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Nine candidates vie to represent growing, changing District 3

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 by Mark Richardson

The new City Council District 3 brings together three distinct neighborhoods – Central East Austin, Riverside and Far South Austin. The massive growth and changing demographics of the city have significantly changed the neighborhoods and residents of District 3, bringing a mixed bag of changes, both good and bad.

The neighborhoods face unfettered growth, rising property taxes, urban rail and plans for more, gentrification. District 3 was drawn up as an “opportunity district” for Hispanics, who make up 60.8 percent of the population.

Growth in Downtown Austin has pressed the demand for central city housing, sending the search for close in living across I-35. Residents in the Cesar Chavez, Holly and Govalle neighborhoods have been to City Hall in recent years, complaining that improvements in their neighborhood have had the unintended consequence of pricing many longtime residents out of their homes, a process called gentrification.

District 3 is the poorest in the city, with a median family income of just $35,000. It also has the second-highest rate of poverty among the districts at 34.4 percent. Its residents tend to vote Democratic, but turn out for elections in low numbers, with turnout generally less than 30 percent.

Meanwhile, the Riverside neighborhood is undergoing a Renaissance, of sorts. The area was developed in the 1970s into an alternative area for University of Texas students that turned into an area of affordable housing in the 1990s. Many of the area’s aging apartment complexes are being replaced by mixed-use housing, once again bringing a better-heeled group of residents to the area, displacing many of its low-income residents. The area remains primarily a rental neighborhood, with less than 25 percent of the homes owner-occupied.

The field of people who want to represent District 3 is large and diverse. Announced candidates include Susana Almanza, Miguel Ancira, Mario Cantu, Shaun Ireland, Fred McGhee, Eric J. Rangel, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, Ricardo Turullols-Bonilla and Julian Limon Fernandez.

Almanza, 62, is a founding member and co-director of People Organized in Defense of Earth and her Resources, better known as PODER, a grassroots environmental, economic and social justice organization. She serves on the city’s Parks and Recreation Board and was previously a member of the Environmental Board, the Planning Commission and the Charter Review Committee, among others. Almanza is a lifelong resident of East Austin. In her campaign, she promises to focus on affordable housing, job creation, a $15 per hour living wage, equal access to transportation, better community health care and other plans to strengthen the community.

Ancira, 49, is a senior coordinator for Capital One Bank. He has lived in Austin for the past 11 years, and holds a Bachelor in Business Administration from St. Edwards University. Ancira served on the Commission on Immigrant Affairs where, he says, he “worked diligently to minimize and counter the failed immigration policies of the Travis County Sheriff.” He has also worked as a precinct chair for the Travis County Democratic Party. His platform focuses on financial literacy, culture and arts after-school programs, small business support, “simplifying the way we do things” and a commitment to create affordable housing and find ways to meet current housing demands.

Cantu, 47, is an EMT-paramedic. A native Austinite, he has also served as an Austin Neighborhoods Council Representative for two years, and president of his Homeowners Association. Cantu’s platform is focused on transportation, education, health care, public safety, affordable housing, putting an end to increasing taxes, park preservation and building unity in District 3.

Ireland, 31, is the finance and intergovernmental affairs director for DTI Resources. Ireland is a community activist, who has a background in business and community advocacy. Ireland focuses his campaign on affordable housing, strengthening public safety, increasing solar energy use, and replacing aging water lines. Ireland supports urban rail along the Riverside corridor.

McGhee, 47, is an author, adjunct professor of anthropology (at Austin Community College) and business author. Until recently, McGhee was a member of the city’s Board of Adjustment, but stepped down to concentrate on the campaign. He also has served as a board member for the Austin History Center Association, a member of the Charter Revision Committee, member of the anti-gentrification task force and founding president of the Montopolis Neighborhood Association. McGhee’s platform focuses on transportation, inequality, sustainability, environmental justice and universal pre-K.

Rangel, 35, is a program specialist with the Texas Department of Transportation running for Council in District 3. Rangel ran for Council in 2011 against incumbent Laura Morrison. He is the current president of the South River City Citizens Neighborhood Association and the Hispanic Chapter of the Texas State University Alumni Association. Rangel’s platform is focused on creating affordable housing options for all Austinites, fighting crime in neighborhoods and bridging the gap between APD and the community, supporting entrepreneurs and local businesses, supporting a living wage for workers and improving the city’s transportation infrastructure.

Renteria, 64, is a community activist and retired computer tech. Renteria is vice-chair of the East Cesar Chavez Neighborhood Association, and a well-known neighborhood leader and civil rights activist. Renteria says his campaign will address affordable housing, resident displacement on the East Side, reducing homelessness and its criminalization, cultural preservation, creation of a homestead preservation district and the pending Holly Shores Master Plan.

Two candidates, Turullols-Bonilla and Fernandez, have not provided the Monitor with biographical information. Turullols-Bonilla is a teacher and author of books on philosophy and Fernandez is the bandleader for Los Texas Wranglers.

July 9, 2014
Adler mayoral campaign says it raised $363,000 through June 30

By Michael Kanin
The mayoral campaign of Austin Attorney Steve Adler announced Tuesday that it has raised more than $363,000 in the first period of fundraising for the November 2014 election. Adler’s campaign officials claim the figure sets a record for political fundraising in a local election under current campaign financing restrictions.

The release of Adler’s early fundraising numbers appears to lay out battle lines in what looks to be a very expensive mayoral election cycle.

In a release distributed by campaign spokesman Ron Oliveira, the campaign claims “more than 1,400 individual” donors. The release also included a quote from Adler: “I am grateful, and it represents what I hear from Austin citizens all over town—they are eager for new leadership and a new way forward, especially when it comes to traffic and affordability.”

According to Oliveira, the figure does not include any money Adler may have lent the campaign.

Adler’s campaign unveiled the number ahead of a July 15 filing deadline for the fundraising period. The rest of the 2014 mayoral field — including Council Member Mike Martinez and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole – have yet to unveil their figures. Those camps may well still be working to compile the information.

Rumors have Martinez’ haul for the period at well over $100,000. Cole Campaign Manager Kevin Opp told the Monitor that their figure would be “less than Steve’s,” and added “that’s okay because we are running a different kind of campaign.”

In his statement to the Monitor, Opp suggested that Cole would take a grassroots approach. “We have no doubt from the very beginning that (Adler) was the money candidate in the race,” he added.

Martinez Campaign Manager Matt Parkerson offered remarks along the same lines.

It’s no surprise that Stephen Adler, a millionaire who has already put $120k from his own personal wealth into the race and whose treasurer is the Vice Chair for the Chamber of Commerce, raised a lot of money in two months,” Parkerson said. “We never expected to out-raise or out-spend Adler’s wealth or connection to the chamber and business elite. But Austinites know elections can’t be bought, and our city isn’t for sale. Austin deserves experienced leadership that will work for all of its citizens, and that’s exactly the kind of mayor Mike Martinez will be.”

Even before the release of the figure, whispers had circulated that Adler would publish a large fundraising number. The rumors, coupled with the early release of the figure appear to reflect a push by the Adler camp to illustrate, as Oliveira put it in the release, a “groundswell of support.” That position could be designed to increase pressure – both in terms of momentum and pure fiscal power – on other candidates in the race.

Current campaign finance regulations limit individual contributions to $350 per candidate.

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