City Council District 4 Profile: Traffic Engineer, the Community Organizer & Environmental Engineer

District 4 incumbent City Council member Greg Casar says over the past 2 years in office he's worked for tenants rights, decent living conditions and sponsored the Fair Chance Hiring initiative that requires medium to large sized Austin businesses to stop asking about criminal history at the beginning of the hiring process.

"We worked to bring formerly incarcerated folks and their families into the conversation about banning the box and Fair Chance Hiring and giving them a fair shot in getting a job and passing rules that can make it easier for people to get a job that have done their time," Casar said.

If he's re-elected, affordable housing all over the city will be a priority.

"I want to work over the course of these years to get us off the list of the most economically segregated metropolitan areas in America," Casar said.

Louis C. Herrin III who first ran against Casar 2 years ago is an environmental engineer with the State.  He's hoping to streamline the permitting process and reduce red tape.

"I talk to developers all the time and they tell me that they'd rather go to San Antonio or any place but come to Austin to develop because of the amount of red tape.  It takes months to get projects through," he said.

He says he agrees with some things Casar has done but Fair Chance Hiring is a double-edged sword -- it's like stringing the applicant along.

"In the State, we do have something similar.  And in the past I've had to interview people I know that's nowhere near...I'm getting their hopes up and that bothers me," Herrin said.

Gonzalo Comacho is a traffic engineer.  He was born in South America and says he has run for City Council in Houston twice. 

He came here hoping to retire.

"The realization that property taxes are going up so much...I cannot stay and retire in Austin.  So I was planning on relocating somewhere else until I got so fed up with the process I signed up to run for City Council," Comacho said.

Comacho says the mobility bond on the November ballot will make that even worse.

"If the city keeps on taxing us like this bond...it's running us out of Austin," Comacho said.  "To add bond which is debt...to add more city programs which is taxes to that mix means that our cost of living is going up.  What would I have done differently?  Stop doing that," Comacho said.

From a traffic engineering point of view, Comacho says it won't do what it's intended to do.  One idea Comacho has is reversible lanes on roads like Lamar.

"Modern cities, intelligent cities turn the center lane as a variable lane.  Morning time, it goes one way, then afternoon it goes the other way," Comacho said.

Casar says while he doesn't like every part of it, he supports the mobility bond.  He says it's the first step in addressing some long-neglected infrastructure.

"North Lamar in my own district is tens of millions of dollars below standard.  And so this is just part of what it takes to catch up," Casar said.

Herrin won't be saying "yes" to the bond either -- calling it a "Ban-daid approach."

"You go look at it, you see what they're going to do and you know it's going to cost a lot more money than that," Herrin said.

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