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Seven seek City Council seat for District 7

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 by Mark Richardson

District 7 is a tale of two neighborhoods: one is an established North Central area sandwiched between two high-volume traffic arteries, and the other a more recently developed suburban region, still looking for the city to provide pools, parks and sidewalks.

The district encompasses the Crestview, Allandale and Brentwood neighborhoods on the south, bounded by MoPac Boulevard and U.S. 183, and the Gracywoods, Milwood and Preston Oaks neighborhoods, sitting between Braker Lane on the south and Wells Branch Parkway on the north. Connecting the two is the Kramer Lane industrial area, including the Domain and Gateway commercial developments.

The area is almost horseshoe-shaped, carved out to make room for black and Hispanic minority “opportunities” in District 1 and 4. That makes District 7 a white-majority district, at 57.6 percent, with significant numbers of Hispanics (22.4 percent) and Asians (9.6 percent) represented.

The major issues include improved transportation, housing affordability, more city services and neighborhood preservation.

The district is moderately well off financially, with a median family income of $74,000 and a poverty rate of 12.3 percent. The area has a 43.8 percent rate of home ownership.

Politically, the area is predominantly Democratic, with pockets of conservatives in the north end of the district. Some 53 percent of the residents are registered voters. The area went 67 percent for President Obama in 2012; however, it rejected the 2012 affordable housing bonds by a slim margin while approving the 2013 bond package by a 60 percent margin.

District 7 is mid-sized among the city 10 Council districts, at 28 square miles, with a moderate population density of 4.2 people per acre. About 25 percent of the residents are in the 18 to 34-year-old age bracket, while 7.8 percent are over 65 years old. About 13 percent of the district’s residents list themselves as non-citizens.

Seven people have signed up to run for the District 7 Council seat, including Ed English, Jeb Boyt, Josiah Ingalls, Paul Salazar Jr., Melissa Zone, Jimmy Paver and Leslie Pool.

English, 60, a retired sales and marketing expert who has lived in Austin for 31 years, 30 of them in the same home in Millwood. He is a native of Freeport and served as a Navy flight instructor at the Kingsville Naval Air Station during the Vietnam era. More recently, he volunteered with the Red Cross to staff shelters during the Bastrop wildfires. English worked with Austinites for Geographic Representation to help push for 10-1 representation.

His priorities include finding quick and innovative solutions to traffic problems; addressing affordability, especially for people with average or low incomes; easing property-tax burdens; and water scarcity. He also wants to focus on neighborhood-specific issues like sidewalks and storm sewers.

Boyt, 50, is an attorney specializing in governmental relations and administrative law. A Democrat, Boyt has worked for the Texas Attorney General, as well as the Railroad Commission and the Texas General Land Office, where he dealt with coastal environmental and economic issues as director of the Texas Coastal Management Program. Boyt grew up on the Texas coast and moved to Austin in 1993. He has lived in Crestview, Brentwood and now Allandale. Boyt is active with the Hill Country Conservancy, the Alliance for Public Transportation, and the Austin Environmental Democrats. He has served on the city’s Parks and Recreation Board.

Boyt’s priorities are affordability, transportation and accountability. He supports affordable housing and reducing the cost of building. He also supports urban rail, I-35 updates and Lone Star Rail.

Ingalls, 34, has lived in Austin since 2004. He is the president of Austin Area Landscaping. Ingalls ran for mayor in 2009, the State Board of Education in 2010 and City Council in 2011.

A resident of Wooten, Ingalls wants to improve neighborhood affordability via tax relief and assessment reform and work with neighborhood associations on zoning issues to preserve neighborhood character. Ingalls’ transportation priorities include ensuring better connections to public transportation, especially to light rail lines, and working with the state on I-35. He would also like to improve neighborhoods’ spaces for walking and biking and improve public spaces for young people.

Salazar, 34, is a Democrat who grew up in Austin. He has worked on housing, veterans and employment issues with Caritas of Austin and the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. He also worked on veterans’ issues with AmeriCorps and Goodwill and testified about veterans before Congress and the Senate.

Salazar is interested in responsible growth that is accountable to neighborhoods, affordability, support for small businesses and tax transparency including expenses within utility budgets. He is a longtime user of public transportation and plans to ensure better access and new transportation options. Salazar would also like to make energy more affordable.

Paver, 35, is an Allandale resident who has lived in Austin most of his life. The Democrat is director of planning and community relations at Stepping Stone Schools. His political experience includes working as U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s district director and as Texas Rep. Mark Strama’s legislative director. He is also a member of the board of trustees at St. Michael’s Catholic Academy.

Paver wants to improve city budget transparency and to cut water and energy costs. With regard to transportation, he advocates reducing demand via measures like telecommuting and carpools, working with state and federal government on major thoroughfares, and improving east- and westbound city travel. To improve affordability, Paver supports a municipal homestead exemption based on a flat amount; he also favors affordable housing.

Pool, 59, is a latecomer to District 3, race, only filing her Treasurer designation in mid-July. Pool has lived in Austin for the past 34 years. A longtime Democratic activist, she works for Constable Precinct 5 Carlos Lopez as an executive assistant and grant coordinator. She was previously an education policy staffer for Rep. Ann Kitchen in 2000. She has served on the Water and Wastewater Commission, the Arts Commission, the Downtown Commission, and was chair of the Telecommunications Commission. She has served on two Travis County bond committees and on the 2012 City of Austin Bond Advisory Committee.

Pool lists her issues as the livability of Austin, including transit issues along the Burnet Road Corridor, which runs through the heart of District 7; working with the neighborhood on development issues. Pool is treasurer of Liveable City and a founder of the Bull Creek Road Coalition. She says she wants to make sure that development in District 7 is appropriate for the location, especially in the Bull Creek area.

Zone, 48, is a Democrat who has lived in Austin for four years, all of them in what is now District 7. A senior urban planner with Travis County’s Transportation and Natural Resources Department, she conducts county transportation and water-resource planning and co-authored the Colorado River Corridor Plan. She also analyzes pending legislation and works on the department’s public outreach.

Zone wants to rethink city growth as CodeNEXT unfolds. She is interested in land development from neighborhoods’ point of view. She works with the Crestview Neighborhood Association to bring more parkland to the area, and she has helped Northwest Austin residents stop a development and business owners navigate watershed regulations. Zone is also interested in neighborhood preservation, affordability, transportation, health and safety, and environmental protection.

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