Austin Neighborhoods Council says “no” on Proposition 1

Drivers for taxi companies raise their hands after an Austin City Council member asked who had done a fingerprint background check during discussion about ride sharing services Uber and Lyft on Thursday, October 15, 2015. The Austin City Council, after a two-hour discussion about the efficacy of various types of background checks, overwhelmingly passed a resolution Thursday night to develop requirements for fingerprint-based criminal background checks for drivers with ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. Proposition 1 on the May 7 ballot would repeal fingerprint checks for Uber and Lyft drivers. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Drivers for taxi companies raise their hands after an Austin City Council member asked who had done a fingerprint background check during discussion about ride sharing services Uber and Lyft on Thursday, October 15, 2015. The Austin City Council, after a two-hour discussion about the efficacy of various types of background checks, overwhelmingly passed a resolution Thursday night to develop requirements for fingerprint-based criminal background checks for drivers with ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. Proposition 1 on the May 7 ballot would repeal fingerprint checks for Uber and Lyft drivers. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Austin Neighborhoods Council has weighed in on the Uber- and Lyft-backed Proposition 1 that goes before Austin voters on May 7. The neighborhood group is urging Austinites to vote “no” on the proposed ordinance.

The ballot can be confusing. But in simple terms voters are being asked to replace the city’s current ordinance that requires Uber and Lyft drivers to undergo fingerprint-based background checks with an ordinance (Proposition 1) written by the ride-sharing companies.

Among other things, the Uber and Lyft Prop 1 would eliminate fingerprint checks, drop requirements for so-called trade dress (emblems, such as Lyft’s pink mustaches that identify its vehicles/drivers) and repeal requirements that stop Lyft and Uber drivers from loading and unloading passengers in travel lanes. The ordinance also would allow Uber and Lyft to set fees they pay to the city.

As I’ve mentioned, the larger issues is whether it is the ride-hailing companies or the city that gets to write the rules of engagement for how corporations operate in the city. A vote for Proposition 1, or yes-vote, hands that authority to Uber and Lyft.

Below is the content of the resolution passed by the Austin Neighborhoods Association:

RESOLUTION ON PROPOSITION 1 REGARDING TRANSPORTATION NETWORK COMPANIES
WHEREAS, the Austin City Council was duly elected through a democratic process by
voters in Austin, and,
WHEREAS, the City Council enacted reasonable public safety and other regulations for
transportation companies operating in the City, and,
WHEREAS, corporate power and money is being utilized in an attempt to repeal public
safety regulations that were enacted by the City Council through a fair and transparent
public stakeholder process, and,
WHEREAS, public safety is a high priority for families that live in Austin
neighborhoods, and,
WHEREAS, corporations should not dictate local regulations in Austin, NOW;
THEREFORE,
BE IT RESOLVED THAT, the Austin Neighborhoods Council (ANC) Executive
Committee hereby urges voters in Austin to vote against Proposition 1 on May 7, 2016.
Presented to the ANC Executive Committee: April 13, 2016
Approved and Adopted: April 13, 2016

 

 

Can wave of citizenship applications hurt Trump? Maybe.

Julio Leon, left, collects study materials from Jose Franco during a naturalization workshop in Denver, Feb. 27, 2016. Donald Trump, a Republican presidential hopeful, has used harsh language against Mexican immigrants, compelling legal residents to seek citizenship in time to vote against him in November. (Theo Stroomer/The New York Times)
Julio Leon, left, collects study materials from Jose Franco during a naturalization workshop in Denver, Feb. 27, 2016. Donald Trump, a Republican presidential hopeful, has used harsh language against Mexican immigrants, compelling legal residents to seek citizenship in time to vote against him in November. (Theo Stroomer/The New York Times)

While the number of applications for naturalization generally rises during presidential election years, Donald Trump has provided an extra boost for just such efforts this year. All across the nation, the fear of a Trump presidency and its possible accompanying anti-immigrant policies have created urgency for thousands of immigrants to become U.S. citizens.

Throughout his campaign, Trump — despite describing Mexicans as drug-traffickers and rapists, pledging to build a border wall and vowing to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. — has assured us all that he has the Latino vote in his pocket because, well,  Latinos know he is a job creator. Really? A surge in naturalization applications suggests otherwise.

Motivated by the fear rooted in the harsh immigration rhetoric that’s become all too common in GOP presidential race, many Latino immigrants are taking the steps to become voters. [Now if only all Latinos eligible to vote in the U.S. felt as compelled, Latinos would finally be that force so many politicians fear. (I’ll come back to that point in a separate commentary at a later date.)]

Figures from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show a 14.5 percent jump in naturalization applications between June-December of 2015 compared with the same six months in the previous year. And that pace speeds up every week. Advocates estimate applications could approach one million in 2016, about 200,000 more than the average in recent years, reported the New York Times.

While much of the citizenship movement have been reported in Colorado, Florida and California, there has been a significant uptick in applications in Texas as well.

In San Antonio, a citizenship workshop in September drew approximately 400 people — up from the 150 to 200 that normally show up, Liliana Mireles, a regional program manager of civic engagement for the NALEO Educational Fund told Texas Tribune reporter Alexa Ura.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Proyecto Inmigrante, which typically helps about 1,000 legal residents apply for naturalization each year, has already has already helped 900 in 2016, the group’s director told Ura.

There is no hard deadline to apply for immigrants set on  voting in November, but with approval of naturalization applications taking about five months, immigrant groups in Texas are urging folks to get applications in by April 15 to allow new citizens time to register to vote.

Those who become citizens by then will then have to clear two more hurdles: registering to vote and showing up to the poll. Until each one of those ‘must-do’ boxes are checked, the opportunity to have a voice will go unheard.

 

These two election-related podcasts will give you some of the perspective you seek

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally in Hickory, North Carolina, on Monday. (Chuck Burton / Associated Press)

Perspective is a wonderful thing. Two podcasts — one historical, the other focused on the numbers of the 2016 campaign — can help you put this year’s crazy presidential election in its place.

First, the history. “Presidential” is a Washington Post podcast about, as its name implies, the presidency and the men who have been president. Host Lillian Cunningham assumes a winning naïveté as she interviews historians and journalists, reads from speeches and diaries and old newspaper accounts, and generally pokes into some dusty, forgotten corners to try to discover how each president became president and what each president — “effective or ineffective, esteemed or forgotten” — has to say about the nation’s highest office.

The podcast began Jan. 10. Its 44 weekly episodes, posted each Sunday, are scheduled to conclude Nov. 6, two days before Election Day, with a look at Barack Obama. Because “Presidential” plans 44 episodes, and not 43, I guess I can look forward to its covering Grover Cleveland twice, since he is our 22nd and 24th president. I can’t wait to hear Cunningham take us down the Mugwump path to the Pullman strike.

So far, episodes are averaging an undemanding 39 minutes. The most recent episode, the podcast’s 10th, was about John Tyler, the first vice president to assume the presidency upon the death of a president — in Tyler’s case, William Henry Harrison — thus establishing what became known as the “Tyler Precedent.” Tyler was a lousy president, but he’s the other half of the greatest campaign song — turned campaign slogan — in presidential history, “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.”

In 2004, They Might Be Giants released a fantastic version of the song used to defeat that “used up man,” Martin Van Buren, in 1840. Enjoy.

So what perspective does “Presidential” offer? That we’re no crazier than generations of Americans that have gone before us. That we have survived numerous bad presidents in the past. That we’ll probably survive President Trump, too.

The other podcast I want to recommend is “FiveThirtyEight Elections,” produced by the website started by statistical guru Nate Silver, whose number-crunching work has been a necessary political read since 2008.

“Elections” features Silver, host Jody Avirgan, political reporter Clare Malone and Harry Enten, who’s always introduced as FiveThirtyEight’s resident “whiz kid” but who comes across more often as its resident curmudgeon. New episodes post each Monday, and as election results merit. The focus is on polls and votes and what conclusions, if any, can be drawn from the data. But the media — primarily the cable news networks; yeah, looking at you CNN, Fox and MSNBC — are frequently criticized for the occasionally stupid things their analysts and correspondents say and for their frequently misleading and incorrect use of polls and numbers.

What you learn from listening to “Elections” is what any longtime reader of FiveThirtyEight should know by now: Political campaigns are long affairs that reveal themselves slowly. Nothing can tell you anything with certainty — and certainly not a single poll.

In other words: Always take the longer view.

 

Should parents really worry about Donald Trump?

Donald Trump
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the Trump National Golf Club, Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Word to the wise, parents. Your kids are watching you more closely than they are watching Donald Trump.

New York Times writer Sarah Lyall’s piece this week about how parents are dealing with the Trump factor with kids had made the rounds in political and parenting circles. Name calling, mentions of body parts during debates and generally discussions about bullying are popping up left and right because of the nature of the the political discourse this election cycle. During MSNBC’s Morning Joe, journalist Cokie Roberts tried to pin down Trump (video) on the effect that his rhetoric is reportedly having on American children:

“There have been incidents of children, white children, pointing to their darker-skinned classmates and saying, ‘You’ll be deported when Donald Trump is president.’ There have been incidents of white kids at basketball games holding up signs to teams which have Hispanic kids on them, saying, ‘We’re going to build a wall to keep you out,'” Roberts asked Trump on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “Are you proud of that? Is that something you’ve done in American political and social discourse that you’re proud of?”

“Well, I think your question is a very nasty question,” Trump replied. “And I’m not proud of it because I didn’t even hear of it, okay? And I don’t like it at all when I hear about it. You’re the first one whose told me about it.”

My girls are young – 6 and 8. They did not watch the now infamous debate, but if they had, I suspect the reference to Trump’s anatomy would have gone way over their heads. What has not gone over their heads are the snippets on the news about Trump’s and other candidates views on immigrants and women. My oldest is one of those kids who knows which of her classmates parents are immigrants, she knows what the border patrol is and does from driving through El Paso, and yes, she’s fairly convinced that Trump would kick all her friends’ families out.

Of course there are those who argue that such “politically correct” views are exactly what Trump is railing against. But since when did public bigotry and vulgarity come back into favor? There was a time when such behavior was considered inappropriate even if children were not in earshot.

I will say that while I have no problem letting my kids watch a debate if they were interested, anyone who does so should be prepared for questions on all manner of sensitive topics: race relations, poverty, terrorism, torture, abortion. Not exactly the stuff of bedtime stories. Schoolyard innuendos about a candidate’s sexuality are frankly small potatoes.

But the important thing to remember is that kids aren’t watching Trump in a vacuum. Children’s interpretations are a reflection of their parents and those they personally respect — they aren’t watching Trump, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio or even President Obama for how to act, as much as they looking to how we respond to the  candidate’s actions or statements. They are leaning over our shoulder watching our Facebook posts, listening to whether we cheer when a candidate gets a zinger in,  noting when we chuckle in agreement with a one-liner or copying our nods of approval.

That’s where children get “permission” to single other kids out on the playground. That’s where they  model behavior with their friends, interpret what they see with a child’s lens of social appropriateness and see how far it gets them.

My younger daughter told me the other day that one of her classmates told her that President Obama was evil, and she wanted to know if that was true. I had to carefully explain that there are a lot of people, including at her school, who don’t agree with with his politics or his decisions, but that he is a good man doing what he believes is right. However, I’m betting that the kindergartner who told her that didn’t get it from Trump, Ted Cruz or anyone else running for office. She is repeating what her parents have said to others or to each other at the dinner table.

The real question regarding Trump is whether one can bully, needle and insult his or her way to the presidency? We shall see. If our children start seeing such behavior as a ticket to success, don’t blame Trump or any of the other candidates, blame ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Republican debate

Shameful. Disgraceful. Embarrassing. Sickening.

I suppose there are viewers who found Thursday night’s Republican debate in Detroit entertaining, but halfway through last night’s carnival of personal, childish insults, I actually felt nauseous. One of the four men on the debate stage — well, three of the four men on stage last night; I feel for you, John Kasich, I really do — will be the Republican nominee for president, and thus potentially will be president.

To compare Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump to the Three Stooges is to insult the Three Stooges. Nonetheless:

The debate was also insufferable, but that adjective applies mostly to the live audience — booing, hissing and cheering — and, as usual, Cruz.

Though Cruz’s insufferableness did set up the only moment of genuine wit in a debate that began with Trump bragging about the size of his penis:

“Donald, please. I know it’s hard not to interrupt. But try. Breathe, breathe, breathe,” Cruz told Trump as Trump talked over him. “You can do it. You can breathe. I know it’s hard. I know it’s hard.”

Rubio, off camera and delivering the night’s second-best line: “When they’re done with the yoga, can I answer a question?”

Cruz: “I really hope that we don’t see yoga on this stage.”

Rubio, with the night’s best line, referencing an earlier answer by Trump: “Well, he’s very flexible, so you never know.”

Fox News has been solid through all the debates it has hosted. Last night’s moderators — Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace — were prepared, knowledgeable and obviously had watched John Oliver’s takedown of “Donald Drumpf” earlier in the week:

Kelly was especially sharp. Her exchange with Trump, in which she pushed Trump to explain his statements in three video clips showing him contradicting himself on Afghanistan and other issues, was the kind of debate question we should see more often.

And yet, as much as I appreciated the questions asked by Fox’s panel, a point arrived where it seemed as though Fox was doing the hapless Republican establishment’s bidding and trying to take down Trump. The moderators didn’t press Rubio and Cruz with the same detail or vigor. For example, Cruz repeated his pants-on-fire claim about Obamacare as a killer of millions of jobs and no one challenged him on it.

Trump is winning, but as The Associated Press reported, he’s not yet on track to secure the Republican nomination. The Republican establishment desperately continues to search for a way to stop Trump without suffering severe blowback from Trump’s voters, who already suffer, not entirely unreasonably, from the sense of betrayal.

And yet, despite all the fretting — despite the #NeverTrump movement on Twitter — if Trump wins the nomination, Republicans will be there to rally behind him. At the end of last night’s debate, Cruz, Rubio and Kasich (listed here in order of the begrudging enthusiasm, from least to most, with which they answered the question) said they would back Trump if Trump were the nominee.

Trump might be a phony and a fraud and a con artist. But he’s the Republicans’ phony and fraud and con artist. So the personal insults may not prove to be so personal after all. It’s just politics.

In an economically segregated city, Super Tuesday voting makes sense

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Early voters wait in line at the Travis County Clerk’s office at Airport Boulevard. Who county voters chose in the primary depended largely on where they live and where they fall on the socioeconomic spectrum. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Politics are local, and if you doubt that, just take a look at the maps of Travis County’s Super Tuesday polling results.

Recall for a minute that Austin is one of the most economically segregated cities in America. That fact alone makes maps like these that show how precincts broke in Tuesday’s primary races very compelling.

Let’s take the Democrats first.

Who is “Feeling the Bern” in Travis County? Well, they are the folks living in the tight corridor between Interstate 35 and Mopac Boulevard. The same Austinites who are screaming the loudest about skyrocketing property taxes and rents. They are not as wealthy as their neighbors to the west — in West Lake Hills, Lost Creek and Steiner Ranch — who also grouse about their bills, but have more of a cushion to absorb the financial hit.

At the same time, the precincts that went for Sen. Bernie Sanders are also generally better educated and less ethnically diverse than their neighbors to the east, who appear to believe that Hillary Clinton is the better, safer bet.

And the economic realities don’t just apply to Democrats. Take a look at Travis County Republicans and you see a three-way split. Marco Rubio took Travis County to the tune of 29 percent with Ted Cruz coming in second with 28 percent — one big reason Travis County tracked differently than the rest of the state had to do with economics (and maybe a little bit of Democrats trying to damage Donald Trump by voting in the the opposite party primary according to anecdotal reports.)

Looking at the same precinct map on the Republican side, wealthier voters in the center city and increasingly gentrified areas of East Austin went for Rubio (plus Circle C, Westlake Hills and Lakeway) and Ted Cruz held strong with suburban voters from Pflugerville to Lago Vista. Trump’s constituency is in the less affluent corners of the county — the rural far northeast corner and the corridor along U.S. 183 between I-35 and the airport. The precinct that tied with Ted Cruz? Home to Circuit of the Americas. The one area that breaks the economic mold? Steiner Ranch which appears to be Trump country for reasons that are still unclear.

So how do such dynamics play out in local races? Just look at the Democratic race for Travis County commissioner in Precinct 1. The two front-runners, Jeff Travillion and Arthur Sampson are headed to a runoff in May, but the votes from this week are telling about where their base lies, especially in a race where all five candidates were African American men.

Travillion, a City of Austin division  manager who is deeply connected and lives in Pflugerville, did well in the more diverse areas of the precinct, which have relatively higher incomes and and more education — Pflugerville, Manor and near East Austin. He and James Nortey, who lives in Mueller, were essentially fighting for the same voter, especially in the precincts closer to the heart of Austin which were more familiar with his neighborhood association work and efforts on the city’s planning commission.

Arthur Sampson did better in City of Austin neighborhoods that have not felt the effects of gentrification as strongly and are hungry for economic development that will not speed the exodus of African Americans from the city. They represent some of the poorest families in the city with the fewest college graduates. The third place candidate, Richard Franklin, succeeded in his home turf of Del Valle, where he is known for his work on the school board. It’s an area that is more than 60 percent Hispanic and relies the most heavily on Travis County for public safety and other services.

For those casting about trying to make sense of this crazy election cycle, some things have not changed. Voters still cast their ballots based on their common interests and the view is very different from where one sits  on the wage and education spectrum. Clearly, Austin’s economic segregation in Austin can make it hard to see that other political point of view.

 

 

 

Gary Cobb’s fall in Travis DA race was of his own making

rbz Election Day 12
Democratic candidate for Travis County District Attorney Gary Cobb greets voters as the polls at Zilker Elementary school on Kinney Ave. Cobb lost to former county commissioner Margaret Moore in Tuesday’s primary. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The fall of Gary Cobb appeared to happen practically overnight, but in fact, his political demise in last night’s Democratic primary race for district attorney was more than 20 years in the making.

Cobb was the heir apparent to sitting District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg — the leading and only Democrat in the race until reports in the Statesman last November about a pending court ordered debt in a decades-old divorce case and seemingly contradictory statements under oath about his financial affairs.The controversy motivated two Democratic challengers and on Tuesday night Margaret Moore trounced Cobb in the three-way race 60 percent to 34 percent. Defense attorney Rick Reed (who chose to encourage supporters to vote for Moore on Tuesday) earned 6 percent of the vote.

Given the political make-up and history of Travis County, a win in the Democratic primary nearly assures that the winner will become the county’s top prosecutor. The legal community and several powerful local Democrats considered the questions raised in the November story serious enough to recruit Moore, rather than risk the loss of a reliably Democratic seat. Cobb was unable to shake the shadow cast on his professional credibility as an officer of the court.

We acknowledged Cobb’s flaws when we endorsed him in February, but we were  concerned by Moore’s insistence that the job was merely one of administration. Considering the current state of tumult in the national conversation over how criminal justice is dispensed in communities of color, we thought Cobb was better prepared for the post.

Cobb has no one to blame for his loss but himself. Those who aspire to elected office should deal with legal entanglements before asking voters for their support. They should also conduct themselves under oath with circumspection. To do any less is to open up oneself to the sort of attacks Cobb faced and eventually succumbed to on Tuesday night.

Moore still must face Republican and civil litigator Maura Phelan in November. Hopefully Moore will use the political intermission to strengthen her ties to the community beyond the legal community and consider ways that, if elected in November, she might be able to work with new Travis County sheriff and the county’s police chiefs to implement reforms that help strengthen the community and the taxpayers, while keeping us all safe.

 

 

 

 

Trump sealed the Latino vote? Not quite

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 23: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a caucus night watch party at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino on February 23, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The New York businessman won his third state victory in a row in the "first in the West" caucuses. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV – FEBRUARY 23: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a caucus night watch party at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino on February 23, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The New York businessman won his third state victory in a row in the “first in the West” caucuses. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Hold on, not so fast Mr. Trump. On Tuesday, during your victory speech after winning the Nevada caucuses you proudly proclaimed winning 46 percent of the Latino vote. However, that very impressive number does not tell the true and whole tale of the Nevada Latino vote — nor does it stand up to the rest of the U.S. Latino vote.

“Forty-six percent! Number one with Hispanics!” You said. I beg to differ.

Sure, there is no denying that entrance polls showed you won a significant percent of Latinos who were polled — while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz only garnered 28 percent and 18 percent respectively of that vote.

Beating the two Latino candidates in the race is reason enough to gloat. But, a win would also mean you had proven wrong all those who said your hateful anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric would cost you the Latino vote. Revel you should…unless of course, your win was no win at all.

As a businessman, Mr. Trump, you know the truth is in the numbers. And in this case, 46 percent is but a very small portion of a much larger whole.

It is no secret that, like the majority of Latinos in the U.S., Nevada’s Latino voters mostly support Democrats. That’s not likely to change this presidential election. With that claim, I can almost hear you heckle: “That’s not what Tuesday’s exit poll say.” What do those numbers really say, exactly? Not much.

Here, David Damore, a Senior Analyst at Latino Decisions, explains the Nevada ‘win’ best:

“In a recent poll asking about party identification, 55 percent of Latinos said they were Democrats, 29 percent said Independents and just 16 percent said they were Republicans. Assuming the entrance poll is correct (a very big assumption) and Trump won 44 percent of Latino Republicans, that means he was supported by about 7 percent of Latinos in Nevada (44 percent of 16 = 7.04). What that means is that most likely, 93 percent of Latinos in Nevada did not vote for Trump,” David Damore wrote in a statement on Tuesday.

Ouch. That’s gotta hurt.

And, if the 2012 presidential race is any indicator, things won’t look much better in November. If you recall, President Obama won the Hispanic vote 70 percent to Mitt Romney’s 25 percent in Nevada, according to the Pew Research Center. Yes, it’s true, that year Obama votes were down from the 76 percent share he won in 2008, but experts don’t expect much to change in how Latinos in Nevada or other states vote in November.

Still, if you are to seal the Latino vote as you’ve said many times during your campaign, time is ticking.

Texas already predicts to be a loss for you. And while Republican governors Rick Perry and Greg Abbott were able to wrangle the Latino vote here in significant numbers – 38 percent in 2010 and 44 percent in 2014, respectively – Republican presidential candidates have not fared well in this state with Latinos. In 2012, much like in Nevada, Obama won 70 percent of the Latino vote to Romney’s 29 percent.

That’s not to say you can’t still win our vote. In fact, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette believes you can do it and is one of the few who see your Nevada win as real.

But to say you’ve already won us over… well, that’s not really the case at all. When, if ever, you’ve won real numbers —not just parts of parts —then let’s talk.

Identity politics unlikely to work with young Austinites

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Mayor Steve Adler, center, flanked by Council members, from left, Greg Casar, Leslie Pool, Ora Houston, Pio Renteria, Kathie Tovo, Sheri Gallo and Delia Garza, announce their support for fellow council member Ann Kitchen, who has received criticism for her stance on fingerprint requirements for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

So, Austin will have its ballot showdown between the City Council and the ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft in May. The exasperation coming from the dais is clear, however council members — especially Mayor Steve Adler and embattled Council Member Ann Kitchen — should take a page from the national political landscape.

However well-intentioned one’s policies may be, this next generation of voters are not likely to accept the notion that they should just trust that their elders know what is best for them. Delivery and transparency are everything these days, especially with millennials and members of Generation X. If you talk down to them, be prepared for them to tune you out, or worse — turn on you.

Exhibit No.1: Hillary Clinton vs. Bernie Sanders. Last year it was clear that Clinton assumed that the youthful energy amassed from President Obama’s campaign would automatically transfer to her. But the “youngsters” who propelled Obama to office aren’t so young anymore. They are in their mid-30s; they are parents and homeowners.

They have more skin in the game now, but they are still less likely to behave politically like baby boomers. You could sense Clinton struggling to speak to that demographic after her defeat in New Hampshire and as she campaigned in Nevada and South Carolina. Her quandary is how to use the familiar, time-tested tools of identity politics to rally traditional, older voters, while not irritating younger, newer voters. Her performance last weekend was strong, but only time will tell whether she can convince those under-45 to turn out for her and vote.

The turnout question is an important one. In the past four election cycles, millennials have proven to be fickle when it comes to casting ballots. So do millennials matter politically? Absolutely, voting age millennials outnumber baby boomers already. Even if they don’t show up at the polls at the same rate, their sheer numbers have the ability to swing elections, especially those that are issue-based, not personality- or party-based.

Which brings me back to Austin and the ride-hailing election slated for May.

The divide is generational in a way that is much broader than whether one is comfortable ordering a ride over the internet. While I support Kitchen and Delia Garza in insisting that the city should be responsible for public safety, their message is essentially patriarchal (or matriarchal in this case). You elected us; therefore you should trust us.

My unsolicited suggestion to the yet-to-be-formed PAC: Make this election less about council power being usurped (still true), and more about the right of every passenger to feel confident that they are reasonably safe in the rides they hail, whether it is 2 a.m. or 4 p.m. whether they are drunk or sober. In an era where millions are victimized by identity theft each year, it is vanity for Uber and Lyft to consider themselves immune and counter-intuitive for riders to give up the assurance that their driver is in fact who he or she claims to be.

As the board has said in the past, this push for an election is not driven by the ride-hailing companies’ deep passion for this community or for the contractors who drive for them, it’s being driven by their corporate bottom line. And while capitalism and public good is not mutually exclusive, it does put the onus on the ride-hailing companies to truly earn public trust rather than steamroll the process.

The city will get further with a dialog that respects the concerns of the service’s users than treating those who question their judgment like wayward teenagers.

 

 

 

 

 

City, County officials make right move by extending hours at 5 voting polls

Austin Mayor Steve Adler takes advantage of an early voting location Thursday morning at City Hall to cast his ballot for the March primary election. The Travis Commissioners Court will meet Sunday to vote on extending the voting hours at five other locations that weren’t open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m
Austin Mayor Steve Adler takes advantage of an early voting location Thursday morning at City Hall to cast his ballot in the March 1 primary election. The Travis Commissioners Court will meet Sunday to vote on extending the voting hours at five other locations that weren’t open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m

When early voting started on Tuesday, all but five voting locations in Travis County — including three locations in East Austin — were open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Sunday, Travis County commissioners are expected to extend voting hours at the five affected locations. It’s the right thing for county and city officials to do.

For all citizens to feel they are equal participants in an election, the system must be fair and equal. People of color in this country and in this state have a long history of being disenfranchised. A simple oversight can create a new level of distrust.

That’s what happened this week when residents of East Austin found — just as they had found last year — that several voting locations did not offer the same operational hours as most of the other 25 polling locations in the county.

City and county officials first pointed fingers and avoided taking responsibility for dropping the ball, but they did offer to correct the mistake by May’s primary runoff dates. This was not good enough, given that officials in September had vowed not to repeat the oversight.

While it may not be difficult for some folks to find and drive to a different polling place, many others don’t have that luxury.

Community members and political leaders voiced concerns about the unequal access minority voters would have to the ballot box. Rightly, officials listened.

On Sunday, Travis County commissioners will consider lengthening the hours at all five affected locations — the Parque Zaragoza Recreation Center in East Austin, the Carver branch library in East Austin, the Ruiz branch library in Southeast Austin, the Howson branch library in West Austin, and the Austin Area Urban League in Northeast Austin — so they are open until 7 p.m. on Wednesday and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and again on March 1.

Given so much attention twice, let’s hope officials don’t repeat the oversight a third time. Lessons should be learned by now.