The conventional wisdom about Republicans trying to win in Austin is that they should never, ever answer any questions about Donald Trump and they should steer clear of the culture wars that have made the GOP’s brand so toxic in urban areas. If anything, engaging on God, guns and gays distracts from the culture war over transportation, in which every Republican –– Don Zimmerman, Ellen Troxclair, Frank Ward –– enthusiastically engages.
Hence this holiday message from Ward, who is in a runoff for the District 8 seat in Southwest Austin against Paige Ellis. If elected, Ward will replace Troxclair as the last certified Repub on Council.
First off, I get the impulse to make the ad Christmas-themed and to include the adorable kiddos, but it doesn’t really make sense to me that he’d highlight the difficulty of getting out of town to visit family. It would make more sense to focus on the day-to-day challenge of getting around town.
Ward uses a couple quotes from Council members Greg Casar and Ann Kitchen to portray Austin’s political establishment as cruelly indifferent to the plight of Joe & Jane Minivan. While congestion is a feature of every major U.S. city, Ward presents it as a problem is due solely to Austin’s stubborn refusal to “do something about it.”
In fact, what Casar and Kitchen were likely saying (I didn’t hunt down the actual video but I’m familiar with their reasoning) is that the focus of city government should be to enhance mobility, not simply to reduce vehicle congestion. A singular focus on reducing congestion by expanding road capacity is unlikely to achieve a noticeable difference simply due to population growth. We just don’t have much more room to build more lanes/roads, unless Ward is proposing that we do away with the Save Our Springs ordinance and pave over the Edwards Aquifer. Good luck with that. The best way to make things better for the most people, including the driving majority, would be to focus on offering people alternatives to driving –– bike infrastructure and transit. That’s what Kitchen and Casar were talking about.
Ward, like Troxclair and Zimmerman, likely does not acknowledge or care about those details, however. They would instead like to present transportation policy as a zero-sum game where every dollar spent on transit or bike infrastructure comes at the expense of drivers.