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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Six candidates are up for consideration to represent District 3 on the Austin City Council. Here’s a look at each candidate’s platforms and key issues informing their campaigns.
Key campaign focuses outlined on Velásquez’s website include:
- Addressing Austin’s housing crisis through anti-gentrification measures and built off “real-life experiences of lifelong and new residents alike”
- Expanding high-speed broadband internet access
- Offering free, full-day Pre-K for all to jumpstart childhood education without cost barriers
- Incentivizing remote work to ease transportation woes and expand residents’ time spent with loved ones and community members
A fourth-generation Austinite, he said in his candidate interview with the City of Austin he is running for council due to the “lack of urgency around affordability,” citing his experience as a community organizer.
“A lot of people talk about the tale of two cities — I’ve lived it,” he said. “I can speak with authority, intelligence and trust in the community about the disparities facing our city.”
His campaign focuses on full-day Pre-K, increase remote work opportunities, broadband access expansion and tackling housing crises through a holistic approach. Velásquez added teachers, students, service industry workers, emergency medical personnel and single parents are underserved under current affordability issues.
He also flagged transit issues, equity concerns and environmental elements as key areas his campaign looks to tackle.
Silva’s campaign website outlines three core tenets of her campaign:
- Expand building of affordable, dense housing along transit corridors; amend Land Development Code; passing VMU2 to authorize taller buildings; eliminate single-family zoning and mandatory parking minimums
- Bolster city’s light rail and e-bike system; hone in on cap-and-stitch and other alternatives to the Texas Department of Transportation’s Interstate 35 plan
- Develop new hospital in District 3 to serve southeast Austin
- Expand funding, support alongside Travis County for CommUnityCare
- Increase funding for Austin-Travis County EMS; sponsor creation of EMS-run mobile mental health units
- Expand greenspace throughout east Austin
- Oppose Austin Energy’s current rate hike; divest from Fayette Coal Power Plant; auditing city infrastructure like water, sewage pipes
In her candidate interview with the City of Austin, Silva said she was zeroed in on “equity, justice and a city that can maintain long-term sustainability.”
A bachelor’s and master’s degree recipient from Texas A&M University, Silva flagged her time as a legislative aide to a state senator in Austin and as a policy researcher in Washington, D.C. as part of her expertise. She also noted volunteer work with Community Resilience Trust, the Austin Justice Coalition, El Buen Samaritano, Community First! Village and the Austin Area Urban League.
“I have been boots on the ground working to make Austin a more equitable city,” Silva said. “It’s time to let go of the status quo and throw out the establishment political rulebook.”
Gavino Fernandez, Jr.
In his candidate interview with the City of Austin, Fernandez referred to himself as the “poor people’s candidate” for District 3, as well as a lifetime resident of the area. Fernandez serves as a Democratic Party-appointed election judge for Precinct 439 over the past 14 years, as well as a current election judge for the Travis County Clerk’s Office.
“When elected, I will govern with a lens of diversity, engagement and inclusion and equity and want to make sure that everyone gets a piece to participate in our business element of this community with the City of Austin,” he said.
He advocated for the $350 million affordable housing bond included for consideration on the November ballot, as well as a supporter of building housing for people who fall within the 30% MFI.
He shared support for climate protection measures, as well as mass transit opportunities like carpooling, CapMetro services and Project Connect. He flagged advocacy for pedestrian and biker-centric infrastructure in neighborhoods.
Fernandez doesn’t have a campaign website.
José Noé Elías
Elías’s campaign focuses center on affordable housing, community-centered public safety and climate justice. His campaign website outlines the following tenets central to his campaign:
- Expand supply of low, moderate-income housing through rehabilitation, new construction, tax exemptions and expanded homeownership opportunities
- Utilize city resources to enact community-centered public safety interventions to “reduce harm and address the root cause of systemic inequities which often lead to crime”
- Improve roadways, pedestrian pathways, traffic signals, sidewalks and transit costs
- Ensure access to pure air, clean water and strive to expand environmental justice, health equity and climate justice for communities
- Expand the pool of community health workers and investments in community health centers
- Collaborate with local ISDs to offer programs such as homework assistance and tutoring; increase funding for early childhood education
In his campaign interview with the City of Austin, Elías cited his experience as a teacher and an undocumented immigrant as part of his advocacy work for working families. He serves on Austin’s Community Development Commission, Project Connect Community Advisory Committee, the Montopolis Neighborhood Association, the Montopolis CDC, the Linder and Allison elementary PTAs and as a member of Education Austin.
He said he wants to bring a new voice and perspective to city hall.
“As a teacher, I see our workers and their families struggle each day to stay in this city,” he said. “As a candidate, I have knocked on more than 6,000 doors and had hundreds of conversations and the stories are the same throughout the district: Many of us are one crisis away from eviction, homelessness or displacement.”
His council focus would include expanding lower and moderate-income housing, developing a community-centered public safety plan, increasing equitable transit options for Austin and developing community-driven health initiatives.
Weldon’s campaign website outlines six core focus areas of her bid for District 3 council member, centered on:
- Expanding affordable developments east of I-35, north of U.S. Highway 183, west of MoPac Expressway and south of Ben White Boulevard; calling for audits and comprehensive reviews of city departments
- Ensuring first responders are fully staffed and have necessary resources; addressing policing concerns and cycles of crimes citywide
- Collaborating with industry experts to ensure more effective transit without asking homeowners and renters for more money; holding Project Connect leaders accountable for designs, costs and transparency efforts
- Working alongside county, state and federal legislators to expand mental health funding and development effective strategies to address root causes of homelessness
- Making competitive wages and benefits available across city positions; cutting wasteful spending within budget
- Limiting government interference in business and economic development to give businesses “a right to make sure your business and jobs stay open, while ensuring the community stays safe”
In her campaign interview with the City of Austin, she said Austin had the reputation of being a safe and affordable city without a state income tax and a thriving economy. Now, she said the city began to pivot, resulting in police staffing shortages, children reading below grade level within Austin ISD and lifting the homeless ban.
“We need to shake up the city council and reverse course,” she said. “I contemplated this decision to run for city council at length.”
She noted her experience working in the Attorney General’s Office will be valuable in addressing fiscal spending and accountability.
She’s done ride-alongs with Austin Police officers and gone with the Travis County Constables Office that works within homeless encampments, while touring communities like Community First! Village and Camp Esperanza.
Wueschner’s campaign website centers on fixing “corruption” at Austin City Hall by addressing the following issues:
- Auditing all city departments to explore how money is being distributed, while banning insider stock trading for all city officials and their close relatives
- Reversing the city council’s pay increase from 40% to 4% to reflect the “amount given currently to city workers”
- Reducing taxes for property owners and renters while also giving incentives and lowering taxes for small businesses and new local entrepreneurs
- Prohibiting city officials from taking money from special interest groups or people outside Texas
- Enforcing the camping ban; creating a K-12 program to tour homeless camps to “show them the true negative effects of Drugs and the Victim mindset”
In his campaign interview with the City of Austin, Wueschner said the city’s COVID-19 lockdown impacted small local businesses through local shutdowns and exacerbated the city’s homelessness crisis.
“I, Esala Wueschner, here to represent all of you by making sure that you get more than a 4% pay raise and to expose all of the corruption by auditing all the city officials to make everything easily accessible to the public, so you can see how your money is being spent,” he said.