District 9 endorsement overlooks Kathie Tovo

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I’m disappointed to read the district 9 council endorsement in the journal of an institution dedicated to fostering critical thinking.

Riley’s policies enrich a privileged few while costing the rest of us — whether we live in a dorm, a nearby apartment building or house. Riley’s multi-million dollar developer giveaways contribute nothing to affordability. Rather, they feed the speculative land prices that property owners could never demand if they couldn’t count on the upzoning giveaways Riley’s famous for.

Increased density has not lowered the price of a single apartment or condominium. Meanwhile, Riley voted to rewrite the city code to reduce developers’ required contribution to the city’s affordable housing program.

And with each additional floor of luxury condos Riley grants on top of the zoning code’s limit, he adds an average of two more cars per unit onto our congested streets. More cars, more traffic, more danger to bicyclists. With friends like Riley, cyclists don’t need enemies. Tovo incorporated substantive bicycle and pedestrian thruways, facilities, and Lady Bird Lake connectivity when negotiating the South Central Waterfront subdistrict’s Hyatt-Fairfield development — plus a mechanism to make developers pay for affordable housing in the district.

The Texan editors compare Riley and Tovo for accessibility. I wonder if the editors ever tried to make an appointment for an office visit with either council member. I’m quite sure they’d find both equally accessible.

Regarding the two candidates’ positions on transportation networks, the difference is one of customer rights and protections. Tovo seeks driver insurance to protect you as a passenger; Riley is fine with you simply taking your chances with the driver and vehicle that picks you up. While Tovo seeks to limit the gouging prices you get charged during peak events and areas, Riley’s okay if you get charged ten times the standard fare and find out later.

The editors tout Riley’s work with the Interfraternity Council and Student Government to revise the city’s sound ordinance. But they didn’t mention Tovo’s work with the City Planning Commission’s Codes and Ordinances committee to review and revise the City’s noise ordinance. That review led to the formation of the City’s Music Department and Director, and new noise ordinance enforcement mechanisms city-wide.

The editors call Tovo’s vision for a future Austin “infeasible” and “cozy.”  Actually, their feasibility is proven — when Riley and his council cohorts don’t undermine them. Upholding neighborhood plans’ provisions for directed growth and mixed use on commercial corridors is likely the only way to sustain Austin’s life qualities, while Riley’s giddy rubber stamp “any growth, anywhere” approach is analogous to celebrating a cancer.

Finally, to dismiss a position that includes preserving Austin’s history is ironic when you consider the number of historic buildings on the UT campus — a community I would hardly classify as a “museum district with no growth.”

District 9 is the most diverse and dense district in the new 10-ONE configuration. Tovo has committed in her campaign to respect the differences and diversity of the district’s areas and residents. With an architect as her husband, and two daughters who may also want to attend UT — and stay in Austin, she has a vested interest in our continued growth. Responsible is not suppressive. Conversely, a candidate who represents and is funded by the moneyed interests that have dominated City Hall for decades can only continue to thrive by pitting the district’s unique interest groups against one another.

— Cory Walton, Austin resident, in response to our Monday endorsement of Chris Riley for District 9 council member over Kathie Tovo.