Austin Soccer Voters Guide to the 2018 Austin Municipal Election

The 2018 midterms are upon us. Hopefully you’ve been following along with our persistent requests to register to vote. This year, Austin has a lot of very important choices. While there are very close statewide races being run, your vote is even more critical locally.

Soccer is important to all of us, and, for better or worse, Austin’s political apparatus has an effect on the game we love. We’ve seen how important it is to have pro-soccer members on City Council, and we’ll need to be vigilant to protect the progress we’ve made so far.

As a 501(c)(3) organization, we aren’t able to endorse candidates. However, we’ve compiled a list of Austin races and the candidate’s stances on soccer for your use. Up for election in this cycle: Austin Mayor, District 1, District 3, District 8, and District 9.

  • Mayor Steve Adler is up for re-election and he voted for the McKalla deal and has consistently supported Major League Soccer in Austin.
  • District 1’s Ora Houston and District 8’s Ellen Troxclair are not running for re-election, and both voted against the McKalla deal.
  • District 3’s Pio Renteria and District 9’s Kathie Tovo are running for re-election and both of them voted in favor of the McKalla deal.
  • Council Member Ann Kitchen in District 5 is also up for re-election, but she’s unopposed — and she voted for the McKalla deal.

Find your City Council district here: http://www.austintexas.gov/government (it’s about halfway down the page where it says “District Lookup”).

See something we’ve missed? Let us know so we can update the guide. We’ve tried to prepare a comprehensive guide, but there are a lot of candidates, so we’re sure we’ve missed something. Send an email to social@austinanthem.org, or shoot us a tweet — we’re human and, like the mighty grackle, occasionally miss some things.

Below references to “Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place” are pulled from the Austin Neighborhoods Council’s questionnaire question #7a: “Do you support the City of Austin providing financial incentives and land for a private sports venture (McKalla Place)?” The ANC is opposed to the city providing financial incentives and land at McKalla Place.


Proposition J, Brought To You By Our Favorite Anti-Soccer Group

One thing before you get to the candidate races — make sure you read up on the Austin bond proposals and two propositions. The League of Women Voters is a good resource for an unbiased voters guide.

There are some very important propositions on the ballot, including one about affordable housing, and we encourage you to read up on the issues and consider them carefully in the context of Austin’s future.

One proposition we’d like to bring to your attention is Proposition J, regarding the Land Development Code. It was brought to the ballot by IndyAustin, which you may recognize as being the loudest opponents of the MLS stadium, and is currently circling petitions that could kill the stadium. Proposition J would require up to three years of waiting and a citywide vote for any significant land development changes. The City of Austin hasn’t had a significant land development re-write since 1985.

We’re not officially endorsing this proposition either way, but use that information as you will.

Speaking of our friendly Anti-Soccer Group, please make sure you don’t sign any petition regarding soccer in Austin. We’ve seen reports that they are now selling it as needed for “a vote in favor of the stadium”, and are hanging out around polling places. There are (still) no petitions that are currently circulating in support of the already-approved McKalla plan.


Mayor

Austin’s current mayor is Steve Adler, and he was one of Austin’s most prominent voices in support of MLS to Austin, including his YES vote on the final deal.

Steve Adler (Incumbent)

Website | Twitter | Facebook

The soccer proposal was a really good deal. We leased land that was nonproductive to the soccer team. They’re paying rent for the land, and, in addition, they’re building a $220 million stadium on their nickel, and then they give the stadium to the city and lease it back.

Austin American-Statesman/KLRU debate

The city is excited about Major League Soccer. I am too. I can’t wait until we are all wearing the same jersey and celebrating the first championship in Austin.

Community Impact

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: Yes

Laura Morrison

Website | Twitter | Facebook

I’m extremely disappointed that we have a deal that’s going to forego hundreds of millions of property taxes, combined — for the city, and all the jurisdictions, and we have such difficulty about property taxes right now.

As told to the Austin Chronicle.

I think that’s outrageous. Austin is in the middle of a housing crisis, so using public land like McKalla Place for the construction of affordable homes should be a reality, not just somebody’s political slogan.

A Morrison fundraising email noted by the Austin Monitor. Note: the final agreement approved by City Council has affordable housing included, and these comments were made before those additions.

The soccer stadium contract is a clear example of a case in which much is left to staff discretion and interpretation. Where proposed projects will have significant impacts, lobbyists and corporate timelines should not override democracy and accountability to the public. I believe all contracts in such cases should return to the Council for final approval before being executed.
10 (indicating most support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: No

Todd Phelps

Website | Twitter | Facebook

I also would not support decisions such as the McKalla location for a 20,000 person stadium with only 1000 parking spaces that will have events on transit oriented routes such as Burnet. This defeats the concept of a transportation corridor focused on movement of persons.

Community Impact questionnaire

This contract should be brought back to Council and citizens given the opportunity to review and comment. Citizens have the right to weigh in on Contracts that include the subsidies and public land sales and/or leases.
10 (indicating most support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: No

Travis Duncan

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Yes. Again, this cuts into the core of the issue with City Hall. We must shift the government to actually be by and for the people, not by and for the profit-driven interests of the corporate state apparatus. I would extend this final decision-making power always to the people, which again is why we need dramatic civic reform.
10 (indicating most support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: No

Alex Strenger

Website | Twitter | Facebook

There’s nothing funny about our affordability and traffic concerns. Building a dome and giving flamethrowers to our police officers makes more sense than building a soccer stadium at McKalla Place, I stand by that statement.

FOX 7 Austin

Yes, the people should have a direct say when it comes any kind of development on city owned land.
10 (indicating most support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: No

No information from: Alan Pease, Gustavo Pena


District 1

District 1 is currently represented by Ora Houston, who is not running for re-election. Houston voted against the McKalla final deal.

Natasha Harper-Madison

Once the City Manager is directed to execute a contract that is essential(ly) a vote of the council on the item. 
1 (indicating least support for an additional vote).

informed.vote

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: No

Reedy Macque Spigner III

I am in favor of the Council having oversight and supervision powers but not in favor of restricting any city official from moving forward with action consistent with the direction of the Council, Mayor or other governmental authority.
3 (indicating little support for an additional vote)

informed.vote

Lewis Conway, Jr.

ABSOLUTELY!
10 (indicating most support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: No

Mitrah Elizabeth Avini

Also not a fan of the MLS deal that’s bringing a soccer stadium to Austin with no property taxes.
“Given that our city is closing pools, raising the costs to enter the pools, we could really use the money that would come from taxing corporations and wealthy people who want to come move to the city.”

FOX 7 Austin

YES YES YES! Our City Manager is an admirer of Mayor Bloomberg, who ruined New York and made it unaffordable.
10 (indicating most support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote

Vincent Harding

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: Yes

No information from: Misael D. Ramos, Mariana Salazar.


District 3

District 3 is currently represented by Sabino “Pio” Renteria, who voted in favor of the final deal.

Pio Renteria (Incumbent)

So many people in my district have been asking, ‘Are we getting soccer?’ This is a good opportunity for us, and I think it’s the right place.

Austin American-Statesman

This month, after several revisions to ensure that no City funding went to the building or the maintenance of the McKalla Place Stadium, City Council voted to approve this highly debated deal.
Since the beginning, I’ve said I would not support any stadium deal unless it included major community benefits. I’m glad to announce this agreement does just that.
Not only does the City of Austin keep ownership of the land, but will eventually also take ownership of the stadium. This agreement also includes 130 affordable homes on site, a $500,000 contribution to Foundation Communities​ (a local affordable housing non-profit), and $4.8 million for other affordable housing initiatives over the next 20 years.
As a Board Member on CapMetro, it was important to me that the agreement included support for public transit and transportation infrastructure. Council secured $3.6 million for this through a series of amendments. As Mayor Adler put it “we have the best stadium deal in the country.”
Finally, I want to highlight one more benefit. Soccer has the ability to bring our diverse communities closer. This team will not only bring Austinites together in a new stadium, but in homes across the city so we can all root for the home team.

District 3 Newsletter

Susana Almanza

Almanza registered in opposition to the McKalla deal as a private citizen, speaking in front of City Council.

I don’t think that would be a reason to sell our park to a private developer. Right now, this park is public. Council Member Renteria is not an environmentally sensitive person because if he was, he would know the beauty of this park and that we’ve worked for over a decade to preserve a balance between nature and humanity.

Austin American-Statesman regarding the Guerrero Park discussion— Note: At no point has the sale of any parkland ever been proposed by an elected official or Precourt Sports Ventures.

Austin has a housing crisis, not a soccer crisis. For this reason, PODER opposes Precourt’s Major League Soccer stadium proposal. Will Precourt deal become another Austin boondoggle? Why is the city cutting a deal with Precourt under scarce public scrutiny?

Testimony to Austin City Council

Yes, the people should have a direct say when it comes any kind of development on city owned land.
10 (indicating most support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: No

Jessica Cohen

This seems like a common sense question. If it going to be controversial, the elected representatives should be the ones answerable for any decisions made.
10 (indicating most support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: No

Justin Jacobson

On issues of this magnitude, its paramount that council fulfills is roll (role) of oversight and offer leadership. Is (If) they do not poses the time and bandwidth to usher important projects like this along, then perhaps the value of such a proposal needs to be reexamined, owing to its originally contentious nature.
8.75 (indicating high support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote (assumed intent in grammatical corrections in parenthesis)

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: Yes

James Valadez

It is important we have as much transparency in the negotiation process as possible. When we have a contract being negotiated we need it to come back to council for a final vote once the agreement has been made. Specifically, as it pertains to any large-scale incentive or subsidy being offered.
10 (indicating most support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: No

Amit Motwani

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: Yes


District 8

District 8 is currently represented by Ellen Troxclair. Troxclair is not running for re-election and voted against the final McKalla deal.

Rich DePalma

Rich likes soccer and appreciates the cultural and economic benefits from the deal, but believes large corporations should pay their fair share.

DePalma campaign to constituent

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: No

Bobby Levinski

I’m a soccer player myself. I would love to see the MLS brought to Austin, but I’m not ready to sacrifice Ladybird Lake in the process. There are several trees there that would probably have to be removed, and there’s a lot of underground water that could be impacted if they are excavating into the ground.

Levinski regarding the original proposal at Butler Shores

When a project generates a significant amount of public interest or meets a certain threshold for public investment, it is better policy to give direction to negotiate a contract and then allow council time to read the actual contract before voting for its approval. As a former real estate attorney, I know there’s a significant amount of changes that can occur in the details of the contract that don’t necessarily track to the initial term sheet.
10 (indicating most support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: No

Paige Ellis

Ellis said she’s found many voters feel disconnected from City Hall and the deals made there, particularly a recent one to use city-owned land to build a new Major League Soccer stadium. The concern shows a need for better outreach, she said.

As told to the Austin American-Statesman

No information from: Frank Ward.


District 9

District 9 is currently represented by Kathie Tovo. Mayor Pro-Tem Tovo voted for the final McKalla deal.

Kathie Tovo (Incumbent)

Ultimately, (PSV) addressed many of my concerns and those of my colleagues. I couldn’t support a deal that didn’t give our city the type of wide-ranging benefits it deserves for use of that land. What we ended up with isn’t perfect, but it enhances our community. I’m not a sports fan, but I like all that a soccer team can bring.

Austin American-Statesman

I assess these issues on a case by case basis and make decisions about whether to negotiate and execute or just negotiate based on a variety of factors, including the extent to which elements of the proposal require substantial additional negotiation.
6 (indicating moderate support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote

While there may be disagreement over how to approach soccer in Austin, I do not believe there should be any disagreement over whether I have been a strong advocate for our communities. My record is clear: I have consistently supported policies that maintain our quality of life and keep Austin an family-friendly city. My support for soccer comes from those very same values — I believe that having a professional soccer team here in Austin would provide a very real community benefit for many families across the city and enhance their quality of life. At the same time, my support was not open-ended or unconditional. I was vocal in expressing concerns about the initial proposals presented to Council because they included a number of provisions I opposed (including significant costs to the city) and omitted a number of provisions I thought needed to be included. Over the course of the debate, I worked hard to address my concerns and protect the city’s interests — and in the end we had an agreement that included rent payments, affordable housing, labor agreements, green building, mobility investments and benefits for youth throughout the community and it required infrastructure and operations costs be borne by the team. The final proposal was one that I supported, and I believe that my values, work, and commitment have helped significantly improve the agreement.

From the Austin Neighborhoods Council questionnaire. Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: Yes

Danielle Skidmore

With a Council / City Manager form of government, Council provides direction for the City Manager and staff to execute contracts. I will vote based upon the resolution presented, so making a blanket commitment to require a final post-vote review is counter to my philosophy of a government that is accountable to constituents and remains efficient.
3 (indicating little support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: No

Linda O’Neal

City Council voted, and MLS soccer will come to Austin. Precourt, the company will not pay property taxes. In the meantime, Tovo wants to RAISE the cap on property taxes to 8 percent (which was recently raised to 6 percent). I think we need to LOWER the cap to 5.5 percent. I don’t know what Skidmore believes because she is so vague on policy. With a smaller budget, maybe the city can be more efficient with OUR money. If the city continues to give away our land to for-profit companies, that tax burden will fall on us.

O’Neal Facebook post

This soccer deal is a bad deal.
1) They’re not going to pay property taxes. McKalla Place was originally set for affordable housing and mix-use development. If Precourt doesn’t pay the taxes, guess who will? You. Property taxes is an affordability issue. Danielle Skidmore and other council members who support this deal, don’t tell us that you care about affordable housing if you support this deal.
2) Their community benefits do not include a girls soccer club. It’s for boys only. Danielle Skidmore and other council members, do not tell us that you care about gender politics if you support this deal.
3) No traffic infrastructure, and infrastructure will be built by the city. Danielle Skidmore, you’re a transportation engineer. Don’t tell us that you support traffic solutions if you support this deal.
4) Soccer fans, USL is coming to COTA in 2019

O’Neal Facebook post — Note: It’s unclear where O’Neal gathered the information about Skidmore’s support of the deal.

Let’s get rid of the City Manager position all together.
10 (indicating most support for an additional vote on McKalla)

informed.vote

Supports incentives and land for McKalla Place: No

No information from: Isiah Jones.


This Austin Anthem Voters Guide is presented as a factual guide for our members and Austin community. No endorsement is given for any candidates, however, we encourage our community to carefully examine these statements given by the candidates as it relates to the future of soccer in Austin.

Austin Anthem is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. We’re an independent supporters group supporting Major League Soccer in Austin, originally founded in 2013 as MLS in Austin.