Three contenders vie for District 2 council seat

HomeElectionsThree contenders vie for District 2 council seat

Three Hispanics with far different views on a range of hot-button city issues

If the race for council District 2 were a boxing contest, it would be one with three mismatched fighters in different weight classes.

The heavyweight, David Chincanchan, 30, is a city hall insider who enjoys a nearly two-to-one fundraising advantage over his nearest rival, as well as the support of much of Austin’s political establishment.

The middleweight, Vanessa Fuentes, 34, is also politically connected—she’s a former legislative staffer—and she has won key endorsements. But she has also taken policy positions that put her at odds with influential developer interests, who are backing Chincanchan.

Then there’s Casey Ramos, 31, metaphorically the featherweight in the matchup. He’s a third-generation native of the district with ambition and strong community connections. But he’s at a disadvantage in a head-to-head with better-funded candidates with more sophisticated campaign operations.

That said, Ramos is getting some late-in-the-game backing from a new special-purpose political action committee, Had Enough Austin?, which is pouring resources into his underdog bid in an attempt to get him off the ropes and more in the running.

In Ramos’ case, the boxing metaphor is particularly apt because until recently he actually was a professional boxer.

The Austin Bulldog researched the personal and political backgrounds of these three candidates, dug through public records, and interviewed each candidate who was willing to be interviewed (David Chincanchan didn’t respond to an interview request)—all with the aim of helping readers make an informed vote. This article presents the findings of our research.

A fourth candidate on the ballot, Alex Strenger, 34, is a pedicab driver who announced October 11 that he was dropping out of the race and endorsing Ramos. His name will still appear on the ballot because like District 10 candidate Noel Tristan he dropped out of the race too late to have it removed.

The winner of the D2 election will succeed incumbent Delia Garza, who isn’t running for reelection. She won the Democratic Primary for Travis County attorney in March and the Republican Party did not field a candidate. Garza hasn’t endorsed any of the candidates in the race.

The frontrunner

A young David Chincanchan (right) with his brother Joaquin.

Two of the three candidates actually grew up in District 2, which covers southeast Austin and Del Valle. David Chincanchan was raised in the Dove Springs neighborhood.

Like the other candidates in the race, he was the first person in his family to graduate from college, starting at UT Austin in the fall of 2008. In August 2014 he graduated with bachelor’s degrees in government and communications studies. During his student years, he worked as a bilingual instructor and administrative assistant for the federal Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program, known as WIC; field organizer for Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin); and communications director for Y Strategy, an Austin political consultancy.

Soon after graduating, he got an up-close look at municipal elections when Sabino “Pio” Renteria hired him for his runoff campaign in November-December 2014, as he sought a first term as council member in District 3, which neighbors Chincanchan’s native D2.

Renteria told the Bulldog, “The first time I met David he was working for Lloyd Doggett. And we started talking and I was just amazed at how friendly and how smart he was. When I first ran I got into a runoff and I knew that David was working for Doggett so I went over there and asked him if he wanted a job. He had a degree in communications, which I really needed, and he was perfectly bilingual because his grandmother lives in Mexico. So it was a perfect fit.”

After Renteria won the runoff, Chincanchan joined the council staff, initially as a policy aide. In 2017 he was promoted to chief of staff. Chincanchan proved himself adept at both navigating the city bureaucracy to get things done and researching policy topics, Renteria said. “He did all my research on almost everything.”

Chincanchan took a break from Renteria’s office from August 1, 2016 through November 11, 2016, to help spearhead the Move Austin Forward PAC, a group formed to back a $720 million mobility bond. “The mayor asked me if I could let my staff (Chincanchan) take a leave so that he could work on that campaign,” Renteria said. “So I was without him for four months.”  The bond proposition passed with 59.1 percent of the votes in favor.

Adler had given a leave of absence to one of his own aides, Jim Wick, who served as campaign manager for Move Austin Forward. Chincanchan served as Wick’s deputy and the political director for the PAC, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Chincanchan returned to Renteria’s office after the bond election. As the battle over CodeNEXT continued over the next few years, Chincanchan was occasionally wined and dined by developer lobbyists, according to a lobbyist expense report obtained by the Bulldog. 

He and a special assistant in the mayor’s office were beneficiaries of a $176 payment by Real Estate Council of Austin (RECA) lobbyist Geoffrey Tahuahua for them to attend the “RECA Exchange” event at the J.W. Marriott in September 2018, according to the report.

Again in September 2019, Tahuahua treated Chincanchan, three other council staff, and three city staffers to a “breakfast and/or lunch” event at the J.W. Marriott, with the bill coming to $746, more than $100 per person.

To date, Chincanchan remains employed at Renteria’s office. But he took a leave of absence November 12, 2019, to run his campaign, according to Chincanchan’s personnel file, obtained through a public information request.

The policy wonk

Vanessa Fuentes, who is also a native Texan, grew up in the small town of Brady, about 130 miles northwest of Austin, and moved to Austin for her undergraduate studies. She is the daughter of an electrician and military veteran from El Paso and a grocery worker from Mexico. She’s casting herself as the “policy expert” in the race who will draw lessons from past experiences as a legislative aide and public health advocate.

Like Chincanchan and Ramos, she is the first in her family to attain a college degree. She studied at UT Austin and graduated in August 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Public Relations, according to an online database maintained by the university’s registrar.

Fuentes jumped into public relations after college at a consulting firm called Prevailing Trends, where she worked as a Government Relations Specialist from April 2010 to March 2014.

At Prevailing Trends she said she got involved in political campaigns. “I was a junior staffer so a lot of what I did was executive assistant type of work that then turned into really more like event planning and analyzing policy, things like that. I never lobbied.”

One of Prevailing Trends’ clients was Bastrop County, and Fuentes helped with “crisis communications” for the county during the 2011 wildfires. After leaving Prevailing Trends, her first job was with Bastrop County Judge Ronnie McDonald, who resigned his position in 2012 to run for Congress. She served as field director for that campaign, which McDonald lost.

“Then I hopped over to Senator (Judith) Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and worked on her (reelection) campaign for senate in 2012 (as campaign director),” Fuentes said. The job gave her experience executing campaign events, fundraising, and crafting campaign materials—all skills that she’s now putting to use in her city council run.

Zaffirini won her race, but Fuentes ended up working for a different lawmaker at the legislature. She was hired in January 2013 as a legislative and communications aide for Representative Abel Herrero (D-Robstown).

Vanessa Fuentes on the Criminal Justice Committee dais with State Representative Abel Herrero.

A month later, when Herrero was named chairman of the criminal justice committee, she transferred to his committee office, where she worked as deputy committee clerk. The experience was “very formative,” but left her feeling somewhat cynical about the Texas Legislature: “That’s where I started to see how our system is set up in a way that it includes some voices and leaves out others.”

Working at the Capitol also came as something of a culture shock: “I come from a working class background. My dad’s an electrician, my mom works at a grocery store. So for me working at the Capitol—it felt very corporate, very white collar. It was difficult.”

The silver lining came from working with a mentor like Representative Herrero, whom Fuentes credits for “fostering a community within his office.”

“Working for Rep. Herrero was a highlight of my career. He was a fierce advocate for public education, a man of integrity, he really fostered great staff morale,” she told the Bulldog.

According to Fuentes’ personnel file, obtained through a public information request, Herrero bumped her salary several times during a year-and-a-half of service and changed her role from deputy committee clerk to committee clerk and finally committee director, before Fuentes left the Texas House May 1, 2014.

After leaving the Legislature, Fuentes stayed involved in policy work as a grassroots advocacy strategist at the American Heart Association, starting in May 2014. (She told the Bulldog she left the job to become a full-time candidate). Her responsibilities included regularly planning and executing “lobby days, policy briefings, advocate insider calls, legislative meetings, and proclamation events,” according to her LinkedIn profile.

Fuentes remained connected to the legislature in another way, too: her husband, Curtis Daniel Smith, is chief of staff to Representative Terry Canales (D-Edinburg). They met while she was working for Herrero; the two legislators had offices across the hallway from each other.

“My degree is in public relations. So I didn’t set out in a career of public policy and politics; it just all kind of happened that way.”

The fighter

Casey Ramos grew up near Chincanchan, in the Franklin Park and Williamson Creek neighborhoods. From a young age he began boxing together with his cousins. An East Austin trainer and community activist, Donald “Pops” Billingsley, would pick up the Ramos crew in an old church van, and take them over to the Montopolis Recreation Center.

Casey Ramos (front row center) was on a kids boxing team coached by “Pops” Billingsley (right rear).

“I stepped in the gym when I was probably about five years old,” he said.

For Ramos, sports and civic life intermingled at places like the Montopolis Recreation Center, the Pan American Recreation Center, and Austin Boxing Against Drugs. “You know, community activism and sports and just liberal arts activities were just very prominent when I was growing up. I just remember that in the ’90s in Austin there were just tons of things for children to do and I feel like I’m a product of that,” Ramos said in an interview.

Ramos drew inspiration from strong women in his life, including his grandmother, mother, and Willie Mae Kirk, a longtime educator and activist, whose influences eventually led him into public advocacy and politics. He said, “Most of my family has been involved in community service. My grandma was a librarian for 25 years, my mother was a parent-community liaison at an elementary school in Del Valle ISD, and also in Dove Springs.”

Ramos fought more than 100 amateur matches as a boy, he said, then turned pro after his 17th birthday, the minimum legal age in Texas.

He fought throughout his 20s, studying at Austin Community College and St. Edward’s University along the way. “It took a good five years to really become a full-fledged professional, fighting on TV, ranked, state events and things like that.”

“My youth was very different from most people.”

As he trained and boxed, Ramos also spent time in his community: “I used to give back to Smith Elementary where my mother worked and where I was a student. So once I started boxing I would come back, sponsor events, sponsor teacher appreciation weeks, sponsor the fall festival, mentor the kids, volunteer—that’s where it really started for me.”

From about 2007 to 2012 the school was “my base in terms of giving back to my community,” the former boxer recalled.

Starting in about 2013, Ramos said, “I started reaching out to other local leaders like George Morales, Ricardo Zavala, Edward Reyes, and others… We all got together and started meeting, and we started talking about what we wanted to do with the community.”

“We started Dove Springs Proud, we started the Dove Springs Neighborhood Association, we all became members of the Dove Springs Recreation Center advisory board.”

Ramos also took a turn toward overt political involvement, specifically advocacy against CodeNEXT, the proposed land code revision. “Eventually I started learning about the Land Development Code, I started learning about the city’s intentions,” he said.

He got involved in an organization called Community Not Commodity, which opposed sweeping changes to Austin’s land code, and he now serves on the board of that organization, according to its website.

In 2016, at age 25, Ramos ran against incumbent Delia Garza for the District 2 seat on the city council. He placed second in a three-way race, collecting 19.6 percent of the votes.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” Ramos said. “I’d never been in a campaign, I’d never volunteered in a campaign—I just knew, I felt it was something that needed to be done. The true voice of the community needed to be heard.”

Delia Garza won that race in a landslide with 65.2 percent of the votes.

While Ramos may have fared poorly in his first political run, he did better in the ring. Nicknamed “The Wizard,” he fought 25 professional bouts in the super featherweight division, which has a weight limit of 130 pounds, and was undefeated for most of his career. He lost only once, according to BoxRec.com, “Boxing’s Official Record Keeper.”

His only professional loss came in November 2016 against another unbeaten fighter, Andy Vences. The main event fight ended after nine rounds in which he suffered a busted nose and a cut to his eye, prompting the referee to call the match. The Las Vegas Review-Journal described the matchup as “a classic case of boxer (Ramos) versus puncher (Vences).”

Ramos fought once more, in April 2017, won, and then retired. A key factor in that decision was his graduation from St. Edwards with a B.A. in Economics in May 2017. Ramos explained, “I thought for sure that I was going to put everything that I had into boxing and no longer had to focus on school or anything else. But when I graduated, something changed in my mind, something changed in my focus, in what I wanted to do.”

“Having a degree sort of changed my values, you could say,” Ramos said.

Pro boxers don’t typically seek higher education, according to Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing correspondent. Rafael wrote a news item about Ramos’ graduation, calling the Austinite “the rare pro fighter to earn a college degree.”

Ramos went to work as a literacy teacher at Del Valle ISD, and as a supplemental instructor in Austin ISD. He told the Bulldog that currently he’s taking time out to focus on his campaign.

Differences on land code

Delia Garza

The outgoing incumbent in D2, Delia Garza, was a strong supporter of the latest land code revision passed by the city council last December, but which currently is held up in court. That means that D2 is a crucial race for the political forces seeking to maintain a pro-density majority on the council. Most major votes on the new code were decided by a 7-4 majority, including the vote to appeal District Judge Jan Soifer’s ruling that allows property owners to protest mass rezoning.

Chincanchan is the only candidate in the race who favors the rewrite. He told a candidate forum hosted by KUT, “Our Land Development Code is rooted in a segregationist plan from the 1920s and hasn’t changed significantly from the 1980s. And what we have seen under this code is displacement, gentrification, flooding, environmental degradation and sprawl.”

On the other hand, Fuentes differs from Garza and Chincanchan on the land code. In an interview, she described the issue as “probably the most significant difference” between her and the outgoing incumbent. While advocating for some form of an update, she said, “I do not support the way that the second round update has gone.”

“I want to see a fully funded anti-displacement program, I want more measures in place to help preserve affordable housing that we have—gentrification and displacement are two significant issues for District 2,” Fuentes said.

Similarly, Ramos opposes the proposed new Land Development Code and has made the issue front-and-center in his campaign. “I’m proud to say that I’m a part of the group that helped to stop the process,” he said of CodeNEXT, the 2017-2018 phase of the rewrite process. He was referring to his involvement in Community Not Commodity.

Fred Lewis is co-founder and president of Community Not Commodity. He told the Bulldog that Ramos is a valuable board member and is “dedicated to anti-displacement programs. It’s not just talk with him. Honestly, for a lot of candidates and council members it is nothing but talk.”

Fred Lewis and Casey Ramos at a rally to support Proposition J in September 2018.

Ramos and Community Not Commodity petitioned for Proposition J, a November 2018 ballot measure that if approved by voters would have drastically slowed implementation of CodeNEXT. The proposition, which lost by 48-52 percent, would’ve required a waiting period and subsequent voter approval before comprehensive revisions of the Land Development Code could become effective.

“Council members including those representing the eastside want to help developer contributors and don’t give a damn about the people who live there,” Lewis said. “If they spent as much time worrying about anti-displacement as they do worrying about the Convention Center expansion,” he said, “things would be different. It’s all about the money.”

Speaking at a candidate forum moderated by KUT, Ramos said that the new land code “has mandates for transition zones which means they can come in and build MUDs—mixed-use developments—where they have retail on the bottom and luxury condos on top. And the people in our neighborhoods can’t afford that. They’re not going to be able to buy that.”

“So who are they building those for? Are they building those for people who are going to be here in the future or for our current residents?”

Views on taxes

Besides opposing the rewrite of the land code, Ramos also opposes a tax hike related to Project Connect, a mass transit plan. He told the Bulldog, “We can’t even get our grass cut. Every part of our infrastructure is overgrown…We’re talking about all these grand schemes of building tunnels under the highway and building a $7 billion rail (project) that’s probably going to keep increasing in cost as it goes—and we don’t even have basic infrastructure needs met.”

Ramos has argued that for a fraction of the price of Project Connect the city could increase the number and frequency of bus routes. He also wants to direct spending to more basic public works like stormwater infrastructure and sidewalks, which he says need to be upgraded.

David Chincanchan disagrees with Ramos on Project Connect. He argues that the car-dependent layout of the city makes it less affordable for lower-income people who have more trouble buying and maintaining a car.

Beyond housing, Chincanchan listed public transit as his top priority on a candidate questionnaire that he submitted to the Statesman. He wrote, “I am proud of my strong, consistent record on transportation, including helping pass the largest mobility bond in Austin’s history and supporting this year’s Project Connect and multi-modal proposals.”

Chincanchan potentially would favor further tax hikes on top of the 20.4 percent Proposition A increase. At a candidate forum hosted by the Austin area chambers of commerce, he wouldn’t commit to limiting future tax increase to under the state-mandated 3.5 percent cap before triggering a tax election.

Asked whether he would “hold the line at 3.5 percent” or go over it, he said, “I think we are going to need to look really carefully during every single budget cycle to assess the needs of our community…As we recover from this pandemic it’s going to be extremely essential to be able to provide the most basic services that our community expects from our local government and in order to do that we need appropriate levels of revenue.”

Asked the same question, Vanessa Fuentes walked a middle line between Ramos and Chincanchan, saying she wouldn’t want to raise taxes above 3.5 percent “in a normal year,” but described the transit tax as a one-time increase that is needed. “Austin is one of largest cities without a mass transit system, and we’re in a climate crisis,” she said.

On the other hand, she added, “I take very seriously any amount of increase that we’re asking our hard-working families of District 2 to take on…many of our families are struggling to make ends meet. So I do not support raising (taxes) above 3.5 (percent).”

Fuentes elaborated on her views on taxation in an email to the Bulldog, writing, “I want to emphasize that being concerned about raising property taxes is actually rooted in progressivism. Our state has created an unfair property tax system where low-income communities carry an oversized burden of paying these taxes.”

Food access

One of D2’s distinct needs is access to more grocery stores, particularly in Del Valle. All three candidates in the race have highlighted this as something they would work on.

“When Delia Garza first ran, getting a grocery store was a priority and that still remains a need,” Fuentes told the Bulldog. “Here we are six years later and we still have not had a grocery store built in Del Valle.”

She added, “I’ve been organizing with the Del Valle Community Coalition around food access and one of my proposals is to bring a grocery co-op model into the area. And I have policy experience: this is something that I got to work on at the American Heart Association. We saw in Harris County and in El Paso County that they passed healthy food financing initiatives at the county level as one way to incentivize retailers to go into underserved areas.”

Similarly, David Chincanchan says, “It’s one of the issues that I would prioritize if I have the opportunity to serve on the council.” He told a KUT forum, “I have experience working on the Women, Infants, and Children Program, providing nutritional assistance and nutritional education to some of the families that our most food insecure.”

For his part, Ramos said, “The fastest way to get a grocery store is to entice competition. Start reaching out to other grocery stores—Albertson’s, other small food co-ops, other sustainable farms, and bring those grocery stores in that will spark a fire under H-E-B.”

Differences on police funding

David Chincanchan supports recent votes by the city council to “reimagine” public safety, including by slashing police funding.

He said at a recent KUT candidate forum, “The reason we’re talking about this is because there’s a national outcry and a national movement for justice and for black lives. In our community we have the opportunity to reimagine the way that we do public safety, the way that our institutions uphold justice, the way that we do policing. And I am glad that the council has taken action to start moving us in that direction.”

Fuentes agreed, “City Council has committed to reimagining public safety. I believe that this is an opportunity for us to invest in areas that get to the root causes of crime, and that includes poverty.” But she also advocated a process of greater dialogue, proposing bringing “police officers, advocacy groups, and our community leaders to the table, and talking about what do we agree on first for reforming our public safety, and moving on from there.”

Ramos comes down on the other side of the issue, disagreeing with the council over its decision to cut police funding, while still calling for police reform.

Ramos said at the same KUT forum, “We need (police) reform badly…With that being said, we also need to hold ourselves accountable. We have one of the highest youth crime rates and one of the highest violent crime rates in the city (in District 2)….”

Ramos added, “And I don’t know if transferring those funds was the smartest thing to do in a city that just reached one million people…We need to keep our people safe, and in order to keep our people safe we need to have a well-funded police force that has funds for community interaction and communication.”

Background checks

As part of our background checks on candidates, the Bulldog reviews mandatory ethics disclosures submitted by candidates to the City Clerk, checks for any records of a criminal history, significant civil litigation, business ties, and board affiliations.

None of the candidates have a criminal record in Texas, according to a Department of Public Safety database. Fuentes had a red light violation in 2017, according to municipal court records.

In terms of the candidates’ finances, only Vanessa Fuentes owns a home, which she purchased in a new subdivision near McKinney Falls State Park in 2018, according to real estate records. Ramos lives in a home owned by his father in the Franklin Park area.

Fuentes is also the only married candidate. She and Curtis Daniel Smith married December 31, 2019, with Smith’s boss, State Representative Terry Canales, officiating. Chincanchan is unmarried, and Ramos told the Bulldog he is engaged to be married. He has a newborn daughter, whom he proudly announced to the world as a “fourth generation Austinite.”

Neither Fuentes nor Chincanchan have any kind of income other than occupational income from their employment (or in Fuentes’ case, also from her spouse’s employment).

Chincanchan has been on leave without pay from the city since November 2019, and he didn’t answer a question from the Bulldog about how he’s making ends meet. But his LinkedIn says he’s been working as a community liaison for Travis County since March 2020, helping with census outreach.

In terms of boards and executive positions, David Chincanchan serves on the executive committee of the Texas Democratic Party, the board of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 1624, and the executive committee of State Tejano Democrats. He is also chair of the Austin Tejano Democrats.

Fuentes is a director and the board secretary for a nonprofit called the Young Women’s Alliance Foundation.

Renteria 2.0?

If the frontrunner in raising money ends up winning, he would be returning to familiar ground at city hall. Renteria noted that Chincanchan “already knows the ins and outs. He knows all the department heads. He can hit the ground running.”

But would the new council member be a mere replica of his boss—a kind of “Renteria 2.0”? We posed this to Renteria himself, who said that while Chincanchan and he generally saw eye-to-eye on issues, there were also times when they differed.

Renteria didn’t always follow his staffer’s advice: “He tried to save me a couple of times on some of the votes I made,” he said. “He just gave recommendations on how I should vote. Sometimes I did vote that way. You know, I compromised a little bit more.”

Land use is one area where Chincanchan and Renteria differ. Though Renteria voted for the most recent version of the land code, he described Chincanchan as being even more gung-ho about increasing housing density: “Some of the development, the density part of it—he thought that I was just sometimes giving away some of the opportunity of increasing the affordability. But I didn’t want to take a chance.”

“We already had a lot of development that was coming on into my district here and I was trying to talk people into accepting some of this development…” Renteria said. If Chincanchan wins, “I’m sure that there will be some times that we won’t agree.”

For her part, Fuentes would be new to city hall but would take with her the experiences she gained at the state legislature. Jaclyn Uresti, a campaign advisor to Fuentes and former executive director of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, has known the candidate since they worked together at the Texas Capitol in 2013.

She described Fuentes as dependable and hard-working: “She is someone who will put in the work, the late nights, and do it all without complaining because we are fighting for our communities. She is willing to do the unglamorous jobs to get the things done.”

Speaking of unglamorous, Ramos says his elite boxing record speaks for his work ethic: “I worked day in and day out to achieve a dream.” A tattoo on his chest, just above his heart, quotes the Mexican revolutionary leader Emilano Zapata: “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.”

He’s also undeterred by his relative lack of government experience, casting Chincanchan and Fuentes as “disconnected” from the grassroots: “The other two candidates, they’re not a voice from the people, they’re disconnected from the people, if anything. The policies they support, the things they propose—it’s just a complete disconnect. It’s not what people want.”

Renteria contradicted this characterization of Chincanchan, saying, “He knows the area, he grew up there. He has a good working relationship with the JP, and the constable—he really knows his neighborhood.”

Endorsements and fundraising

The three candidates have raised a combined total of more than $137,000. Chincanchan leads the District 2 pack with more than $85,000 in contributions.

Trailing farther behind is Fuentes with nearly $49,000 in contributions. That’s a little more than 57 percent of what Chincanchan raised.

Chincanchan’s support from developers accounts for part of his lead. According to a Bulldog analysis of political giving through June 30, an estimated 27.6 percent of his donations—nearly $15,000—came from persons working in real estate, construction, or related professions like real estate law, architecture, brokerage, urban design, property management, or title insurance, compared to just 6.5 percent for Fuentes—less than $1,800.

Ramos, who didn’t file to run until August 17, raised $3,255 through October 5, according to a campaign finance filing. But the featherweight also benefited from $4,890 in spending from the special-purpose PAC “Had Enough Austin?” which bought advertising and voter data intended to help him, according to an October 7 campaign finance report.

The PAC is active in only three races in Austin—D2, D6 where it is supporting Jennifer Mushtaler, and D10 where it is opposing Alison Alter—and it has raised $66,150 at a blistering pace since forming October 5, according to campaign finance filings.

Depending on how much more the committee intends to spend on the D2 race, it could put a little more muscle behind Ramos’ punches between now and election day.

Ramos told the Bulldog that this campaign is more serious than his last one, with more funds, more activity on social media, more team members and advisors. But one thing he hasn’t gotten up to speed on is the city’s compliance requirements.

He failed to file both a Personal Financial Statement and a Statement of Financial Information. Local Government Code Section 145.010(b) requires the Austin City Attorney to send candidates who fail to file a Personal Financial Statement a certified letter notifying them of this failure. If the candidate then fails to file a PFS before the 30th day after the date such notice is received, the candidate is civilly liable to the city for an amount not to exceed $1,000.

However, the City responded to the Bulldog’s request for copies of the city attorney’s letter stating they had “no responsive information.” In other words the City is letting these violations slide. In effect that denies voters the ability to understand whether candidates have potential conflicts of interest. Alex Strenger, who dropped out of the D2 race and endorsed Ramos, and D4 candidate Ramesses II Setepenre also failed to file these two reports.

In terms of endorsements, Chincanchan leads among labor organizations with a nod from the Austin Firefighters Association, AFSCME Local 1624, the Central Labor Council, IBEW Local 52, the Amalgamated Transit Union, and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.

Chincanchan also got endorsements from activist groups Workers Defense Action Fund and Education Austin, and from the Austin Chronicle.

Vanessa Fuentes won endorsements from the Austin American-Statesman, EMS Association, and the Texas Latina List.

Ramos is backed by Precinct 4 County Commissioner Margaret Gómez, Former Precinct 4 County Commissioner Marcos de Leon, Community Not Commodity, Texas Monthly founder Mike Levy, and former city planner Jim Duncan.

Trust indicators: Bulldog reporter Daniel Van Oudenaren is a journalist with more than a decade of local, state, and international reporting.

Links to related documents:

David Chincanchan’s City of Austin personnel file (25 pages)

Geoffrey Tahuahua  Lobbyist Reporting Form, representing the Real Estate Council of Austin (76 pages)

Had Enough Austin? campaign finance report, October 7, 2020

Vanessa Fuentes LinkedIn Profile (6 pages)

Vanessa Fuentes Deed of Trust for home (22 pages)

Vanessa Fuentes Marriage Certificate, December 31, 2019 (1 page)

Vanessa Fuentes Texas House of Representatives Personnel File (24 pages)

Links to related Bulldog election coverage:

Council candidates so far raised $930,000, October 7, 2020

Transit tax draws attack from the left, October 2, 2020

Council Member Flannigan’s bad debts, September 24, 2020

Council candidates have voting records too, September 18, 2020

Developer dollars flow to favored candidates, August 27, 2020


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