With less than a month until mayoral candidates Steve Adler and Mike Martinez face each other in a runoff election on Dec. 16, the two continued their series of debates last week. Adler and Martinez, who currently sits on the Austin City Council, debated at City Hall on the City Council’s structure and land planning.
Adler criticized the City Council for holding meetings into the early hours of the morning and making policy decisions from the dais. Adler proposed a committee structure for the City Council that he said would cut down on the length of City Council meetings, while bringing the public closer to city decisions.
“Everyone on City Council would chair a committee, which means everyone would have a citywide responsibility and would come up with a citywide constituency, so they won’t think just about their districts, but think about city generally,” Adler said.
Martinez said the committee structure would disengage citizens from the process.
“They don’t want their items sitting in a committee structure,” Martinez said. “They want their items and priorities to be voted on by the City Council. You have to manage that on the dais as well, so people have their opportunity to participate and so Council can make the final decision.”
Tweaking the current City Council structure is enough, Martinez said.
“Democracy is not always convenient, but it is absolutely necessary and we have one of the most active communities in terms of participation,” Martinez said. “I believe we can make some structural changes and cut down the amount of hours. You have to establish rules, stick to those rules, so there is consistency. If you call for a time certain for 6:30 p.m., you stop the meeting; you hear the item because that is what you committed to.”
Martinez defended CodeNEXT, a land development code that the Austin City Council voted on and passed a solution for Thursday night. Austin’s intricate land development code has made building projects in the city expensive and complicated for citizens, according to Martinez.
“It is an opportunity to take our code, delayer it, and create something understandable so that you, the average citizen, can do your own projects and not hire a specialist,” Martinez said. “It’s also going to help us from a land planning perspective. When you look at public transportation and growth, CodeNEXT is a way we can have an impact on all of those issues.”
Secure Communities and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees impact Austin negatively, Martinez said. He promised to fight against deportation programs like these and make sure no Austin money went to entities that “run against our values.”
“I was so proud of President Obama in taking the first step in stopping organizations like Secure Communities,” Martinez said. “It came from the local level. The president’s executive order is a result for places like Austin who have been fighting and marching and getting local government to adopt resolutions and effect change in any way they could, and it resulted in the president of the United States issuing an executive order.”
Adler agreed that detainment and deportation programs, such as Secure Communities, worked counter-productively.
“We shouldn’t be detaining people under that program in our community,” Adler said. “You don’t have to look any further than Police Chief [Art] Acevedo, who says that practice makes law enforcement more difficult.”