This story was updated at 11:30 p.m. with the final election results.
With all votes tallied, Austin Council Member Greg Casar has been reelected to his District 4 seat on Austin City Council, having received 66.85% of votes.
Opponents Louis C. Herrin III and Ramesses II Setepenre earned 24.74% and 8.41% of the vote, respectively.
WE WON tonight! Elections are not destinations, but doorways. We've proven that progressive policies change lives… https://t.co/1opBGUMTqY— Gregorio Casar (@Gregorio Casar) 1604457617.0
District 4, which includes northeast and north central Austin, is one of five of Austin City Council's 10 seats up for election this year. In his next text, Casar will be tasked with the ongoing rewrite of the city's land use code, considering further cuts to the Austin Police Department's budget, and—with voter approval of Proposition A—implementing the $7.1 billion Project Connect transit plan.
As a council member, Casar has supported all of the above initiatives and been a force for progressive policies, championing a paid sick leave ordinance that was passed by council but later blocked by the Texas Supreme Court. He also authored the "Freedom City" policies, which significantly curbed discretionary misdemeanor arrests.
Casar was also a vocal supporter of council's decision to overturn its camping ban, which he said was a critical step toward decriminalizing homelessness.
"We know it's wrong to throw someone in jail for doing nothing wrong other than simply being homeless," he recently told Austonia.
Casar outraised his opponents by a wide margin, with $134,000 in donations, according to the latest round of campaign finance reports.
THREAD: A look at Texas voter turnout by examining my district, the lowest income and most immigrant part of Austin… https://t.co/DQXeyCWDl0— Gregorio Casar (@Gregorio Casar) 1604425926.0
Herrin is a long-time environmental engineer with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality who ran unsuccessfully against Casar in 2016 and 2014. He opposes the current council's push to reimagine public safety by reallocating police funds to other city services.
Herrin is also against council's decision to overturn the camping ban, which he told Austonia did nothing to address homelessness while making it less safe for people who work and live downtown.
Herrin raised around $30,000.
Setepenre is a licensed massage therapist. On his campaign's Facebook page, he describes himself as a "self-funded, gay eco-socialist" who supports sex workers, the decriminalization of drugs, universal healthcare and reparations.
In an interview with Community Impact Newspaper, Setepenre said he has experienced homelessness and believes the city needs to address the origins of homelessness, such as substance use and lack of familial support.
Travis County saw record voter turnout this election, with 17,285 District 4 residents casting a ballot in this year's race, compared to 12,035 in 2016.
- Political organization reaches an all-time high in Austin's Asian ... ›
- Austin City Council candidate forums planned before election ... ›
- 20 candidates will vie for five Austin City Council seats this November ›
- Austin Council Member Greg Casar wants to change City Hall - austonia ›
- 7 LGBTQ-owned businesses to shop in austin on Pride Month - austonia ›
- Austin Council member Greg Casar running for Congress D35 - austonia ›
- Democratic Rep. Eddie Rodriguez runs in District 35 congressional race - austonia ›
- Progressive Greg Casar leaves City Council for Congress campaign - austonia ›
By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.