Early voting starts today in a runoff for a seat on Austin’s City Council. Elections were last month, but in the Place Three seat, challenger Kathie Tovo was three percentage points shy of the simple majority needed to oust incumbent Randi Shade.
Now it’s headed to a runoff vote, a process notoriously ignored by voters. The last runoff had a whopping five percent turnout. If you are one of those 95 percent of Austinites asking yourself, ‘Why should I care?’ here are five reasons:
1. Influence: In an election with painfully low turnout, your ballot means more than ever because it makes up a larger percentage of the total vote. Be a kingmaker!
2. Alcohol: about a dozen W. Sixth St. bars are offering drink specials, shuttle buses to voting locations and other incentives to get people to participate in local democracy. Most of those bars support Randi Shade, but you could take advantage of the deals and vote for either candidate.
3. Water Treatment Plant Four: Do you consider Austin’s newest water treatment plant a vital infrastructure project or something that harms working families and local business? Shade voted for WTP4 during her first term in council. Tovo has called the plant an unnecessary expense.
4. Formula 1 racetrack subsidies: Construction is already underway in southeastern Travis County on a 3.5 mile F1 racetrack that developers say will bring wheelbarrows of tourist dollars to Austin. But the extent to which the city should help subsidize the project remains an open issue. Tovo says the city should not kick in cash. Shade is withholding judgment, saying she would wait for a specific proposal before make a decision. (The council is scheduled to get a briefing on a subsidies plan Tuesday.)
5. Downtown vs. Neighborhoods: It’s a recurring political dynamic in Austin politics, people who think the city should prioritize downtown development versus those who would prefer resources be directed to neighborhoods. This runoff race features that same theme. In the downtown corner is Randi Shade, with the support of the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association. Kathie Tovo, on the other hand, has the endorsement of the Austin Neighborhoods Council, an umbrella group representing neighborhood associations across the city.
Now that you’ve decided it’s a good idea to vote, here’s where you can go do it!