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District 7 Candidates Agree on Affordability, Diverge on Traffic

Mengwen Cao/KUT

It's the last week of early voting for the Austin City Council runoffs. So far, 27,000 people have cast a ballot, compared to about 100,000 Austinites who voted in the city's November election. 

In District 7, Jeb Boyt and Leslie Pool are the two candidates standing, heading into a runoff election on Dec. 16. Both Boyt and Pool say neighbors in District 7 are concerned with the state of their libraries and parks, but, as with almost every neighborhood in Austin, their main concern is affordability.

“I'm certainly committed to working to improve affordability in Austin by increasing development,” Boyt says, adding that he heard great ideas on the issue of affordability on the campaign trail during the general election from other candidates. “But a lot of them were kind of nibbling around the edges of the larger affordability issue. If we are really going to take on affordability in the city – we've got to build more housing.”

But, what happens in the meantime?

Pool says a more comprehensive approach is needed to tackle affordability.

“There are a lot of issues that hang off of that main topic. And, so, you've got your utility bills, you've got your property taxes, you've got the cost of transportation, and the city can do a lot to help on those things,” Pool says.

She's thinking shorter waits for buses, more bus stops and better-maintained infrastructure around the bus hubs could increase ridership. That's just one thing that could contribute to the overall quality of life in District 7. Pool says quality of life is one contributing factor that could make people stay in the district.

“There [are] three big things: protect our neighborhoods, preserve our environment and fight to ensure that big corporations pay their fair share of taxes,” she says.

The southernmost point of District 7 is at 45th Street. From there, it stretches all the way north to Wells Branch Parkway. Parmer Lane runs through it, also. So, it gets its fair share of traffic.

Here, Boyt and Pool diverge on how they believe traffic could be solved. For instance, Boyt supported Austin's failed rail proposition. Pool did not. Boyt saw it as one way to help alleviate traffic, but not the only way. He says other ways could've been negotiated.

“My message is: ‘I'm inclusive and I'm here to work with you – whether you got here yesterday or whether you've been here 30 years or longer,’ you know?” Boyt says. “We all want Austin to be a great place to live and I'm willing to work with you on that.”

Pool says, for her, the rail proposition was a matter of prioritizing the city's resources. She did not see that spending as helping with the city's priorities. Election Day is December 16, and early voting continues until Friday Dec. 12.

You can listen to KUT's one-on-one interviews with both District 7 candidates Jeb Boyt and Leslie Pool below.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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