With Election Day nearing, Sheryl Cole, mayor pro tem and mayoral candidate, encouraged students to research their local government candidates and vote at a talk in Welch Hall on Wednesday.
At the event, co-hosted by the Lambda Theta Phi fraternity and the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, Cole said she differs from her opponents in her efforts to get the community’s voice heard, especially in her work to connect with students.
“I care about involving the community and especially the student community in the process of making policy so that we can lift all our voices,” Cole said. “I’m happy to report I received The Daily Texan endorsement, and I believe that’s because my office did so much student outreach on issues that affect you guys, like occupancy limits.”
The mayoral race features eight candidates, including attorney Steve Adler and City Council member Mike Martinez.
Lambda Theta Phi President Mario Gonzalez said a fraternity brother and UT alumnus suggested hosting the event. Their organization does not endorse any candidates, Gonzalez said, but wants to educate students on local politics.
“Even though most students are here for four years, most students don’t get involved with politics,” Gonzalez said. “While we might not stay here for life, we’re still part of the Austin community.”
Occupancy limits, Cole said, are something that need to be moderated. According to Cole, the further a student lives away from campus, the more points they lose from their grade point average.
“I was the one who reached out to the students and said, ‘What do you think of it?’” Cole said. “I voted for occupancy limits, but I made sure it was in a narrow area of the city so that Riverside would not be impacted, and the supply wouldn’t go down and increase prices in a bigger area.”
Cole said she had the most moderate record of anyone in Austin City Council, something that would help her balance decision making as mayor.
“When you take your oath of office, you swear to do what is in the best interest of the city as a whole,” Cole said. “I try to come up with a win-win situation for both sides, and that doesn’t always make any particular side happy.”
Cole said one of her top priorities as mayor was affordability. According to Cole, a lack of affordability was pushing out the African-American population.
“I was one of the people that worked really hard with the African-American Quality of Life task force that studies economic issues and how it relates to the African-American community,” Cole said. “The population across the spectrum is chasing better schools and economic opportunities outside the city limits.”
One of the ways to combat the affordability problem is giving out economic incentives to companies, Cole said.
“We have metrics that we look at — the amount of jobs they will create, what impact will it have on school districts, charitable contributions,” Cole said. “We don’t give tax breaks that don’t ultimately result in a positive net return for the city.”
Zeta Phi Beta president Nikah Hatcher said, while she has already voted, she’s still trying to get the student population involved in the local election.
“I know she has experience in local government already, and, as far as the black community goes, she would be the first female black mayor of Austin, and I know some people want to hear what she’s about,” Hatcher said. “I’m not trying to persuade them, but, hopefully, they try to get educated.”
Early voting continues until Friday, and Election Day is Tuesday.