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Live Blog: The RECA Mayoral and City Council Forum

Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

One of the local election season’s most well attended forums is underway this afternoon. The Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA), in association with several other business and civic groups, is hosting a discussion featuring candidates for Mayor and three City Council seats. KUT News will be live blogging the event.

1:05pm: And that's it! We're adjourned. Probably should've linked to this earlier, but you can read more about the 14 candidates -- all of whom but David Yepez Conley and John A. Rubine appeared here today -- at KUT News.

12:56pm: Questions from audience. Spelman asked about statement he's unsure whether the city should hold another bond election this year. Spelman (who hasn't been served well today by a soft mic) says the city has capacity from previous votes to raise property taxes, including some $100 million for transportation projects alone.

12:53pm: Place 6 face off. Cole asks Shaun Ireland about his opposition to the Apple deal. Ireland asks Cole about postponing the Austin Energy rate increases until after the election. "Is delaying votes how accountable government behaves?" Cole cites complexity of project, and not wanting to make a decision that's only "politically correct."

12:50pm: Citing the city's legal fees, Tina Cannon asks Spelman whether he's been a "good steward" of the taxpayers money. He says he is, and that if some "special interests" want to sue the city, "let them sue us." 

Spelman asks Chavez about his opposition to the Apple incentives, who replies that the city's spending is creating a perception problem. Chavez asks Spelman which single-member district plan he will support; citing the six SMD proposals previously defeated at the polls, Spelman implies he'll support whatever plan garners the most support.

12:48pm:  In Place 2, Martinez asks Pressley whether she supports any of the economic incentive agreements the council has approved. “No, I do not agree with any of the subsidies we’ve done in the past… We continue to do this and we're still not affordable.”

12:44pm: The “fun part:” Candidates query each other.  

Leffingwell asks Shea to reveal how much money she’s made in consulting fees on city contracts since her departure from the City Council. “I made less than the mayor makes… Probably about $40,000 a year.”

Shea asks Leffingwell whether he would vote for the ethics reforms she’s proposed, limiting “bundled” contributions. Says he supports transparency laws, but can’t give answer citing complexity of issue.

Dafoe asks Leffingwell how he’ll oppose property tax increases in light of having offered economic incentives. Leffingwell returns to the Marriott hotel on Congress, notes that only fees were waived; no cash changed hands. “Anyone who says ‘it was coming here anyway’ frankly doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” Leffingwell says.

12:32pm: Question for Place 5 candidates getting some reaction. Citing delays in processing development applications, Maggio asks what candidates would do to expedite the process. Duffy basically refutes the premise, saying "I'm  not sure there’s something a city council member can do to make a project move faster." Loud grumbles from the RECA audience. Bo Prudente offers that "maybe we should extend the time limits." Even louder grumbles from the RECA audience. "This is obviously an issue near and dear the hearts of many people in this room," cracks Maggio,

12:28pm: If you’re wondering why these updates are somewhat cursory, well, the candidates only have 45 seconds for each question. 

Now all candidates being asked the same question. Mayoral query re: whether an "affordability impact statement" should be required on new major developments. Leffingwell says yes, Shea gives a qualified no, adding she'd need more information. Dafoe gives a hard no, saying such studies are how government grows.

12:20pm: On to the crowded Place 5 field. Anarchist candidate John Duffy is asked how to pay for government without bonds; cites community banking, and just spending less. Bo Prudente speaks to energy, calls for "two megawatt wind  generators in strategic areas of the city." Tina Cannon sounds off on mobility, Dom Chavez on education.

Incumbent Bill Spelman asked to recount "a mistake you made and how you learned from it." Cites, of all things, a decision from his first term involving a sewer line extension down Bee Caves Road. 

12:18pm: Place 2. Challenger Laura Pressley calls for "traffic solutions," citing horrible MoPac traffic. Incumbent Mike Martinez asked how to restore "erosion of trust" at City Hall.

12:14pm: Mayoral contenders. Mayor Lee Leffingwell quizzed on jobs, touts need for further small business investment.

Brigid Shea questioned about her feeling Austin's heritage tree ordinance has limited economic impact. "I've yet to see a real valid evaluation," Shea says."How do you place a value on our great green city?" And Clay Dafoe says the city's sound abatement project is the “wrong way" to work out noise disputes between venues and residential properties.

12:10pm: KEYE anchor Judy Maggio is serving as moderator. Touting a “wonderful” candidate summary prepared by RECA, encourages crowd to combat “dismal” city election numbers.

Each candidate will be recognized in ballot order, by place. “This is the fun part,” she adds: Each candidate may ask one of his or her opponents a question. 

12:05pm: Event getting under way. All the council members not up for election (Laura Morrison, Chris Riley and Kathie Tovo) are in the audience. Sounds like a quorum! 

This post has been updated for clarification and to correct grammatical errors. 

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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