Austin affordability debated by mayoral candidates

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Five of the eight mayoral candidates were on hand Wednesday as the United Way of Austin hosted the debate in South Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse. There are some new names and faces in the mix, but many familiar issues.

“We have gone from being the most affordable…to being the most expensive city, and that doesn’t happen by accident,” said candidate Steve Adler.

“I think the challenges that we’re going to have are pretty much the same, whether it’s affordability, transportation or water,” said Sheryl Cole, mayoral candidate and current mayor pro tem.

The general focus of the debate was, in fact, affordability, especially as it relates to housing and childcare. Candidates also sounded off on investment in early childhood education.

“I believe that by supporting our children, we’re going to protect the great nature and soul of this city,” said candidate Randall Stephens.

Candidate and current councilman Mike Martinez says he’d like to see more local tax money stay in local schools. “I think the economic impact is just as great as any other investment we make.”

Another hot topic was traffic.

“I was supporting rideshare for the last two years,” said candidate Todd Phelps, blaming the current city government for not getting ride share companies OK’d in Austin yet.

Phelps is new to to politics. Stephens and Adler are too. Martinez is a current council member.

Those who attended say the debate gave them first impressions of the candidates.

“The questions really allowed you to see what their interests were and what they want to do,” said Fatima Mann.

“One thing I might worry a little about is so many new people,” said Mary Dickerson, “because, you know, I think there needs to be a little stability on the council.”

The mayor will oversee a city government with 10 council members, which is new for Austin. Each candidate for council will run in their geographic district. Seventy-eight people are running for city council seats, only two of whom have served already.

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