Pio Renteria gets some opponents

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Back in March I wrote about how Pio Renteria had yet to attract an opponent and the reasons that anybody running against him would have an uphill battle. Now there are two people vying for Pio’s seat. Both are framing their candidacies as anti-density/anti-gentrification. From the Statesman:

James Valadez, a real estate agent, and Jessica Cohen, a network security administrator, have both appointed treasurers in recent weeks. Such appointments allow candidates to begin fundraising before formally applying for a place on the ballot in July and August.

Valadez, 30, sits on the city’s Board of Adjustment. He did not return multiple calls for comment but positioned himself in a news release as an opponent of “excess density” in neighborhoods and said Renteria is “not representing an independent voice for our district.”

Renteria said he knows Valadez as his board appointee and blocks-away neighbor and was surprised to hear he’s running against him.

“I don’t really know what he means” by excess density, Renteria said. “We know the only way we can bring affordable units into the inner core is through density.”

Sigh…Another example of a Renteria appointee to a land use commission with divergent views on land use. If you’ll recall, Dustin Breithaupt, Pio’s appointee to the Zoning and Platting Commission, voted for the resolution to scrap CodeNEXT. It’s not unheard of for commissioners to challenge the CMs who appointed them. Alison Alter was Sheri Gallo’s appointee to the Parks Commission, although Gallo removed her shortly after she declared her candidacy; I’d recommend Pio not do the same with Valadez. It looks petty.

To the delight of urbanists, Pio isn’t dodging the density debate; he’s encouraging it. Says uber-urbanist Planning Commissioner Greg Anderson on Facebook:

I’m with Pio. What does “excess density” mean? Too many homes? Too walkable Austin? Only in my favorite dream…

Then there’s another opponent: Jessica Cohen, a network security administrator.

Cohen, 46, has never had any civic involvement but said she decided to run after the duplex she rents was sold, the rent increased by $300, and she began to notice white neighbors replacing Hispanic families in the area.

“It’s just an example of how badly the area’s being gentrified,” she said. “I’m having all these friends who can no longer afford to live in Austin, and if you’re telling me you can no longer live in Montopolis, something’s wrong.”

Cohen’s website is still under construction.

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