Mike Martinez

Photo courtesy of Mike Martinez for Mayor

In October, this editorial board selected Sheryl Cole — a City Council member and the mayor pro tem — as our choice to be the next mayor of Austin. In doing so, we lauded her breadth of experience at City Hall and her common sense approach to the major issues facing students and other disadvantaged groups. For those same reasons, we endorse Council member Mike Martinez over Steve Adler in the runoff election for mayor that will be held on Dec. 16 and for which early voting begins Monday.

Adler, a lawyer and longtime activist within Democratic politics, has good intentions, but he lacks the institutional knowledge that we believe the city desperately needs at this time. Contrary to what many of his backers may claim, this city does not need an “outsider” who will shake up municipal politics, so to speak. Rather, it needs a steady hand to manage the consistent growth that Austin has faced in recent years, as well as a leader who simultaneously implements bold plans to solve the city’s growing problems in transportation and affordability, especially for students.

Both Adler and Martinez supported Proposition 1, the unsuccessful urban rail measure that we had previously opined against. However, only Martinez retains a logical approach to this issue post-Prop. 1, both respecting the voters’ wishes and diligently working to find ways to mitigate congestion beyond road expansion. Martinez, chairman of the Capital Metro board, focuses on innovative bus expansion, hoping to diversify routes, facilitate east to west corridors and even play around with novel suggestions such as a pilot program eliminating bus fares. Adler, outside of a cursory mention of buses in our conversation, looks content to propose the quixotic, such as an increased commitment to telecommuting.

However, perhaps most importantly, Martinez would dedicate himself to the plight faced by the 55 percent of Austinites who rent, including most students. He has suggested possibly using some of the recent affordable housing bonds to build a housing complex for low-income students, hoping to expand existing regulations that ensure some affordable housing units in new construction.

The cornerstone of Adler’s plan, meanwhile, is an ambitious expansion of the homestead tax exemption, which he would fund predominantly with the city’s surplus and possibly “shifting the tax burden.” While he has passionately defended this plan as a rather urgent method of tax relief, applying to far more than just millionaires, Adler freely admits his proposal could squander the city’s surplus on non-renters (read: non-students) and non-renters alone. In fact, he even conceded that it could nominally raise rent prices for most. When asked about future years without surpluses to fund the exemption, Adler obfuscated his response using platitudes such as growth and expansion. 

In the next three years, the mayor will have to face a plethora of complex issues and, with the new 10-district City Council, will be in a unique position to push through an array of proposals to change the city in meaningful ways. The city can take a chance on an untested, inexperienced newcomer, who will prioritize savings for the most well-off people in the community. Alternatively, it can look toward someone with eight years of experience around every nook and cranny of municipal politics, who will tirelessly fight for the least represented among us, most notably students and other young people. Vote for Martinez for a more student-friendly Austin.

Steve Adler will face Austin City Council member Mike Martinez in the runoff election for mayor on Dec. 16. Early voting begins Dec. 1.

Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

Mayoral candidate Steve Adler sat down with The Daily Texan to discuss his policy plans and opinions should he be elected. Adler faces off against Austin City Council member Mike Martinez in the runoff for Austin mayor Dec. 16. Early voting for the runoff election begins Dec. 1. This interview is the second of two interviews with the mayoral candidates.

The Daily Texan: What are some student issues that concern you?

Steve Adler: There are issues with respect to safety and public safety in West Campus: infrastructure, streetlights and sidewalks. There are general affordability issues that students have to deal with — rents and utility bills. There are issues associated with wanting to stay here after graduating. There are sound ordinance issues, which plays into a larger urban planning issue that the city is dealing with. And transportation issues, as it gets more expensive to live around the University.


DT: Proposition 1 failed and urban rail is on hold for now. Do you think a different route would have passed at the ballot box?

SA: My personal belief is you should pick a route to sustain where people are, because people will vote for something that improves their lives.

My sense is part of what the community is saying in this discussion is they didn’t understand how what we were doing was going to impact their lives. I think people are willing to wait for an integrated mass transit system to get to them if they thought it was going to get to them. That means getting a feel for the timing and cost of it. But if it just appears as a line drawn on a piece of paper, people don’t buy that. I think that we need to improve Capital Metro and the bus system. Ridership on the buses is down today from 2006 and 2008. The system costs twice as much as it did back then.


DT: Your opponent, City Council member Mike Martinez, said decreased ridership numbers was partly caused by increased density around campus. How does that change your opinion on ridership numbers?

SA: I think it’s good students are living closer to campus. I think it’s a bad thing that ridership is down. I think, when you run a transit system like that and only 5 percent of the population uses it, that’s not where you want to be. Until we get out in front of the supply and demand a balance, we’re just going to be creating smaller units that cost more. We have more and more students that have to live farther and farther away because they can’t afford those premium locations. Those people should be able to have a transit system. Density downtown, good thing. Ridership down, bad thing.


DT: Why do you support a 20 percent homestead exemption?

SA: I support the 20 percent because, contrary to how it is perceived by some, it is the fairest thing to do for the people who are low income in our city. It would be better and more progressive if we could do a property tax that is a flat rate or capped tax. I spent my life pushing for those changes at the state level. With the legislature, it probably won’t change for the next 25 years. Eighty percent of homeowners own homes less than $400,000. A lot of those people paid $85,000 and now their property values have gone up. The people we help most are the poorer people because they’re the ones that can’t make the adjustments to pay for higher property taxes.


DT: With runoffs happening during the end of the semester, are you worried about student turnout?

SA: I am worried. We did well on the student boxes [in the general election], and I spent a lot of time talking to students, and I was proud of that. In just an absolute sense, I’m concerned not just about students but everyone else with the holiday season. The 16th is the first day of Hanukkah. People are going to get lost. And when people don’t vote, people feel less invested. Students need to feel invested so they’ll be more involved. The power that students have is enormous, and I would love to see students reclaim that.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

Mike Martinez, Austin City Council member and mayoral candidate, sat down with The Daily Texan to discuss his plans should he be elected. Martinez faces off against Steve Adler in the runoff for Austin mayor Dec. 16. Early voting for the runoff election begins Dec. 1. The interview is the first of two with the mayoral candidates.

The Daily Texan: What are some issues that directly impact students that you plan on working for?

Mike Martinez: For me, the things that I’ve worked on is things like our public transit agency, making sure we expand our public transportation and folks have alternatives to paying for cars and car insurance. I’ve just announced we are going to launch the conversation about how we can get to the largest bus service expansions. Prop. 1 failing does not mean we do not try to be better. Students directly benefit from public transportation, and it affects their affordability.

DT: Why do you disagree with Adler’s proposed 20 percent homestead exemption? 

MM: I’ve consistently not supported a 20 percent homestead exemption across the board because it’ll raise rent, and renters make up more than 50 percent of Austin residents. While those policies sound good to homeowners, it doesn’t benefit those who need it the most.

DT: You said you supported a flat-rate homestead exemption instead. Why is that better than a 20 percent homestead exemption? 

MM: For oversimplification, if you have a million-dollar home and you have a 20 percent exemption, your property tax bill is based off of an $800,000 home. The more value you have in your home, the percentage-based exemption benefits you the most. If you do a flat rate exemption — let’s say you do a $100,000 worth of exemption and you live in a $100,000 house. If you live in that home, your whole tax bill is wiped. We can do it on a flat rate basis for seniors and [those who are] disabled and we raised that to $71,000. You would have that taken off your property tax every year.

DT: How would the 20 percent homestead exemption affect renters? 

MM: It would cause rents to go up. To pay for the $36 million to implement the homestead exemption you’d have to go to the budget; you have to find $36 million somewhere. And the effect it’ll have outside of the city budget is the rents will go up. Adler even published on his website it will cause rents to go up $80 a year. We knew it would have a negative effect on renters.

DT: What are ways the City of Austin can help students?

MM: Transportation has a huge impact on affordability. UT students make up 17 percent of our entire ridership, which is huge. But it has dropped significantly over the last six years. If you look at West Campus and you look at the University neighborhood overlay so densification could happen — we said let’s put students nearer campus, let’s create density around and near the campus so students can ride a bike or walk. So all the density near campus has worked against CapMetro, but it’s the right thing to do. You don’t want to plan city so that students and residents are dependent on transportation, you want to make them independent of transportation.

DT: Water conservation has been tossed around a few times this election cycle. Adler has cited San Antonio’s high rates of reusing their water — 20 percent in comparison to our 6 percent. Can we do better?

MM: We have a major river running through our city that provides drinking water and water for rice farmers downstream. San Antonio doesn’t have that — a river that provides a drinking source for so many entities. So we have to keep putting water back into the river that we take out. We can certainly increase our reclaimed water and gray-water use, but we are not the authority on water in Austin. If we interrupt downstream flows, we will face the LCRA demanding we put water back into the river. It’s also about capture. When you think about [Saturday’s] rain and the amount of water that fell across Austin — if we had policy that asked buildings to have an on-site capture system, we could capture thousands of gallons for gray-water purposes, like irrigating or flushing toilets. It’s not just reusing water — it’s capturing that precious water instead of letting it flow south of Austin.

DT: Since the runoff election takes place during finals, does the possibility of decreased student turnout worry you? 

MM: It is a concern. The reason I championed moving our elections to November was so students could be involved in making decisions about their local officials. We’ve always had our elections in May and turnout has always been low because students had gone for the summer. In November, students were able to participate at a level they never had. Our goal is to station ourselves on campus every day of early vote and make sure they participate. We know we can still have a strong student turnout; we just need to remind them about early vote.

Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

With less than a month until mayoral candidates Steve Adler and Mike Martinez face each other in a runoff election on Dec. 16, the two continued their series of debates last week. Adler and Martinez, who currently sits on the Austin City Council, debated at City Hall on the City Council’s structure and land planning.

Adler criticized the City Council for holding meetings into the early hours of the morning and making policy decisions from the dais. Adler proposed a committee structure for the City Council that he said would cut down on the length of City Council meetings, while bringing the public closer to city decisions.

“Everyone on City Council would chair a committee, which means everyone would have a citywide responsibility and would come up with a citywide constituency, so they won’t think just about their districts, but think about city generally,” Adler said.

Martinez said the committee structure would disengage citizens from the process.

“They don’t want their items sitting in a committee structure,” Martinez said. “They want their items and priorities to be voted on by the City Council. You have to manage that on the dais as well, so people have their opportunity to participate and so Council can make the final decision.”

Tweaking the current City Council structure is enough, Martinez said.

“Democracy is not always convenient, but it is absolutely necessary and we have one of the most active communities in terms of participation,” Martinez said. “I believe we can make some structural changes and cut down the amount of hours. You have to establish rules, stick to those rules, so there is consistency. If you call for a time certain for 6:30 p.m., you stop the meeting; you hear the item because that is what you committed to.”

Martinez defended CodeNEXT, a land development code that the Austin City Council voted on and passed a solution for Thursday night. Austin’s intricate land development code has made building projects in the city expensive and complicated for citizens, according to Martinez. 

“It is an opportunity to take our code, delayer it, and create something understandable so that you, the average citizen, can do your own projects and not hire a specialist,” Martinez said. “It’s also going to help us from a land planning perspective. When you look at public transportation and growth, CodeNEXT is a way we can have an impact on all of those issues.”

Secure Communities and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees impact Austin negatively, Martinez said. He promised to fight against deportation programs like these and make sure no Austin money went to entities that “run against our values.”

“I was so proud of President Obama in taking the first step in stopping organizations like Secure Communities,” Martinez said. “It came from the local level. The president’s executive order is a result for places like Austin who have been fighting and marching and getting local government to adopt resolutions and effect change in any way they could, and it resulted in the president of the United States issuing an executive order.”

Adler agreed that detainment and deportation programs, such as Secure Communities, worked counter-productively. 

“We shouldn’t be detaining people under that program in our community,” Adler said. “You don’t have to look any further than Police Chief [Art] Acevedo, who says that practice makes law enforcement more difficult.”

The first of eight Austin mayoral runoff debates grew heated as the candidates discussed property taxes Wednesday at the Time Warner Cable News studio.

On Election Day, Steve Adler and Mike Martinez led the eight-person race in the general election with 37 and 31 percent of the vote, respectively. With neither receiving more than 50 percent of the vote, the two will face each other again in a Dec. 16 runoff election. 

Adler defended his 20-percent homestead exemption plan, and he said Dallas and Fort Worth have successfully used a similar policy.

“We’re losing people and communities,” Adler said. “People can’t afford to live here because they can’t pay the property tax. The property tax is a regressive tax, and the burden on lower-income families is four times greater than property taxes on the top 1 percent.”

The 20-percent homestead exemption Adler supports would bring down a property’s value and, therefore, reduce property taxes. He argued that the lower-income citizens of Austin would benefit more, but Martinez disagreed.

“The reality of the 20-percent homestead exemption is that it benefits the wealthy the most,” Martinez said. “Here’s the other component — it costs $30 million in the general fund. We either have to raise taxes or find another source to cover the costs of that. I believe it should be a flat rate exemption.”

Martinez added that with a 20-percent homestead exemption, the average renter’s cost would rise by $80 a year. Adler said that was false.

“If you were to change the rate and phase it in over four years, the renter would go up $1.50 a month,” Adler said. “Not every tool helps everyone. A property tax helps homeowners.”

Adler reiterated points he made throughout his initial campaign about solving Austin’s traffic congestion problems, suggesting staggered work hours and predicting that Austin would one day have a midtown area.

“We have a list of all the infrastructure projects we’d like to do road-wise,” Adler said. “If we did all 856 projects on the wish list — and we can’t because it costs $30 billion — at the end of the time, drive time from Round Rock to Austin would be three hours.”

Adler agreed with Martinez that improving public transportation is crucial to alleviating Austin’s traffic problems but said it is not the only solution Austin needs.

“If there were good plans that existed, we should have been seeing them over the last eight years,” Adler said. “We have to do better with transit. We have to move forward with an integrated plan, and people do not have a feel in this city for what that plan is, and they should.”

Martinez said an integrated transportation plan already exists under Project Connect, a partnership between Capital Metro, the Austin Transportation Department and other local transportation and planning entities. Project Connect’s goal is to make Austin better connected through high-capacity transit.

“It’s a 50-year vision,” Martinez said. “I spend countless hours and so do many citizens giving us input. It’s one of our highest priorities.”

Martinez also said the Council is about to approve a rewriting of Austin’s land development code, and that will help increase housing stock.

“Our community has embraced things like an affordable housing bond, but we cannot bond enough funds to build the number of units we need,” Martinez said. “We need help from the private sector. This is on our agenda tomorrow — you have projects that come forward, one specifically that wants to move into South Congress, and they’re asking for a little more density, so they can provide more affordability.”

Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

Despite last week’s elections, many of the Austin City Council races remain undecided. Eight City Council races will be decided Dec. 16, including the mayor’s race, as only three candidates have secured their seats on the City’s new district-based City Council since Election Day. Attorney Steve Adler and City Council member Mike Martinez will vie to be Austin’s next mayor over the next month.

Adler led the eight-man race on Election Day with 37 percent of the vote. Martinez claimed the second runoff spot with 30 percent, beating out Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole.

Since last week’s election, Martinez has challenged Adler to three debates, which are currently being scheduled between the two campaigns. Both candidates insist they will fight for the whole of Austin, but with different approaches.

Martinez said he would better represent Austin’s middle class, citing the labor unions that endorsed his campaign.

“I am the champion of middle-class, hardworking families,” Martinez said. “That’s why you see folks within the middle-class spectrum supporting our candidacy for mayor who need a champion in the mayor’s office. … Affordability is not just about keeping costs down. It’s about providing more opportunities to working families and higher wages.”

Adler said he was proud to have the 3,000 or so supporters that contributed to his campaign — the largest group he’s seen in an Austin race. According to Adler, the variety of needs in the city all boil down to a few common goals.

“While there are lots of differences of opinion, there are also some very common wishes and hopes that people have,” Adler said. “I think central to those is the hope that we change what we’re doing — that we make City Council governance more thoughtful and deliberative and proactive, and not reactive and long-term in its thinking.

Adler said diversity does not force the City Council to prioritize one group of people over another. Everyone in Austin shares common ground, such as a need for education opportunities and water conservation, according to Adler.

“If we were to support education in the city, so we could move toward universal pre-K, that’s something that would help all of the city,” Adler said. “If we could move forward in ways to make the city more affordable for everybody, like doing things like the homestead exemption. Even though that disproportionately helps lower income people, it helps all people, too.”

Martinez said he supports a homestead exemption — but with a flat rate basis instead.

“One of the strongest proposals pitched and sounds great when you talk about a homestead exemption like Adler’s,” Martinez said. “According to his own numbers, it would raise rents for renters. We need to have policies that reflect all of Austin. When you talk about affordability, you shouldn’t propose policies with a negative impact on students.”

According to Martinez, students are also affected by citywide policies and should vote in the runoff to get their voices heard.

“We want to help those who need it the most,” Martinez said. “We certainly appreciate all the student support we received during the general election. We know that it’s cramming for finals time, but we are going back out after our student base of support. We want them to vote in the early vote, and, if they can’t, we will hook them up with a mail vote.”

Adler said he was proud of the student turnout during the general election.

“There was a time when the student boxes determined the mayor’s race in the city of Austin, back in the early ’70s,” Adler said. “There are a lot of issues that will have a higher priority, like noise ordinances or public safety issues in West Campus or just general affordability issues. There are key issues that impact the quality of life for students. We have actively started conversations with students, and we’ll continue to do that.”

With the runoff scheduled for the last day of finals at the University, Max Patterson, director of Student Government’s Hook the Vote agency, said his organization will work to encourage students to turn out.

“We plan on reaching out to as many students as possible about the importance of the student vote in Austin elections, especially in a runoff where turnout is expected to be much lower,” Patterson said.

Photo Credit: Mike McGraw | Daily Texan Staff

The Austin mayoral race will go into a runoff election between attorney Steve Adler and City Council member Mike Martinez.

At press time, Adler led the eight-man race with 37 percent of the vote, while Martinez received 30 percent.

The runoff election will be held on Dec. 16. Until then, the candidates will continue to campaign. 

After first hearing about his lead in the polls, Adler said there is still a long way to go, but he said his lead shows that the city of Austin is ready for a change from the current system.

“I’m excited because I think that what the results we just heard show is that a majority of people in the city of Austin want to go forward in a new way,” Adler said. “And we’re really excited about that. We’re leading in the election.”

Adler said the new 10-ONE council structure presents the opportunity to change government in Austin and will provide more representation across
the city.  

“We can take this opportunity with new leaders and new communities sitting at the City Council table for the very first time and change what we are doing in this city,” Adler said. “This is the opportunity to do that. Cities don’t have the opportunity to change government, usually, because things get institutionalized, and, with that, they don’t change.”

Despite being behind Adler, Martinez said he could still win.

“We are in it to win it, and we can win this election,” Martinez said.

In a speech at the end of his election night party, Adler said this election season was a chance to change Austin’s current government in order to improve taxes, utilities and the permitting process and also decrease poverty and the loss of diversity. 

“We have the opportunity to change the status quo and choose a new way forward because the status quo is not serving the city well,” Adler said. 

Martinez said this race is an opportunity to represent the middle class. 

“It is about families who are struggling to make ends meet, who deserve the opportunity that Austin has for everyone,” Martinez said. “Everyone should join in the prosperity — not only a few. We should have policies that reflect that. We should have a mayor that fights for that, and that is exactly what we’re gonna do when we win this runoff.”

Larson Hall, a Martinez supporter who attended his election night party, said he thinks Martinez would improve city transportation. 

“I really support Mike because I know him as a person, and he would do a great job supporting the community and the city of Austin,” Hall said. “He could definitely solve our traffic crisis; he could manage it better and make it easier to maneuver through the city.”

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole finished third with 15 percent of the vote and conceded the election at her watch party Tuesday. Cole said she will still continue to be involved in bettering the city.

“I believe we live in a great city that cares,” Cole said. “I’ve been in the City Council for eight years, and I will continue to be involved in civic issues. If it’s not the PTA, I can find other organizations.”

Additional reporting by Nidia Cavazos and Aimée Santillán.

University faculty and staff have contributed less than $8,000 to major candidates in the Austin mayor’s race this year, significantly less than the total amount of contributions to the state race for governor.

Texas Ethics Commission data on UT employee contributors to political campaigns shows more than 120 individuals who have contributed a total of more than $20,000 to primarily support state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and the Travis County Democratic Party in the governor’s race. Meanwhile, information filed with the Austin Office of the City Clerk shows more than 25 University faculty or staff who have contributed a total of around $7,750 to major mayoral candidates Steve Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and City Council member Mike Martinez. 

People who make gubernatorial campaign contributions are required to disclose their employer, but those who donate to mayoral campaigns are not. It is possible that the number of donations is underestimated because of the different filing practices by the city and state.

Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, visiting scholar at the University who researches political behavior, said voters tend to follow and support candidates competing in statewide and national elections even though citizens have a greater likelihood of being able to influence local politics. 

“Our attention is always drawn to the top-of-the-ticket folks — in the midterm, to the gubernatorial candidates [and] maybe the senate races,” DeFrancesco Soto said. “It’s this disconnect between the realities of politics and how it affects us and how we perceive politics. Local news will cover what’s going on here in Austin, but it’s not as sexy and glamorous.”

DeFrancesco Soto also said gubernatorial candidates tend to be affiliated with a political party and have developed sophisticated systems for asking for donations — two attributes typically not found at the local level.

Among disclosed faculty and staff campaign donations to the three major mayoral candidates, Adler has received the most with $4,550. Cole and Martinez have both received more than $1,500.  

Adler’s campaign manager Jim Wick said their campaign has currently raised $566,000 from about 2,500 donors since Adler first began campaigning for mayor in January. Wick said this amount beats the record of about 1,500 donors who supported Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s campaign in 2009.

The City of Austin allows individuals to donate a maximum of $350 to a mayoral candidate’s campaign, while individuals donating to a gubernatorial candidate can give up to $2,600.

Matt Parkerson, campaign manager for Martinez, said the campaign has risen more than $200,000.

“We knock on doors seven days a week,” Parkerson said. 

Both Wick and Parkerson said their respective campaigns do not do anything to specifically gain support from UT faculty and staff, but both campaigns have coalitions on campus to get students involved in the mayoral election.

David Sullivan, a research associate for the University’s Center for Energy and Environmental Resources, said he and his wife contributed money to both Cole’s and Martinez’s campaigns, along with the campaigns of several other City Council members.

“Aside from my day job here at the University, I’m also at the city office,” Sullivan said. “My wife and I donated basically out of loyalty and trust. I believe the city is in an excellent position to elect a good mayor.” 

Engineering professor Philip Varghese financially contributed to the Adler campaign, but said it is important for voters to participate in both mayoral and gubernatorial elections.

“However, the sums of money being spent on the governor’s race are so large that I don’t think any contribution I can afford to make will materially impact it,” Varghese said in an email. “I suppose one could argue that’s true of a single vote as well, but I think voting is a responsibility. Donating money is optional.”

Photo courtesy of Sheryl Cole for Austin

Editor’s Note: Early voting began Monday and continues through Oct. 31. Election day is Nov. 4.

After countless years with a small, commission-style city government, Austin will elect 10 district city council members for the first time this November, a direct result of voters passing the 10-ONE redistricting plan two years ago. The “ONE” in that plan refers to the mayor, who will still be elected by the entire city. But the job will be far different come January because not only will Mayor Lee Leffingwell step down after two terms, but the chief executive will have to work with a city council that looks and acts radically different.

 Between the top three candidates for mayor, civil rights attorney Steve Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and City Council Member Mike Martinez, the choice is abundantly clear for us. Cole possesses both the requisite experience and the needed temperament to be an effective and passionate mayor for all of Austin, including students.

While we certainly appreciate many of the big ideas Adler has brought to the table, this lawyer and philanthropist has no political experience whatsoever. In every election, but particularly in this special one, Austin needs a leader who does not need on-the-job training. We need a mayor who is familiar with the way this city does business. Unlike Houston, Austin does not have a strong mayor system. This means, despite what Adler may be suggesting, that the mayor cannot unilaterally change policies. The mayor would need to calmly and diligently work with the city council to do that.

Between Martinez and Cole, furthermore, we find the latter to be the clear choice. While we think Martinez has some good ideas as well, they appear both less refined and less realistic compared to his competitor. Martinez talks in broad platitudes about opposing the gentrification of East Austin, but his personal actions don’t always match his policy statements.

While we disagree with all three major candidates on Proposition 1, the urban rail issue, we think Cole has the most pragmatic take of the major candidates. At a debate hosted by UT Student Government and The Daily Texan on Monday evening, Cole talked somewhat frankly about what she would do if Proposition 1 does not pass — as many think it may very well not — saying she’d work to establish other modes of transportation. Whereas the other candidates would still be intent upon forcing unpopular boondoggles down Austinites’ throats, Cole would respect public sentiment and try to move forward working for a more manageable plan.

On transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft, we also found Cole to be a tempered voice of reason in a debate where simplistic sound bites and tribalistic loyalties led other council members to push for hasty and impulsive legalization without working out the big problems in equity and public safety. We still think the gouging tactics evident in Uber’s so-called “surge pricing” should be strongly curtailed.

But most of all, we think Cole could keep the most open mind for students’ interests. She has pushed for measures to increase the housing affordability for students, and she has even actively encouraged students to participate in the discussion about so-called “stealth dorms.”

All in all, Austin faces some good choices among the candidates to be its next mayor. We believe Cole is simply the best because she has strong experience in Austin city government, pragmatic capabilities and a genuine desire to help students. She’s the best option, for University students and for all of Austin.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

With early voting underway, three major mayoral candidates stressed the importance of students affecting change with the Austin City Council’s first election under its 10-ONE structure, which divides the city’s representation into 10 geographic districts.

With the mayor now the only citywide elected official, the candidates — attorney Steve Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and City Council member Mike Martinez — debated transportation, housing during a forum hosted by Student Government and The Daily Texan on campus at Gearing Hall. Adler emphasized the benefit of changing the City Council entirely during the upcoming election.

“The biggest challenge we have is doing things we are comfortable with,” Adler said. “We have the opportunity to do things a new way. Every piece of gravity and inertia is going to pull us back to how we’ve done things in the past, and we need to move forward.”

The candidates touched on public transportation options, including Proposition 1. Cole said, if Prop. 1, which allocates $600 million in bond money toward an urban rail line and requires the city to spend $400 million in road improvements, fails at the ballot, she would ask the community why they chose not to support it.

“When we come together as a community, that is when we are strongest,” Cole said. “We need to look throughout the city and see that this is a down payment on a 50-year vision, and we have to embrace the 50-year vision before we embark on another course.”

Cole also said she supports transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft, because they are good alternative transit options.

“There’s a lot of concern in the community about people able to get to our high density points like downtown if they don’t want to drive or can’t because they’ve been drinking,” Cole said. “TNCs can be used for that.”

While Adler criticized the City Council for its pace on passing ordinances, Martinez said the ordinance legalizing TNCs to operate in Austin happened as quickly as it should have.

“Government is not reactive; it is responsive,” Martinez said. “It takes time to make policies. We started this conversation in May this year, with a task force that is still making its way through the process, and here we are, less than six months later with a policy in place.”

Martinez defended his stance on occupancy limits and said that, without enforcement, the neighborhoods of Austin would be unfairly changed.

“We have developers that take advantage of our land development code and find ways to build units that are stealth dorms,” Martinez said. “We had plans that were submitted that looked like a duplex but it had seven or eight bathrooms and seven or eight bedrooms, and we knew they would be rented as single rooms. We wanted to stem the tide of stealth dorms. It was changing the character of traditional neighborhoods for single family houses.”

Adler said “stealth dorms” rose from Austin’s affordability crisis.

“When people can’t afford to be here, you’re going to find people creating solutions,” Adler said. “I have trouble with the ordinance that it is kind of a one-size-fits-all. There are some parts of the city that are not traditional. But we need to protect neighborhoods. We shouldn’t have multifamily projects where they don’t belong.”

Cole said affordable housing could be solved by looking at other alternatives, such as micro-units.

“I think we can create more affordability by design,” Cole said. “We have to be open to micro-units: smaller housing that students can live in and people who can’t afford to live in larger apartments.”

Early voting started Monday and runs until Oct. 31. Election Day is Nov. 4.