Adler recounts wins and missteps as he kicks off mayoral campaign


Give him another four years and he’ll finish what he started.

That’s the message from Mayor Steve Adler as he kicks off his campaign for re-election Sunday with a rally and party at the Austin Saengerrunde Hall. There will be music from local artists. There will be Amy’s Ice Cream. There will be words from former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.

And there will be plenty of talk about whether the first term of the city’s first 10-1 district-based council has had an effective leader.

Adler, 61, an attorney, now has a serious competitor in the race, after former Council Member Laura Morrison, 63, last week made it official she plans to run. Morrison, a former president of the Austin Neighborhoods Council, has blasted Adler for being too pro-development and friendly with business interests.

Elect her, Morrison said, and she’ll prioritize the people who are here now — not the newcomers moving in.

PREVIOUS: With Morrison in, expect Austin mayor’s race to heat up

Preparing for growth is one of the most important parts of leading Austin, Adler said Friday, saying the lack of housing is driving up prices and forcing people to leave the city.

Adler has been actively fundraising since early December and drew donations from about a thousand people in three weeks, according to campaign manager Jim Wick.

Morrison filed paperwork for a treasurer to begin collecting donations last week. This will be her first time running for office since the city switched its local races from May to November, drawing a wider pool of voters.

CodeNext, the city’s massive rewrite of its zoning code, might be the biggest issue coming down the pipeline this year at City Hall, and one of the most fiercely contested. Morrison strongly opposes recent drafts of the plan, which would allow more townhomes, apartments and high-density development in certain major corridors across the city.

Adler, while he’s still waiting to see the next version of the plan this spring, said he remains optimistic about the process and supports corridors with higher density.

“The current code isn’t serving us well—it’s leading to too much gentrification and displacement in the city,” he said. “I know there’s a lot of anxiety, and that’s understandable, but I have faith.”

His goal coming into office in 2015 was to lead the transition from an old way of doing things, under a council elected by the city at-large, to a new era with council members representing distinct geographic districts. And Adler thinks he’s done that “without devolving into ward politics,” at the helm of a council he says has “done more things at a faster pace than anyone else.”

ADLER-O-METER: See how the mayor has fared on his 2014 campaign promises

He points to the $720 million mobility bond passed last year, improvements to traffic signals, work on a funding stream for an affordable housing trust fund, regional workforce training, the push to require long-term affordable housing in some development agreements and the national recognition the city has gotten for climate change efforts and opposition to state immigration policies.

The job has had its low points. Adler points to moments when he mismanaged things. For example, “I stubbed my toe trying to find resources available to council offices,” he said, referring to his controversial 2015 idea to double his own office staff, which later became a plan to add staff positions to all council offices.

The recent mad-cap antics of trying to maintain secrecy in searching for a city manager — drawing a lawsuit from the American-Statesman — could have been handled better, the mayor said. And he wishes the disagreements with Uber and Lyft over city regulations had been handled in a way that wouldn’t have drawn the Legislature to overturn them.

“I’ve probably learned enough to have done everything a little differently,” Adler said.

He didn’t expect to spend as much time as he has on state and national issues. Last year, measures targeting Austin policies in the Legislature and pushback against some of President Donald Trump’s proposals took up much of the council’s time.

VISIT VOTETRACKER: See how your Austin City Council member voted on key issues

“Frankly, I hoped we’d be focusing more on our local agenda, but it became apparent that if we were going to preserve what’s special about the city, it meant also fighting for our values and our culture and who we are,” he said. “There was no choice but for us to step up.”

Adler said he welcomed Morrison’s challenge, but he hadn’t spent enough time looking at her stances on issues to know yet what the biggest differences between them are. He rejected the urbanist versus neighborhood paradigm that many have pointed to as the divide.

“That’s kind of an old way of looking at things,” the mayor said. “We don’t have to look at everything as an either-or choice, or as adversarial.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Gov. Greg Abbott says he can support modest gun safety regulations
Gov. Greg Abbott says he can support modest gun safety regulations

Concluding his second day of roundtable discussions on gun violence, Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that there are several modest gun regulations he could support, including stronger requirements for reporting lost or stolen firearms. Abbott also supported requiring judges to more quickly report court orders that deny people access to guns for safety...
Ahead of speaker election, moderates hold strong in Texas GOP runoffs
Ahead of speaker election, moderates hold strong in Texas GOP runoffs

At the end of last summer’s special legislative session, an angry Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick vowed that the Texas House members who blocked his agenda — especially the so-called bathroom bill and a measure restricting property tax increases — “are going to have to explain that to the voters.” But in Tuesday’s runoff elections...
Valdez squeezes past White, faces big Abbott challenge next
Valdez squeezes past White, faces big Abbott challenge next

Lupe Valdez was beaming Tuesday night as she accepted the cheers of supporters at a downtown Dallas restaurant in her hometown for making history as the first Latina and the first lesbian to become the Democratic nominee for governor in Texas. “I am constantly hearing this is going to be such an uphill battle,” said Valdez, elected four...
Familiar name, black voters helped Cole win in House District 46
Familiar name, black voters helped Cole win in House District 46

With name recognition and a push to mobilize African-American and white women working to her advantage, Sheryl Cole narrowly defeated immigration attorney Jose “Chito” Vela III in the Texas House District 46 Democratic runoff Tuesday. Cole, a former Austin City Council member, earned 4,967 votes, or 50.9 percent, on Tuesday, 173...
Early Bird: Scooter company, license in hand, relaunches in Austin
Early Bird: Scooter company, license in hand, relaunches in Austin

Bird, once again, is the early bird. The Venice, Calif.-based scooter-rental company, which released its electric vehicles onto Austin streets in early April without city permission, scattered them about Central Austin on Wednesday after being granted a city license to operate. The company, and its chief competitor, Lime, had taken their stand-up electric...
More Stories