Oct 17, 2022 - News

Five questions with Austin mayoral candidate Kirk Watson

Kirk Watson

Kirk Watson appears at a Beto O'Rourke campaign rally in 2018. Photo: Gary Miller/Getty Images

Kirk Watson oversaw Austin's boomtown rise in the late 1990s as mayor before serving as a Democratic state senator representing Travis County — and made a name for himself as a dealmaker in both roles.

  • With his name recognition, a broad coalition of support and huge fundraising lead, he is the favorite heading into the election.

Is Austin on the right track or wrong track?

"I'm optimistic about the future of the city because many of our biggest challenges — housing, traffic, water needs — are the result of great success. We're not like some cities where we're managing decay. Even the problems that are not a result or byproduct of success — we get to manage those from a platform of success and relative affluence."

  • "However we need to govern with a pace that keeps up with the change in our city. We shouldn't govern based on a bumper-sticker outcome — a phrase such as 'decriminalize homelessness' or 'defund the police' or 'CodeNext' — or something that's characterized as all or nothing."

How would you approach homelessness?

"It's been too much all or nothing. We need to move with intentionality and a great sense of urgency to provide services in a continuum from camping in the shadows to permanent supportive housing. We need to be enforcing the camping ban, in a way that provides some dignity."

Are the police appropriately funded?

"Everybody in Austin ought to be safe and feel safe. Whether in somebody's home at 2 in the morning, or a person of color in a car been stopped and is being approached by police officers. We need to be fully staffed and hold police accountable."

Austin and the GOP leadership at the Capitol have an antagonistic relationship. How would you handle it?

"We should always stand up for our Austin values, and one of the things I love about Austin and will defend is you can be who you are and think what you want to think."

  • "That being said, from a governing approach, there's no need to pick fights. Let's work to find consensus, because ultimately things can happen we don't want to see. We can win the battle but lose the war. You can pass something you know is going to create a problem, without working in advance with the state. And the state can take away the ability to do the things you want to achieve."

What makes you different from your opponents?

"I have a proven record of success in getting big things done for Austin and we're in a point in time we're no longer becoming a big city — we're a big city and we need to do big things. With practicality and common sense, my experience reveals a proven record."


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