University of Texas Professor, Council Member Wants to Keep Austin Weird, and Explains Why
Council Member Bill Spelman launched his campaign for a third term on the Austin City Council at Scholz Garten Tuesday evening to boost his campaign war chest beyond the $31,600 he had raised through December 31, according to the contribution report filed Tuesday.
Jim Wick, Spelman’s campaign manager, said in an e-mail the campaign would prefer not to give a figure of how much was raised at the event, “…but we were happy with the depth and breadth of the contributions (and contributors) we received last night and in the days since December 31.” He said 125 people attended. The audience was much smaller when Spelman spoke, as some supporters came by for brief visits and left to meet other commitments.
Spelman said he recently noted the camaraderie of Travis County Democrats at a recent annual dinner and attributed that spirit of cohesiveness to having a common enemy, like Governor Rick Perry.
Although elections to fill seats on the Austin City Council are nonpartisan, Spelman said the citizens of Austin need a common enemy too. He reeled off a list of the things that make Austin unique, and said, “I’m going to argue that our real enemy, our common enemy, is all the things that threaten that.”
“Every time someone tells me, ‘Austin is the only city in the country that doesn’t have this or doesn’t do that,’ a small part of me is just a little bit giddy. So long as we’re smart enough about it, keeping Austin weird is not just a semi-cool slogan, it’s a real means of survival in a brutal, difficult, and changing world.”
In listing some of the things accomplished in his current term, Spelman mentioned:
• Launching, with Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, the Neighborhood Match Program that “gives neighborhoods a chance to decide for themselves what public works they need.”
• Pushing the Austin Water Utility to move forward as fast as possible on its water reclamation program. “In an unprecedented drought—one that climatologists tell us is going to last in some form or fashion for the rest of our lifetimes—it only makes sense to use water twice, not just once.”
• Enacting payday lending restrictions. “Congress has not yet dealt with the dramatic increase in payday lending, but 400 percent interest-rate charges pose an imminent threat to the well-being of thousands of Austinites, almost all of them of modest means. The Lege did not act. We did.”
• Regulating pregnancy counseling centers. Women “need to know there are significant limitations to the kind of help offered in the crisis pregnancy center. The State Legislature doesn’t want to tell you. We did.”
• Helping Foundation Communities to open volunteer tax preparation centers that “over the past few years has put $29 million of tax refunds into the hands of poor and moderate-income Austinites.”
“All of this is really weird,” Spelman said. “Cities pick up trash, they sell potable water, and they answer 911 calls. They do not typically give neighborhoods choices, use water twice, regulate lenders and pregnancy centers, or help people save money. Some of them do. But that’s what our changing world is calling for and that’s what we need to do.
“Our continued ability to adapt, working within our Austin DNA, is critical to our surviving and thriving as a city in coming years. Weird isn’t just a slogan. It’s a way of life.”
Running unopposed at the moment
So far Spelman has drawn no opponent. In 2009 he made history by running for an open council seat unopposed, something no one else accomplished in the 40-year history of elections tracked by The Austin Bulldog from 1971 through 2011. His was first elected to the City Council in 1997 and served until 2000.
Laura Pressley has appointed a campaign treasurer indicating she will run for City Council but she has not designated which incumbent she will oppose.The Austin Bulldog reported on her campaign December 12.
Pressley raised $3,100 through December 31, according to her contribution report filed Tuesday.
Candidates must designate which place on the council they will seek when filing for a place on the ballot. That may be done as early as February 6 and as late as March 5.
Election day is May 12. Early voting will be conducted from April 20 to May 8.
Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, who is also running for re-election, and Council Members Laura Morrison and Kathie Tovo attended Spelman’s event. So did Andy Brown, chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party, former State Representative Ann Kitchen, former Mayor Frank Cooksey, and former City Council Member Brigid Shea.
As The Austin Bulldog reported December 6, Shea has appointed a treasurer and is exploring a run to oppose the re-election of Mayor Lee Leffingwell.
Shea gathered $4,200 in contributions through December 31, according to her report filed Tuesday, and had $2,340 in pledges for additional contributions. Her only reported political expenditure was $1,000 for a poll conducted by Opinion Analysts Inc.
Mayor Leffingwell reported having raised $87,624. He still has a debt of $60,911 from his 2009 mayoral campaign.
Council Member Mike Martinez is also running for re-election and reported contributions of $70,460.
Cole raised $54,425 through December 31.
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