Mayor’s job could change, Martinez announces planned bid

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The new single-member district city council system has implications for the mayor’s office in Austin.

Austin City Councilman Mike Martinez plans to launch a campaign for Austin mayor on Saturday, April 5.

“We are very excited about this next adventure,” said Martinez in a phone interview with KXAN early Wednesday morning. “It’s been an honor to serve as a council member and a firefighter in Austin, and it’s time to take this next step.”

Martinez has been on Austin’s City Council since being elected in 2006. Before that, he served as an Austin firefighter for 13 years. Martinez currently serves as Board Chair of Capital Metro, and as Chair of Council subcommittees on Public Health and Human Services, Minority-Owned and Women-Owned Business Enterprise, and Small Business.

“This is my 22nd year of public service,” he said. “Eight years on the Council, I think, has served me well for all of the issues the city is facing and will face in the future.”

Steve Adler, an Austin attorney, has a campaign website. Although Adler was not available for an interview Wednesday night, his campaign released this statement about the mayor’s race and the 10-1 system:

“With rapid growth and a new political system, this is a unique moment for our great city and I am humbled by the leaders across our community who have asked me to run for Mayor. In the coming weeks I will be talking with hundreds of Austinites about their vision for moving our city forward and I will be ready to make an announcement shortly thereafter.”

Council Member Sheryl Cole is undecided about running for mayor, and Council Member Laura Morrison announced Tuesday she will not run.

The job of the mayor may also evolve under the new single-member district system. Under the new system, city council members will be elected from 10 geographic districts.

The mayor may play a larger role in balancing the interests of those districts with the interests of the city as a whole. The mayor will still be elected by citywide election.

Martinez said City Hall is going to be moving in a new direction with an entirely new City Council.

“That’s why I believe Austin needs a leader with City Hall experience in the mayor’s office,” he said. “As mayor, I will work with
the new Council to ensure we hit the ground running and that geographic representation is successful and
effective from day one.”

Martinez said he has supported a shift to geographic representation since first running for City Council in 2006, and voted as a Council member to put the 10-1 proposal on the November 2012 ballot.

“I think that we are going to see the highest voter turnout that we’ve ever seen in a municipal election, because of the new change of government, but also because we’re moving toward single-member districts,” he said.

Martinez also announced a set of policy priorities and proposals. They include:

  • Create a new “Austin Affordability Index” that restricts City tax and spending increases
  • Advance new citywide policies to help ensure equal pay for equal work
  • Work with state legislators to increase the minimum wage in Austin to $10.10
  • Work with the community to create a comprehensive plan to fight poverty in Austin
  • Work with AISD and community leaders to expand access to Pre-K education in Austin
  • Make new investments in both roads and urban rail to address Austin’s traffic crisis
  • Expand Austin’s role as a national leader in the fight against climate change
  • Create a new regional Water Conservation Task Force to coordinate strategies for future water supply
  • Work with Travis County and surrounding cities to be leaders in wildfire prevention
  • Establish policies and programs to end veteran homelessness in Austin
  • Consider consolidation efforts in city departments to improve efficiency and operations

“All of our council members are well-qualified to run for mayor. We welcome that and we welcome the conversation that will happen leading up to the election,” said Martinez. “All of the council members are term-limited, except for [Chris] Riley and [Kathie] Tovo. Those are the only council members that can run for one of the new districts.”

Martinez added that both Tovo and Riley live in the same district, so if they both run, they’ll be running in the same district for the same seat.
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