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Texas This Week: Austin City Council District 3 runoff election

José Velásquez and Daniela Silva will face off in the December election to represent District 3 on the Austin City Council.

AUSTIN, Texas — Austin voters will head back to the polls in December to decide some key local races. 

Three Things To Know In TX Politics

1. Texas lawmakers start filing bills

Monday, Nov. 14, was the first day Texas lawmakers and legislators-elect could file bills for the 2023 legislative session, and they wasted no time. In the first week, more than 1,000 bills were filed and the topics range from creating a fund for the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting to legalizing abortion to targeting transgender children. 

The bills will have a long road ahead of them if they are going to make it to the governor's desk. The session starts Jan. 10. 

 2. Texas buses migrants to Philadelphia 

A group of migrants arrived in Philadelphia on Wednesday. They are the first group to be bused there by the State of Texas. Philadelphia is now the latest Democrat-led city where Texas is busing migrants from the border. 

Since April, the State has bused some 13,000 migrants to Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago using taxpayer dollars. Gov. Greg Abbott says he'll continue to add drop-off locations until the Biden administration provides Texas with sustainable border security.

3. Uvalde officer resigns amid school shooting investigation

The Uvalde police lieutenant who served as acting chief on the day of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School retired, effective immediately, on Thursday. Mariano Pargas was already on suspension pending an investigation into his actions during the response on May 24. 

A recent CNN report showed Pargas knew several children were still alive inside the classroom while law enforcement waited outside. Police waited 77 minutes before breeching the door and confronting the gunman. Uvalde city leaders planned to fire him this weekend, but he retired before they could take that action. 

Austin City Council District 3 Candidates  

On Dec. 13, Austin voters will head back to the polls to elect a mayor and fill three council seats. In District 3, which covers parts of East and southeast Austin, voters will decide between marketing strategist José Velásquez, who got 36% of the vote in November, and Daniela Silva, a community organizer who ended the night with 34% of the vote.

José Velásquez

Ashley Goudeau: [In] the November election, you came out just a touch above your opponents there, getting the most votes. But you and Daniela Silva separated by about 422 votes there. Tell me: what do you believe makes you the best candidate in this race?  

José Velásquez: "The best candidate in the race – lived experience and strong and long-standing relationships in the community, to be able to build broad coalitions and hit the ground running on day one."

Goudeau: And that's why you feel like folks should vote for you over her? 

Velásquez: "Absolutely. I mean, Daniela, Daniela is a phenomenal candidate, phenomenal person. We're actually friends. But that, that's where I would draw the distinction."

Goudeau: Tell us: what do you believe is the biggest issue facing residents in District 3 right now? And what will you do to address it if you're elected?  

Velásquez: "Honestly, it's going to be affordability. I was chatting with somebody the other day, and we were talking about how there are a lot of changes happening in Austin. But the majority of time in District 3 and along the Eastern Crescent, folks are victims of those changes and not necessarily participants in the change. And that's what I want to bring to council, is ensuring that every single part of District 3 is, are active participants and have the opportunity to take a leadership role and be part of the change in the district and in Austin."

Goudeau: And so, what does that look like in terms of policies that you would like to put in place?  

Velásquez: "So, we drafted – and we were the only, actually only campaign in that crowded race that drafted an affordability plan. It's called 'Affordable Austin,' and it calls for expanded broadband access, checking our City rosters to see how much of our our City staff came back to work in the offices when they continued, could have continued to remote work. So, encouraging more remote work. Full, free pre-K to give parents a, a break from the cost of child care and help our kids get a jumpstart on their education. And then taking a holistic approach to our housing crisis and our housing needs in the district and in Austin."

Goudeau: Give the viewers some final thoughts on why they should elect you in this runoff election.  

Velásquez: "This, this election is going to be about, about accessibility. Not so much about politics. We need to ensure that everyone in the district – from East Austin to South Austin to Galindo back to Montopolis – that every part of the district is heard. I think the district needs to, needs a leader that can bring everybody together. And I have a proven track record of doing that. And I'm always willing to work with anybody that is looking to create progress and ensure that that Austin is a welcoming city for everybody."

Daniela Silva

Ashley Goudeau: You and your opponent came very close to one another on Election Day, just about 422 votes separating the two of you. What makes you the better candidate for voters?  

Daniela Silva: "Well, for me, it boils down to four things: policy, my professional life, how I've run my campaign and who I am as a person. So, as a city commissioner and a community organizer, I am very well researched on policies that impact this city. I'm the only candidate who has released detailed policy platforms on affordability, health care and climate resiliency, all of which you can find on my website and our social media platforms. 

Professionally, I've been working boots on the ground in food justice and social justice movements, a lot of which have been in this district, which include food deserts. And in some parts there are as many as a quarter of people who are living with food assistance programs such as SNAP, WIIC and Double Up Food Bucks. And that is something that we must change. And I have the knowledge and the skills to do that. 

When it comes to how I've run my campaign, I have staffed my campaign, my team, with a broad array of people who come to this work earnestly, rather than choosing to spend tens of thousands of dollars of voter dollars on expensive political consultants. And the diversity of my campaign is representative of the diversity that I will bring with me into city council. 

And last but not least, who I am as a person. I am the average District 3 resident. I'm 30 years old, working class, a renter and Latina. I firmly believe that whoever is most impacted by policies should be the ones writing them. And as someone with various intersectionalities, I am uniquely qualified to represent the vast diversity that is District 3." 

Goudeau: I want to talk a little bit about the district. Tell us what you believe is the most pressing issue for residents in District 3 and what you will do to address it.  

Silva: "Based off of hundreds of conversations that I've had with District 3 residents, the top two concerns are affordability and our unhoused community. With affordability, it boils down to housing, making sure that we have a pathway to housing that is not time intensive or so expensive, that it could take four to five years to build the housing that is needed. We are a city that is in high demand. We need to be able to have the supply that matches the demand not only today but in the future of the city. 

Additionally, making sure that we protect existing affordable housing and use it, using public land for public good to build more deeply affordable housing that is needed in order to ensure that the city is not growing at the expense of working class families, of artists, musicians, nurses, EMT workers."

Election Day is Tuesday, Dec. 13. Early voting runs Dec. 1 through Dec. 9. 

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