This is the first of four interviews with City Council District 7 candidate Josiah Ingalls on his candidacy and the issues identified in the AustinDistrict7.org candidate scorecard. The interviews are organized as follows:
* Top Priorities, Experience, Community Involvement
* Livability, Affordability and Housing
* Transportation, Open Space and Infrastructure
* Public Safety, Small Business, and City Budget
Josiah Ingalls runs a landscaping service. He ran for mayor in 2009 and for City Council in 2011. He participated in early proposals for single member districting. He also has advocated for more local pedestrian beacons (“hawk lights”) after two teenagers were killed by a speeding driver while crossing a street near a South Austin high school. He has lived in Austin since 2004. With his wife Janet, he has two daughters – Heather (3) and Kelly (1).
Why are you running for City Council?
I’m bringing the same message that I brought in my previous races – that we shouldn’t be looking to just put a band-aid on our issues.
This City Council, and past City Councils, have never looked at the true cause – what is the cause and effect. They just look at – “This is the effect, how do we fix that. How do we put a band-aid on that.” But in doing that, they often pass ordinances and policies that contradict existing ordinances and policies. And so they’re just making a further mess of our legal system and our local government, instead of bringing real solutions.
Every time I run for office, none of the other candidates are talking about this issue. But this is the real issue. Because if you just put a band-aid on everything, generation after generation, of course everything’s just going to be a mess. And that’s what we’re seeing now. You’re seeing departments falling apart. They’re not working right, they’re not working with City Council on what they’ve passed. When are we going to start, as a society, looking at the true cause and effect. When are we going to have a government that looks to solve problems, not only now, but long-term?
What are your top 3 issues?
The number one priority that I would have, for every single day on City Council, would be ensuring that every policy that we pass is not creating contradictory language within the laws.
Most of our social and economic issues that we have can be related to a policy that a department has, that contradicts another policy in the same department, or our local laws contradicting one another. When I look at this, there’s an ‘ah-hah’ moment – this is what’s really the problem, but nobody’s ever said it. We try to say it, but nobody ever says it – it’s the contradictory language.
My second priority would be spending, because the budget affects everything. I don’t think we should be allowing City Council to approve a budget and then go back and change that. This City Council and past City Councils have done that. They pass a budget and then they go back and amend that. That’s not fair to the society. It’s not fair to the departments of the City. It’s deceitful. Say City Council passes a resolution – they want to do a study. That study’s going to cost us money. Where in the budget previously passed was the alloted budget for those types of things? They’re not there. We’re just adding more money, just because we decided it’s a great idea. But we never had a set amount for potential costs.
So would you add a reserve fund for unexpected expenses?
Actually, if you go back and look at our reserve funds over the last 25 years, our reserve funds are half of what they used to be. They keep taking away from that, but increasing our bond spending. They’ve pushed our bond spending nearly to the limit. What happens if we end up with a natural disaster, or the economy starts to crash? If no one’s trying to preemptively prevent this, we can go into deficit. The State does not allow for us to have a deficit – if we go into deficit the State can remove our local government.
My third priority is similar to my first priority – bringing cohesion not just to laws passed by Council, but to administrative rules developed by staff. We see a lot of break-down in government, like code enforcement versus the departments that issue permits. They go and say, “here’s your permit – go and build this thing,” but code enforcement says, “oh no, you can’t do that and we’re going to fine you.” If we give them a permit, that’s our promise that this is alright. But what we have are policies within separate departments not working together.
What experience do you bring? Can you think of a specific example of an initiative that you were influential on, to demonstrate how you would approach work on Council?
A good example is in 2012, a good friend of mine passed away because he and his girlfriend were hit by a car in a pedestrian crosswalk. I never gave up, going and picketing at that corner for three months. So when I take up an issue, I want to see that it’s solved. And I will never give up. I will always keep fighting until we’ve solved the issue. Because of that action, the City finally started putting up HAWK lights. Before that, the City had never put much emphasis on pedestrian safety. But yet we’ve always said, “Walk, bike to work. Walk, bike to school.” And yet we’ve never had any pedestrian safety. We’ve never educated the community. And now, because of that work, me and just four other people, who actually stuck it out for the full 3 months, until City Council said, “We’ll have it built in 3 months, just give us time to get a contractor.”
If something needs to happen, needs to be fixed, I’m not the candidate who will let it slip to the wayside. I will not be that elected official.
Tell me about your involvement in North Austin, what you’ve accomplished on the ground
I’m a member of the Wooten neighborhood association. I’ve attended some of the meetings for the neighborhood-in-a-box meetings – they’re starting to do the whole Burnet Rd corridor plan. I’ve been working on that. I’ve only been here in this neighborhood for just under a year. I haven’t had a lot of time to solve issues solely on my own. I would have loved to have done so, but I’m not about to claim other peoples’ work. After I joined the neighborhood association, we agreed that we wanted to be a part of District 7, and sent a letter to the commission drawing the lines. Together as a group I’ve been working, but I’m not about to claim all of their work.
Were you involved in things on East Riverside?
Yes, I attended the corridor plan meetings. And of course I worked to get HAWK lights.
As a candidate who lives in the south part of the district, what do you bring to voters who live in other parts of the district?
I bring the mindset that it’s not just about my neighborhood association. It’s not just what I see on a daily basis. When I look at a community, when I look at the district, even when I look at the city, I start looking at “What is good for all of us?”
I think that’s a very different outcome than the other people who are running against me. They’re looking more at their neighborhood. One of the people running against me has been talking about a specific park that that community was denied. Well what about the other 3,000 things or more that are important in this district?
And I’m trying to focus on every district. In fact I have on my calendar the dates of all the neighborhood associations that have regular meetings. And I’ve already started attending those. And I want to know, “What are all of their needs – what do they want?” That’s a very different mindset, and that mindset affects the outcome. Because if you get on City Council, and you’re only running in this race for one or two reasons, what happens when you get 4-5,000 things that come across your desk in a year? What about all those things that weren’t on your agenda to get elected? So for me, I’m running to be a representative for the city. I really don’t have my own pet project. And that’s going to give not only the north part of District 7, but the south part of District 7, someone who can really represent them.