Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Council candidates talk affordability, traffic and growth

December 2, 2014  

by Bobbie Jean Sawyer

District 8 candidates Ellen Troxclair and Ed Scruggs faced off in a city council runoff debate hosted by the Austin League of Women Voters on Nov. 21. Affordability, traffic and population growth were among major topics of discussion during the forum.

When asked about the number one issue facing District 8, Troxclair said the increasing cost of living is the most pressing issue facing Southwest Austin residents.

“Overwhelmingly the biggest issue we are facing is the rising cost of living, including skyrocketing property taxes,” Troxclair said. “We’re paying a huge amount of the city’s property tax burden but we’re not necessarily getting a return on that investment in the form of road infrastructure or public safety resources.”

Troxclair, a realtor who gained public policy experience by working at the state capital, said she favors implementing a 20 percent homestead exemption to homeowners. Troxclair also said the city must take steps to get spending under control so the tax rate may be lowered.

Scruggs, a 23-year Austin resident who has served on the Circle C Homeowners Association, also focused on rising property taxes as the major issue facing District 8.

“Without a doubt it’s the property tax issue which plays into affordability. I’ve talked to many people in District 8 who are in danger of losing their homes,” said Scruggs, who suggested phasing in a 20 percent homestead exemption and examining the way the city makes budgets.

On population growth:

Addressing how he would prepare District 8 for increased population growth, Scruggs said it’s crucial that Southwest Austin residents are prepared and organized.

“Neighborhoods in District 8 need to be organized and speak up on these issues because if they wait too long before the projects get on the books it will be too late,” Scruggs said. “I see that as part of my job in the next five years or so–prepare Southwest Austin, organize the neighborhoods to ask the right questions at the time they need to ask them.”

Troxclair said the city must move forward with road infrastructure projects in order to handle increased traffic.

“There are several pressing issues that we must take care of now in order to prepare for that growth. First is road infrastructure. We are so under-served when it comes to our roads in that district. How long have we been waiting for the project for the Y at Oak Hill?”

On leadership:

The candidates were asked how they will ensure that the diverse needs of residents are met.

Troxclair said as a member of council she would focus on similarities across districts.

“It’s going to be my job as a City Council member to not only strongly represent District 8 but also do what’s best for the city of Austin as a whole,” Troxclair said. “We need to focus on the things that we do have in common. Southwest Austin is very different from East Austin but we’re all dealing with affordability and traffic issues.”

Scruggs said residents across the city are dealing with a skyrocketing cost of living, providing an opportunity to built coalitions across districts.

“I think the affordability issues that we mentioned are striking everyone across the city in different ways. Gentrification is real and it should not be downplayed. I would argue that in District 8 we even feel the effects of that,” Scruggs said. “Acknowledging that those problems exist and being able to build coalitions with the other members of the council, to be able to give and take a little bit– that’s going to be critical in getting things done not only for our district but for the city as a whole.”

On the economy:

When asked how he will bring more jobs to Austin, Scruggs said it’s necessary to bring in a variety of job opportunities.

“We have not diversified the economy,” Scruggs said. “We’ve offered the incentives to bring high paying jobs in one sector of the economy for the most part and the rest of the economy cannot keep up. I wouldn’t favor scrapping the incentive program but I would retool it to bring middle income jobs, manufacturing jobs, healthcare jobs.”

Troxclair said the city must ensure that the job incentive program benefits Austin residents.

“It’s important that if tax payer money is being used to attract these companies that those companies hire people who live in Austin–not bring in people from other cities,” Troxclair said.

On traffic:

The candidates were asked about their plans to relieve traffic congestion.

Troxclair said current road projects must be completed to increase road capacity.

“It’s time for us to look forward and come up with reasonable solutions to address our continued growth,” Troxclair said. “We have to get these projects that have been in the works for so long finished. I’m going to be on the front lines advocating for the completion of the Y at Oak Hill as well as the underpasses at Slaughter and La Crosse and Mopac so we can keep traffic moving.”

Troxclair also addressed the need for increased bus service in the Oak Hill area.

“Bus service is severely lacking in District 8. We only have two bus lines,” Troxclair said. “We have to increase our bus service and make public transportation more reliable and more accessible.”

Scruggs said it’s essential to increase road capacity as long as it doesn’t create problems on existing roadways.

“Part of the key with this is we need to increase the capacity for traffic volume but we need to do it in a way that doesn’t make the situation worse. SH 45 extension to Mopac will destroy Mopac as a commuter option for most people. Mopac cannot handle the current traffic volume.”

Scruggs said he supports completing the Oak Hill Parkway project as well as increasing public transportation services.

“I favor finishing the Y at Oak Hill in a neighborhood-friendly way. I think we’re very close to doing that,” Scruggs said. “We also need the flex lanes along Mopac as long as we can resolve environmental and connectivity issues and, of course, extending the bus system and more park and rides in the area is very important. We have a lack of that and we need to do something about that as soon as possible.”

Early voting for the 10-1 runoff election began Dec. 1 and ends on Dec. 12.





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