District 7 Council candidate Jeb Boyt at his campaign kick-off Tuesday rallied supporters behind policies to address the city’s long-term affordability and transportation challenges.
He also stressed his extensive record in city and state government, especially in support of parks, trails, and Downtown Austin.
About 50-60 people attended the event at Pour House Pub on Burnet Rd.
“We need to make sure people have a place to live,” said Boyt. He noted the citywide occupancy rate of 97%. To bring prices down, the city needs to get the occupancy rate under 90%. To do that, “we’ve got to build housing in Austin. We need to build housing of all types, all throughout the city.” The housing should be appropriate for each stage of someone’s life – “for college, for singles, for families, and for when they’re tired of mowing the lawn and taking care of the house.”
“Families need to have housing so they’re not moving their kids from school to school.” Likewise, he said more housing was needed so people wouldn’t have to drive from Williamson County and add to congested roads.
Boyt said the City’s transportation plan was a good one; the trick was to execute it. Boyt voiced strong support for three upcoming transportation projects: Lone Star Rail, urban rail, and I35 improvements. For each of these, Boyt called out funding as key, and said he would fight to get these projects funded.
I35 projects would be spaced out over the coming generation, he said. “And we need to keep our eye on the prize – one of the big opportunities as we work on I35 is to rebuild the connections between east and west Austin, build a parkland on top of I35, to make it safe for people to walk and cycle across I35.”
Transportation problems can only be solved with better coordination amongst regional partners, said Boyt. Bringing partners like Round Rock into CapMetro would be a priority.
Parks are another special priority for Boyt, who for years led a non-profit, Austin Metro Trails and Greenways, to develop a citywide network of creek trails. Boyt served on the Parks Board, and said he championed all kinds of parks, from small local ones to big metropolitan parks. He said he worked on rec centers and historic houses.
Maintaining parks represents a special challenge, Boyt said. As legal counsel for several state boards and commissions related to land use, “I wrote laws and policies, and I implemented programs.” He recalled helping communities along the coast sort out state and federal programs. The funds from these programs paid for “parks, ports and toilets.”
Boyt laughed. “You know – people think you’re working on parks – it sounds like a lot of fun.”
“But you spend a lot of time talking about toilets. When it comes down to it, you’ve got to take care of the basics.”
Downtown has been a focus for Boyt at City Hall. Serving on the Downtown and Waller Creek commissions, Boyt said, “I worked to make Downtown a place where we would all want to live, or walk anytime of day or night.” The Waller Creek vision he helped to shape will “preserve the live music along Red River, and the natural values in the creek – so people will have access to the natural beauty of Central Texas, right in the center of downtown Austin.”
Boyt also served on the 2012 Bond Advisory Task Force, defining the city’s capital funding strategy for the coming six years.
The new 10-1 council offers an opportunity to make government more transparent and accountable. He promised to help deliver on that opportunity. The key on this and other common issues will be to work together.
Boyt said he has lived in District 7 for 21 years and understands the local issues. “I know District 7. I know Austin. I’m ready to get to work here.”