Austin Needs Campaign Finance Reform Now

Austin’s city elections have a donation limit of $350.00 per person, or $700.00 per married couple. Some current candidates and elected officials have given loans to their campaigns far in excess of donation limits, and in the case of our current Mayor Leffingwell, there is an outstanding third – party loan to his campaign for $90,000.00 (ninety thousand dollars folks) from . . .(?).

Those loans are all unethical in my opinion   The Austin American Statesman seems enamored with money totals, but unconcerned about the sources and effect of local campaign capitalization. The same goes for the Austin Chronicle and perhaps some broadcast network media companies.  By declaring “front runners” based on bank accounts, they give a gift to the most crooked among us, the back room consultancy and industry lobbyists who steal the value of our citizenship while we watch professional sports.
There is an inherent conflict of interest when a media company pretends journalism while sizing up candidates as clients. Ideas and people matter. So far I haven’t seen much interest from local editors in the substance of candidate messages on the campaign trail.

When the campaign began, I declared little interest in funds – as I would run a clean interactive campaign. I refuse to accept donations from outside the city limits, or from any special interest group. As a city, we should be as smart as we promote ourselves to be, and lead the nation in true campaign finance reform; – end loans to campaigns so when the Mayor’s $90,000.00 third – party loan comes due, he has to actually solicit enough individual legal donations to pay it back in full before the loan becomes an illegal donation.

Think about the current real estate planning for Austin.  Over-development in central Austin with massive residential growth on the periphery has clogged our commuter highways.  The Mayor and all sitting City Council members push a plan to build Urban Rail as though that would take pressure off commuters, while it will do far worse – by stopping cross traffic every 5 – 7 minutes at every street intersection.  There is a serious transparency gap too.  The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) and “Project Connect” are spending your tax dollars promoting the Urban Rail plan, with the President of Project Connect being a Vice President of HNTB, which will benefit from building the project so Austin’s Real Estate Barons can become exponentially wealthier at your expense.  This is the dirtiest Chicago – style political sham I have ever witnessed up close, and the local news organizations aren’t breathing a word about it.  They are part of the problem.

We The People need to demand better service from the 4th Estate and demand the City of Austin make those unethical campaign loans illegal.

Some folks are just the darling princesses of special interests.
In Austin though, the loan carriage never seems to see an hour when it turns into a pumpkin, does it?

If we don’t do our research and vote for real change, we will forever be stuck in traffic.

Randall Stephens
Candidate for Mayor of Austin

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Copyright © 2014 Randall Forrest Stephens

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AustinBlueDogBlog (herein referred to as; the Source) is a personal blog by Randall Forrest Stephens of Austin, Texas (herein referred to as the “Author”); and, not affiliated with any political organization.  Articles herein are the opinion of the Author, and intended for public use. Reprinting and online republishing is authorized by the Author provided the Source (AustinBlueDogBlog) is linked and/or cited.  Thank you for sharing my work!  Randall F. Stephens.  The Author may be contacted by phone (512) 796-6339 for comment.

Fighting Back Against Big Money Influence With A New Way To Campaign

Austin, Texas   10/08/2014

Representative government is difficult, but still the best system there is.  Some may say we have been sliding toward becoming an oligarchy for some time, perhaps since the Founders were laid to rest.

Checks and balances have been put in place, and worked around.  Foreign governments are toppled by agencies and agents without a public whimper nor a care by the people we put in office.   Weapons are sold at massive events around the globe, and the companies making a profit from war have plenty to spend on political action committees. Timber companies send checks to Political Action Committees and politicians as do oil and gas firms, tech firms, etc.   I am pro business, and pro development, but the people come first.

At home, a green goal of a net zero fossil fuels electric grid seems to be the excuse to close a city-owned natural gas power plant, but land developers are already surveying the lake property on which it sits for a new golf course and high end real estate development.  Any potential Decker Lake real estate deal isn’t even public, and yet surveyors have been seen there and the city still buys power from a coal fired plant in which it owns an interest.  Electric costs for local rate payers will go up exponentially as we make and sell less power.  Rate payers would be better served by Austin Energy operating at peak efficiency, or if we sold off the entire asset and allowed competition.

Similarly, an Urban Rail system is offered by a company whose Vice President sits as the President of the city’s Project Connect – an ad hoc organization spending tax dollars to sell a bond package that benefits his employer, HNTB. There is a transparency gap, and the current city officials know it. Real estate interests are solidly behind the Urban Rail plan which will create opportunities to develop real estate around the rail line.

Local oligarchs loan big money to local political campaigns.  Loans imply payback.  Big loans imply big payback.  In Austin, the city has set spending limits of $350.00 per individual and $700.00 per married couple.  A $90,000.00 third party loan was granted to the incorporated campaign of Mayor Leffingwell and has as yet not been paid back by legal donations.  At what point is a loan really an illegal donation?  Is there a time limit?  And at what point will the public wake up and support a candidate who will seek to change the law to prohibit campaign loans?  Perhaps the public waits for the “right candidate” while the current crop continues “business as usual”.  Politics is business.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We can and should put the creative talents of our city and state to good work in developing and defining a new way forward we can really believe in.

Let me begin to define and shed light on how we can work together for the great cause of our living American Revolution.  You are welcome to contribute and meet with me in Austin over coffee or perhaps at a conference.

My goal is to be elected to public service without taking a dime from outside my constituency, from any organization, special interest group, or company.  Why?  To prove it can be done, and set a new standard for politics where a candidate can once again stand up on a stump or interactive online soap box and get his or her points across.  The goal includes influencing people to urge their local newspapers to share the ideas of each registered candidate without declaring a front-runner based on funds solicited.  Examination, Investigation and Criticism by the Fourth Estate are paramount to preservation of any Free State.

I have always been a solid citizen and sought leadership roles from the Air Force, to the Airline, to founding my own companies and being a responsible employer here in Texas. I want to win this race not only for myself, but for a better system.  For me the Austin Mayoral campaign is almost as much a market test for (an as-yet unbranded) a new way to promote candidates, and learning experience.  Part testing the water personally, and part exploration of my cause to improve the campaign process and culture; first, by not taking in a lot of money and working with available media and forums.   The Statesman declares “front runners” as with many media outlets, based upon campaign finance reports.  I collected/donated a combined total of $750.00 so far and spent just under that amount.  My intent is to spend less than $1000.00 on the campaign and use internet resources; (adbirds political category), Youtube, this personal blog (AustinBlueDogBlog.com), and my current campaign website (www.StephensForAustinMayor.org).  I’m branding myself as; the Austin Blue Dog, as a fiscally conservative, socially liberal political moderate.

I need help getting the most out of my campaign, and would appreciate your thoughts, ideas and help if you can with specifics.  For one, I need someone who is willing to donate some creative time and video-graphic expertise to help me put up topic related videos on Youtube.  I can use those on adbirds and the campaign website. So can anyone!  We need to change the political culture of big money influence, and work with creative people who can make the ideas hit home with each demographic.

Think about this; – most media companies size up candidates by their campaign finance reports and declare some the “front runners” because they also consider the candidate a potential client. Candidates who will sell out to big money will stand out with glaring ads run during football season and graduations.  Let’s develop new tools to make that a “past practice”.  That’s one reason I created a political category on the adbirds site, so we can help others get around the big money assumptions of other media outlets.

One cannot serve two masters!  As stated in interview with the Austin Bulldog, if I am elected I will donate 100% of adbirds net profit to local charity while in office.  I will serve only the public if elected to public office.

This page may be edited.  Please come back soon for updates.

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Copyright © 2014 Randall Forrest Stephens

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AustinBlueDogBlog (herein referred to as; the Source) is a personal blog by Randall Forrest Stephens of Austin, Texas (herein referred to as the “Author”); and, not affiliated with any political organization.  Articles herein are the opinion of the Author, and intended for public use. Reprinting and online republishing is authorized by the Author provided the Source (AustinBlueDogBlog) is linked and/or cited.  Thank you for sharing my work!  Randall F. Stephens.  The Author may be contacted by phone (512) 796-6339 for comment.

Inspire Austin Mobility Solutions That Will Work – by Randall Stephens – Candidate for Mayor of Austin

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Driving in Austin has become more difficult week by week.  The morning and afternoon commute tests everyone’s patience, and we all know where the choke points are.

Prop. 1?  No thanks!  The Mayor and City Council have wasted a lot of our time and money planning a surface rail system with major flaws.  First of all, the proposed Urban Rail system will stop traffic on every road crossing, every 5 to 7 minutes.  That’s a problem we don’t have and don’t want to have.  The wishful thinking of Downtown Money Interests to create a Boondoggle For Them at the expense of Austin homeowners will cost $30.00 per rider and won’t take any cars off the commuter freeways.  I have a better plan we can all benefit from.

If we don’t fix our commuter freeways, Austin will soon look like a Third World city where cars can’t move, where pedestrians, mopeds and bicycles weave around them to get around town.  That scenario is unacceptable.

In addition to street improvements and urban trails we can all use;

I propose bridging, ramps and turnabouts to replace traffic lights to get traffic moving at 20 locations starting with “The Y” at 290/71.  On the other quadrants of Austin, we can address the need for an I-35 bypass that works, by funding planned connector ramps from I-35 to and from Ed Bluestein and across the Colorado River to feed traffic to and from SH71 (Ben White Blvd) to I-35.  In between, we need to replace all traffic lights at intersections of;

(State highway improvements will of course involve City and TXDOT funding.  The compromise position may have to involve added tolled lanes to cover additional bridging and ramp upgrades, etc.  Federal funds for I35 to 183/71 bypass…)

  1. SH183 and Loyola Ln., TechniCenter, E. 51st.; and,
  2. SH360 and Spicewood Springs, Hidden Valley, Westlake Dr., Waymaker Way, Pascal Ln, Wold Basin Rd. S., Lost Creek Blvd., Scottish (Trail?), Parkstone Heights Dr., Walsh Tarlton Ln., and the 360 Business Park (no name) near the Greenbelt access.
  3. 2222/620 (turn lanes) with intersection upgrades to Anderson Mill Rd.

Looking at the Mobility 2040 plan I see some projects are already outlined.  Most of them aren’t.  What were Austin’s City Council members doing all these years?

Austin has been Imagined to a Breaking Point by the current Mayor and City Council members.  We need to replace all of them as soon as possible, and Inspire Austin to adopt a new Mobility Plan to facilitate fixes with solutions to the commuting nightmare as the top priority.  The next Mayor will work with a new City Council representing each sector of the community.  Inspiring Austin’s leadership at every department will require a personality with a new vision to break the gridlock, bridge the intersections along our commuter freeways and push funding forward to get the job done.

I read about Gen. David Pretraeus’ “New Way Forward” too.  But Austin doesn’t need Un-defined Temporary Fixes.  We need to solve problems fast, and a Problem – Solver to place permanent long-term strategic planning on top of the Mayoral agenda.  We need a Mayor who is not tied to the “Faceless Influence of Downtown Money”.   We need a Mayor who wants to end loans to political campaigns which circumvent the $350.00 personal donation limit.  We need a Mayor who speaks out in favor of putting people to work on behalf of the taxpayers and who has a plan for using “Business – Driven Solutions” and make delivering government services at least 5% less expensive per capita, than today over the next 6 years.  And we need a Mayor dedicated to passing quantified savings back to tax and rate payers in Austin, and lowering the property tax rates based on proven results we can achieve with an Inspired Austin leadership.

We need a Mayor who is dedicated to put people to work and keep the needs of ALL Austin in mind, who will seek to work with companies who will “Ban the Box” prior to their initial interviews so a reformed person with a past can make his or her best pitch for a shovel-ready job building the Austin of the future.  We need a Mayor who will seek to protect our precious air and water resources without driving business out of the community, and who will develop a plan to bring more small businesses in to occupy existing vacant commercial space first, and make peripheral development and inexpensive housing affordable options for more people along the periphery away from downtown, while preserving our heritage and entertainment districts.  We need a Mayor who will audit city hall, respects the whole United States Constitution, and isn’t owned by the real estate developers, cab companies, PACs, or special interests, for a change in the way we do business and represent everyone’s interests.

That is why I am running for Mayor of Austin.  I respect ALL people, and serve #OneATX

If you will support and share my plan, and take two people with you to vote in November we can win this election together.  I’d rather you donated to a good local charity than politics, but remember to vote for Randall Stephens as Austin’s next Mayor.

Together, we can Inspire Austin for a bright future.

Respectfully,

Randall Stephens

Candidate for Mayor of Austin

www.AustinBlueDog.org

Twitter:  @AustinBlueDog   Facebook:  www.Facebook.com/StephensForAustin

A Friend of Independent Texans

Some of the best experiences I have had in learning grassroots politics came as a result of being a friend of Independent Texans.

Now I’m running for Mayor of Austin largely on a Campaign Finance Reform and Transportation platform. If we can get the citizens to agree to build infrastructure with using general obligation bonds and the government to match funds, we can circumvent the toll financing and P3 models being promoted by so many “bought and paid for” politicians.

I don’t “need” the job. I WANT the job because the job needs to be done by someone with my skill sets and tenacity. And I will NOT compromise myself by taking contributions from PACs, Lobbyists, or people outside the constituency; IE, I will only accept donations from voters who are “natural persons” living within the zip codes of Austin, Texas. Corporations are not “natural”. I own one. There is a difference.

The reason train plans go to real estate developments owned by high-rollers and toll lanes are foisted on the citizens without a vote is clear to me, and needs to be made clear to all. I am working for you, not for them.

Improving throughput on our area freeways can be done in several ways.   Replacing traffic signals with low-rise bridges would do more than adding a lane in many cases.  Improving turn lanes by lengthening off-ramps and in some cases doubling off-ramps to span intersections and “flow” traffic directly to streets and frontage roads.  I would like to ask Texas corporations to partner with the City of Austin to offer design competitions for Texas universities to bring the vision and talent of today’s youth and our educational institutions into the process.  Leaning on TXDOT to keep faith with voters on SW45 so that it is a bond highway rather than tolled infrastructure.  SH130 will soon have to be bailed out by taxpayers.  We don’t need to see a repeat performance.   And using bonds to build MOPAC lanes then adding tolls is a double-tax we could avoid.  Let’s offer a bond – refinancing to the taxpayers as a ballot option and see if we can take the planned tolls away from grabby politicians.  You see, these toll roads are being foisted on us because Texans are letting “bought-and-paid-for” politicians make all the decisions, and without representing the voters true wishes.   Texans are leaders, and can lead the way in showing the United State of America how to fix the sacred ballot box.  Now we have the era of instant information online, and there is no excuse not to be an informed voter or give that information to those who can’t get online.  As CEO of adbirds, I even offer politicians free advertising in a community/politics category, and will tweet even the ads of other candidates seeking the office of Mayor.

On voting:  If you know ANYONE who can’t get to the polls or lacks the funds to get a Texas ID card so they can vote, TELL THEM to call me and I will help them, regardless of their affiliations, gender, race, national origin, or creed.   They just have to be breathing when I pick them up to get that ID card.  Texas DPS will handle details.  We can find a way to pay for the service.   Sorry partisans, but we can get this done without your help because we are Austin, and helping is the Texan way.    My cell phone number is 512.796.5339.  It is on my website too.   www.StephensForAustinMayor.org

Issues:  I believe in equal protection under the law and will engage anyone who is against the U.S. Constitution.  Furthermore, I will not seek to strip anyone of their rights under the U.S. or Texas Constitutions, which are living documents.  Nor will I use the city’s time to fight national issues and possibly get Austin into litigation as bought and paid-for politicians may.

Our right to vote is sacred!   It’s time for American voters to throw money changers out of the temple of American politics forever.  For that reason, I ask your support in sharing my message and campaign.  I will speak to any group, and will serve all of Austin without any obligation to lobbyists or PACs.  Don’t look for a lot of TV commercials from me.  Those are done by the “bought and paid for” lapdogs of special interest groups.  I’m not a big “party man” either.  I don’t trust political parties generally.  They have also undermined service to the electorate in my opinion.

We can build what we need without tolls, and can build now for the future. Austin has incredible talent and it’s citizens love their home beyond comparison. “We can build it” when we are of a mind to build. We can at least seek design-build proposals and offer a bond option first. If necessary I will be happy to very briefly close city streets around TXDOT offices and park surplus city vehicles there to get the point across.  Texans should not have to pay a toll to visit their capitol.  The City of Austin carries an extra load for the State, and should be given that consideration with regards to funding the freeways connecting our city streets to the state’s highway grid.

Lastly, I respect every candidate who has mustered the intestinal fortitude to take the beating of politics to serve our community,  the State of Texas and our United States of America.     If voters will reign them in, we will all be the better for it.  Most importantly I respect the voter, worker,  taxpayer… you.  Thank you!

Respectfully,

Randall Stephens
Candidate for Mayor of Austin, Texas
http://www.AustinBlueDog.org

Husband,  Austin homeowner, USAF Veteran,  Business Owner,  Aircraft Maintenance Technician, CHL holder, marksman and and Independent Blue Dog Democrat

Randall Stephens

Continuous Flow is the theme for improved transportation infrastructure

What is Continuous Flow?

The next city council of Austin should focus on improved traffic flows by

– removing traffic barriers between Austin neighborhoods, business districts and surrounding communities,

– bridging intersections and eliminating traffic lights on commuter highways,

– bridging and elevating commuter trains over commuter thoroughfares,

– expanding the commuter train from city center to the airport as did Chicago,

– improved and separate cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

How can Continuous Flow candidates be elected to city council?

–  Create a “Continuous Flow” slate and partnerships.

–  Transportation advocates, cycling organizations, real estate development companies,  garage, road and bridge building companies would be natural supporters.

What are the goals and benefits of “Continuous Flow” development for civic development?

– Getting people to and from work in the city cheaper, greener, faster and safer.

– Uninterrupted traffic flow from the ‘burbs to the parking facility near work or office.

– Local traffic not interrupted by train flow from the ‘burbs.

–  A well-developed integrated transportation system will improve property values and quality of life for residents and commuters alike.

… Ideas are welcomed, more to come!

Elect Randall Stephens as your next Mayor of Austin, Texas

Off To The Races

Let’s start with fixing Austin, ok?

Do the big developers deserve all the breaks?

Did you ever sign a commercial property lease,  buy equipment,  hire people and find out some tax collection agent was just waiting for the lights to come on so they could assess your “personal property” values and collect on it?   Did he drop in unannounced and demand time with, and answers from your employees while you were out?

It happens every day in Austin.  

How much sales tax did you pay when you bought all that furniture,  those computers and office supplies to find they want to collect property tax on it all in the same year? 

Why should you pay from day one, when big developers get multi-million dollar, multi-year tax breaks?

Small business employs more people than big business.  That’s a fact.  I like big business too, but let’s level the playing field and attract more business to Austin from surrounding communities, as well as out of state. 

– I propose we vote to allow each new business a three – year county  and city – wide property tax break.

Let’s get Austin off to the races with Formula One / Domain style tax breaks for small businesses and home-owners.

 

Elect Randall Stephens to Austin City Council,  District 6.

 

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