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14
T H E A U S T I N C H R O N I C L E
JULY 25, 2014
a u s t
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NEWS
matic contender to lead the board. He said,
“I do want to run for board president, but
first I have to be re-elected to the board.”
While Schneider received plaudits as a
vocal critic of former Superintendent
Meria
Carstarphen
, Wagner said his “negative
voice” has sometimes hurt his district. “I
think he has been a challenger on the
board, I don’t think he has been much of a
collaborator.”
Bastian makes no direct criticism of
Schneider, beyond a general feeling that he
has not been as good at communicating with
his district as other trustees. Her more gen-
eral complaint is that “District 7 seems to be
on a bit of a disconnect. ... We feel that we’re
not supported by AISD.” That sense of dis-
content was expressed last year, when the
area’s voters roundly rejected the district’s
four bond proposals. Bastian called that a
protest vote, adding, “There isn’t a parent
that isn’t supportive of public education, but
this district voted down the bond measures.”
Wagner sees the negative vote as having
two roots. First, frustration over high school
overcrowding:
Bowie High School
is short
500 seats; while voters approved money to
buy land for a new south high school in 2008,
seemingly nothing has happened to move
that plan forward. Second, she backsBastian’s
claim that the district is too dependent on
top-down, centralized decision-making. She
said, “I feel we’ve lost a lot of the organic com-
munications at the campus level.”
That makes overcrowding a flash point. As
Bastian notes, that’s especially dangerous in
District 7, where more affluent families have
more options, neither of which she likes. She
said, “I don’t believe that private schools or
charter schools are good for the city.”
That means District 7 has been touted as
the ultimate argument for systematic redraw-
ing of attendance-zone boundaries, to both
reduce excessive commutes for students,
and more evenly spread the load across the
area’s schools. As a member of the district’s
Boundary Advisory Committee
, Wagner
says “there are going to have to be decisions
made, and they won’t be easy ones.” For her,
that’s where the early, informal outreach is
vital, to get the families engaged, so no deci-
sion becomes a bombshell.
However, Bastian warns against doing
anything to force parents to send kids to a
Council: By the numbers
We may just be hitting the triple digits outside, but down at
City Hall, it’s nearly September – budget adoption deadline.
City
Council
budget work sessions resume next week (July 31), and
regular sessions follow the week after, Aug. 7. The end of the
annual summer break also brings other big dollar issues: Council
will be making its budget adjustments in the shadow of the deci-
sion on the
transportation bond
, perhaps $1 billion in rail and
road investments to be placed on the Nov. 4 ballot. There are no
proposals to raise the property tax rate, but with surging housing
values (and therefore rising tax bills), there’s increasing political
pressure to lower the rate – how much they can do that while
maintaining city services is the annual juggling act.
Council also must decide whether the city can find more
money for homeowner buyouts in the
Onion Creek flood-
plain
; the recent court decision rejecting
Austin Water’s
drainage fee
structure has thrown a monkey wrench into
that funding possibility, so there will likely be a scramble on
that issue.
All of this takes place in new historical context, the cam-
paigns for the
10-1 Council
, to be elected in November and
take office in January. There are plenty of numbers dancing
around those campaigns; nearly 70 candidates (for mayor
and the 10 district officers) had earlier declared an interest
(designating campaign treasurers), and on July 21, formal fil-
ing began. The early action was relatively slow – as of
Wednesday morning, all of 10 candidate filings had been
posted to the City Clerk’s website – but that’s likely to
become a flood over the next couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, the initial July 15 campaign finance filings
reflected a range of money numbers, the most dramatic being
mayoral candidate
Steve Adler
’s raising of more than
$360,000 through June 30 (easily a new record for the may-
or’s race, bolstered by another $194,000 in his own loans).
That’s gonna buy a lot of doorhangers featuring angelic pho-
tos of Adler’s boyhood – and the campaign has already hired
the biggest campaign team by far. District numbers – where
in most districts, $40,000 represented a big initial kitty –
were generally not so dramatic, but in District 10, Republican
hopeful
Robert Thomas
raised $50,000 and added a loan to
his campaign of $100,000, raising the money bar on the first
10-1 Council.
For more details on the fundraising, see last week’s issue
(“
The Money Race
”), and to follow the bouncing candidates,
check out the Election page at
austinchronicle.com/elections
.
– Michael King
AISD Race:
A Voice for
Southwest
Austin
Austin ISD District 7 is the largest of the
seven district trustee seats, and
Robert
Schneider
has represented it since 2002.
Now the retired computer researcher wants
a fourth term on the board, but a pair of chal-
lengers wants to send him to full retirement.
A former teacher in Washington state,
now a Realtor,
Theresa Bastian
describes
herself as “super passionate about public
education.” Meanwhile,
Yasmin Wagner
, a
creative director at computing firm AMD,
said, “I want to see a change in our schools,
and as a resident of Southwest Austin,
I feel that we’ve gone too long without
a change.”
Before campaign season started,
Schneider was resigned to facing challeng-
ers. He did so in two of his last three races.
He noted a strange trend: As with those
challengers, both Bastian and Wagner live
near and have kids who came through
Kiker
Elementary
. He said, “I don’t intend to criti-
cize an entire neighborhood, but it does
seem there’s a small part of that community
that thinks they have all the answers.”
The big question for Schneider is simple:
Why run again? After all, he recently retired
as a UT researcher in massively parallel
computing. Moreover, this would be his
fourth four-year term, and most trustees
quit the unpaid, time-demanding positions
after only two. His argument is simple:
There’s too much work to be done. He said,
“There are some major, significant issues
that are going to be facing the district – hir-
ing the superintendent, the budget, the next
legislative session.” If he wins re-election,
he will be the most experienced board mem-
ber. In fact, due to turnover in the 2012 elec-
tion, and the decision of three incumbents
not to run again this year, he will be the only
incumbent with more than four years’ expe-
rience. While Bastian sees reason for opti-
mism in having so many new voices, a
returning Schneider would become an auto-
j o h n a n D e r s o n
District 7 is the largest
of Austin ISD districts.
Robert Schneider
Theresa Bastian
Yasmin Wagner