Candidate questionnaire: Aaron Webman – City Council District 5

Candidate questionnaire: Aaron Webman – City Council District 5

ATA issued a candidate questionnaire to all candidates running in the November 2022 general election. All questions were the same for Mayor, City Council, County Clerk and County Judge. Responses have not been edited. View all responses here.

Aaron Webman – City Council District 5

As we head into the 4th year of Covid-19, what learnings have you taken from the pandemic and how will you apply those to your policies and community outreach moving forward?

I think we have to make sure to understand that Covid impacts people differently but we shouldn’t create policies based on edge cases. Hindsight is 20-20 but the lockdowns were severe and did not ultimately mitigate the spread. Moreover, lockdowns led to various other sinister consequences that society is still dealing with such as weakened K-12 education nationwide.

How will you work with City leadership to provide a housing plan for unhoused residents?

Unfortunately, Housing First has failed everywhere it has been tried. For instance, since 2011, San Francisco has built more than enough “permanent housing” for every single chronically homeless individual in the city. Yet instead of “ending homelessness,” as promised, homelessness increased substantially and the city has become an international byword for the homelessness crisis.

To improve the quality of life for unhoused individuals and families, the city should stop allocating funds to homeless organizations that don’t provide concrete metrics about how they are improving the quality of life for the homeless. We need to make sure that our city only pays for homeless organizations that perform well, such as The Salvation Army and Community First.

I am on the board of a public policy organization called Cicero. Please feel free to learn more details about my views on homeless policies at the Cicero Institute website.

How will you work with City leadership to support marginalized communities in Austin?

I’m not sure a one-size fits all solution exists for all marginalized people since you can’t put all marginalized people into a box. The answer to this question would depend, very heavily, on context.

Homeowners and renters experienced enormous increases in Travis County Property Taxes in 2022. How will you address Austin’s ongoing housing shortage and displacement issues?

If we don’t figure zoning out, Austin will face irreparable harm. We need to zone for more density but we have to be pragmatic and stop vilifying each other. Housing advocates, environmentalists, neighborhood groups, and developers are generally led by sincerely good people with good intentions.

Our city is growing and requires more development but that doesn’t mean we should radically change the character of our neighborhoods overnight. My opponents want to force new zoning plans down the neighborhoods’ throats even though neighborhoods are protected by both state and city laws. We need to have hard conversations on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis to do everything we can to preserve what makes Austin beautiful while promoting positive growth.

As our community continues to rely on virtual spaces, how should the City address the digital divide? What steps would you take to bridge that divide?

Austin is a 21st century city, and as such, should public libraries and other public spaces should have available wifi for constituents.

What are your thoughts on the City of Austin using cryptocurrency (AustinCoin)?

Cryptocurrency historically has been a method of decentralization. It allows for the average person to have buying power in a system that was created and run by elites. The idea of a crypto currency controlled by a government is antithetical to the purpose of crypto. In India, cryptocurrency was gaining such traction within the community that the government felt threatened and created the Indian crypto coin backed by the government and taxed every other crypto at the highest percentage, 30%. This destroyed all alternatives and created a government run monopoly of crypto. If the city wants their own coin, it should have the same competitive advantage and disadvantages of other coins, which I am hesitant to believe is attainable.

How can the City better work with Austin’s tech community to bring innovative approaches to civic challenges?

This is a really hard problem because politicians and bureaucrats don’t understand how to build technology and often believe it’s easier than it actually is. Additionally, governments will often overpay for inferior software solutions since government officials lack a thorough understanding of the industry.

I’m on the founding team of a tech company (Ender) and have several friends who are founders and CEOs at software companies that provide technology solutions to municipal governments. If I were involved on the city side of a technological acquisition, I would:

  1. Use my experience to identify highly specific performance metrics;
  2. Make sure the city didn’t pay for any services unless those performance metrics were hit, and
  3. I would make sure that the city understands the actual market value of the technology they are licensing and/or acquiring so it doesn’t overpay.

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