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District 2 candidates debate for first time

Wednesday, September 7, 2016 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

Beneath a basketball net and a shut-off scoreboard at the Dove Springs Recreation Center, two City Council candidates for Austin’s District 2 squared off against each other and against the incumbent, Council Member Delia Garza.

The forum, hosted by KUT, Glasshouse Policy and the Austin Monitor, kicked off with a question about the transportation bond voted onto the November ballot by Council members last month. The question was whether the candidates support the $720 million bond. All (including Garza, who abstained from the Council vote) said no.

Candidate Wesley Faulkner, who currently works in social media, echoed Garza’s comments on the dais in August, when she said the bond had been moved through Council in too little time.

“The way it was railroaded through and pushed through really quickly, I don’t think on balance it’s a good plan,” said Faulkner, as kids chased one another behind a mesh separator cordoning off part of the basketball court.

Candidate, professional boxer and current college student Casey Ramos agreed, saying that there were few improvements for District 2 in the bond on the ballot.

But when asked what they felt was District 2’s biggest challenge, candidates diverged.

Faulkner emphasized the need to encourage the establishment of more knowledge-based businesses in the district. “People don’t know about (District 2),” he said. “People don’t come here unless they’re going to the airport.”

Ramos stressed the need to contain local development. “If we don’t control the unbridled development, then we won’t be able to enjoy these (other) resources,” he said.

Garza stressed affordability – of which, she said, transportation is one piece, with many residents “having to own two cars because we don’t have a reliable transportation issue.” District 2 is one of the lowest-income districts, with a median family income of $42,650.

But during her response, she also took time to knock at Ramos’ inexperience, suggesting that he did not understand the city’s budget.

“I don’t know how you can say, ‘Stop development,’” she said. “It’s important to understand how the budget works, and you cannot say we’re not going to develop and we’re going to give tax exemptions.”

The candidates also said their piece on police body cameras, health care and how to maintain Austin’s creative community.

The entire audio recording of the forum is available below:

Photo: An Austinite speaks in front of seated District 2 candidates Wesley Faulkner (left) and Casey Ramos (right), as well as incumbent Council Member Delia Garza (middle). Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT. This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT.

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