April 30, 2009

My take on the Austin Mayoral race 09

Filed under: Austin life — daz76 @ 11:20 am
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Brewster McCracken

Brewster McCracken is a Texas native, born in Corpus Christie. A relatively young candidate at 43 he is a graduate of Princeton University. McCracken also holds a law degree from UT School of Law as well as a master’s degree in public affairs from the LBJ school at UT. He is also a former prosecutor and served in the U.S. Army.

Brewster McCracken looks at the “Austin Model” developed in the 1980’s that essentially served as a vision to bring the high tech and bio tech industries to Austin which is now considered to be a globally accepted model for city development. McCracken’s proposed ideas about Austin’s future look to that model but expand on it, taking into consideration emerging industries such as clean energy, which is a major focus of his campaign. He has solidified his popularity with Austin’s creative community by also supporting a strong film, game, and technology driven entertainment sectors which he believes can be future sources for economic and job growth here in Austin.

McCracken is endorsed by many green/clean energy industry leaders and technicians as well as by local entertainment luminaries such as Sarah Hickman and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim Leauge. The Austin American Statesman has also endorsed McCracken.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn

Carole Keeton Strayhorn is also a native Texan born in Austin and the daughter of long time dean of the UT Law School, Page Keeton. Strayhorn holds an honors degree from UT and began her career in education. She is highly awarded in that field. She became the first woman to become mayor of Austin in 1977 and served until 1983. Strayhorn has also served as the Texas Comptroller of Public Affairs (again the first woman in Texas to do so) as well as serving as Texas Railroad Commissioner. In 2006 she ran for Governor of the state of Texas where to some controversy she was denied including the word “Grandma” in her name on the Gubernatorial ballot, despite the fact that one of her opponents is commonly known as “Kinky” Friedman, a nom de plume. Strayhorn also suffered some humiliation during a televised debate when she did not know the name of newly elected Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Also of interest is that her son, Scott McClellan served as George W. Bush’s press secretary.

Strayhorn has a streamlined set of issues that she focuses on, most specifically the city budget. She has railed against the system of city-financed lobbyists in the state capitol. She is a staunch supporter of law enforcement and is a long time member of the Austin Police Association. She has expressed concern that the city spends thousands conducting archeological research in Zilker Park before spending money on the police and she says that as mayor she would get more police on the street as soon as possible.

Another major issue that Strayhorn has taken on is traffic in Austin. She believes that enough time and money has been wasted on research and studies and wants to implement new strategies in how we commute, including possibly overhauling Capitol Metro. She has also pledged her commitment to supporting small business, promising to modify the red tape laden bureaucratic system that makes it difficult if not impossible for some local business to operate.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn has received the endorsement of ChangeAustin.org – an influential grassroots political advocacy organization. ABoR, the Austin Board of Realtors, also endorses her as well as the St. Edwards University student newspaper.

Lee Leffingwell

Without the aid of a Wikipedia entry for Lee Leffingwell, I had to use more varied sources for information about this Austin city council member running for mayor. We do know that Lee Leffingwell is a native Austenite, his father worked in the fire department and law enforcement and his mother at UT. Leffingwell entered the army, became a pilot, flying many missions, and later in his civilian career became a commercial jet pilot.

After retiring from piloting, he returned to Austin and became a community volunteer with an emphasis on ecological issues. Leffingwell is known for advocating a more transparent local government as well as looking forward at the inevitable growth of this city and how to bolster strong commerce and housing sectors and directly address the inevitable impact on the environment that this will have into the future. Also of interest is that Leffingwell was one of two city council members to vote against the forgivable loan for Las Manitas restaurant last year, suggesting that ultimately the loan would not have any real benefit for the city or downtown, only the restaurant. He also voted against proposals to restrict the size of new homes being built in certain parts of Austin claiming that such laws if in effect should be city wide, not just street to street, and added that many people these days are relying on add-on rental property as a way to improve their investment. Leffingwell has several significant endorsements, most notably the Austin Fire Department and Austin’s infamous independent free weekly, the Austin Chronicle.

Taken from the Austin Chronicle’s letter of endorsement regarding Leffingwell and Brewster McCracken published last week:

“The Chronicle board discussion of the candidates even suggested an apt and double-edged analogy: “Right now, who do you want in charge of city policy, your stodgy but reliable dad or your energetic younger brother?” We’ve opted strongly for the former.”

After doing the research I have decided that I will vote for Lee Leffingwell, and it has little to do with the Austin Chronicle’s endorsement. While I am not aware of his complete record, I appreciate his tone. Aside from 9/11 hijacker types, I generally believe that people who become pilots, specifically commercial pilots, have built in bravery, leadership qualities and an innate desire to look out for people.

These days it is rare to see a politician so openly reveal their sense of compassion and put forth the idea that helping the less fortunate is an important and necessary role in our city. His relationship with Austin’s environment, the parks, trails, waterways etc. is hard to deny and I trust Zilker Park and Lady Bird Lake in his hands.

One other interesting thing that I noticed was Lee Leffingwell’s website offers a Spanish language option. I do not believe I saw that option on the other candidate’s pages. As a bilingual American, I can appreciate that, and it shows intelligence in the campaign strategy. I also really like the personal and down to earth tone of his website, and although I am inherently suspicious of politicians, I find the man to be genuine about his dedication to making Austin a great place to live and be into the future.

Brewster McCracken has some appeal because he has strongly associated himself with the more fun aspects of Austin culture and received great press a few years ago for smoothing over some wrinkles when a percussion group was arrested during SXSW for parading into the street. I believe he needs more time to find his true position on the tougher issues that are facing Austin in the near future.

As for Strayhorn, I appreciate her straight ahead style and political experience, but she is a politician’s politician if there ever was one and no, she’s not my grandma. That type of campaign strategy strikes me as a thinly veiled version of politic fast food and her D.C. insider connectivity seems a bit much for the position of Mayor in weird old Austin Texas, despite our status as the state capitol.


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