Election Day is here, in which District 4 residents will decide who will represent them on city council.
Making up part of northeast Austin, District 4 has been represented by Council Member Greg Casar since 2014. As he makes a bid for U.S. Congress in District 35, a Special Election is being held for who will take his seat on council. Seven candidates are running for this position.
Know before you go
On Election Day, the polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There are seven polling locations for this election:
Only members in this district vote in this election. To know what council district you reside in, click here.
The registration to vote in this election has passed, to check if you are registered, click here.
Don't forget a valid photo ID to present at the polls.
Candidates on the ballot
There are seven candidates running for this position from all walks of life in Austin. Here's a little about them.
Jose "Chito" Vela
Vela is a local immigration and criminal defense attorney, who is an advocate of labor and immigrant rights. Working with each other on the Workers Defense Project, Vela has gained the endorsement of Casar.
Vela's platform includes a focus on:
- the Project Connect light rail
- the housing crisis
- response to the February storm that resulted in the death of an estimated 702 Texans
Rios is a longtime Austinite who has worked as a bilingual teacher, she says. The Austin American-Statesman reports she has financially supported the political action committee Save Austin Now.
Her platform includes a focus on:
- comprehensive public safety
- ending homeless camping
- bringing back the live music scene
Guzmán has deep roots in the northeast Austin area, she says. She is the policy director of Go Austin/Vamos Austin (GAVA), an advocacy organization focused on community health outcomes. She has been endorsed by the Austin Chronicle and the Sierra Club.
Her platform focuses on:
- Comprehensive social justice reform
- Neighborhood stability
- Fighting climate change
A lifelong northeast Austin resident, Lovera is the chief strategy officer for Women Who Werk, a nonprofit that provides resources for women to succeed.
Her platform includes a focus on:
- investing in parks
- community safety
- improving infrastructure
- homelessness and mental health investment
Living in Austin since 2005, Schiera volunteered as vice-president and president of the North Austin Civic Association for the past 10 years. Melinda is a freelance marketing data analyst under her business Belt Out Loud Marketing.
Her platform includes a focus on:
- affordable housing
- public safety
An art teacher at Navarro Early College High School and Austin Mutual Aid organizer, Boonto wants to bring affordability concerns to the forefront of the conversation.
Boonto's plaform includes a focus on:
- Support for Austin’s homeless population
- Keeping current residents in their dwellings
- Better partnerships between public and private entities
Ramesses II Setepenre
Returning after his run last year, rideshare driver Setepenre describes himself as a “self-funded, gay eco-socialist.” In the three-person race last year, Setepenre said he ran to represent people like himself and took home 8% of the vote.
Setepenre's platform focuses on:
- Pro-Black, Brown, LGBTQIA+, Women’s rights, Indigenous rights
- Pro-drug decriminalization
- Healthcare for all
- Living Wages
- Green New Deal
Stephanie Ashworth lived in a neighborhood north of Tarrytown, near W. 35th St. and Balcones Drive the summer of 2013. One of her neighbors wanted to move to a different school district and decided to rent out their home on Airbnb upon leaving.
“We’re like—’ok’—we didn’t know any better,” Ashworth said. “And it was awful.”
Ashworth said guests played loud music, used the pool naked and would return from trips at the lake stumbling drunk out of party buses.
“It ruins your peace of mind where you should be able to have it. Where you should be able to feel safe, where the kids should be able to go out front,” Ashworth said. “And we shouldn't find used condoms, empty beer bottles, the trash, the parking, it's so disturbing.”
Ashworth is now head of the Austin chapter of the Texas Neighborhood Coalition, a statewide group that assists people looking to restrict and regulate short-term rentals in their residential neighborhoods. She talked to Austonia following Airbnb’s announcement this week that it will deploy new anti-party technology in the US and Canada.
The initiative aims to prevent potentially high-risk reservations by being a more robust version of the “under 25” system, which reviews guests under the age of 25 without positive reviews who are booking locally. A similar variation of this system has been piloted in Australia since October 2021 and has resulted in a 35% drop in incidents of unauthorized parties in pilot areas.
Airbnb is hoping for similar success in other regions but noted that there could still be some hiccups once the system is in effect.
“While we are optimistic that this technology will have a positive impact for the safety of our community and our goal to reduce unauthorized parties—we want to be clear that no system is perfect,” Airbnb wrote in a statement announcing the new tech. “We work hard to deter bad actors from using our platform, but ultimately Airbnb is an online platform that facilitates real world connections.”
For Ashworth, this system falls short of what she’d like to see from the company and she’d like for them to be clearer about what constitutes a party in the company’s eyes.
“So I have no doubt that this technology they're touting for the party houses is nonsense,” Ashworth said. “They are not a company that's run with integrity, they're not a good corporate citizen.”
But people will continue to flock to Airbnb as Austin continues to be a major tourist destination with festivals like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest drawing in thousands. Even on a regular weekend pandemic recovery has been in full swing with downtown entertainment districts seeing visits close to 2019 levels.
Ultimately, Ashworth sees room to accommodate tourists while ensuring neighborhoods remain homey for Austinites.
“My personal opinion is the home team comes first,” Ashworth said. “The whole city doesn't need to be turned over to the tourist industry and areas that are zoned residentially should remain for residents. I do understand that we are a tourist destination. But you can have a short-term rental pretty much anywhere in the city except in residential zones.”
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