March 14, 2022 6:00am

Affordability, transportation are top issues for Austin mayoral candidates

Most are content with AISD ditching its mask mandate and unsure whether Austin FC will make the playoffs

Photo of Andrea Zelinski
Austin, TX Correspondent
 

With a growing number of candidates applying for the top job as Austin’s next mayor, this city’s Power Poll members are clear that two of the top three issues they want talked about are affordability and transportation.

In a virtual tie for the third top issue are homelessness and public safety.

Here’s the breakdown: when asked what three issues the candidates should focus on, just more than half of Austin’s Power Poll members named affordability and 44% included transportation on their lists.

Homelessness came in with 41.4% of Power Poll members including it on their top-three list, and 40.5% included public safety.

In other findings, most everyone feels OK about masks coming off at Austin Independent School District, with almost half saying the timing was perfect.

In this month’s sports prediction, more than half of Power Poll members don’t know whether Austin FC will make the playoffs this season. Of those willing to make a prediction, just more than half say a playoff run is in the cards.

Here’s a breakdown of this month’s poll results:

This survey was sent to 413 Power Poll members in the Austin area, where 123 responded for a response rate of 29.78%. The Power Poll is not a scientific poll, but a peek into the minds and priorities of those who wield influence in Austin. This includes public officials, CEOs, small business owners, community activists, restaurant owners and others. The Power Poll is decidedly non-partisan.

Power Poll questions powerful leaders in approximately 25 cities across the country. Power Poll members share their opinions about pressing issues in their communities, giving the public a larger glimpse into what the people who run our cities are truly thinking. Power Poll aims to take similar surveys in the top 300 cities in the United States.

CONTEXT:

The Austin mayoral election will be decided in November this year. Mayor Steve Adler is term-limited and won’t be running for re-election, leaving the field open to anyone who thinks they have the right ideas and support to try their luck with voters without competing against the current officeholder who enjoys numerous benefits from incumbency.

Four mayoral hopefuls have announced their intentions to run for office, although candidates have until August to officially file to run. The current crop of candidates includes Celia Israel, a state representative; Kathie Tovo, a city council member; Kirk Watson, a former state senator and one-time Austin mayor; and Jennifer Virden, a real estate agent and former city council candidate.

The election could be an expensive one. According to the Austin American Statesman, political insiders predict the race could reach up to $1 million in campaign spending by the winner. And it could get complicated with Watson’s tenure as mayor more than 20 years ago possibly offering a residual benefit of incumbency.

However, candidates will have to present voters with plans for how to address issues facing the city, like how to address affordability, what will meaningfully address traffic congestion, and how to address homelessness and how to approach public safety.

One thing Power Poll members are less worried about right now is Covid. Not only did almost no one label Covid as a top-three issue for candidates, but 49% thought Austin Independent School District’s removal of a mask mandate on March 7 was “perfect timing.” Another 36% said, “it’s about time” the masks mandate ended.

As worries about the pandemic wane, some are turning to Austin FC as a distraction. Despite wild enthusiasm in the stadium among the fans, the football club had a disappointing first season, winning just nine games and scoring the fewest goals in the league in 2021. With the new season underway, the team is 2-0 as of this writing.

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