Adler, Martinez square off in mayoral debate

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Mayoral runoff candidates Mike Martinez, Austin City Council member, and attorney Steve Adler squared off in the last of KLRU’s Civic Summit debate series and discussed different issues including affordability, transportation and public safety.

During Sunday's debate, Martinez criticized how race issues in Austin and the United States are handled, dismissing any “sugarcoating” of police shootings in Austin and across the country.

“When something in our community happens you have to address it straight on,” Martinez said. “100 percent of all fatal officer involved shootings have been with an African-American or Hispanic man. That’s a problem. We have to solve it. We are seeing the ill effects of lack of trust with police all across the country. We have an issue here and we eroded that trust through our own actions. They’re called mistakes, and we have to own up to it."

Adler named transportation and water conservation as two of his top priorities for the mayor’s office and said he looked at his priorities as mayor through an affordability filter.

“Affordability [is] key in this city,” Adler said. “Transportation; that impacts affordability.”

Transportation issues in Austin are land-planning issues and should be treated as such, according to Adler. Although Martinez said expanding bus services would help alleviate traffic problems, Adler disagreed.

“I think we need to look at transportation in a long-term way,” Adler said. “People voted against Proposition 1 because they didn’t see how that would help them. It’s a land planning issue as much as anything else. I’m not convinced buses long-term are the answer. Ridership is half of what it was in 2006 and 2008 and costs twice as much.”

Martinez defended expanding bus services and said the urban rail plan was only one facet of Project Connect.

“With the growth that is here, no matter what we build and how many lanes we add, there’s going to be traffic and congestion in Austin,” Martinez said. “What I see it as is progress. Do we make progress in giving you true alternative modes of transportation? Project Connect is a 50-year visioning on how we make progress. Prop 1 was just one small piece of that. It’s new lanes, toll lanes, bike lanes, expanded bus service. Transportation is much like any other public service — it’s for the entire community.”

The two agreed that avoiding growth was not the answer to solving traffic congestion.

“Growth is going to come to our city as long as we have the state Capitol and the University of Texas,” Adler said. “I think that would be a difficult thing to do, but there are ways to manage growth so it doesn’t manage us.”

Martinez said the city could control its growth with the comprehensive land plan, Imagine Austin.

“I believe we set the path for how we want to grow as a city through Imagine Austin,” Martinez said. “We need to make sure the growth coming is in the right places — that it’s growth we need. With the growth that’s coming, where is it best suited?”

Adler held 37 percent of the vote during the general election while Martinez won 30 percent. The runoff election is set for Dec. 16.