One last shot for city hopefuls

Published 4:05 pm Saturday, October 30, 2010

City Council and mayoral candidates went head-to-head Friday afternoon in the final debate before voters go to the polls Nov. 2.

Among the issues discussed were Local Government Aid (LGA), job growth and redesigning the way Austin provides city services.

Collaboration was a major theme for all candidates throughout the debate.

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“How can we collaborate to work more efficiently?” asked Janet Anderson, incumbent council member-at-large. “We are looking for creative ways to make money go farther.”

Marian Clennon, mayoral challenger, said it’s important to collaborate with different cities to see how other local governments are saving money.

Ward 2 challenger Roger Boughton said collaboration within city departments is also important and could bode well for the city.

Boughton said he would like the Development Corporation of Austin, Port Authority, Housing Redevelopment Authority and other departments should be housed in one building.

“This would offer one-stop shopping for small businesses that want to grow,” Boughton said.

Jeff Austin, Ward 1 incumbent, said the council should make it simple for businesses to expand and locate in the city.

“It’s our role to make it as easy as possible … for those businesses that want to locate here,” Austin said.

He also piggy-backed on the collaboration theme and said collaboration will be necessary between city departments so there is no overlapping of services and, therefore, more expenses.

Ward 3 candidate Judy Enright said she wants to see Austin become less reliant on LGA.

“It’s important that the council work with other city departments,” Enright said. “We have to establish goals. We just can’t rely on LGA; we have to collaborate.”

Mayor Tom Stiehm, who is running for re-election, agreed that Austin should be less reliant on LGA, but with that will probably come a loss of services.

“The good old days are not coming back,” Stiehm said. “We have to get by with less money and possibly less services.”

“I’m hoping that the city of Austin can keep getting grants for some of the programs that we have,” Ward 2 incumbent Richard Pacholl said.

For Jeff Bednar, Ward 3 candidate, losing city services is not an option.

“We just really have to control unneeded spending,” he said. “We cannot lose our core services. We cannot lose city employees.”

Both Clennon and council member-at-large challenger Michael Weinmann agreed that the budget needs to be examined line-by-line to eliminate any unnecessary expenditures. However, Clennon said she wants the public to be more involved in the governing process.

Clennon said if she is elected mayor, she will invite Austin residents to roundtable discussions about the budget and other city issues.

“Bring more of the citizens to be involved in redesigning city government,” she said. “People want to be a part of the process right now.”

“The face of Austin is changing dramatically and we need to find ways to collaborate,” Anderson said.