Austin City Council District 7 candidates Leslie Pool and Natalie Gauldin comment on key city issues

District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool is set to square off against challenger Natalie Gauldin in the Nov. 8 election.

District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool is set to square off against challenger Natalie Gauldin in the Nov. 8 election.

Two candidates are vying to represent District 7 on Austin City Council: incumbent Leslie Pool and challenger Natalie Gauldin. District 10 encompasses the 78756, 78757, 78758 and 78727 ZIP codes, which include parts of North Austin.

Community Impact Newspaper asked each candidate a series of questions in advance of the Nov. 8 election. The candidates’ answers are listed in the order of their place on the ballot. Answers have been edited for style, grammar and punctuation.

What would be your top priority if elected/re-elected?


Pool: Uncontrolled growth presents great challenges in terms of keeping Austin affordable and protecting our neighborhoods. These have been and will continue to be two of my top priorities. I voted to establish the first-ever city of Austin homestead exemption for all homeowners and to raise the exemption to $82,500 for seniors. I also received the highest grade of all council members from the Austin Neighborhoods Council for my work support our neighborhoods.

Gauldin: I would like to place a focus on achieving greater household affordability and improving our transportation options. I grew up here in the very area I’m running to represent. Many of my childhood friends have been priced out and now must live in the suburbs where they contribute to the traffic congestion issues we experience daily. Austinites need to have more choices in where they can afford to live and how they commute around town.

What is your stance on The Grove at Shoal Creek, a proposed development that is not in District 7 but could be affected by it?


Pool: The proposed development as currently construed is unacceptable. Much more needs to be done to mitigate the traffic this development will cause, and there are real concerns about flooding. Additionally, from the time the PUD [planned unit development] was proposed last year, and before that as chair of the Design Principles Workgroup for the Bull Creek Road Coalition, I advocated for significant affordable housing and a sizeable park on the land.

Gauldin: Mixed-use, live/work/play neighborhoods are popular with Austinites and important for sustainable growth, so I support efforts to make this project succeed. My position has always been to look to city of Austin staff for recommendations on technical aspects of the plan such as drainage and traffic. I will not support a project that overwhelms nearby intersections with traffic or floods the area after a major rain event. See fotgatx.com for more information.


What resources could your district use more of?


Pool: It’s critical that we provide improvements for congestion in the district. The current [mobility] bond proposal will provide needed funding for more sidewalks around our schools so parents and children can walk or bike to and from school safely. We also need to make sure to provide consistent funding for our parks, pools and libraries. Time after time, survey after survey, residents list these community assets as top priorities.

Gauldin: Some improvements at the top of the list include: sidewalks, safe pedestrian crossings, flood mitigation (drainage), affordable housing, and improvements to public spaces like parks and libraries. In addition, I want to give residents in the northern part of the district a louder voice at City Hall. To do this, it will be important to open an in-district office north of US 183 and champion technology that allows residents to go on public record more easily.

How would you assess the CodeNEXT process thus far? What lessons can we take from the process?


Pool: CodeNEXT is a huge effort that has taken considerable time and money, but it’s critical for Austin’s future and should be funded sufficiently to get the job done. The project has made it clear that rewriting the land development code is necessary to successfully reform the permitting process, so it’s more efficient and less expensive, making the development process easier for residents and businesses to follow. Community engagement is the key to public acceptance.

For CodeNEXT to be successful, it’s important for Austinites to understand how they can participate in shaping the code. Community engagement will be the key to public acceptance of the new code and is a necessity for code adoption. Expanding the use online engagement tools and outreach to all communities in Austin is needed to make this happen.

Gauldin: It has moved very slowly and we’ve lost several talented staff members. We need change for this city, and the rewrite of the land development code can help to push our growth in a more responsible direction. We must be able to retain talented staff members capable of executing Imagine Austin, the community’s plan.  I look forward to seeing the draft come out and helping to implement a smart, progressive vision for Austin’s future.
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