"Some people say I have three strikes against me because I was born on the island, I'm left-handed and I went to Texas A&M University,” laughed Louis Herrin, III.
Still, the Austin resident is throwing his name in the hat to run for the District 4 seat on the Austin City Council.
Herrin was born in Galveston, Texas and is the oldest of five children.
He earned his Bachelors of Science in civil engineering at Texas A&M University before moving to Austin in 1981 to work for the Texas Department of Water Resources, now known as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
“One of the things that I am proud of is when I got out of school, I had no debt. I worked as a longshoreman in Galveston during the summers and during the breaks and I’m proud my mother had only given me $100 the whole time I was in college,” Herrin said.
Herrin raised two sons in Austin and volunteering has always been a high priority for his family.
“Since I've been in Austin my family's been involved in, years ago, we were in Big Brothers Big Sisters, we have been, my family's been involved in Meals on Wheels and several other things like that. We started the Gabriel Project at Saint Ignatius Church. And if you don't know what the Gabriel Project is, it's to help women who are in crisis pregnancies. I have been the co-president of the Homeless School Association at St. Louis Church. I've been the co-chair of the Campus Advisory Commission at Johnson High School back in the ‘90s and I've been on the finance board at St Ignatius Church.”
Herrin moved into the area that’s now classified as District 4 in 1990 and has watched the city around him change.
“The reason [I’m running], I'm tired of the way the city's being run,” he said.
“The city needs to be more conservative, they need, we need to build roads, we need to do a lot of things but the city spends money on a lot of useless things and we spend money, I don't think we spend it wisely. I am a fiscal conservative and I look to get the best buck for the dollar. You know, you're looking at, say water treatment plant number four, look how much money we've spent on that. You go talk to other people, other cities and you tell them how much we spend on it and they look, 'we can build it for like a third of that price.'”
“The city does not do asset management where they look at their assets for their water-sewer lines and stuff like this. So there's a lot of money that the city's wasting. That means we're going to be paying for. The city wastes a lot of money, we get involved in a lot of things we shouldn't. If I get elected I want to get back to the basics. Basic services all the way across the board. We need to cut the red tape in this city.”
Herrin said he was also prompted to run after seeing what current District 4 Council Member Greg Casar prioritized while in office.
“There're some things that Greg did and, some people aren't going to like this, but I hire people all the time. What he did on the hiring where you can't look at somebody's criminal background up front, you have to look at it afterward, it doesn't affect me, but…I hire people occasionally for my job and it's like why am I going to waste somebody's time if it comes down to the pack, I cannot hire this person because of X, Y or Z0 and if I would have known it up front I wouldn't have wasted their time or other people's time,” Herrin said.
“The other thing is I'm looking at Greg's thing where he's proposing to streamline the review process but he's setting it up where you have to agree to pay people this amount, you've got people other than the city doing the reviews and those people doing the reviews are also going to be the people doing the hiring and I think that's a real conflict of interest and that really bothers me.”
“I will be upfront with everything that I vote for, I will make sure that every dime we spend is the best value for our buck and I will do a more conservative view if I get elected.”
ON THE ISSUES
Q: Are you for or against Proposition 1, Austin’s Mobility Bond, and why?
“The way the bond is set up, I'm against it. There're some things in the bond I do like. I don't like the way the mayor just came out and kind of put it on us. But it's not the true cost. There are more costs behind it and it's not going to pay for everything, which they're saying it's going to do. If you look at some of the reports, it's going, to do those six corridors it's going to cost over a billion dollars. The question is are we going to get the biggest bang for our buck? I look at, they want to see traffic moving on Lamar. One of the things I would see is they would build the buses where they go, go into the deal to get off of the road for loading and unloading. I would see that moving the traffic more. Synchronizing the lights, but the other thing is they're making them growth corridors, you know if you do this on top of Code Next, and you're going to put houses and apartments right on top, well it'd be apartments, multi-family, right on top of the roads, we'll never be able to expand Lamar, we'll never be able to expand Burnet. You go look at the way they're doing it, they're forcing us to ride bikes and all this other stuff and we need different transportation. And they're going to be locking our hands. The city needs to spend, it's going to be billions of dollars because we have to pay for the sins of the past, we need east-west thoroughfares, we need loops around the city, we need a lot of things in this city. We need to look at many alternative transportations. The reason I'm not voting for this bond though is I don't think we're going to get the bang for the buck and I think it's really a Band-Aid approach and it's really not going to do what they're promising.”
Q: What action do you believe the city needs to take to address traffic congestion?
“I think we need to sit down, come up with a long-term strategy. We need to expand our roads and I know there's a group in town that do not want us to expand roads, cause they want basically to force people out of their cars to go to other means of transportation. We need to change the way people think of the buses. A lot of people say 'oh you ride the bus' and give you a weird look. I have ridden the bus many times, I ride my bike, well I used to ride my bike, I'm getting old and fat now, but I only [live] four miles from where I work. And I will tell you I will ride my bike to work occasionally, but I'll tell you when it hits 100 degrees in this town, there's no way I'm riding my bike. And when I do ride my bike I have to take a shower even though it’s a 15-minute bike ride, this town is hot and humid. And I don't know how a lot of people think they’re going to get around and it's hot and humid without sweating.”
Q: How can the city increase affordability related to the cost of houses in Austin?
“I look at Code Next coming up, I will tell you, I'm for Code Next and I'm against Code Next. We need to re-write our codes or consolidate out codes because I’m in, one of the things I do with the state is I review plans and specs. I've written the state design criteria for wastewater collection systems, sludge, I’m basically an environmental engineer for the state. And you amend rules over the time then occasionally you get to the point where you just have to consolidate and that's the point that I think Code Next is going to do. But I'm worried about the way it's going to be implemented. But what the city needs to do is cut out a lot of the red tape. You talk to developers, or I've talked to developers all over the state, and most of them don't want to come to Austin because of the amount of red tape, how long it takes to go through the permitting process. We do need to streamline that process. We need to consolidate our rules to make it a lot easier and when you're trying to make changes, we have so many different committees we're kind of like...California where to get a permit you have to go through this commission and this commission. We need to streamline it where you go to one stop shop and anybody who wants to put into the system they get to input but you're only going to one group. And the other thing we have to do is make sure our staff is trained. That's another complaint I hear when I'm at the state, that the city is not consistent in the way they review things.”
Q: What do you believe is the biggest need of the residents in District 4?
“You've got one part that's really being gentrified right now where taxes are really going up because of the land value and it's to me, it’s what does the district want to do right there because there’s a group that is for putting in two houses on the same lot, putting small houses or doing different things. And there's another that wants to fight it. You've got to come up with a pattern but we do need to get more housing but I don't want to sacrifice existing neighborhoods for more housing. You have another part where we have a lot of homeless problems and some of these areas where the crime rate is going up. And then we have the biggest elephant in the deal, the Rundberg area. That area needs to be cleaned up, we need to get more money and started on the Rundberg initiative but we need to keep going to clean the area up like they did South Congress and some other areas in the city. And the other thing that we have is we have a wide variety of people with different languages and backgrounds and we need to be able to work with all those.”
MORE ON LOUIS HERRIN
- Occupation: Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Engineer
- Education: Texas A&M: BS in Civil Engineering
- Birthplace: Galveston, Texas
- Years in Austin: 35
- Mobility bond: Against
- Favorite song: Yellow Rose of Texas
To Read More About Louis Herrin, go here.