Austin City Council candidates discuss issue positions at forum

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Candidates hoping to fill three open seats on the Austin City Council debated on community values and city planning Wednesday during a public forum held by the Austin Neighborhoods Council. The Austin Neighborhoods Council is an umbrella organization that connects different neighborhood associations and works on their behalf. President Steven Aleman said all 11 registered candidates were invited to attend the forum as soon as the filing deadline had passed. Seven of the candidates attended the forum at the Austin Energy Plant. “We wanted to give them all the same amount of time to participate so it was fair,” Aleman said. The three current incumbents of Places 1, 3 and 4 of Austin’s City Council running for re-election attended, along with four challengers. Mark Boyden, candidate forum coordinator for the Austin Neighborhoods Council, said their forum is unlike most in Austin because they send out a questionnaire to candidates prior to the forum and tailor questions to candidates based on their answers. “We believe that we bring a game-changing role to changing the perspective of the candidates,” Boyden said. “We put each one of them on the hot seat and delve for further detail.” At the meeting, Chris Riley, Place 1 incumbent and Capital Metro board member, said transportation is a huge issue in Austin that has been looking up during the past few years. “Cap Metro has been a challenge over the past few years,” Riley said. “We just had a report yesterday that said the changes we made to the bus system led to a 5-percent increase in ridership.” Kris Bailey, Place 3 candidate, said he hopes to move the city towards focusing less on pursuing marijuana charges and more towards stopping other crimes such as robberies. “I am not here to support the use of drugs,” Bailey said. “I’m just talking about being sensible with our politics.” Aleman said he believes the race for Place 3 will be an interesting one. “Incumbent 3 Randi Shade has drawn the most significant opponents with track records in the community, so it will be interesting to see how they debate on different issues,” Aleman said. After the forum, the council caucused privately and will announce endorsements for each seat today, assuming they reach a two-thirds majority vote.