Georgetown City Council Member Rachael Jonrowe is running again for her Place 6 seat against political newcomer Lawrence Romero, a small-business owner and real estate agent.
Jonrowe, 40, is seeking her third three-year term. She said she wants to push for the city to be more inclusive by having more affordable housing, listening to the concerns of African-American and Hispanic residents, and connecting communities by providing more sidewalks and hike-and-bike trails.
Romero, 51, said he wants to help attract small businesses and restaurants that will stay open longer hours to the downtown square, and to work on short-term rental standards for the city that would include occupancy restrictions.
Jonrowe said she is “known as the liberal voice on the council, but I don’t just represent liberals by any stretch of the imagination; I’m accessible to everybody.”
Affordable housing is one of the top three issues she said she would like to tackle if re-elected. “I see a lack of housing opportunities for young people, young families and retirees looking to move downtown, and also we have a growing homeless population,” she said.
She said the city should consider partnering with nonprofits, developers or people interested in starting a foundation to tackle the affordable housing problem.
She also said she wants to address a “lack of communication” between the City Council and “entire groups of people who feel like they are not being represented.” These groups include African-American residents who live on the west side of Austin Avenue in an area known as “the Ridge,” Jonrowe said.
Romero has never held political office, but he is a member of Georgetown’s Historic and Architectural Review Commission. He owns Mattie’s Manor, a two-bedroom vacation rental house in Georgetown, and is also a real estate agent and an Army and Air Force veteran.
“My biggest thing is I want to listen to all of District 6 and become a bridge maker so we can work together,” he said. Romero said he also wants to work with the rest of the council because sometimes when all of the members voted for a “good growth concept,” Jonrowe voted against it.
“I want to bring change and smart growth to Georgetown, but don’t want to lose the charm,” Romero said.
Romero said when he walked around the downtown square on a recent Sunday, a lot of businesses weren’t open. “I want more places where families can come and enjoy our square,” he said. One of the businesses he said he would welcome would be a small convenience store, a place “where kids could go and get a soda.”
Romero also said he wanted to work on a “safety policy” for short-term rentals “to make sure we don’t have 50 to 60 people in a house.”
He is running for office, Romero said, because Jonrowe doesn’t represent everyone in the district, including some business owners on the downtown square who said they have never talked to her.
Jonrowe said she has “advocated long and hard” for public transportation, increasing sidewalks, making downtown more pedestrian-friendly, bringing affordable housing options to the city and spending “economic development dollars “wisely and respectfully.”
“If that isn’t ‘good growth,’” she said, “I don’t know what is.”
Jonrowe was questioned in March on her Facebook campaign page by former Hutto City Council Member Jason Wirth, who asked her whether or not she said “under God” while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the Georgetown City Council meetings.
In an interview, Jonrowe said she wouldn’t confirm or deny saying “under God” during the pledge, and added, “I feel like a public profession of a particular faith might discourage certain people from feeling like they would be welcome to talk to me, whether they are religious or not religious.”
Jonrowe faced further questions last week when the online blog Wilco Report said it couldn’t find required final inspection reports for the construction of a swimming pool and renovations at Jonrowe’s house.
Jonrowe said she wouldn’t comment on the details of her personal home renovation projects and “allow them to be used as part of a political smear campaign.”
“There are many reasons why homeowners may not close out permits on a home project: running out of funds during an economic downturn; changing plans to meet the needs of a changing family; not completing projects because of changing family obligations or emergencies; running out of steam when you are doing many of the renovations yourself, etc.,” she said.