10-ONE council

Photo Credit: Chris Foxx | Daily Texan Staff

Austin City Council member Chris Riley dropped out of the runoff election Friday for the City Council’s District 9 seat.

With 49.1 percent of the vote, City Council member Kathie Tovo was just shy of winning the District 9 seat outright on Election Day, and the race was slated for a Dec. 16 runoff. In a press release Friday, Riley called Tovo a “worthy opponent” and said he wanted to start the City Council’s new term positively by collaborating instead of competing.

“I remain dedicated to the ideals and policies I’ve championed, and I feel there is a path to victory in the runoff,” Riley said in his statement. “But I also feel that, as we begin this new era with a new council, a contest that creates negativity and division is not how we should set the tone for Austin going forward. I would rather work together with Kathie and with the new council members, as an advocate, to solve the challenges we face.”

Last Tuesday’s election marked the first under the 10-ONE system, which reformats the City Council from six citywide members to 10, each representing a geographic district. The change, which goes into effect in January, also makes the mayor the only citywide elected official. Riley also said, while his campaign gave Austin a clear view of his vision, he felt Tovo would represent District 9 to her
best ability. 

“I’m also happy to have been part of this first 10-1 and November election, which has brought so many new participants into the city’s democratic process,” Riley said. “I hope that as Austin settles into this new system, we continue to listen and respond to the voices that I’ve been hearing on the campaign trail — the students, the renters, the younger and newer residents, and everyone who wants the opportunity to live closer, live smaller and drive less. They are Kathie’s constituents and those of the new council members, and they deserve to be heard and represented.”

With Riley’s decision, Tovo is now the third confirmed member of the new City Council. Delia Garza of District 2 and Ann Kitchen of District 5 were the only two City Council candidates to win their races outright. The other seven districts, along with the mayor’s race between Steve Adler and City Council member Mike Martinez, will be decided at the Dec. 16 runoff election. Tovo said she was surprised when Riley informed her of his decision, but she looks forward to working with him in the future.

“I think that Chris has a lot of expertise that’s helped this city advance, particularly with multimodal transportation,” Tovo said. “I certainly anticipate continuing to reach out to him on that issue and others. I expect he’ll continue to be involved in this community in many ways.”

With her seat on the new City Council secure, Tovo said she will make use of her extra time.

“Not having a runoff really provides me to focus on wrapping up on some of my current council projects and getting ready to work with my new colleagues on the new 10-ONE council,” Tovo said.

As District 9 covers parts of campus, North Campus, West Campus and Hyde Park, Tovo said the race had a high amount of student involvement. She said that she and Riley both felt it was important that college students stay involved in the political process.

“One of the things we talked specifically about is the importance of continuing to involve students,” Tovo said. “There was a lot of student engagement in the District 9 race, and I look forward to continuing to work with students and making sure they have a voice at City Hall.”

City Council member Chris Riley dropped out of the runoff election for the council's District 9 seat on Friday.

With 49.1 percent of the vote, council member Kathie Tovo was just shy of winning the District 9 seat outright on Election Day. The race was slated for a Dec. 16 runoff. In a press release Friday, Riley called Tovo a “worthy opponent" and said he wanted to start the City Council’s new term positively by collaborating instead of competing.

“I remain dedicated to the ideals and policies I’ve championed, and I feel there is a path to victory in the runoff,” Riley said in his statement. “But I also feel that, as we begin this new era with a new council, a contest that creates negativity and division is not how we should set the tone for Austin going forward. I would rather work together with Kathie and with the new council members, as an advocate, to solve the challenges we face.”

Tuesday's election marked the first under the 10-ONE system, which reformats the council from six citywide members to 10, each representing a geographic district. The change, which goes into effect in January, also makes the mayor the only citywide elected official. Riley praised the system, and said he hoped it would serve Austin well. He also said while his campaign gave Austin a clear view of his vision, he felt Tovo would represent District 9 to her best ability. 

“I’m also happy to have been part of this first 10-1 and November election, which has brought so many new participants into the city’s democratic process,” Riley said. “I hope that as Austin settles into this new system, we continue to listen and respond to the voices that I’ve been hearing on the campaign trail — the students, the renters, the younger and newer residents, and everyone who wants the opportunity to live closer, live smaller and drive less. They are Kathie’s constituents and those of the new council members, and they deserve to be heard and represented.”

With Riley's decsion, Tovo is now the third confirmed member of the new council. Delia Garza of District 2 and Ann Kitchen of District 5 were the only two council candidates to win their races outright. The other seven districts, along with the mayor's race between Steve Adler and council member Mike Martinez, will be decided at the Dec. 16 runoff election. Tovo said she was a little surprised when Riley informed her of his decision and said she looked forward to working with Riley as well.

“I think that Chris has a lot of expertise that's helped this city advance, particularly with multimodal transportation,” Tovo said. “I certainly anticipate continuing to reach out to him on that issue and others. I expect he’ll continue to be involved in this community in many ways.”

With her seat on the new council secure, Tovo said she will make use her extra time.

“Not having a runoff really provides me to focus on wrapping up on some of my current council projects and getting ready to work with my new colleagues on the new 10-ONE council,” Tovo said.

As District 9 covers parts of campus, North Campus, West Campus and Hyde Park. Tovo said the race had a high amount of student involvement. She said that she and Riley both felt it was important college students stayed engaged.

“One of the things we talked specifically about is the importance of continuing to involve students,” Tovo said. “There was a lot of student engagement in the District 9 race and I look forward to continuing to work with students and making sure they have a voice at City Hall.”

Kathie Tovo, District 9 seat candidate, discusses her expectations and plans of running for re-election for the City Council at Café Medici on Friday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Cristina Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Kathie Tovo, Austin City Council member and District 9 seat candidate, sat down with The Daily Texan to discuss her plans should she be re-elected. This year’s city election is the first under the council’s 10-ONE structure, in which each council member will represent one of 10 geographic districts in the city. District 9 covers most of the UT campus, West Campus, North Campus, Hyde Park, downtown Austin and South Congress. This interview is the last in a series of three with the District 9 candidates.

The Daily Texan: You voted for the temporary ordinance legalizing transportation networking companies at the City Council meeting on Thursday, but you raised several concerns before your decision. Why were you so hesitant?

Kathie Tovo: That ordinance was rushed. It was going through a stakeholder process and the sponsor, Chris Riley, decided to bypass the process. Temporary or not, any time we’re enacting legislation, we have an obligation to make sure it protects the health and safety of Austin. With regard to this one, it was important to me to make sure the rights of the consumers are protected. One of the changes I really hope to achieve in the ordinance was to make sure we had some sort of caps on surge pricing. I believe we should have TNCs, but it was important to me to put reasonable limits on surge pricing. In the end, it’s the riders that will pay the high prices for that.

DT: If the ordinance was rushed, was voting to legalize TNCs the right decision?

KT: Usually we don’t adopt a temporary ordinance while the stakeholder process is still going on, but it allows the TNCs to operate here legally and in a way to protect the public’s interest. I think we were able to spend the time on the ordinance that we needed to. I looked at the recommendations that stakeholders and staff made and made sure we incorporated those.

DT: Urban rail is another hot topic in transportation with the city’s Proposition 1 on the ballot. Why do you support the plan?

KT: Transportation issues are not getting better, and we need to attack it from different angles. High-capacity transit offers potential for us as a city. Especially for University students, I think it could be really positive because it runs so close to campus. And I believe it’ll be a real asset for games, events and other things that draw a lot of traffic. 

DT: What do you think about the changes the new 10-ONE council structure will bring?

KT: It’s been interesting being on the campaign trail. Some of [the candidates] I’ve worked with on boards and commissions, and some have a lot of city experience and will be able to take office seamlessly. Others will have a learning curve, but it’s a very smart and engaged group. It’ll take us a little time to figure out how to work in the new council.

DT: You just went to a women-in-City Council luncheon. Has putting more women in city government been a part of your focus this race?

KT: That’s not been an intentional focus. I’m the 16th woman to serve on City Council in the history of its existence. We need to encourage more young women to consider public service. Whenever I have an opportunity, I try to go to schools and speak. That’s always a message I try to get to young women. You have so many opportunities to be in public service, and we need the council to look like Austin in terms of diversity.

DT: Are there any issues that you haven’t been able to talk about as much on the campaign trail?

KT: There’s a central committee that is focused on women’s health, particularly with regard to the [Dell Medical School], and we asked our women’s commission to make sure we are connecting with that committee, and women are able to get the services we need. One of the things I’m working on with the women’s commission is to make sure we are keeping tabs on women’s health. With the advent of the medical school, I think people are worried about Seton [Healthcare Family]’s role with the school. There is concern about the future of women’s health. And we need to make sure we can still provide adequate women’s health care.

DT: Does the historically low student voter rate in city elections worry you?

KT: I am optimistic. I see a lot of enthusiasm about this election, and so I believe the numbers this time can be a lot higher. I’m hopeful. I’ve had a lot of volunteers in the student area, and I’ve been on campus myself talking with voters, and people seem engaged, and they express they intend to vote. We see that there are student groups who are forming more formal groups with city, like the [Student Government] City Relations agency. There are more formal ways to be interactive with the city. I think that would help me to know who to reach out for issues, and I think it will encourage students to be more involved. I like to think my office has always been open to students.

DT: What would you do without a role on the Council?

KT: I ran for Council because I was interested in the issues. I’m interested in making sure as our city grows, it stays a city that is livable. Before I ran, I was a University educator, and I loved the research and working with students. I would go back to teaching. I do miss one-on-one student interactions.Some answers in this interview have been edited for brevity and clarity.