Public Leadership In Four Dimensions by Randall Stephens

During the early days after filing for the 2014 mayoral election, a number of organizations contacted me, along with others running for office.  To be sure, every special interest group in town has a point to make, and hoped to educate the next generation of civic leaders.  It was one of the best experiences of my adult life and the time was well invested.

In marketing there is an old adage that “perception is reality”.  At a presentation by Undoing Racism Austin I learned about history from the perspectives of long time East side residents, mostly of African American and Latino descent. 

Later in the campaign process, I attended forums in various quadrants of Austin with a greater demographic mix in some, and less in others.  We are all affected by a rising cost of living, and in varying ways.  We all suffer from poorly planned and underfunded improvements to our transportation system.  We all appreciate clean air and water.  We all feel underrepresented at City Hall.  “We” being the taxpaying citizens of Austin.

There is another Class of person always seeking and often receiving representation at City Hall, the lobbyist.  Consultants run PACs, pay lobbyists, and invest in political campaigns of people needing the job.  Not everyone seeking a job in politics needs it, but many a gilded lilly has been promoted and elected, and sometimes influenced or duped into supporting expensive projects with little if any payback for the taxpayers.  

  • Example A:  Austin taxpayers are paying for a $Billion+ biomass energy plant in East Texas that is seldom used.  Members of the City Council running for office voted for it.
  • Example B:   In 2014 we are being sold an Urban Rail system under a complete farce perpetrated by Project Connect, whose current President is also a VP of HNTB, the sole contractor for the Austin Urban Rail Project.  Highway funds under the bond are for rail infrastructure, not highways improvements for traffic flow or commuters.

Public Service is a calling for some, and a profession for those elected.  In business and life, we learn to take a three dimensional look at every major decision or purchase.  We have to look for every possible consequence of our decision to invest time and money.  

In Public Leadership, we have to take a closer look.  We have to represent every minority group, every neighborhood, and every constituent in the community.  

  • Example A:  How will an event impact the neighborhoods around it?  How will annual events impact the long term quality of life for the citizens living around the venue?  How will the benefits of the event impact the total community?  And where might we locate the event in the future, if there are negative effects to long term quality of life for residents living near the event today?   
  • Example B:  How might an Urban Farm be regulated?  How might events hosted by a business like an Urban Farm to supplement income affect the residents nearby?  And if the quality of life has been degraded, was the business in compliance with zoning?
  • Example C:  During a forum in Tarrytown, some candidates for District 10 spoke up stating they want the City of Austin to buy Lions Municipal Golf Course.  A couple of candidates stated;  “MUNY was the first place African Americans were allowed to play golf in Texas’; and, Austin (taxpayers) could ‘create a historic district to (promote the idea of) support buying MUNY”.

With the 4th Dimension in mind;  – perceptions and value for all citizens;

  • If the residents near Lions Municipal Golf Course desire the City of Austin to pay The University of Texas (no doubt top-dollar) acquire and operate the Lions Municipal Golf Course we have to keep everyone in mind.  If Tarrytown residents want to invoke African American Heritage to get this done, – the next City Council ought to establish an offer and set up a Charitable Trust funding the long term acquisition, maintenance, and operations as well as scholarships, AISD Jr. and Sr. High School Golf Curriculum for East and SE Austin schools,  clubs and mentoring programs, and perhaps some Junior Achievement programs to help latchkey kids understand how to make it to Tarrytown as property owners in adult life.  Only then should the measure to purchase an operate Lions Municipal Golf Course be offered for a vote of the public.
  • If Zilker and East Austin residents are to be properly represented, all aspects of event promotions and venues need to be considered from a quality of life and public safety perspective.  I know if Cedar Park started holding music venues in the park behind my NE Austin house, or if the Avery Ranch Golf Club kept noise levels up late at night, we would have some long debates at City Halls of either city, possibly resulting in tortish activities.  And I am very, very risk averse regarding legal activities.  If we can’t avoid the courthouse, we don’t need to be in public service.  

Thankfully, my wife and I have very friendly neighbors.
The best example of Public Leadership is to provide measured, balanced, taxpayer-friendly leadership for all citizens.  That is my goal, should I become an elected public servant.

Randall Stephens

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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!

The Author may be contacted by phone for comment. (512) 796-5339

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.

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

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