Austin City Council election: District 5’s unopposed incumbent says there is “more work to be done”

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Ann Kitchen, District 5’s Austin City Council representative, listed her first term accomplishments Thursday night, but she said the work that lies ahead motivated her to seek re-election.

The unopposed incumbent fielded questions during a candidate panel Thursday hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. Facing a sparse crowd of roughly 15 people at the South Austin Senior Activity Center, Kitchen touched on topics, such as transportation, public safety and flood mitigation.

The former state representative and attorney told the audience her sense of civic duty inspired her desire for local office, saying although much has been accomplished in her four years, there remains “ a lot” more work to be done.

Throughout her initial term, Kitchen has led on transportation issues. The candidate said District 5 had a bus access and frequency issue. She admitted solutions have evaded the City Council.

“We’re not there yet, but we’re working toward it,” Kitchen said.

As Austin continues to grow, so too does the tourism industry. Although hotel occupancy revenue has benefited, private companies like AirBnB—which allow property owners to rent out their property and skirt hotel occupancy taxes—have taken some of that revenue away. Kitchen said Austin should prioritize a deal with AirBnB so they can begin collecting that revenue.

However, Kitchen objects to a full audit of government spending, something supporters said could help the city’s bottom line. Voters will decide on the audit in November—which, although could save millions of dollars, could cost millions to conduct.

An audit, Kitchen said, would result in recommendations to curb spending on employee wages, benefits and programs; however, she said that would be against Austin’s values.

On public safety and the police contract, Kitchen said police officers should not be handling mental health issues or homeless intervention. She said Austin should spend public safety dollars on progressive programs.

Safety along Austin’s wetlands is another key issue for Kitchen, especially in a district that has seen millions of dollars worth of flood mitigation buyouts and projects. Kitchen said mitigation does not only mean buyouts but also includes management of the waterways and building infrastructure.

District 5 residents will vote in the uncontested election on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

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Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
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