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Zimmerman, Flannigan Offer Different Routes for Solving District 6's Traffic Woes

Mengwen Cao/KUT

Virtually everyone in Austin has the right to complain about traffic, but maybe none more so than those who live in District 6.

The district is one of the longest – going from Lake Travis all the way north to Jollyville, with some of the most congested roads from Parmer Lane to Ranch Road 2222 and FM 620.

District 6 candidates Don Zimmerman and Jimmy Flannigan agree that congestion is a crippling issue in the district, but that’s largely where their consensus concludes. KUT’s Joy Diaz sat down with both council candidates ahead of the Dec. 16 election runoff.

"I live in Canyon Creek – which is right off of 620 and that thing is a parking lot at 5 o'clock,” says District 6 candidate Don Zimmerman.  He says the City of Austin will have to play catch-up to solve some of the congestion in Northwest Austin. But, he believes, if elected, that he can negotiate with other government entities to get that done.

“I've already met with County Commissioner Gerry Daugherty and with our state Rep. Paul Workman and we've talked about these very issues that the road funding has been missing for decades,” he says. “And I think we can make that happen.”

Zimmerman’s opponent in this race is Jimmy Flannigan. He believes fixing intersections and timing traffic signals are some of the things that can be done in the short-term to alleviate District 6's traffic problems. He's also thinking about encouraging telecommuting and building the right type of rail as longer-term solutions.

Flannigan says that's just one of the key differences between him and his opponent.

“He doesn't believe that folks at City Hall are honest or that are worth working with,” he says. “His style of governance is governance through lawsuit and he wears that as a badge of honor. And this is not how the new city council is going to operate. It's going to take good relationships and finding those six votes to actually problem-solve, or they are going to solve problems without District 6.”

Zimmerman has sued government entities on several occasions over the past decade or so, with mixed results.

For his part, Zimmerman says that, if elected, he will continue to shake things up. For one, he believes City Manager Marc Ott should be replaced once the new city council is sworn in.

Zimmerman says one reason he’s lost confidence in Ott stems from the city’s mishandling of the Austin Energy rate in 2012. Another reason, he says, revolves around a scandal with the city's fire department hiring practices, which required the intervention of the Department of Justice. Zimmerman says the Austin city manager took advantage of the scandal to weaken the firefighters’ union. Flannigan says that kind of rhetoric is not what District 6 needs.

“What I respect about Don is that he is honest about who he is,” Flannigan says.

Still, Flannigan believes District 6 would be better off if it chose him over Zimmerman.

“I've always sacrificed my business and my personal life to do community work, be it through the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce – which I ran for many years or through my work on the Austin Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee – or my forming the North West Austin Coalition, which I formed with several community leaders after 10-1 passed.”

These are the two contenders running for District 6. Only District 6 residents can decide which of the two will represent them on the Austin City Council.

The choice for who will be the city's next mayor is open to voters city wide.

Early voting continues through Friday, Dec. 12. Election Day is Dec. 16.

Below you can listen to one-on-one interviews between both candidates and KUT's Joy Diaz.

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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