Mayoral candidate Steve Adler discusses UT, urban rail

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Editor’s Note: In the run-up to the November election for mayor, the Texan will be running Q-and-A’s with the candidates. Voting is open only to those registered to vote in Austin and registration continues through Oct. 6. Early voting starts Oct. 20 and ends Oct. 31. Election Day is Nov. 4. This interview has been condensed from its original length.  

The Daily Texan: Why are you running for mayor?

Steve Adler: I love this city. Great things are happening, but I think there are some pretty serious challenges, like traffic, affordability, education, water, permitting and other issues. These challenges are not new; they are just getting worse. We’ve known about all these issues for the past 10 years, and haven’t been able to fix them. I think that we need to. We’re bringing in a new form of government, and that gives us a new opportunity to fundamentally change things. 

DT: Where does UT fit into all this?

Adler: UT is a big resource to the community, considering all of the things that the University has always been. The new initiatives at the new medical school will also be part of the University of Texas. I hope the students in all this will get more engaged and become a more driving political force.

DT: Obviously, your name recognition isn’t as high as some of the other leading contenders. So how do you get your name out there in the community? How do you get your message out to students?

Adler: Well, you start behind in an election when you go against 8-year incumbents. I think it’s a question of just getting in front of as many people as you can. Part of it is talking to personally people, part of it is mail, part of it is online and part of it is on television.

DT: How do you distinguish yourself from City Council Members Sheryl Cole and Mike Martinez, respectively, the two other frontrunners for mayor?

Adler: I have a different kind of experience that I bring to the position. My experience has not been sitting on City Council for the past eight years. Frankly, I don’t think that’s the kind of experience that we need … I came to Austin in 1978 for law school, frankly, because it was the cheapest law school around. Tuition was about $9 per hour, and I could afford that. Eventually, I just fell in love with the city. It was a city where you didn’t need a special last name for doors to be opened. I graduated from law school and began practicing civil rights law. I represented women in state court on equal pay cases. I worked in the State Legislature for a few sessions [and] served as a Chief of Staff for former State Senator Eliot Shapleigh …  I was on the founding board of The Texas Tribune, as well as many Democratic establishment organizations. 

DT: What was the most important thing you learned while at UT?

Adler: The most important is to just be infused with the spirit and soul of Austin. If you go anywhere in this country — or the world — and say you’re from Austin, it just really means something. The way we protect the environment and facilitate public participation says something about us. We have a great entrepreneurial spirit. And I think that spirit is in danger, which is a key reason why I am running … UT really taught me how to work with people, and be in groups of people. Allowing the whole to be greater than the parts. 

DT: What do you think about urban rail?

Adler: It’s hard for me to imagine Austin doubling its population from 2 million to 4 million without some type of integrated rail system. But I also like bus rapidtransit. Particularly, those methods where there are dedicated lanes and we can guarantee movement of 45 miles per hour. When people are sitting in stop-and-go traffic, and they see those buses go zooming by, they’ll suddenly have a whole new outlook on buses. 

DT: How do you feel about the specific proposal on the ballot this year?

Adler: I’m frustrated by a process where we send some of our smartest and brightest away and say, “come back with an answer.” And yet, when they come back, we still continue our arguments anyway. We continue arguing over the facts.

DT: What type of facts?

Adler: Ridership numbers. There are two very different views of the world based on ridership numbers. We have subjective, not objective, disagreements, and it frustrates me. I have seen these types of proposals over and over again, because people have been unsatisfied with the process. We have hitherto been unable to discern between these two concurrent realities, each with their different set of facts.