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Seven people are running for the District 4 seat on the Austin City Council. Here they are.

The dias at Austin City Hall.
Gabriel C. Pérez
/
KUT

Lee esta historia en español.

Residents of Austin’s District 4, which spans much of Central North Austin, will be asked to elect a new City Council member on Jan. 25. The current council member, Greg Casar, announced in November that he would be running for Congress.

With seven people running to replace him, it is possible that not one candidate will get more than 50% of the vote, forcing a runoff election.

Who’s running? KUT asked the candidates to answer three questions. (Two of the candidates — Amanda Rios and Ramesses II Setepenre — did not respond. Their responses could be added at a later date.)

Melinda Schiera, marketing data analyst

Melinda Schiera
Courtesy of Melinda Schiera

What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Austin?

Affordable Housing. District 4 should be a leader on increasing density—and show that the most dense neighborhood district is willing to add density and affordable housing—especially along the future Orange Line. As NACA [North Austin Civic Association] president, I was able to help educate members on the proposed CodeNext changes—and negotiate removing increased zoning for Rundberg Lane and increasing zoning on North Lamar. The effort to remove the increased zoning for Rundberg Lane was in response to concerns of redevelopment of property and increased property values, and overall was going to provide a rather insignificant amount of additional units.

What is one policy you would try to implement to fix or alleviate this issue?

There is an opportunity to rezone rail line transit corridors to a Mixed-Use zoning with a potential affordability requirement. The rezone needs to happen all at one time so that redevelopment occurs in a cohesive manner that encourages walkability. Allowing multi-family zoning in commercial property does not provide the density that is needed for our rail corridors, and there is wasted parking space.

Why are you the person who should represent District 4?

I’ve spent the past 10 years working on public safety issues, working collaboratively with APD and growing communication platforms, leading grant-funded beautification projects, helping to educate the community on infrastructure and zoning such as CodeNext, and as well the transportation needs such as Project Connect. My priorities as council member are to encourage affordable housing on future rail lines, improve communication strategies to support all issues and demographics in District 4, and work with APD on public safety issues. I am the candidate that has presented actual solutions to address our important local issues, learn more at melinda4austin.com.

Website: melinda4austin.com.

Jose “Chito” Vela, immigration and criminal defense attorney

Chito Vela
Courtesy of Chito Vela

What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Austin? Austin must be a welcoming city for working class people. Austin is facing a growing housing crisis that is making it impossible for working class people to rent or buy in Austin, forcing them into the suburbs. Home costs are exploding because of the shortage of available housing as jobs and people come to our city.

What is one policy you would try to implement to fix or alleviate this issue? We must build substantial amounts of housing along our soon to be built light rail lines, especially around the stations. People in these homes can use the light rail for their transportation needs, reducing the amount of cars on our streets and the pollution in our city.

Why are you the person who should represent District 4?
My legal experience, work in city government, deep ties to the community, and involvement in state and local politics for almost 20 years make me the best, most prepared candidate to fill this seat and represent the people of District 4. I was an Austin planning commissioner, President of the board for Workers Defense Project, President of the Blanton Elementary PTA, and general counsel to a state representative in the Texas House. I have been a leader in our community, and I will be a leader on the Austin City Council.

Website: www.chitovela.com

Jade Lovera, CSO of Women Who Werk

Jade Lovera
Courtesy of Jade Lovera

What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Austin?

Public Safety, Housing and Affordability are the most pressing issues facing Austin. I consider these to be connected issues as housing management and access to affordability affect home stability which in turn may contribute to an increase in crime. District 4 has the highest crime rate in Austin and lack of community engagement is a huge factor in this. We have been underserved and underinvested.

What is one policy you would try to implement to fix or alleviate this issue?

Smart and complete analysis of landuse and development with consideration and input from community and current Austin residents. Detailed review of the full picture when making decisions for the city to include long-term risk and gains, not solely short-term or immediate benefits.

Why are you the person who should represent District 4?

I am a born Austinite and have lived in District 4 my entire life. I truly represent and relate to the residents of District 4, because I am one. I intend to bring the community’s voice to the decision making table. I will work to ensure district 4 gets a full piece of the attention and financial pie. Our voices deserve to be heard, our values deserve to be considered, our families and future concern of our quality of life deserve to be a priority focus.

Isa Boonto, art teacher, Austin ISD   

Isa Boonto
Courtesy of Isa Boonto

What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Austin?  

The most pressing issue our city is facing today is affordability. As a result, our community members are faced with ever-increasing tradeoffs in quality of life to remain in their neighborhoods. 

What is one policy you would try to implement to fix or alleviate this issue? 

As our District continues to develop, it will be important to keep a close eye on District 4’s Land Use and Rezoning Policies. The outdated Zoning Policies do not account for our land, environment, buildings and the needs of our community in 21st century Austin.

Why are you the person who should represent District 4? 

As a servant leader we would best represent District 4 because of our lived experiences and direct work to support community members. I’m not a politician, I am a teacher, an artist and a parent. We care deeply and think about people and listen to how they are impacted by the issues that affect their day to day.

Website: seeisarun.org (currently under construction)

Monica Guzmán, policy director, GAVA (Go Austin/Vamos Austin)

What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Austin?

The most pressing issue Austin is facing today is lack of housing affordability. District 4 is ground zero for overdevelopment which is causing gentrification and displacement. We also need to discuss economic and workforce opportunities to help families struggling in the city.

Monica Guzmán
Courtesy of Monica Guzmán
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What is one policy you would try to implement to fix or alleviate this issue?

While there are a few options, the two I would focus on implementing are:

  1. Increasing the reach of existing housing rehabilitation programs, making it possible for people who own market rate affordable units to maintain habitability and affordability instead of free market selling, resulting in increased housing costs; and,
  2. Fully implementing and strengthening the right to return Preference Policy (Resolution No 20180308-10) for families that have been priced out of their generational communities

Why are you the person who should represent District 4?

I am a Native Austinite, part of the community efforts, working with residents addressing issues we face coming up in District 4 and other vulnerable communities in the Eastern Crescent. I am a community organizer who has worked with and supported low-income residents to increase access to a healthier lifestyle and to stop gentrification and displacement in our neighborhoods. I am a member of the [reimagining] public safety task force and was the chair of the Restore Rundberg Revitalization team. As a council member, I will fight for more economic opportunities, social justice, and to protect our neighborhoods.

Website: monicaford4.com

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