Gerald Daugherty, Republican (INCUMBENT)
- 854-9333 • firstname.lastname@example.org,www.votegerald.com
- Lived in precinct:10 years
- Education:Bachelor’s in physical education, University of Texas
- Career:Professional baseball player for the Boston Red Sox organization; owner and operator of different recreational and sports venues, including Austin Sports Center and Pleasant Valley Sportsplex
Q. What is the role of the county commissioner? A. The main duties are taking care of the county budget. [County spending] is really the responsibility of the Commissioners Court to administer, at least from a budgetary standpoint, and the county has about a $436 million operating budget. We have 47 elected officials in county government. Everyone has a budget, and the Commissioners Court has the responsibility of okaying everybody's budget, so to speak. Your biggest line item, obviously, is your employees. Now the particular issue and department that takes most of our budget is our jail, sheriff and the court system, which is all the responsibility of county government. Out of our $436 million budget, over $250 million goes to the [justice system], and the biggest part of that is the employees. Q. What would make you the best candidate? A. No. 1, I care. Most people would say Gerald Daugherty is a very hard-working, conscientious commissioner. I think if you look at my calendar, you would see how involved and how busy I am dealing with constituent issues. Really, when push comes to shove, that is what you want from elected officials. You want them to respond. That takes an incredible amount of time to the point sometimes that it hampers your planning ability or schedule because you literally can be so busy taking care of the needs of county government. Precinct three is pretty challenging. It is huge. It is 48 percent landmass of Travis County. I have over 50 percent of the county roads. Twenty-one of the 31 county parks are in precinct three. Eight of the 13 emergency service districts are in precinct three. I have the same staff that everybody else has. I don't have more people because each county commissioner represents the same amount, but mine is more sparsely populated. Q. What will be the greatest challenges for the next commissioner? A. The county budget is always the biggest challenge. There are so many things that we have to spend money on. With an eye and an ear to all that, what do you set the tax rate at? You can only deal with the demands and the needs you have via setting the tax rate. Other than transportation and mobility, which is sort of in a dimension of its own and on most people's minds, it always gets back to county taxes. That is a little challenging because when you talk about your tax bill, it comes from the county. Even though the county's portion is only about 16 to 18 percent of that total tax bill, it is still in people's mind, ÒHow judicious are you with spending tax dollars?Ó I think that I have always tried to be conscientious with what I ask people to give to government. When I first started, within the first six months of taking office, I determined I was going to try to lead by example with trying to do as much or more with less. The way I did that was by taking a 10 percent pay decrease. If I am going to ask departments, if I am going to ask people to do those things, then I think it is nice to lead by example and I continue to do so. I didn't tell people the first year and someone stumbled on it and asked why. They said I should put it on a big ad, and I said no because that would be political and that was not the point. I need to try to prove that I am a fiscal conservative. Do I spend money on things we have to spend money on? Sure, because there are things in county government that you don't have the discretion to spend or not to spend. I can't tell people not to bring people to jail when they have done something unlawful. We deal with those kinds of issues. I think the growth of county government is always important. Q. What will be your priority issues if you are reelected? A. Obviously, the budget is No. 1. I will always be looking at the possibilities in doing more for mobility and transportation. We need to find the dollars and spend them judiciously because transportation is the lifeline of any community. Getting from point A to point B deals with so many aspects of life. It affects work. Quality of life in Austin is another issue. I have been here for 40 years, and Austin has had good quality of life. You can have some challenges, though, because of mobility issues. The other thing is what we are going to do with the mentally challenged people in our jail system. Sometime they do things in an unlawful way. We cannot not deal with them, but it is starting to put pressure on our system, and we are not taking care of their needs. The mental health issue has gotten so large that it is filling our emergency rooms. It is stressing the state, which is pushing the issues to the local level. It is the whole nature of unintended consequences. Whenever the federal or state level is stressed with transportation or health issues, we must handle them. How we deal with them is our responsibility.
Karen Huber, Democrat
- 264-1891• info@VoteKarenHuber.com,www.votekarenhuber.com
- Lived in precinct:13 years
- Education:Bachelor’s in government and history, University of Texas; master’s in international business, University of North Texas
- Career:Business and economic development in conservation
Q. Where is it most important that the county spend money? A.The biggest part of the budget right now is the judicial system and the jails and law enforcement. That is where the biggest responsibility for decision-making comes. I think no matter the organization or entity, there is always room for improvement and I think we need to be diligent on how dollars are spent in all areas and especially the ones that go to the largest part of the budget. That said, I am a firm believer in planning for the future in order to avoid excessive costs in the future to cure problems. I think it is important to spend some now rather than a whole lot later. I do believe that with the explosive growth that we are already in the mode of catch-up. The costs for our roads have gone off the charts. Our infrastructure is lagging. Our taxes are going up to cover the infrastructure and I believe this growth should not be passing its costs off to the taxpayers. So we need to get aggressive in dealing with how growth should pay for itself, instead of taxpayers. Otherwise we will be faced with huge costs in the future. Q. What will be your priority issues? A.Transportation and fiscal prudence. Historically, I think people think the Democrats are going to raise taxes and the Republicans won’t. This race is really an issues race, not a partisan race, but if you look at the issues right now the incumbent has set a stage for future tax increases that will be necessary for infrastructure costs. I think we need to take a long look at the transportation issues, the mobility issues, particularly, and learn how to be prudent from a cost standpoint. Sometimes we need to pay a little more at the front end rather than the back end, but we are already behind. Addressing that would be one of my priorities. Q. You describe yourself as a conservationist. What is the role of county government to protect the environment? A.We have a wonderful lake system and wonderful recreational opportunities there. We have streams and rolling hills. We can continue to experience growth in these areas, but we need to look at how to do it in a way that preserves our natural areas. They are the golden goose. The county has not, in my opinion, done all it can to preserve natural resources. Q. What made you decide to run for office? b I have been involved in the growth issues and the problems that come out of the explosive growth we have had. The last probably six years I got involved because my background helped me to understand the problems. I also, being a native Texan, did not like what I saw happening in a really, really urbanizing area. So I got involved in those issues pretty diligently. Last year, we tried to work with the incumbent throughout that period and didnÕt feel like we were getting the results we needed. In fact, I felt there was a significant amount of stonewalling. He, in my opinion, marches to special interests. He works toward short-term goals, not long-term goals, and I think we need to plan for the future. I am very much an advocate for regional planning. It costs us so much to deal with the problems after the fact. Last year, [we had] a frustrating legislative session where the incumbent did not do anything to help get counties the power they need to ensure that we have got the infrastructure in place and we donÕt have to pay more for it later. With him working against our efforts in the Legislature, we started looking for someone to run against him. A lot of different people were talked to and considered, but there wasnÕt anyone who we felt as a whole — this was not a group; it was individuals — who we felt could win. With my experience of working with the issues and professional background, people started pointing fingers at me. I said, ÒNo way!Ó But you know, my husband and I, we are retired and we talked about it at length with partisan and bipartisan people — and it was just the right thing to do. We need to have major proactive efforts to deal with the issues or we are going to be stuck in the future decades to come. Can the county solve them? No. By themselves? No. But [with] this precinct, which is one of the two precincts in Travis County that is growing the fastest, good leadership in this area and [by] working collaboratively for regional planning and focusing on exercising the authority the county does have, it is a step. Q. What is the most important role of a county commissioner? A. To administer good government by responsibly managing those areas of county government and to be responsive to the voting public, the constituents and being proactive in their issues that relate to county government. Q. How do you feel about toll roads? A. In principle, I am opposed to toll roads. I do believe we are already so far behind where we need to be in our transportation and our mobility issues, we may have to tolerate some toll roads to get to a point where we can make better decisions. I do not believe in setting toll roads as a policy as a solution. I donÕt think we should vote to toll a road without exhausting all other possibilities. I think, with the gas price the way it is and knowing we have a finite supply, we might be able to experience some relief in the short-term future. With the long term, the painting is on the wall. So I think for the long term, the wake up call in the recent months is a ÒhelloÓ for where we are with our regional planning that relates to our mobility. Some of the roads are on hold because of TxDOTÕs financing problems, and many problems, perhaps, should be reconsidered from a regional approach to mobility. One of the reasons I think I will win is because people are ready for change. It is going to take leadership stepping forward in several areas. We donÕt have in Texas the capacity to do effective regional planning that encompasses all the moving parts. We have the LCRA making water decisions, TCEQ making a lot of the environmental decisions or not making [decisions], we have CAMPO making road decisions, we have the city of Austin making its comprehensive plan, but it does not include the unincorporated areas and that is where a lot of the growth is. So what need in order to get in the right direction, absent a regional capacity to do effective planning, is we need leadership from each of the areas, such as the county, city, CAMPO, Envision Central Texas and really work hard to collaborate together. I was looking at more of the CAMPO 2030 plans. It stops at Travis County. I live out on Hwy. 71 west. The growth in Burnet and Llano is awesome, and it is not even considered in the plan. We cannot just make decisions in a bubble from a county standpoint or in an item standpoint, say with water or highways. They are all related. We need to work with the surrounding counties and get out of the CAMPO and RMA areas. We need to work with them, and that is what I have done professionally. The counties need more authority. One of the problems with Travis County is since most of the growth has been happening in precinct three, it has been the incumbentÕs role to be proactive in dealing with it. And he has not chosen to do so. So he has been a barrier to the county exercising the authority it does have to work with growth planning. There is more the county can do. Q. What differentiates you from the other candidates? A. I am only familiar with incumbent. He is reacting. It takes a crisis to get attention. I am a planner. I am a forward thinker beyond the short term and what we can and cannot do. I do not march to a handful of special interests. I believe that we have a government to represent the majority of the people, and I plan to represent the majority of the people.
Wes Benedict , Libertarian
- 442-4910 • email@example.com,www.wesbenedict.com
- Lived in precinct:One year
- Education:Bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, University of Texas; master’s in engineering, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
- Career:Manufacturing engineer at 3M; president and partial owner of manufacturing company in South Austin; executive director of the Libertarian Party of Texas
Q.What is the role of a county commissioner? A.Transportation and tax rates are the two biggest things. I am for freezing the taxes in this area and not wasting money on expensive transportation projects such as light rail and toll roads. Rail and toll roads are the most expensive way to add capacity to the transportation system, so I am against that. Q.If you freeze taxes, where would you change spending? A.Governments find ways to spend as much money as they can get their hands on. I have worked as a business consultant, owned my own business, worked on efficiency improvements for lots of other businesses. As a county commissioner, [who was] freezing the budget, I would demand the department heads and managers find ways to cut costs. That means cutting programs, reducing head counts. In addition, I would stop these multi-million-dollar giveaways. They are not paying their share. That dynamic creates an incentive for corruption, whether the deals are legal or illegal. When a commissioner can decide whether you pay $50 million in taxes or not, you have got a lot of incentive. Q.Why are you running for office? A.With rents and property taxes going up, I had to move out from Central Austin. I had my county commissioner precinct map when I was deciding where to move because I have been involved with the Libertarian party for years. I thought it would be fun to help kick Gerald Daugherty out of office. Q. What makes you the better candidate? A. [The incumbent] kind of let the commuter rail [from Leander to downtown] pass. I think he let that happen so he could get support for toll roads. It ended up only the Libertarian Party was against commuter rail. The Republicans, Democrats, Austin Real Estate Council, Austin American-Statesman, the Chronicle, everyone endorsed it but the Libertarians. He is certainly in favor of roads, but sometimes politicians look the other way and taxpayers are the ones who suffer. Q. What would you do to improve transportation? A. People say, We donÕt have enough transportation, yet somehow they are proposing to build rail and toll roads, which are very expensive solutions. I think we could build, add road capacity for a lot less money by improving ground-level roads and more lanes. Over the past 10 years, they could have easily upgraded the Y with some very inexpensive improvements. I think they held off so people would be tricked into supporting toll roads. Also, I would stop subsidizing new businesses to move here. We have had it drilled in our heads that Central Texas is going to double in population in 20 to 25 years, and that is why our roads are so congested. I don't know why we assume the best thing for Austin is to double in population. It is a nice enough place that people will move here on their own. We should stop subsidizing people and businesses to move here. Q. If you freeze taxes, where would you decrease or freeze spending? A. Governments find ways to spend as much money as they can get their hands on. I have worked as a business consultant, owned my own business, worked on efficiency improvements for lots of other businesses. As a county commissioner [who was] freezing the budget, I would demand the department heads and managers find ways to cut costs, and that means cutting programs, reducing head counts. In addition, I would stop these multi-million dollar giveaways. They are not paying their share. That dynamic creates an incentive for corruption, whether the deals are legal or illegal. When a commissioner or a politician can decide whether you pay $50 million in taxes or not, you have got a lot of incentive to effect me with legal bribery. Q. What would differentiate you from the other candidates? A. I am for tax cuts, freezing the budget and for low cost transportation solutions. My political hero today is Ron Paul, and I bet I am the only one in this race that supports him.