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Martinez jumps on the mobility bond bus

Monday, August 8, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

Former City Council Member Mike Martinez has plunged back into local politics in order to support former rival Mayor Steve Adler’s $720 million transportation bond proposal.

Addressing a packed press conference at City Hall on Friday, Martinez said he was fulfilling a promise he had made to Adler during their otherwise contentious mayoral campaign in 2014.

“It was early on when there were still seven candidates in the race, and I said, ‘Regardless of who wins this election, if you happen to win, I will stand ready to help you if you ever need it,'” Martinez said he told Adler.

He explained that the mayor called him several weeks ago to seek his input on the massive proposal that would fund highway projects, bike lanes, sidewalks, safety initiatives and projects recommended by six completed corridor studies.

“It’s in my mind not a perfect plan, but perfection should never be the enemy of good,” Martinez said. “It is a sound, well-thought-through plan that’s built upon previous decisions that got us to this point. We wouldn’t have the corridor plans laid before us had the previous Council not voted in 2010 and 2012 on transportation bonds that funded those planning programs.”

Martinez, who served two terms on Council, has kept a low profile since resoundingly losing the mayoral runoff to Adler in December 2014. It was the first election of the new single-member district era of Council, and Martinez’s loss fit into the narrative of a city ready for political change, a theme seized upon by Adler’s campaign slogan of “A New Way Forward.”

Martinez was also chair of the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority board of directors, which had overseen the development of Project Connect’s urban rail proposal. Council bundled that project into a $1 billion roads and rail bond that voters also overwhelmingly rejected in 2014.

On Friday, Martinez called Adler’s proposal “the most significant bond proposal that I have ever seen in my entire life here in Austin.”

Both he and Adler noted that the massive investment could address traffic congestion around the city, although neither elaborated on how the plan would achieve this. When asked if he had any other cities in mind as examples of communities that have solved congestion issues, Adler said, “There are cities around the world that are taking real, active steps to deal with mobility, and I think that there are a lot of cities that are doing lots of things that we should look at as best practices.”

Flanking Adler and Martinez at Friday’s press conference were representatives from a coalition of groups that have endorsed the bond proposal, including Bike Austin, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Shoal Creek Conservancy and the Austin Technology Council. As for the grassroots group trying to persuade Council to add to November’s ballot a light rail referendum, Adler offered little hope.

“My personal view is that I’m supportive of rail in the city of Austin,” he said, before explaining that his bond proposal is a “consensus” package. Adler concluded, “I do not anticipate having a rail component as part of this bond election.”

Council is set to take the first of three votes on ballot language on Thursday. That meeting will also feature a public hearing in order to allow residents to weigh in one last time before the ballot is approved. The third and final vote is expected to come on Aug. 18, three days before the state-mandated deadline to call the election.

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