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Former Council Member Laura Morrison to run against Adler for mayor

Tuesday, January 9, 2018 by Audrey McGlinchy, KUT

Austin Mayor Steve Adler has his first official challenger in the race for mayor in November.

Former City Council Member Laura Morrison announced in an email Monday that she will run against Adler for the city’s top elected position.

“I’m running for mayor to reset that path that Austin is on, so that our future enhances the quality of life for the people who live here, rather than diminishes it,” she said in the email. “I hear from anxious Austinites from every corner of town, from every income level, and across every walk of life. All of them are worried about Austin’s direction. It’s time for a leader whose priority is the people who live here now. It’s time Austin had a mayor for all of us.”

Morrison served on Council from 2008 to 2014. She was expected to run for mayor in 2014, but she declined. She re-entered the political scene during the vote over local ride-hailing regulations by helping to lead Our City, Our Safety, Our Choice, a political action committee that supported stricter regulations for Uber and Lyft.

Morrison told the Austin Monitor that she was particularly concerned about the current CodeNEXT proposal, which she calls “over budget and off the rails.”

“My Council put strict controls in place, and direction and requirements of the contract so it would be community-driven decisions. The process was ignored. It turned into a black box that basically said let’s redevelop the whole city based on upzonings,” she said. “I don’t think that’s right. I think there are ways to manage our growth and to include density that don’t push out (the people that live here) by displacement and ultra-gentrification.”

Morrison stressed that she is an “action-oriented leader, as well as collaborative and transparent,” saying that could be a distinction people could find between her and Adler.

“I know that secret backroom processes don’t work in Austin. They never have, they never will,” she said. “So the idea of allowing the city manager process to end up in a circus where people were holed up in an airport bunker doesn’t serve the people well. … We need the kind of leadership that understands that off the bat.”

She also said the recent Austin Police Department contract negotiations suffered from a lack of leadership.

“I know that there were missed opportunities. I’ve been on Council when those negotiations are going on … I appreciate (the Austin Police Association’s) good-faith effort and I’m inspired by the new voices that have really moved the discussion forward. It was the responsibility of the Council, all along the way, to be setting priorities.

“It was clear that there was a different dynamic than usual, that should have really been addressed,” she said.

Running through a few recent issues in local government, Morrison said that the idea of “handing over parkland to private entities,” such as Major League Soccer franchises, should not be on the table. She also said that she would like to see action, “not just another task force” on the recommendations of the Mayor’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities, and considers that a priority.

In a statement, Adler responded to Morrison’s filing, saying, “Austin is a special place that I love, and I am honored to be Mayor. Our city has many challenges, and I look forward to getting back on the campaign trail and continuing to fight for Austin.”

Five other Council seats are up for a reshuffle in November – Districts 1, 3, 5, 8 and 9. Several incumbents have already drawn challengers, including Council Member Ellen Troxclair in District 8 and Council Member Ora Houston in District 1.

The last day a candidate can file to get on the ballot is Aug. 20.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Additional reporting by Elizabeth Pagano. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr./ KUT.

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