Chris Riley

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, Austin City Council member and District 9 candidate, addresses supporters at her election night party.

Photo Credit: Xintong Guo | Daily Texan Staff

City Council members Kathie Tovo and Chris Riley will face each other again in a runoff election on Dec. 16 as neither received a majority of the vote in Tuesday's District 9 council race.

Tuesday’s election was the City’s first under the 10-ONE structure, which reformats the City Council from six citywide seats to 10 geographic districts. District 9 covers parts of the University, West Campus, North Campus, Hyde Park, downtown Austin and South Congress.

Receiving 49.1 percent of the vote, Tovo was just shy of avoiding a runoff with Riley, who captured 40.4 percent.

Before the results were finalized, Tovo said at her election night party that she was prepared to face Riley in a runoff.

“What we do know is that we ran a fabulous campaign — the results are terrific,” Tovo said. “We are in the lead, and its a great lead, and we’re still waiting for some boxes. If this is a runoff, we are going to need to roll up our sleeves. We are going to need to get back out there on the doors.”

Riley, who worked with student organizations in addressing city and West Campus issues over the past few months, thanked his staff for their hard work.

“I’m so grateful to everyone. It has been a long haul.” Riley said. “I’m not a young person anymore, but I still believe in the idea of change. This includes a walkable urban environment.”

At Tovo’s party, local realtor Myron Smith said he supports Tovo for her stance on neighborhood issues and first-term actions. 

“I support Kathie Tovo because she has been quite a supporter of neighborhoods, and she has never waived on that,” Smith said. “I am very hopeful and supportive of the things she brought to the table in her first term, so I hope that she would definitely be able to continue that.” 

Kelly Blanton, an urban and regional planning senior at Texas State University who lives in District 9, said she voted for Riley because he is a strong candidate for urbanism in the downtown area, and she wants to protect those principles. 

“He pioneered the City Council legislation for accessible dwelling units and has consistently been on the side of growth and positive development,” Blanton said. “Tovo hasn’t really done anything in the arena of urbanism.”

Erin McGann, a program supervisor for the Texas Department of Justice, finished third in voting with 11 percent.

Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

On Guadalupe Street, bikers can stay in a protected lane off to the side and clearly marked with bright green paint. The lane stretches from Martin Luther King Boulevard to 24th Street. But after that, the bike lane is combined with a bus lane.

“When it comes to a street like Lamar or Guadalupe, you really need something from the car traffic,” said Chris Riley, Austin City Council member. “Many people would not be comfortable being on a bike in heavily traveled streets like that. The vision is to provide a network so that someone setting out to bike could actually get to each of their destinations without being exposed to conflicts with car traffic.”

The “vision” that Riley, who is also a cyclist, referred to is the Bicycle Master Plan, which the City Council plans to discuss Thursday. Along with the main goal of creating a better bicycle network, the plan lists the city’s achievements in bicycle transportation since 2009, including expanding Austin’s bicycle network from 126 miles to 210 miles — a 70 percent expansion in only five years.

Garret Nick, chair of the board of directors for the nonprofit Please BE KIND To Cyclists organization, said he arrived in Austin 14 years ago and continued to ride his bicycle regularly after his move.

“I’m pretty familiar with getting around, but in the town I grew up in Louisiana, there isn’t any bike infrastructure,” Nick said. “It was just neighborhood streets and sidewalks. Coming to Austin, the situation is better than other towns, but there is room for improvement.”

Carol Reifsnyder, Bike Austin’s interim executive director, said she agreed with the emphasis on improving bicycle infrastructure.

“We support the city agency, and one of the aspects of cycling advocacy in general is infrastructure,” Reifsnyder said. “It’s critical to what we do in trying to get people to use a bike.”

Riley said one of the goals under the Bicycle Master Plan is to increase bicycle ridership.

“Instead of having a small number of confident riders, we would reach out to the many people who are interested in biking but are concerned about their safety,” Riley said. “The latest data we had was that some 55 percent of people are in that category of people. The hope is that, with the right facilities, we can encourage a lot more people to try biking as a way of getting around town.”

In order to increase ridership, Riley said the city needs to provide connected bike lanes. Reifsnyder said in order to form this network of bike lanes, safety must be a priority.

“I would say the main focus is creating a network for transportation by bike,” Reifsnyder said. “Protected bike lanes are a key element of that because there’s a considerable number of people who are interested but concerned about safety, and protected bike lanes are shown to mitigate that concern among the population so more people will try to bike on protected lanes.”

Andrew Hartford, founder of the Longhorn Bike Coalition and chemistry senior, said he approves of the plan’s call for more protected bike lanes.

“24th [Street] is one of the most heavily used corridors by UT students, and, a lot of times, students have to mix with cars or walk on the sidewalk to get to campus,” Hartford said. “There could still be improvements to access campus, getting from North or West Campus and those areas. There could be more protected bike lanes, so students aren’t mixing with cars as much.”

The City Council will conduct a public hearing at their next meeting Thursday at City Hall.

State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth answers questions following her speech in the SAC Ballroom on Monday morning. She encouraged the audience to participate in early voting, which continues until Friday.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

With one week of early voting left before Election Day, State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, took the microphone in front of a packed SAC Ballroom and encouraged students to vote during her on-campus stop in her gubernatorial campaign.

“For the first time in 14 years, we are going to elect a new governor,” Davis said. “The question is who will that governor be, and the answer is in all of your hands. It’s truly up to you at this point.”

Before Davis spoke to her audience, her 25-year-old daughter, Dru Davis, thanked the crowd of students and locals for their support.

“I’m so excited by the voter turnout and the enthusiasm that you guys have,” Dru said. “I’m also looking forward to Election Day. I’m just excited for all the change that my mom’s going to bring as governor and that Leticia [Van de Putte] is going to bring as lieutenant governor.”

With last week’s UT/Texas Tribune poll showing Davis trailing her gubernatorial opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, by 12 points, Davis said she was unconcerned about her low polling numbers. Davis said her victory would come from her supporters and volunteers.

“We have over 32,000 people volunteering on our campaign right now,” Davis said “These Internet polls really have shown to be wildly inaccurate. In my last two senate races, I was never up in the polls either, but I won. I won because the people were behind me.” 

Chris Riley and Kathie Tovo, Austin City Council members and candidates for the Council’s District 9 seat, attended Davis’ rally, sporting their own campaign pins on their lapels. Riley walked around speaking to audience members and shaking hands.

“I’ve been talking with a lot of people this morning,” Riley said. “There’s a lot of energy around this whole election and a lot of commonality between the themes that Wendy and I have been talking about in this race.”

After the event, Tovo said she attended the rally to show her support for Davis.

“I’m very supportive of her campaign, especially … her policy regarding education and women’s health are critical,” Tovo said. “I have a lot of hope for the work she will do when she’s elected our governor.”

Shelley Merchant, a parent of a prospective UT student, stood toward the back of the compact crowd. She said she heard about Davis’ event on campus while touring UT. 

“I’m a big Wendy supporter,” Merchant said. “I’m a school administrator in White Settlement, Texas — a suburb of Fort Worth. I think she’s looking out for the teachers and the rest of us, and it’s a time for a change in Texas.”

Davis emphasized her support for education reform.

“When I marked my ballot on Monday, and I stood in that ballot box marking my name, I could not help but reflect on myself as a little girl,” Davis said. “If I could have told her she would be standing in that moment in time, it’s that opportunity and that path that I want to make possible for every single child in that state. And the only way to make that possible is to support access to college and affordability of college.”

Nutrition senior Jessica Boisseau went straight from Davis’ rally to vote. Boisseau said Davis’ stance on education inspired her. 

“I think she is the only candidate willing and able to provide change,” Boisseau said. “I’m working three jobs. One of them is part-time military to pay for school, so her campaign is very exciting.”

According to an Abbott campaign official, Abbott, who is currently on a 25-city “Get Out The Vote” tour, has not planned a UT appearance before Election Day on Nov. 4. Early voting continues until Friday.

Austin City Council member Chris Riley listens to plans for CodeNEXT at a City Council meeting Thursday afternoon.

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

The Austin City Council heard Thursday from consultants and the public about CodeNEXT, a plan to revitalize the current city land development code.

In June 2012, the Council adopted a 30-year comprehensive plan for the city known as Imagine Austin, which calls for a new land development code. The city has been working in tandem with Daniel Parolek, owner of Opticos Design, Inc. Parolek presented three approaches to cleaning up current city code, informally named “The Brisk Sweep,” “The Deep Clean” and “The Complete Makeover.”

The City Council staff and Parolek both recommended option two, “The Deep Clean,” as the most reasonable approach to revise city code. The only difference between approach two and approach three, “The Complete Makeover,” is the timeline.

“What we’re thinking is that approach two timeline would be extended,” Parolek said. “Because we focused all our attention on approach two, we’re not sure how long it would extend. Approach three would probably extend the timeline of approach two due to the steady dismantling and rebuilding of code that would be much broader and more extensive.”

Parolek estimated that “The Complete Makeover,” approach three, would take at least six more months than approach two.

Council member Chris Riley said he can see both approaches two and three succeeding in the City Council’s goals to revamp the land development code, but he supports the third option.

“‘The Deep Clean’ looks like it’s coming down to the geographic scope of our effort; it would focus on Airport Boulevard and downtown,” Riley said. “The complete overhaul would put new measures in place across much broader areas in the city. With ‘The Deep Clean,’ the hope is if we can demonstrate some effective new code provisions in those areas, we would eventually see those improvements spread to other areas of the city, but that would entail a much longer timeline than if we were to set out to overhaul the whole code in the initial effort.”

Council member Kathie Tovo said she supports option two after hearing from staff and from the public.

“The fact that the consultants and staff recommend [option two] is compelling to me,” Tovo said. “They made it very clear that it would be more expensive and take more time to take option three. Option two sounds like it makes the best sense and that it is a balanced and reasonable approach. It allows us to introduce new elements into the code, but it also preserves some of the environmental protections our existing code has.”

Riley said completely redoing the existing land development code is necessary to accommodate student housing needs.

“We have issues with a lack of affordable housing options today, and that especially impacts students who are often in a position of trying to find affordable housing in the central city,” Riley said. “If we are successful, then we should see a much greater supply of housing options that would meet students’ needs. Students have a lot at stake in how well we do at fixing our current code.”

Tovo said option two would address student housing needs just as well. According to Tovo, the city should focus on enforcing existing density bonus programs instead of rewriting the entire land development code to benefit those who need affordable housing.

“It’s going to clarify the code; it will make it easier to use whether it be affordable housing or market rate,” Tovo said. “Our best ability to impact affordable housing is to have strong density bonus programs to require developers to provide that on site.”

The City Council voted to keep public hearing sign-up open until their next meeting on Nov. 6, when they will revisit the issue.

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.

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's note: Early voting for District 9, along with all the other municipal races, begins Monday. Students can vote on campus at the Flawn Academic Center.

District 9, which encompasses UT’s main campus as well as West Campus, Hyde Park, downtown Austin and South Congress, is one of ten districts under Austin’s new single-member council system, which will replace the council’s previous system of seven at-large members. Students make up a significant portion of the district, so their representative should make a point to address students’ issues and views.

Council member Chris Riley is more engaged with students when compared to councilwoman Kathie Tovo — his main opponent — and Erin McGann, who has never been a council member. Riley’s work with students throughout the council’s process of legalizing transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft, demonstrates that he actually cares what students have to say, and he understands that students’ transportation needs differ from other Austinites'. Given how abysmally low the student voter turnout is, Riley’s motivation couldn’t have been solely to secure students’ votes.

Riley is also working with both the Interfraternity Council and Student Government to revise the city’s sound ordinance. With a promise by the city to increase enforcement of sound restrictions, as well as a new process the city put in place that requires a group to apply for permits at least 21 days before an event and submit a specific site plan, West Campus parties and events such as Round-Up could decrease dramatically. Granted, fewer fraternity parties wouldn’t exactly be the end of the world, but Riley’s attempts to mitigate this conflict shows that his priorities are to establish a consensus between West Campus students and nearby residents.

Tovo’s campus involvement, on the other hand, is less concrete. Simply being an alum of the University as well as a former instructor doesn’t say anything about how she’ll represent students, and although she said she is involved with campus programs including The Project and the UT Opportunity Forum, her presence on campus hasn’t had an impact on students like Riley’s has. She hasn’t done much recently to concretely address student specific student issues, such as promoting economic growth or working to increase students’ access to the council, so we see no reason why that would change if she is elected. She may be a good candidate for a different district, but not for ours.

The District 9 council member must foster strong communication with students. Riley is the only council member who currently holds weekly office hours, and he said he plans to hold office hours near campus if he is elected. This illustrates that he values the student population of District 9, as opposed to Tovo, who doesn’t mention students anywhere on her website, and barely mentioned them in an Oct. 7 interview with the editorial board even after we asked her specifically about the student population. When compared to Tovo’s, Riley’s website is further proof of his initiative to communicate with the student population. His website is far more informative and accessible than Tovo’s, and while that in itself definitely doesn’t merit our endorsement, it further demonstrates his ability to adequately communicate with the young student population online, which is one of the most important communication platforms for reaching young adults.

Aside from Tovo’s lack of strong connections with students, she also has infeasible ideas for Austin’s future. Her preservationist views of Austin are nice and cozy but woefully unrealistic. Riley embraces Austin’s rapid growth, while Tovo wants to suppress it. Her focus on preserving Austin’s history is great for a city that wants to be a museum district with no economic growth, but impractical for pretty much any other purpose. Not every student who graduates will want to move to a different city to find a job, so we need councilmembers who will accommodate and facilitate responsible growth in Austin’s population rather than push against something that’s inevitable. Riley is the person to do this. His forward-thinking visions and plans for Austin combined with his accessibility to students show that he is the best candidate to represent District 9.

City Council member Laura Morrison votes against an ordinance Thursday legalizing transportation network companies.

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

The Austin City Council approved an ordinance Thursday, in a 6-1 vote, to allow transportation network companies, or TNCs, to operate in the city. The ordinance will be in effect until August 2015.

The City Council, which has deliberated over the ordinance at its past two meeting, used Thursday’s third and final reading of the ordinance to fine-tune the language. Along with clarifying the language to ensure TNC drivers are covered by insurance whenever they log onto ride-sharing apps, the City Council also approved tweaks such as defining the 12-hour limit for TNC drivers. Council member Laura Morrison gave the lone “no” vote against the ordinance.

Following a proposal from Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, the City Council chose to adopt the Houston code of background checks, stating the TNC would provide the first background check, and the City would audit the report. 

According to Council member Chris Riley, the background checks that drivers at TNCs such as Uber and Lyft undergo are more rigorous than the background checks of taxicab drivers.

Uber General Manager Chris Nakutis said he trusted the outside background check companies more than a city’s vetting process.

“We know them to be reliable,” Nakutis said. “We vetted our background check company, and we know the quality of the company that we use. Even with city background checks, we would still use our own.”

April Mims, public policy manager at Lyft, said the company Lyft uses to vet drivers is more effective than Austin’s screening process.

“We feel confident that SterlingBackCheck has the safest way to hire, and that’s why 90 percent of the drivers who apply are screened out of the platform,” Mims said. “The concern is that 75 percent of our drivers are driving less than 15 hours a week, and, if they have to go through the process of being screened by the city, there will be a delay and also may not incentivize them.”

Mims also clarified what Lyft and Uber’s outreach to underserved areas meant in terms of the ordinance.

“We were looking at areas that don’t have as much access to transit, and those tend to be in areas of lower socioeconomic class,” Mims said. “We wanted to increase outreach in areas that are socioeconomically underserved.”

Riley introduced an amendment that specified TNC drivers would not need to obtain a chauffeur’s permit.

“Some suggestions that staff have would still require a chauffeur’s permit of all TNCs’ drivers, even though [the] substance of the permit is covered by other provisions of this ordinance,” Riley said. “Going through that process separately would be redundant.”

Riley also proposed an amendment to clarify how transportation network companies would work with transportation to and from the airport. Perla Compton, Austin’s ground transportation manager, said TNCs are subject to fees just as taxis and buses are.

Compton said charging TNCs ground transportation fees for providing rides to and from the airport would be simple through an electronic system.

“Every ground transportation provider must apply and use a transponder that we sell,” Compton said. “We keep track of who enters the airport to drop off or there to pick up. We would have to register each vehicle into our system. If you already have a toll tag, we have a computer system that works with the number on that toll tag.”

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

Austin City Council District 9 candidates discussed student issues such as the enforcement of the city's sound ordinance in West Campus and housing at a debate hosted by several student organizations on campus Monday night.

Under the council’s new 10-ONE structure — which will go into effect in January — District 9 covers parts of campus, West Campus, North Campus, Hyde Park, downtown Austin and South Congress. During the debate, candidates talked about their connections with college students. Council member Kathie Tovo, who earned a doctorate. from UT, listed her student involvement during her undergraduate years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an example of being able to connect with students. 

“When I came here 23 years ago to go to the University of Texas, I had an opportunity to work with hundreds of students over the years,” Tovo said. “I taught classes, served on the graduate assembly for a term.”

Council member Chris Riley also used his opening statement to show his connection to UT.

“I was born in West Campus, a long, long time ago,” Riley said. “My dad was a professor here at UT in the physics department. I came back here for UT law school and spent 17 years working as a lawyer in town and working on city issues.”

The candidates all voiced support for streamlining the party permit process for students. City officials have said the sound ordinance will now be strictly regulated in the West Campus area. City Council candidate Erin McGann called the ordinance “arbitrary” in terms of regulation and enforcement.

“Students are being unfairly targeted,” McGann said. “If you were a protected class, people would be calling it discrimination. Other parts of Austin are having large parties that aren’t being shut down. The ordinance needs to be treated equally or the ordinance should be suspended.”

Riley said the permit process for hosting private parties needs to be streamlined, but the interim period is important as well. The City Council passed a resolution on Oct. 2 for the city to begin revising the ordinance.

“The concern is what do we do until the new ordinance comes into place,” Riley said. “Let’s work flexibly until we can get a permanent resolution in place.”

The candidates also discussed providing affordable housing for students. McGann said she was disappointed when the City Council voted to keep the historic status on a West Campus surface parking lot instead of allowing for housing to be built on the property, which she said would limit expanding student housing.

“We need to be building buildings that are not necessarily high-end,” McGann said. “If we built some moderate-income residences, more people would be able to live in the area.”

Riley said building more housing would not have been stalled by the historic status of the parking lot, but it would have limited space for potential residents.

“If they were able to build on the surface parking lot as well, the best estimates we got would be an additional 300 bedrooms they would be able to provide to students,” Riley said.

Tovo, who voted to keep the historic status of the parking lot, defended her perspective.

“We have lost many historic structures in our city, and it’s important to hang on to the few that we have on campus,” Tovo said. “I think it’s important to know that it was overwhelmingly supported in Council, 5-2.”

The debate was hosted by The Horn, The Odyssey, Sigma Pi fraternity, KVR News, the Senate of College Councils and the UT chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Chris Riley, Austin City Council member and District 9 seat candidate, sat down with The Daily Texan to discuss his plans should he be reelected. 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. Riley has also worked with students to revise the West Campus sound ordinance. District 9 covers most of the UT campus, West Campus, North Campus, Hyde Park, downtown Austin and South Congress. The interview is the first in a series of three with the District 9 candidates.

The Daily Texan: How do you feel about working with the new 10-ONE system if you are reelected?

Chris Riley: I’ve been watching all the races, and I really enjoyed seeing all the interest in all these positions. I think it’s a very historic time for Austin.

We always need to be concerned about big picture issues and having geographic districts certainly will position us to focus on concerns about our own areas. District 9 is a very important area for the whole city, and it’s one that really warrants some very careful attention. There are very unique parts of District 9, but in some ways it’s a microcosm of the whole city. 

DT: You’ve been very supportive of transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft. What prompted your active support?

CR: For some time now, Austinites have been wanting more transportation options, especially at night. It’s particularly important here in District 9, where so many people like to come down and enjoy the nightlife downtown, but need a way home late at night. The bus isn’t always convenient; taxi cabs aren’t always available. For years, there’s been a real issue with drunk driving. It’s in the wake of last year’s South By Southwest that there was a real heightened issue in getting more safe options out there. 

DT: Why not just focus solely on the bus system in Austin?

CR: CapMetro will never have the city completely blanketed. It’s in the nature of travel services that we serve corridors and other areas that are oriented toward transit. It’s always going to be hard to provide effective and convenient transit services in areas that are centered around automobile ownership. 

With the [MetroRapid] 801 and 803 we just launched, with the digital signs, those are pretty significant. That’s the first time we’ve been providing real-time arrival info for buses. By the end of this year, we will have that technology on all fixed stops. By early next year, that data should be available for use with third-party apps so that you can know exactly where the bus is. 

DT: What other transportation options interest you?

CR: I’m especially interested in mobile options. I haven’t had a car since ’08, but that means relying on other services. I helped start Austin car share some years ago and been a regular customer of Car2Go and Zipcar and now B-cycle. I use the bus all the time. This was just one that was intriguing to me because it was new and convenient, and I heard a lot about it. 

DT: What else do you want to focus on if you have another term on the council?

CR: Right now, we are in the process of revising our land development code so that it’s more oriented towards our comprehensive plan, the first one in 30 years. It talks about the lack of housing around the city and the need for a variety. The consultants we have have pointed out [that] in addition to being very complex and unwieldy. Our current development code tends to be very car oriented. They are in the process of trying to address that, more housing types on the ground. The big common theme I see is that there are a lot of people today who want to live smaller and drive less and live closer. That’s exactly what we ought to be aiming toward.

DT: You’ve been working closely with students at the University. Are you concerned about student voter turnout this election?

CR: Nobody knows how much we’ll see student participation in the election weeks from now. I’m hopeful that more students than ever will be tuning in. We see issues that directly affect student life.

Having good, strong working relationships with the University and state and county government will be helpful and represents a new era in city government. We have a decent working relationship between city management and UT administration. You haven’t seen a lot of involvement policy-wise for the council or UT students, so that’s what’s so exciting.

DT: Giving economic incentives to draw businesses to Austin has been a big issue this race. How do you feel about that?

CR: There’s a lot going on with our creative economy. We’ve been in a fortunate position with our economy. Austin has been the strongest local economy for some time now. The boom is not going to last forever, and we will have economical challenges to face. One major challenge will be looking out for the availability of jobs. There’s a long tradition of people coming to UT, falling in love with the city and wanting to stay. I think you need someone to District 9 to make sure those jobs are still available.

DT: Any plans after City Council?

CR: Whenever I’m done with City Council, I’m looking forward to taking some time to travel and getting more inspiration. The first thing I want to do is update the website for my neighborhood. I was able to create the website, but not in a way you can update it. It’s five years old, and its like leaving leftovers in your fridge; it goes bad. [What] I need to do is relearn some HTML skills and get it updated for my neighborhood.

Longer term, creating great places in Austin. Austin has so much going for her. I’d be very interested in seeing if there are more opportunities to create walkable places. For a few years now, there has been a lot of talk about millennials having a very strong interest in walkable urban environments. They’re not so interested in just living sort of a “Leave it to Beaver” lifestyle in the suburbs; they want cool exciting places where you can meet people and you have lots of options for getting around and living.

Some answers in this interview have been edited for brevity and clarity.