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Tovo ‘strongly considering’ a run for mayor in 2022

Monday, December 27, 2021 by Jonathan Lee

As Council Member Kathie Tovo enters her last year as District 9 representative, she sat down with the Austin Monitor to discuss what she hopes to accomplish in 2022, including a potential run for mayor and how she responded to the considerable challenges of 2021.

While Tovo, who was first elected in 2011, said 2020 was certainly her hardest year on Council, “2021 is a very close second.” Her main priority this past year was Covid recovery. Beyond Council’s collective efforts, Tovo has specifically focused on business recovery, having led relief efforts for Austin’s beleaguered creative sector, particularly musicians. Other notable initiatives related to pandemic response included strengthening child care in the city and increasing food access.

Tovo also pushed for recovery efforts in the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri, including an audit and several Council meetings “to make sure that we’re understanding in pretty concrete detail where we needed to have the processes working better.” The resilience hubs initiative, which she sponsored, forms a key part of the city’s disaster preparedness plans. The hubs, which will begin as a pilot and eventually expand to every neighborhood, are envisioned as a go-to resource for residents to supply food, water or warmth in a disaster.

2021 also marked a historic year in the city’s battle against homelessness. Tovo called the city’s allocation of $100 million in federal stimulus funds “a tremendous step forward … that will, I hope, help us get closer to that goal of ending homelessness.” 

She pegged public safety as a key issue for the city going forward as crime rates rise. One solution is a fully staffed and well-trained police force. “We had lots of officer retirements,” Tovo said, adding that replenishing the force is “a primary concern.” She also supports the city’s reimagined police cadet academy. “I really believe that our cadet academy, our revised curriculum, is a model for the nation.” Within her district, Tovo focused on making Sixth Street safer after a rash of violence in the area this year, including a mass shooting.

In the housing realm, Tovo pushed for changes to the Downtown Density Bonus to secure more affordable housing. She also recently sponsored a resolution to open up more areas to accessory dwelling units and create a menu of pre-approved plans. Next year, she aims to address the “main challenge” of ADUs: connecting people to affordable construction loans. A resolution on this topic is planned for January or February, when other members may also bring other policies to make ADUs viable for more people.

Tovo hopes that Council members will work toward common ground in land use and housing discussions. “Let’s do what we have consensus on; let’s do what the community supports; let’s do what we believe – and what the data shows us – will have the most impact on creating the most number of units.” So far in 2021, Council has reached consensus, but this could change as some members bring more controversial policies. 

Tovo said creating more affordable housing should be a chief concern in housing debates. “We need to make sure that as development is occurring, that we’re capturing some of that value to meet one of our highest challenges, which is the need for housing that’s really affordable,” she said.

In early 2022, all eyes will be on Tovo as she is expected to announce a run for mayor. While she wouldn’t confirm the run, she told the Monitor she is “strongly considering” it.

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here. This story has been changed since publication to reflect the fact that Tovo has served just over 10 years in City Council office, not 12 as was originally reported. 

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