Austin City Council Election Profiles: District 3

Susana Almanza is challenging incumbent Council Member Sabino "Pio" Renteria -- her own brother by the way.  

Just as she did in 2014.  

We did reach out to Almanza who didn't commit to a time to be interviewed for our candidate profiles. 

Next up: Jessica Cohen.  Her background includes EMS and working for Veterans Affairs.  When the state's "bathroom bill" became such a big discussion last year, Cohen felt there were bigger problems like highways.  

Cohen is one of two transgender women running for council.  She says she's heavily involved with the local LGBT community.  I asked her, why council?

"The primary one above all, it's honestly a little selfish.  Me trying to protect my own house.  I've been trying to elect people.  Voting for people, talking to people, trying to get someone in there who is going to slow down these dramatically-increasing property taxes.  The appraisals are going up, the property value's going up and it's happening even in my simple duplex," Cohen said.

Justin Jacobson is a 4th generation Austinite.  He manages the El Chilito's on Burnet road.  In the political arena he says he's worked on campaigns for Wendy Davis and Bernie Sanders.  

He was disappointed the CodeNext process failed and says District 3 needs leaders to make sure we're building affordable and fixing the transportation issues.

"I don't think we have the right leadership to build that coalition.  What we have is a leader that's kind of obstinate who is finding more enemies than finding friends and making a lot of things difficult so I think it's time for a 28-year-old to stand up and be the adult in the room," Jacobson said.

Amit Motwani has been in Austin for 23 years.  He studied in the Business Honors program at UT and helped start a tech company.  Motwani says he left all of that behind to give back and work in non-profit social services.

"As the CIO of the United Way for Greater Austin, what we are seeing is the economic disparities are high and poverty is the problem and I feel like that is getting left out of the discussion.  I feel like our politics is becoming increasingly dichotomous.  'My way or the highway' politics.  And I see an opportunity to fix that," Motwani said.  

Incumbent Council Member Pio Renteria was born in Austin and tells stories of shining shoes and selling newspapers as a kid.  He spent 34 years with IBM and ran for the at-large council in the '80s.  Renteria is proud to have worked on bringing affordable housing units to Plaza Saltillo and fighting for the mobility bond.  Now he's hoping to help Austinites displaced by rising property taxes come back home.

"I don't get to see my friends as much anymore and I would just love to have a lot of these people that I grew up with be able to come back into the neighborhood and that's why I'm going to work on the most is trying to get the 'right to return' and have these units there available," Renteria said.

James Valadez is also a native Austinite and UT grad.  He's a real estate broker by day and has been serving on boards and commissions.  He says he has honed his expertise in land development code.

"I've seen too many times over the last 4 years developers' interests be prioritized over residents.  And I would like to make sure I have a position where residents feel like they have a voice on the council dais," Valadez said.

If you'd like to see the full interviews with District 3 candidates, click here: