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Adler has a good day, but falls short of getting endorsement

Thursday, August 7, 2014 by Gene Davis

Editor Jo Clifton contributed to this report.

Although he did not win their endorsement, mayoral candidate Steve Adler had a good day at the Austin Environmental Democrats meeting Wednesday, coming away with 47.5 percent of the vote. His closest rival, Council Member Mike Martinez, garnered 38.8 percent and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole came in a distant third with 10 percent. Under club rules, a candidate must receive 60 percent of the vote in order to gain an endorsement.

Environmental Democrats’ representative Ted Siff said there were 84 votes in the Mayor’s race, a good turnout for the group.

Although no candidate received enough votes to secure an endorsement, the forum showed the gloves are already off in the mayoral race.

Unlike the forum between Council District 9 candidates Chris Riley and Kathie Tovo, which took an audience member asking the candidates about their differences before they took any shots at each other, Martinez attacked Adler by name in his opening speech.

“At each and every turn, Steve Adler throughout his career has fought directly against Austin residents,” he said. “He sued the city multiple times, he’s evaded and weakened environmental protections and made himself and his corporate clients richer.”

Martinez also chided Adler for spending $200,000 of his own money on the mayoral race and hiring Washington D.C.-based consultants. Martinez added that he had heard Adler planned to spend $1 million of his own money by the campaign’s end.

“This race is not for sale,” Martinez said.

For his part, Adler called the $1 million figure untrue. Adler said Austin is at a tipping point and that the current city leadership has not adequately addressed issues such as poverty and traffic congestion. He went on to call 10-1 a blessing and that new leadership could better address the issues facing Austin.

“We have an opportunity to reinvent who we are and how we do things, and we need to take advantage of that,” he said. “I think I bring the experience to do that.”

While not involved as much in the back-and-forth between Adler and Martinez, Cole staked her own claim in the forum by pointing out her successes in serving as a Council member and on the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Policy Board.

“I believe that it’s going to be very important this next time that we elect the mayor, that you elect someone who has a record, not just of talking about it, but a record of working with all types of people,” she said.

During their opening speeches, the candidates only lightly touched on environmental issues, which drew the ire of several attendees at the forum.

When pressed on their environmental beliefs and the handling of city utilities, the three candidates agreed that Austin Energy should remain under City Council control. They also all said they believe in conservation efforts and would stand up to anyone who tried to get in the way of strong environmental policies.

After an audience member asked the candidates what actions they have taken that they now regret, Martinez and Cole both said they wish they had not voted in favor of Water Treatment Plant 4 that the drought has made currently unnecessary.

Adler used his response to the question to address the criticism he has received over the four lawsuits he worked on as an attorney against the city. He said while he does not think he necessarily did anything wrong, he wished he had not handled the cases.

“It creates an ambiguity that I wish didn’t exist,” he said.

The Austin Monitor asked each campaign for a reaction to the forum.

Jim Wick, Adler’s campaign manager said, “Steve gave a very strong performance and clearly won the day. Voters are tired of the same old promises from the same old politicians as our city continues to lose ground on the environment, affordability and traffic.”

Cole’s consultant, Genevieve Van Cleve said, “What is says to me is the race is wide-open.” She said Cole met with a large group of environmental leaders and felt good about the meeting. Van Cleve said when voters realize that only one of the 10 Council members elected from districts it will become clear that “a most important attribute is going to be experience.”

The Martinez campaign also claimed victory, saying that Adler was on the defensive over certain property in the Barton Springs zone that he co-owns. The campaign quoted portions of Tuesday’s Austin Bulldog concerning that property which carries a restrictive covenant in conflict with current environmental regulations, including the SOS Ordinance.

Adler said he only owns a 25 percent interest in the property, which carries a restrictive covenant put on it in the 1980s. He said the owners sold part of the property to the city and part of the property to the county, either of which could have removed the restrictive covenant but apparently did not. He said he and his law partner have never developed the property they still own, which is one lot. He agreed that he and the other partners could together remove the restrictive covenant but he was adamant about the assertion that he is not responsible for what subsequent owners of the property might do.


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