The Real Estate Council of Austin Questionnaire to Candidates Austin City Council November 4, 2014 Election

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1 The Real Estate Council of Austin Questionnaire to Candidates Austin City Council November 4, 2014 Election responses to Nancy McDonald by Wednesday Aug. 20 Completed candidate questionnaires will be made available to all RECA members. CANDIDATE NAME: Gregorio Greg Casar DISTRICT: 4 1. Why do you want to run for Austin City Council? I m running to elevate the voices of the working families in District 4, and ensure that everyday folks in Austin are well represented at City Hall. As a community organizer and experienced leader, I believe I have the unique skill set to not only advance a progressive, inclusive agenda for the City of Austin, but also to forge coalitions that will pass practical solutions. I ll continue to work with stakeholders across the city including neighborhood and business leaders to engage previously neglected populations across the city, many of whom live in my district and are struggling with rising rents, stagnating wages, and underemployment. 2. What are the three most pressing issues facing the city of Austin?

2 1) Even with Austin s recent prosperity, too many Austinites are feeling the day-to-day strain of not being able to make ends meet. Many are being pushed out by skyrocketing rents, property taxes, and income stagnation. 2) Automobile traffic congestion along our major corridors, and a painfully lagging mass transit system are both contributing to Austin s most visible issue: transportation. As an advocate of equitable mass transit, I believe this issue presents the most promising opportunity for the new City Council to work together to address a city-wide challenge. 3) Austin s public education system is failing to provide the quality education that we need in order to build Austin s middle-class. Education is the best investment we can collectively make. It s an investment in our people. Considering those in charge of the Legislature s damaging cuts to schools, and the dated school finance formulas set at the Capitol, our City Council must pick up the slack and support Austin s education system. By investing in our residents, young and old, we can ensure that Austin s future is equitable and full of opportunity. The City Council can double down on the early education investments we re already making, and should increase the City s focus on workforce training in partnership with our local employers and community colleges. 3. What are the three most pressing issues in your district? 1) Making ends meet: maintaining a steady level of affordability for working people and seniors, and tackling the growing poverty rate - especially for children. The ladder of opportunity is what made our city great in the first place. I will fight to create living wage jobs, support our local workforce, and grow our small businesses. I m committed to making sure that Austinites can afford to live in Austin. 2) Public safety: building community trust and participation in local law enforcement efforts, and addressing the divide between the City of Austin and our growing immigrant population. We can and we must fight the root causes of crime as a community. I m for effective criminal diversion programs, funding mental health care, and creating a City of Austin ID card for those who don t have access to driver licenses. 3) Water: with utility rates rising and the recent drought, there isn t a day that goes by without our campaign hearing about concerns with the cost and source of our City s water. My campaign has emphasized expanding the city s weatherization programs to reduce energy usage, generate much-needed blue-collar jobs, and start discussions about water use in District 4. This needs to be a cultural and political change around Austin, not just a policy change. 4. Should the city and other groups such as the Austin Chamber of Commerce continue to aggressively recruit companies to re-locate and grow in Austin? I support the Austin Chamber of Commerce s efforts to promote our City as a good place to do business and recruit companies that will employ Austinites. 5. How do you feel about using tax incentives to attract and retain businesses in Austin?

3 I have worked to improve the City s process for giving tax incentives so that any company receiving incentives does not lower wages for blue-collar workers - especially those in the construction field. Because of our rapid economic expansion and rising cost of living, Austin should be especially judicious in granting incentive packages. 6. Explain policies you would support to address affordability. What has the city done to help or hurt affordability? There are things that we can do to make Austin a city whose prosperity is more widely shared, so that the very people who make our city great can be included in Austin s future. First, we need to push for tax relief for our residents. That means phasing in a homestead exemption to benefit our homeowners paired with an expansion of utility-bill relief so that renters and working class Austinites get improved affordability too. I m ready to launch the honest community-driven dialogue about new revenues and government efficiency so that we can responsibly provide relief for those who need it most. Second, our city should purchase underutilized land and require that future development of that land include family-friendly housing that s affordable for everyday Austinites. We should also continue to support funding for housing the neediest in our community, because if we do not act, the Austin of tomorrow may not be the Austin in which we want to live. Third, we need to make sure there is enough housing in Austin for all of us severe housing shortages result in increases in rents and taxes for everyone. Neighborhood voices, environmental experts, and business leaders are critical for ensuring new housing is built where it makes the most sense. Furthermore, the city s shortage of resources in the permitting department has unnecessarily impacted affordability. 7. What, in your opinion, are the factors making Austin a less affordable place to live? - Acute housing shortages in key areas people want to live - Lack of a reliable, comprehensive, and affordable transportation system - Income stagnation and broken pathways to the middle class - A dysfunctional state legislature that has limited Austin s ability to raise funds for needed services and programs. 8. How familiar are you with the process to develop real estate in Austin? Does the city efficiently review development projects or does it need to improve its process? Be specific. I have worked extensively on master development agreements and other development decisions within the city, and tracked them through the entire public approval process. Having advocated for better construction jobs in Austin, I have a working knowledge of the development process, from financing and design through completion. I believe we need to improve efficiency in our Planning and Development Review Department and dedicate the necessary resources to do so. We should tackle unnecessary inefficiencies in our planning and review process so that we can ensure both a predictable process and avoid unnecessary delays that ultimately harm everyone.

4 9. Imagine Austin is the city s comprehensive plan on how the city should grow over the next 30 years. CodeNEXT is the rewrite of the land development code intended to orient the code to support priorities outlined in Imagine Austin. Please specifically state your opinion on Imagine Austin and CodeNEXT. I continue to support the efforts of the City to create a long term plan for the future of Austin. I do not believe the City s comprehensive plan - Imagine Austin - should be considered a static document. As Austin has changed so dramatically in recent years, so too will it change in the near future. As a council member, I would encourage City staff and community members to continue to hold a high degree of communication and engagement. City planning and land use affects all the issues we hold dear mobility, affordability, access to services, diversity, environment, neighborhood character, and more. The most significant challenge facing CodeNext is how the Council will translate the technical details of the land development code, such as impervious cover limits and parking requirements, into a community conversation that everyone can take part in. I m passionate about ensuring that the details of our land development code facilitate the construction of housing at all levels of affordability, all across our city. I m also passionate about incentivizing the preservation of our existing affordable housing stock through the code and other mechanisms. With that said, the changes and eventual implementation of CodeNEXT will need to be concrete and ensure predictability, so that the Council can deal with our large scale problems instead of getting mired in the details of conflicts and obscurities in the current code. 10. It s no secret that Austin has been in a drought for seven years. How can we address our shrinking water resources? How should land development change, if at all, in response to the drought? I support looking at a higher graduation of water rates while maintaining a low base rate in order to encourage conservation while helping moderate and low-income families blunt the damage of increases in cost of living. However, it is critical that we do public education and make conservation improvements available to all families regardless of income or language spoken, to give our families the means we need to lower our water consumption rates. Concerning land development practices, I would support measures to curb incentives to urban sprawl that would put more financial strain on our struggling water utility.

5 11. Do you support public transit? If no, why not. What form of public transit will contribute the most to reducing congestion and travel time? Yes, I support public transit. Prioritizing our local bus service, including expansion of current routes, investment in dedicated lane facilities on popular routes, and minimizing transfers as much as possible can contribute the most to reducing congestion. As a council member, I would consider all transit options. I support urban rail throughout the core of Austin and passenger rail service to neighboring regions, if riders fares will cover a significant enough portion of the costs, and we have significant public support for the possible cost. I also support enhancing and expanding the existing Rapid Bus service and taking steps to ensure those buses don t get stuck in traffic. 12. Will you support the likely $1 billion transportation bond expected to be placed on the ballot this November? I ve personally decided not to vote for November s bond package. Though I am a supporter of mass transit and rail, I ve made this decision because of the City s lack of a comprehensive affordability plan. I recognize that many folks have worked very hard to put together this rail plan, but unfortunately, despite all this work, the community at large and the community in District 4 remains too divided. Ultimately voters will make the decision themselves in November. If the rail does pass, then I will be committed to addressing our affordability crisis and building community trust so that we can pass the necessary second, third, and fourth lines to have a successful system. If it does not pass, I would strongly consider upgrading the bus system along the current route. Then, I will be committed to tackling our affordability and transit problems hand-inhand so that we can have grassroots support for our upcoming transit investments. 13. Is Austin spending enough money to keep up with road construction? Why or why not? Do you support building State Highway 45 Southwest? Please explain your position We will not begin to relieve traffic congestion in the coming years unless we use all the tools in our toolbox. We need more of everything including roads, buses, pedestrian and bike infrastructure, heavier transit, and alternative strategies such as staggered work hours and more telecommuting. I do not currently support building SH45 SW because of the possible environmental risks, and I would like to see alternative plans implemented to relieve traffic in this area with less environmental impact, and possibly less cost. 14. The Travis County Appraisal District has come under scrutiny this past year. What is your position on property appraisal reform? The State rules require appraisers do their best to appraise properties at market value so that our system is equitable. I support reasonable mechanisms that could help us achieve this goal. 15. Would you support commissioning a study to measure the economic impact of regulations?

6 If elected to City Council I would welcome internal and external studies that evaluate the efficiency and impacts of city regulations.

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