AUSTIN, Texas - District four sits in North Austin. It's a bustling part of town, that like many parts of the city continues to grow.
“When I was growing up, Austin was the cheapest city in Texas of the big cities and now it's become the most expensive, and we have to change that,” said Greg Casar, the incumbent for District 4.
Greg Casar is running for re-election. He talked about some things he cares about most.
“District four has been left behind by the city for far too long. When I came into office we had less park space than any other district in town. We had a public swimming pool didn't even have a sign in front of it, telling you there's a pool there,” he said.
From the smaller issues to the controversial ones, like the pandemic. He touts the decisions he has made to try and save families financially.
“My district in North Central Austin was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. We sprung to action and actually lead the country in creating things like the RISE fund to provide direct financial assistance to families because we know the check being sent by the federal government wasn't enough,” said Casar.
“We put in an eviction moratorium, and I passed and sponsored an ordinance giving people way more time to pay the rent because no one should be losing their home during a pandemic, and we put in workplace safety rules and mask rules,” he said.
What about police reform? Earlier this year council took more than $20 million away from the Austin Police Department...they hope to reimagine and reallocate another more than 100 million more dollars of the budget.
“So what the council did unanimously was say lets' redo the training we do with police officers. Let's put training and classes on hold. Let's not stop there, let's take those funds that were going to be used to hire new officers and hire mental health professionals. One of the top 911 calls we get is a mental health call and a police officer isn't the best trained person to handle that kind of call,” said Casar.
Louis Herrin is running against Casar...and he believes cutting funding is not the way to get to police reform.
“I agree we need to put more into mental health, but the way he's saying it, we are going to be putting more officers at risk. We are not training those guys. From what I’m seeing most of those guys don't want to be the first ones in line, you’re still going to have to send officers,” said Herrin.
Herrin has a civil and environmental engineering background. He says his approach to policy will be pragmatic and business-like, not political.
“I'm getting to the point where I cannot stand the way this council is going. People in my district say he does not listen to them, he only listens to a small group of people. I’m going to listen to the city, I'm going to make decisions on what's best for the city,” said Herrin.
Herrin said with the city constantly growing, Austin needs more police personnel. “I have been preaching for years. We need community policing, we need more police, and we are cutting back on the police. That is ridiculous,” he said.
With growth comes transportation expansion as well, plus housing and affordability comes to question.
“We aren't just putting in place new public transportation on the ballot in this election. We are putting a historic amount of anti-gentrification and anti-displacement funds are part of that election,” said Casar.
“If you look at Project Connect, they are going to put the train right there on North Lamar Boulevard, there is no room for cars there, which means traffic is going to go into the neighborhoods, they are not even talking about that,” said Herrin.
We reached out to the third person running, Ramesses Setepenre, who declined an interview. Overall both candidates appear to want what's best for the city, but have opposing views on how to accomplish that.
“I’m a civil engineer and an environmental engineer. I’ve worked with the state for 44 years. I look at things not as an emotional thing but as an engineer. I look at a big problem and try to break it down into a small problem,” said Herrin.
“We brought those everyday people together to pass those paid sick leave policies, to pass policies to make sure that people who are formally incarcerated to have a shot at a job, to raise the minimum wage across the city, to bring parks and sidewalks and attention to a part of town that too often has been left behind,” said Casar.
Election Day is Nov. 3.