When elected to serve as Precinct 3 County Commissioner, I will take my responsibility to help solve the many challenges we face seriously. I’ll also use my experience in bringing people together to help find innovative solutions to our community’s biggest problems.
I’m ready to work to make transportation safer and more efficient, to restore affordability, to protect the environment, to ensure our criminal justice systems is fair and effective, and to care for neighbors in need. To do these things and more, we must leverage our statutory authority and assets, and develop strategic partnerships across the region.
Transportation Safety and Efficiency
Counties play a vital role in transportation planning, maintenance, and funding. It is critical for Travis County to play a leadership role in local and regional planning to leverage our strengths at the state and federal levels. Together, we must focus on improving local transportation fundamentals like safety, road maintenance and traffic control. We must do this while exploring new efficient mass transit opportunities and technologies to advance our common goals.
As County Commissioner, I will work with stakeholders to reduce traffic deaths, maintain existing transportation assets, and improve mobility for all of us. But we can't do this at the expense of our beloved open spaces, water sources or the natural beauty of Travis County.
The leadership of Texas can’t help itself. Time and time again, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick promise the moon -- lower taxes but the same services. Well, we all know it just doesn’t work that way. We can’t have the same level of services --fund the same road projects, provide the same level of safety, maintain our parks to the same degree and pay staff the same salaries -- with less money to do so. The 3.5% revenue cap that Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick imposed on Texas doesn’t lower taxes in a meaningful way. Instead, it reduces the quality of essential services voters depend on and blocks our ability to manage growth effectively.
As County Commissioner, I will always keep our tax rate as low as possible, but I will also advocate fiercely to guarantee we have what we need. I will be thrifty with taxpayer money and always look for ways to ensure that every dollar is spent wisely, leveraging partnerships wherever we can. I will also work with other local officials in cities and counties around the state to be a line of defense against poor policy-making at the state level.
Climate AND ENVIRONMENT
Travis County Precinct 3 is home to some of the most beautiful parts of Travis County – and some of my favorite places, too – including Barton Springs, a host of neighborhood parks, Lake Travis, and Hamilton Pool.
When I’m elected to the Commissioners Court, one of my top priorities will be to protect the open spaces and water resources in western Travis County.
This is more than an issue of esthetics. The open spaces in Precinct 3 house our water supply, provide a filtration system for our drinking water, act as a buffer against the growing dangers of wildfire, and can play a critical role in protecting against climate change. Climate change isn’t a global issue – it’s a very real local problem. The growing number and severity of wildfires, flooding, and drought are exacerbated by our growing population – and by climate change.
I’m ready to lead on these big challenges. Here is where I would start:
The drought from 2008 to 2016 was a wake-up call to all of us. The Colorado River is the sole source of water for many in Central Texas, an economic engine for businesses from the Highland Lakes to Matagorda Bay, and the basis for environmental flows to Texas’ bays and estuaries. I will:
Take a leadership role in local, regional, and state water-supply planning efforts
Support local water utilities as they develop innovative solutions, such as One Water
Work to ensure multi-year funding of the Southwestern Travis County Groundwater Conservation District
Travis County has a high risk of wildfires due to the growing number of homes in the Wildland-Urban Interface, placing more homes – and ecosystems – at risk than ever before. The Austin/Travis County Community Wildfire Protection Plan is a critical roadmap as we work to protect our communities and ecosystem. I will:
Prioritize funding for wildfire mitigation and prevention education
Work with the leadership of communities to protect our communities and ecosystem
Travis County has a long history of flooding – and the frequency and impacts are increasing, thanks to climate change and our ever-growing population. I will:
Make sure Travis County adequately continues to engage in flood mitigation
Ensure Travis County takes a leadership role in the state’s new regional flood planning
Advocate for our share of state funds
Our population growth stretches our ability to dispose of wastewater economically and without negative impacts to our water resources. I will:
Take a leadership role in protecting our waterways from direct discharges. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality already has rules that ban direct discharge in the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone and also around the Highland Lakes. The time has come for the state to extend the direct discharge ban to the Edwards Aquifer Contributing Zone
Assist local communities, surrounding counties, state agencies, and stakeholders to find land application opportunities for wastewater. There has to be a better option than discharging sewage into our streams
Land Use and Conservancy
As our population grows into new parts of the county and region, we face not only challenges but opportunities. Great work has been done through the use of conservation easements here in Travis County to protect our lands – and more can and should be done. I will:
Work to expand opportunities for conservation easement partnerships
Use easements to protect groundwater, water supplies, and wildfire zones
Travis County continues to remain in compliance for EPA’s ozone standards. But our carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel-powered energy and transportation are only exacerbating the climate change we’re seeing. I will:
Work to ensure air quality is a priority in our transportation and land use initiatives, including through partnerships with the Capital Area Council of Governments, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, Capital Metro, and other stakeholders
Work to ensure that Travis County is a leader in implementing innovative air quality solutions, including using renewable energy and hybrid and electric vehicles and utilizing flexible work schedules and telecommuting for our workforce
As a lawyer advocate for people living in poverty, I have seen first-hand the crushing burden that our criminal justice system places on people of color and those with lower incomes. I know that:
It’s hard to finish school, get housing and jobs after serving time;
people of color, especially African Americans are disproportionately arrested and jailed;
incarceration too often leads to voter disenfranchisement; and,
time in jail does not “help” someone with their problems.
I applaud Travis County efforts in recent years to divert people battling mental health issues away from incarceration. However, more can be done and should be done. Here is where I would start:
End Mass Incarceration
1. Leverage existing partnerships to expand mental health services and substance use counseling and treatment
2. Explore wider use of the Sobering Center and other diversion programs
3. Enhance partnerships to prevent and end homelessness by ensuring access to safe and decent housing, so we stop the cycle of street to jail to street
4. Eliminate arrests and prosecution of low-level drug possessions
5. Eliminate cash bail system for non-violent offenses
Ensure Expert & Fair Legal Defense
1. Establish a modern Public Defender’s Office (PDO) built on best practices and evidenced-based strategies
2. And if data proves our PDO is providing high-quality defense, expand it with the goal that the Public Defender represents every eligible defendant—except for when conflicts arise and other attorneys are needed
Shrink the Travis County Correctional Complex
1. Reduce the number of beds at the jail – incarceration is NOT the answer
2. When remodeling, focus on diversion and decarceration to determine the total number and design of units needed for men and women, (trauma informed, gender-specific) with an expectation of reducing the number of overall units
3. Consider gender-specific inmate needs for integrated healthcare, job training and family reunification when determining housing and program space
4. Ensure the goal of Zero Tolerance of in-custody deaths and assault
Improve Local Law Enforcement with Incentive Training for:
Undoing system racism/bias
Mental health first aid
Trauma informed care
Report the impact of these trainings, regularly
Improve our Response to Sexual Assault Cases
1. Ensure that every survivor has access to a forensic exam, medical treatment and advocacy so they can understand their options for care and justice
2. Fund the sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse units to provide adequate response, investigation and prosecution in a timely manner
3. Explore creation of a public-private partnership to establish a regional crime lab
Travis County provides direct services to residents and partners with nonprofit service organizations to provide families with the resources they need so everyone can reach their potential -- from mental health to women’s health, recovery programs, afterschool and early childcare, affordable and fair housing, and more.
As County Commissioner, I will make sure that artificially low revenue caps do not hamper our ability to provide topnotch services to our community. I will also get to work to harness our community's creative energy and wealth -- both of which are in abundant supply -- to help ensure that we are meeting our population's basic needs. Together, we can make a positive, lasting impact on the lives of our neighbors in need.