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Adler, Martinez headed for runoff in mayor’s race

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 by Jo Clifton

Political newcomer Steve Adler will face incumbent City Council Member Mike Martinez in a Dec. 16 runoff for Austin mayor. Adler led the field of eight candidates, pulling in about 37 percent of the vote, with Martinez garnering nearly 30 percent early this morning.

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole picked up about 15 percent of the vote, with everyone else polling in single digits.

Adler addressed a crowd of loud and happy supporters at his headquarters Tuesday night as it became clear that he would lead into a runoff with Martinez. For his part, Martinez promised supporters attending his election night party downtown, that he was “in it to win it.”

Adler said, “I think that the people of Austin, faced with the choice between the status quo and something new, are choosing something new. The two three-term incumbents combined — it doesn’t look like they’re getting 50 percent of the vote. And I think that’s significant and it says something about what the people of Austin want and what they want is something new. They want us to move forward in a different way than we’ve been moving in the past.”

“Were headed in the wrong direction. We used to be the 26th most congested city, now we are in the fourth most congested city in the country today. We’ve been headed in the wrong direction. We need to change things,” he said. Adler also spoke about Austin’s rising level of poverty, growing tax burden and increased utility fees, promising to tackle those problems if he becomes Mayor.

Martinez promised that his campaign would continue to talk about helping the middle class. “Everyone should join in the prosperity,” he said, “not just a few.” He made it clear that he would continue to focus on the theme that has run throughout the campaign with Martinez the champion of the little guy and Adler the rich man who just wants to help other rich people.

Martinez noted that he had talked to Cole, who congratulated him on making the runoff.

Just slightly more than 22 percent of Travis County voters cast their ballots early. There was a widespread prediction that the early vote would make up half of the total at the end of Election Day but it appears that the early vote was considerably more than half.

Adler, an attorney who has practiced condemnation and civil rights law, endorsed a 20 percent homestead tax exemption as a tool for increasing affordability. “It is not something that just helps the rich, it helps the people who need it most,” he asserted. Adler said that the property tax burden for those in the bottom 20 percent of household income is four times greater than for the top 1 percent. He proposed that the city pay for it out of budget surpluses or by adjusting the tax rate over a several-year period.

Both of his major opponents, Martinez and Cole, attacked Adler for this idea. In particular, Martinez sought to portray Adler as a rich man who will personally benefit from the 20 percent exemption more than people who live in houses with lower valuations.

Martinez advocated development of a city Affordability Index that links the City of Austin’s spending with the cost of living. In general, as a former president of the Austin Firefighters Association, Martinez has sided with labor unions and other organizations working to increase wages and better conditions for Austin laborers.

Cole, who is both an attorney and a certified public accountant, has stressed her experience with the city’s budget and rejected Adler’s contention that a 20 percent homestead exemption would help everybody. Such a plan, she said, would “make our tax structure more regressive and place a higher burden on 55 percent of the population who rent.” Like Martinez, Cole had endorsed a $5000 homestead exemption that she said is “both progressive and achievable within our budget.”

The other candidates in the race were Todd Phelps, Ronald Culver, Randall Stevens, David Orshalick and Mary Catherine Krenek.

According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Adler has loaned his campaign $306,000. Martinez, according to the finance reports, has loaned his campaign $100,000. Cole reported no such loans.

 

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