first Austin City Council

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

With early voting underway in the first Austin City Council election under its 10-ONE structure, many student neighborhoods — such as West Campus and Hyde Park — are located in District 9, but Riverside also has a notable student population located in District 3, where 12 candidates are vying for its seat.

Under 10-ONE, which divides the city into 10 geographic districts, District 3 covers parts of East Austin and Riverside. Among the 12 candidates running for the seat, two, who are related, Susana Almanza and Sabino “Pio” Renteria, did not respond to The Daily Texan before press time.

With District 3 boasting the largest amount of candidates in a City Council race among the 10 districts, candidate Kent Phillips said campaign tension has been relatively low.

“I think there are many of us who do play nice, and many who have had no problem getting their hands a little dirty,” said Phillips, who works as a pharmacy technician. “There have been some ethics questions about properly putting the paid-for signs [and] things of that nature. A lot of candidates have not been afraid to push people around, and there is a brother and sister in the race, which highlights the possible family conflict there.”

Phillips said Almanza and Renteria, who have both served on city boards and commissions, have garnered a good amount of support.

During her campaign, Almanza said she wants to raise the local minimum wage.

“I would work for establishing a living wage of $15 an hour,” Almanza said at a candidate forum in September. “That’s very important and that would take thousands of people out of poverty.”

Phillips, who has previously ran for Texas Senate and House seats as a Libertarian, said he does not think she would be able to do so if elected to the Council.

“They certainly have their followings as voters go,” Phillips said. “I put them most up there in probabilities of winning this election. There is certainly a tension there and things which I agree with Ms. Almanza and Pio and things I would not. I don’t like there being lies being used to get votes.”

According to Shaun Ireland, who ran for a council seat in 2012, other than a few missing yard signs, the race has been going smoothly. 

“It’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” Ireland said. “I’ve been knocking on doors since May. Most of my action plan comes from talking to average people on buses or in stores.”

Ireland stressed that he was running to represent all of District 3.

“We have a lot of candidates who are mainly interested in Montopolis and Cesar Chavez area,” Ireland said.

Candidate Julian Limon Fernandez said he was asked to run by the four farms of the East Austin Urban Farms, which grow organic vegetables, raise chickens and sell to local restaurants. Fernandez said Almanza has been calling for putting affordable housing on those properties.

“It shouldn’t even be an issue because there is plenty of property that the city owns in District 3 that can be used and never has been used for affordable housing,” Fernandez said. “How can someone come and tell me to move my home because I live on a corner and have two lots and sell my property to have affordable housing? You can’t bully people.”

The demographics of District 3 make it one of the most diverse in Austin, with Hispanics making up 60 percent of the district. Fernandez said while the Hispanic population dominates the demographics of District 3, their voter turnout is much lower than the white population.

“If you look at the voting, 20 percent  of Hispanics vote,” Fernandez said. “In the Govalle neighborhood, 60 percent Anglos voted [while] less than 30 percent voted of the Hispanics. There’s a lot more of us here, but less of them vote.”

Other candidates in the race include paramedic Mario Cantu, graduate student Christopher Hoerster, ACC professor Fred McGhee, teacher Ricardo Turullols-Bonilla, attorney Jose Valera and former council candidates Jose Quintero and Eric Rangel.