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District 8 City Council candidates chat with the ‘Monitor’

Friday, October 14, 2022 by Nina Hernandez

Four years ago, Southwest Austin’s District 8 selected the progressive yet pragmatic Paige Ellis as its City Council representative. In November, voters will decide whether to continue Ellis’ leadership on the dais. The incumbent faces three community advocates who each have their own ideas about how to tackle the affordability and homelessness crises facing the district in the term.

Photo via Paige Ellis for City Council.

Environmental consultant and activist Paige Ellis ran in 2018 as someone who would hear “all of those diverse voices” in the district and work with those across the political spectrum to get things done for the district and city overall.

“I’ve got a good record of being able to build those majorities, and in a lot of cases I’ve actually been one of the middle votes on the dais,” Ellis told the Austin Monitor. “It’s actually allowed me the opportunity to carve out my own space in where Austin politics is right now.”

Ellis is most proud of how she was able to use her office to serve district residents during Winter Storm Uri. She said the main challenge in District 8 was securing and distributing water to residents without access.

“When you accept that role you have to step up any time your community needs you, regardless of whether it’s policy related or just knowing the neighborhoods and saying we need to go help folks,” she said.

In terms of policy achievements, Ellis touted her sponsorship of the $460 million mobility bond that passed in November 2020. She said the light rail system will bring the region closer to its goal of reducing the impacts of climate change. “It’s an exciting time to be pushing the city forward on our mobility goals, and I think that’s just really fun to be a part of.”

Richard Smith is a husband, father and community advocate who serves on the city’s Board of Adjustment. An attorney and former judge, he is pitching himself to voters as a fighter and “common-sense” decision maker.

Photo via Richard Smith for City Council.

“As a longtime resident of Austin, I became acutely aware that Austin was coming apart at the seams, particularly with respect to issues such as homelessness, public safety and affordability,” Smith told the Monitor. “Given my background and experience, I wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of Austin residents.”

If elected, Smith advocates fully staffing the Austin Police Department and Austin Travis-County EMS, bolstering support for the 911 call center and supporting community policing efforts citywide. He referenced his volunteer work with Mobile Loaves & Fishes as integral to his approach on homelessness. He would focus on supportive services including mental health and substance use treatment and trauma therapy.

“I support enforcement of the public camping ban with immediate access to emergency shelter and the services needed to address the underlying cause of a person living on the streets,” Smith said.

Smith said the city has not been a good steward of taxpayer money, which has in turn led to our affordability crisis. He would reduce “ego spending, ideological spending and spending merely to placate a small portion of Austin residents.”

 

Photo courtesy of Kimberly Hawkins’ campaign

Kimberly Hawkins is a 25-year resident of Austin and a mother of two. She spent most of her career in the restaurant industry, work that led to a physical disability that limits Hawkins’ ability to work full-time.

Due to her disability, she drives for Uber so she can maintain the flexibility she needs to address her health challenges. That flexibility is also allowing her to run her campaign for City Council.

Driving for Uber, Hawkins became troubled by the state of Austin’s roads, development in areas like Rainey Street and stories from passengers about the struggle they face making ends meet in the midst of Austin’s affordability crisis.

“I’ve just been shocked; I just don’t really recognize Austin,” she told the Monitor.

In the past, Hawkins has served as a volunteer deputy registrar and an election worker and volunteered with Organizing for America and Battleground Texas, the Wendy Davis congressional campaign.

If elected, she will focus on tackling homelessness and water conservation.

Antonio D. Ross is a U.S. Army veteran born in Austin. He studied psychology and early childhood education at the University of New Mexico and served as a member of the Austin Independent School District’s long-range planning committee.

Ross did not respond to an interview request by publication deadline.

At a city candidate forum, he said, “As a father, husband and working taxpayer of Austin, I have been able to experience the uniqueness this community has to offer – the live music, the art and the beautiful land itself. With that said, the city of Austin has many challenges that it still faces, such as homelessness, unaffordable housing and public schools.”

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