District 8’s Troxclair vows to be accessible leader
New City Council Member Ellen Troxclair won the District 8 seat by less than half a percentage point. Now, fresh from vacation, she said she’s ready to hit the ground running.
“I’m so humbled to be in the position I am and to have the support and faith of the people in District 8,” she said.
Troxclair said she’s already begun forming relationships with the other Council members.
“Each district is going to have unique needs and unique perspectives,” she said. “I’m hoping we can find a lot of common ground.”
Troxclair said the needs of each district will likely converge when it comes to aiding traffic congestion and increasing affordability. Throughout her campaign, Troxclair said she rallied for reducing property taxes, which hit District 8 especially hard, as it has the highest rate of homeownership in the city.
“I absolutely think there is the political will to make some serious changes,” she said. Specifically, she’s aiming to pass a 20 percent homestead exemption by the end of 2015.
“I also hope that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to affordability issues,” she said, adding she would also like to see a drop in the overall tax rate as well as in utility charges.
“It is amazing how many people I’ve talked to who are struggling to stay in their homes,” she said. Many residents told her they thought about of moving out of city, despite a longer commute, to be able to afford the cost of living.
“That’s threatening to the culture and future of our city,” she said. She admitted that Austin won’t become a more affordable city with the snap of a finger, however.
“It’s going to take some time,” she said. But by the end of her term, Troxclair said she hopes people who are now thinking of moving outside city limits are still in Austin and feeling more secure about their ability to stay.
By the end of the year, Troxclair said she would like to see an audit of the city budget, “so we can get a better idea of how our money is being spent.” Troxclair added that an audit might present opportunities to streamline operations at City Hall.
She said she also intends to ensure transportation projects, such as the reconstruction project in Oak Hill at the US 290 and SH 71 intersection — also known as the “Y” — are completed on time. Troxclair plans to extend bus services in District 8 as well.
“It’s a huge commuter area,” she said.
But first thing’s first. Troxclair, like many of the new Council members, said that before considering policy, Council needs to look at changing its processes, including holding efficient and accessible meetings and ensuring residents know their input is taken into account. Lately, she said, there’s been a disconnect between city government and its constituents.
“People aren’t involved,” she said. “There’s an attitude of, ‘What’s the point?’”
Troxclair said the new 10-1 system will keep Council members accountable and hopefully encourage more civic participation.
“That’s one of the benefits of having so many new faces at City Hall,” she said. “To change not just what is done, but how things are done.”
Troxclair said she plans to hold regular meetings in District 8 at coffee shops and grocery stores to hear constituents’ concerns while supporting local businesses. She also plans to hold regular office hours to make herself available to residents. Troxclair said she will post a schedule of office hours and meeting times on the city website and send notifications to residents on her email list once Council is up and running.
Troxclair said that during her time in office, she will be a voice for the district and stay true to her principles.
“Personally, I hope to be a servant leader,” she said. “I want to look back and say, above all, [I] was always truly representing District 8.”
Photo courtesy of The Hall Monitor
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
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.
District 8: 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. 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.