voted against affordable housing bonds in both 2012 and 2013

Five people are running in District 8 for its City Council seat, including Darrell Pierce, Ellen Troxclair, Eliza May, Rebecca Bray and Ed Scruggs.

Rebecca Bray is a Professional Transportation Engineer and Transportation/Land Planner who works with local cities and counties in Central Texas and with the state of Texas. She is a graduate of Austin High School and has undergraduate and graduate degrees in civil engineering from Texas A&M University. She has extensive civic involvement, including the Real Estate Council of Austin, the Capital Area Transportation Coalition and was an Austin Area Research Organization McBee Fellow. She has also volunteered with Safe Place, Susan G. Komen Foundation, the Junior League of Austin, the Settlement Club of Austin, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas and Animal Trustees of Austin.

Her issues include improvements to the Oak Hill Y and construction of State Highway 45 Southwest, bringing fiscal responsibility to city government, particularly to maintaining the city’s infrastructure and funding public safety agencies at a competitive level, providing affordable housing and developing water conservation plans for the city.

Eliza May is the director of mission services at the Austin affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. She has previously worked in a variety of consulting positions. She has led international medical teams as the executive director of MEDICO and served as president of the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. She also has a long history of civic involvement. May was an original supporter of the Save Our Springs Alliance and helped lead the effort to pass the 10-1 voting system and the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

May says the major issues facing District 8 include choking traffic, rising tax burdens and threats to the water supply brought on by drought and unmanaged growth.

Darrell Pierce is president of SNAP Management Group, a consulting firm. He has also worked for IBM, the State of Texas and Motorola. He has lived in Southwest Austin for more than 30 years, and is a graduate of Crockett High School and St. Edwards University. He grew up in a military family, with his father stationed at Bergstrom Air Force Base in the 1980s. His civic involvement includes serving on the Austin Public Education Foundation board of directors, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce Education Council, the Texas Economic Development Advisory Board, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce board of directors, the AISD Facility/Boundary Task Force and the City of Austin Planning Commission. He currently serves on the, Mayor’s Transportation Working Group.

His primary issues include transportation, including securing adequate funding to support a regional transit study in South Austin and finding a solution for congestion at the Oak Hill Y, developing affordable housing, creating economic diversity and making city government operate more efficiently.

Ed Scruggs is a clinical research associate at PRA International and is a former director of the Circle C Homeowners Association. He is the founder of the Circle C Democrats and is an advocate for a number of issues in his neighborhood.

His campaign issues include transportation, including developing mass transit, fixing the Oak Hill Y but opposing SH 45 SW; water conservation and alternative energy programs; housing affordability through controlling the costs to live in Austin; and preserving parks and open space, particularly in District 8.

Ellen Troxclair is a Realtor and chief of staff to State Rep. Jason Isaac R-Dripping Springs at the Texas Legislature. She has a degree in business from the University of Texas. In addition to running her business, she is a member of the Host Committee for St. David’s Toast of the Town and raises scholarship money for Central Texas students pursuing health careers. She is also a volunteer for Meals on Wheels, a Steward of the Wild through the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation, a patron of Ballet Austin, and a member of the Texas Association of Realtors and Austin Board of Realtors.

Troxclair says her campaign issues are dealing with skyrocketing property taxes and gridlocked traffic, as well as providing better roads, facilities and services for neighborhoods.

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Austin City Council November 2014 Elections: The November 2014 Austin City Council elections marked a shift from an all-at-large City Council to one elected based mostly on geographic districts. The city's Mayor remains elected at-large.

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