Tuesday, November 1, 2016 by Jo Clifton

Prop 1, District 10, 7 races bring in cash

It’s anybody’s guess whether the city’s $720 million transportation bond proposition, known as Proposition 1, will win voter approval next week, but if it does not, it won’t be because of lack of funding.

Move Austin Forward, the political action committee supporting the bond, has reported total political expenditures of more than $701,000. The campaign reported it had received nearly $482,000 in contributions and maintained about $75,000 in the bank as of Saturday.

Monday was the deadline for filing contribution and expenditure information for candidates and most political action committees.

There are two PACs organized to defeat the bond, Honest Transportation Solutions and Sensible Transportation Solutions for Austin. Even together, the two groups fall short of the massive expenditures from the pro-bond coalition.

Honest Transportation Solutions reported receiving nearly $106,000 in contributions during the period that ended Saturday. The committee has spent nearly $75,000 and had less than $30,000 in the bank.

The committee reported receiving $350 from City Council Member Ora Houston and $250 from lobbyist Dick Brown. Dhanis LLC contributed $2,500, and Janis Burrow contributed $20,000, according to the report. Burrow is listed as president and CEO of Randolph Capital Corporation and Sage Land Company, according to an online profile that states that she has extensive development experience in Austin.

Former Texas Monthly publisher Mike Levy reported that Macho Marketing contributed $15,587.46 for newspaper advertising to Levy’s PAC, Sensible Transportation Solutions for Austin. The same report shows that Levy loaned the committee $26,630, which is still outstanding.

The two hottest races for Council are in District 10, where the incumbent is Council Member Sheri Gallo, and District 6, where the incumbent is Council Member Don Zimmerman. Gallo faces Alison Alter, Rob Walker and Nicholas Virden. Alter has garnered the most attention of the opponents and raised the most money.

But the race in District 7 between incumbent Leslie Pool and the Grove at Shoal Creek proponent Natalie Gauldin is also heating up, with players from disparate groups weighing in with their contributions and outside expenditures. However, a poll by the Austin Monitor‘s pollster, Public Policy Polling, as we reported earlier this month, showed that incumbent Pool is far ahead of her opponent, Gauldin, so the money may not make that much difference this late in the game.

Pool reported raising less than $10,000 in the past month but spending more than $55,000. As of Saturday, she had a little more than $11,000 in the bank. Gauldin reported raising $4,750, spending about $6,400 and having about $6.500 in the bank on Saturday.

Returning to District 10, Gallo reported that she had raised more than $44,000 and spent more than $64,000 during the past month. She had nearly $27,000 in the bank as of Saturday – money that she might very well need in a likely runoff with Alter.

The Austin Board of Realtors political action committee reported last week that it had spent more than $27,000 to support Gallo’s reelection. ABoR PAC also supports Council members Greg Casar and Delia Garza. The group paid Littlefield Consulting $1,500 for services related to advertising for the three campaigns, according to the report filed last week.

Alter reported that she had raised a little more than $27,000 in the past month and spent more than $48,000. She had about the same amount of money in the bank as Gallo, nearly $27,000. The Travis County Democratic Party is helping Alter, as are several other Democratic-type groups and labor union PACs.

There’s more than one new PAC this election season. One is called the Arbor PAC, which is sponsoring the anti-Gallo website GalloForSale.com and the anti-Natalie Gauldin website NeverNatalie.com. A lot of the fight is about two properties, the Grove at Shoal Creek and the Austin Oaks planned unit developments, which some surrounding neighbors characterize as overly dense, a source of extra traffic and a threat to existing single-family neighborhoods.

Mike Lavigne, a spokesman for the Arbor PAC, told the Austin Monitor, “The whole goal here is just to educate voters because we knew that RECA and the Home Builders (Association of Greater Austin) would have an unlimited budget” to support Gallo and Gauldin. One mail piece attacking Gauldin was mailed to District 7 voters and quotes some unnamed supporters of Gauldin as saying, “Parking standards should be eliminated, NIMBYs here are some of the worst, 17 stories (along MoPac) and 600+ apartments sounds awesome, there should be no density limits for Austin.”

Geoffrey Tahuahua of the Home Builders Association told the Monitor that his group will be the providing “boots on the ground” to help Gallo. He also said that his group was working with the real estate community’s newest PAC, called Equity Austin.

The group’s website proclaims, “Equity Austin firmly believes that fresh faces, fresh ideas, and fresh energy from those moving here, combined with the passion and historical understanding of long-term residents, is vital to keeping Austin the extraordinary city that we love well into the 21st century. Equity Austin champions leaders and policies that view our city’s growth as an opportunity to make us better and stronger.”

More to the point perhaps, the site says, “Many public leaders and private citizens cling to the worn-out cliche that the influx of newcomers to Austin is robbing our city of its heritage, personality, and unique way of life. Equity Austin rejects this view. We believe that traffic jams and skyrocketing rents that push out diverse and talented residents are symptoms of a city that has refused to make the choices we need to adapt and thrive. We cannot move forward while public leaders operate under the idea that “if you don’t build it, they won’t come.” People are moving to Austin, we can’t pretend they’ll just stop.”
The group is supporting Gauldin, according to Monday’s filing.

Lavigne says the idea that increased density will lead to more affordability is “this unsubstantiated theory that if we give away our way of life here that all of a sudden it will become more affordable. It hasn’t been the case in any city in the country; it’s just a real estate play.” He adds that the Grove and the Austin Oaks PUD are the “most acute examples” of real estate forces trying to convince people that density will solve problems it will not.

Rob Walker, who is also running against Gallo, seems like a long shot. Not only did he come in third in the Austin Monitor’s poll earlier this month, but he raised only about $3,300 during the past month. During that month he spent nearly $15,000 and had about $1,100 left in his bank account on Saturday. His campaign still owes Walker nearly $17,000, according to his report. The other candidate in the race, Virden, apparently did not file a report.

Zimmerman faces Jimmy Flannigan, as he did in 2014, and it’s possible that this race will be decided more by who shows up to vote in the presidential race than any other factor.

Zimmerman reported raising about $30,000 over the past month, and Flannigan reported raising less than $18,000. Zimmerman spent only about $13,000 during the last month and maintained more than $27,000 in his campaign bank account, according to his report. Zimmerman still owes himself $18,000, a loan he made to the campaign two years ago.

However, Flannigan reported that he had spent nearly $28,000 over the past month and still had nearly $32,000 left to spend as of Saturday.

The political action committee known as Austinites for Equity spent more than $12,000 on advertising expenses to oppose Zimmerman and lesser amounts to support Gallo’s opponent, Alter.

Texas Vote Environment, the political action committee associated with Clean Water Action, reported expenditures in support of Pool and Proposition 1. The group spent about $1,600 in support of the transportation bond, about $600 to support Pool and another $400 to support Flannigan, according to a report the group filed last week.

The committee reported receiving contributions from environmentalist Kirk Mitchell, the labor group Austinites for Equity, and the Move Austin Forward PAC, which donated $5,100, according to a report filed Monday.

Louis Malfaro is the treasurer for Workers Defense in Action PAC, but Emily Renner signed the most recent report, which was filed last week. The group supports Flannigan, Alter, Pool, Garza and Casar. The group received a $45,000 contribution from AFSCME’s PAC and a $15,000 contribution from another political action committee, Texas Association of Consumer Lawyers PAC.

Council Member Greg Casar is a prolific fundraiser, an observation made especially clear when considering that he hails from one of Austin’s lowest income districts. On Monday he reported that in addition to the $113,800 he had raised previously, he had added an additional $16,800 for a total of $130,600.

Louis Herrin, one of Casar’s opponents, reported raising and spending $0. Casar’s other opponent is Gonzalo Camacho, whose report could not be found on the city’s website Monday night.

Council Member Delia Garza, who represents Southeast Austin’s District 2, reported more than $12,000 in contributions over the past month and expenditures of about $16,600. She reported an outstanding loan from herself of $100, for which she will easily be able to pay herself back with the $21,709 she still had in the bank on Saturday.

Neither of Garza’s opponents’ campaign finance reports were available Monday night. However, Casey Ramos filed a report earlier this month showing that he had $2 left in his campaign account. Ramos filed a statement declaring that he would not raise more than $10,000 in the race, which excuses him from filing most detailed reports.

Wesley Faulkner reported earlier this month that he had $762 left in his account.

Photo by Tracy O. made available through a Creative Commons license.

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