Commit to block-walk this weekend!

Blog Post: Posted February 11, 2014 at 2:05 pm

Austin American Statesman: Eckhardt is our choice for Travis County judge

Blog Post: Posted February 8, 2014 at 8:44 pm

Sarah Eckhardt has been endorsed by the Austin American Statesman!

In the Democratic primary race for Travis County judge, voters would be wise to look past popularity to experience. If they do, they will reach the same conclusion we have: Sarah Eckhardt is the best person for the job.

Eckhardt has a tough contest against the affable Andy Brown, who has garnered the lion’s share of endorsements from Democratic organizations. Brown, former chair of the Travis County Democratic Party, has ties to key Democratic officeholders, such as U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett and state Sen. Kirk Watson. He has used that network to his advantage, besting Eckhardt in campaign fundraising by more than $100,000. But when it comes to knowledge of county government and the challenges the county faces from rapid growth and urbanization, Eckhardt, former Precinct 2 county commissioner, has the clear advantage.

With the departure of retiring Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, there is for the first time since 1998 a competitive race for this open seat. The job, a four-year term that pays $118,373 annually, is one of five positions on the policy-making Travis County Commissioners Court, where officials decide on everything from building roads outside city limits to setting the county’s annual $857 million budget. Only the county judge is elected at-large by all Travis County voters.

Throughout this campaign, Eckhardt has demonstrated a superior knowledge of a county with a population that now exceeds 1 million. Eckhardt handily discusses Travis County’s challenges in managing diminishing resources, such as water, building infrastructure to accommodate growth and spurring economic development in the county’s blighted and less-affluent areas.

As a commissioner and candidate, Eckhardt, 49, did her homework and has accurately been described as a policy wonk. Those characteristics made her the best prepared commissioner on the court. As such, she helped write county policy for awarding tax rebates to businesses that move to or expand in Travis County. The policy requires construction workers be paid at least $11 an hour. We appreciate that Eckhardt has focused on affordability issues and helped expand the homestead exemption for seniors and people with disabilities. All homeowners receive a 20 percent exemption, but seniors and people with disabilities receive a $70,000 exemption on top of that. On budget matters, Eckhardt has taken a balanced approach. She has supported pay raises for county employees but voted against the outrageous 10.5 percent pay raises three of her colleagues approved for county peace officers.

Brown, by contrast, comes across as a nice guy, but far less prepared about the workings of county government. Brown, 41, has a good idea in establishing a sobriety center in Travis County that would prioritize treatment over jail time for people who are charged with public intoxication. But he has been vague on how to pay for that except to say that the approach would ultimately generate a savings for the county in the way of jail expenses. Brown also wants the county to “keep up with the market” in paying county employees, even, he told us, if it means continually raising property taxes to keep up with the Joneses. That is worrisome. Two commissioners – Margaret Gomez and Ron Davis – have rarely, if ever, met a pay raise they didn’t like, including the one they gave to county peace officers. Brown likely would be a third vote for such political favors. We’re not against pay raises, but they must be balanced against the public’s ability to pay for them.

If elected, Eckhardt would be wise to mend fences with some in the business community who feel alienated by some of her rhetoric. A good county judge seeks to build consensus. Eckhardt should do more of that and use the skills she employed to bring together the county’s 14 autonomous emergency services districts to improve the county’s patchwork system for providing fire and emergency medical services. The limits of that system were on display when the 2011 Labor Day weekend wildfires broke out within hours of one another in Pflugerville, Pedernales Bend and Steiner Ranch. When other county officials gave up on breaking down turf barriers among emergency service districts, Eckhardt rolled up her sleeves and went to work. That too, is how she approaches transportation matters, one of the toughest problems facing county commissioners.

With Biscoe’s departure, the county commission loses a moderating voice that has kept the court from sliding too far left. Biscoe’s institutional knowledge of the county’s many diverse functions, including running a jail, will be missed. Eckhardt is prepared to fill that void.

Remember early voting starts Feb. 18

Community Leaders Supporting Sarah

Blog Post: Posted February 4, 2014 at 9:45 am

Some Thoughts for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Blog Post: Posted January 20, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
We must rise above the narrow confines of self-interest and find every way to address the broader concerns of our community. Our poverty rate has increased by more than 50% since 2000. While the overall economy booms, poverty in our community is hardening along geographic lines. The areas of very low opportunity are almost exclusively east of IH35, with areas east of SH130 solidly and seemingly intractably low opportunity. I have and will continue to advocate that the County use all of its authority to bridge this economic and geographic divide. I have:

Established the Travis County Tax Team to relieve the burden of county property taxes on those least able to afford them
Refocused the Historic Exemption that previously went overwhelmingly to wealthy Central Austin residents
Lowered taxes for seniors and the disabled
Required a livable wage for all employees of any company receiving tax breaks from the County
Required a livable wage for all construction workers on projects receiving tax breaks from the County
Created an enforceable preference for minority and women owned businesses seeking County contracts
Increased funding for workforce education

When I become County Judge, I pledge to work with our municipalities and school districts to establish Economic Development Zones in areas of the County that lack good schools, job opportunities, good roads, a common water provider, grocery stores, and transit. I will work with our other local governments to use our collective leverage to attract enterprises that will partner with the public in achieving community goals.
Improving opportunity in these Economic Development Zones requires negotiating with enterprises to locate their businesses in these zones; hire residents from these zones; financially contributing to road work, water plans, and transit extensions that improve the experience of residents as well as the enterprise in these zones; meaningfully participate in local school districts and local emergency service district for the education and safety of their neighbors who are also their employees. Make these arrangements routine, explicit and enforceable and we will begin to see increased opportunity in areas that have been left outside the usual circulation of wealth. We will begin to rise above the narrow confines of self-interest to address our shared humanity.

I’ll work for you

Blog Post: Posted January 9, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Red McCombsLike most billionaires, Red McCombs is used to getting his way.

After handing out big bucks, the big-time car dealer got part of the UT football stadium and the entire business school named after him. And, after getting a huge tax subsidy from Texas taxpayers, he helped convince a majority of the Travis County Commissioners Court (that didn’t include me) to hand over local tax dollars for his Formula 1 racetrack.

And McCombs gets really upset when he doesn’t get his way.

For example, Red didn’t agree with UT’s decision to make Charlie Strong the first African-American to coach any men’s sport at UT. I know little about football, but it was easy to see that his statements were, to say the least, insensitive.

And he was unhappy when Bruce Todd — my replacement on the Commissioners Court — had the temerity to suggest money for a driveway to his racetrack’s front gate would be better spent helping Travis County flood victims rebuild their homes.

McCombs was also unhappy with the tax appraisal for the racetrack. So, his business is suing the Travis Central Appraisal District, claiming the tax bill for his racetrack will be too high.

I think it’s pretty cheeky to ask the county to spend property tax dollars — paid by local homeowners and businesses — to help his race track and then turn around and sue the county so he can pay less taxes.

When corporations came asking for tax breaks, I didn’t ask for endorsements or campaign contributions. I took tough votes.

We need a Travis County Judge who is willing to stand up to billionaires and giant corporations that don’t want to pay their fair share like the rest of us. I’m the only candidate in this race who has a long track record of working for the people instead of the special interests.

Early voting begins in just forty days. I need your help if you want a County Judge who will work foryouContribute $25, $50, or $100 to my campaign, and join us on Saturday, January 18th at 2:00 pmat Patterson Park (4200 Brookview Rd, Austin, TX 78722) to meet friends and make a difference in our campaign during our critical New Year Volunteer Block Walk. Click here to RSVP!

Thank you,

Sarah Eckhardt

p.s. The difference in this race is clear. Check out the recent debate between my opponent and I, where I won decisively:

“It’s a no-brainer”

Blog Post: Posted December 20, 2013 at 9:50 am

In the race for Travis County Judge, as Daniel Bradford says, the choice is “a no brainer.” Learn what your neighbors are saying about Sarah Eckhardt below.

Sarah Eckhardt in the Statesman: “Let’s Make History Together”

Blog Post: Posted November 16, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Sarah gave a one-minute interview to the Austin American Statesman. Check it out below!

What are your neighbors saying about Sarah Eckhardt?

Blog Post: Posted November 14, 2013 at 9:10 am

Political insiders and corporate interests won’t decide the race for Travis County Judge. You and your neighbors will. Listen to these testimonials from ordinary Travis County residents about why they’re supporting Sarah Eckhardt– the most experienced and qualified Democrat– in the race for Travis County Judge.

Faith Action for Women in Need Endorses Sarah Eckhardt: “Sarah is a Democratic woman in the mold of Wendy Davis”

Blog Post: Posted November 13, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Sarah Eckhardt is honored to receive the endorsement of Faith Action for Women in Need (FAWN), A faith-based organization that supports full-spectrum women’s healthcare! From their Facebook Page:

Our current County Judge, Sam Biscoe, is asking relevant questions about the budget of Central Health. We will need that type of oversight and transparency going forward in this 60-year relationship that costs taxpayers $35 million a year and compromises women’s healthcare. I have spoken at length with Sarah, and trust her to keep inquiring about these relationships and how they can be made better.

Sarah is a Democratic woman in the mold of Wendy Davis. She takes a bold stand and keeps asking questions, no matter what. This is a tough fight she’s in, and she’s the underdog. Please stop by her website, endorse her, and consider volunteering for her campaign. Women don’t need someone who makes deals behind closed doors, we need someone who will put healthcare first…

Thanks to Cindy Noland and the folks at FAWN!

Veteran Rene Prieto: The Story of a Sarah Eckhardt Campaign Staff Member

Blog Post: Posted November 11, 2013 at 2:15 pm
The Sarah Eckhardt Campaign is honored to have two war veterans on our team. For Veterans’ Day, here’s the personal story of  Afghanistan veteran Rene Prieto, a member of our campaign staff, in his own words.
I made the oath of service in December of 2000 after George W. Bush acquired the presidency with the help of the Supreme Court. I was certain we were headed to Iraq, and I was inspired by my studies to do something other than study.

I didn’t go to Basic Combat Training until July 2001, thanks to the delayed entry program. So it was at the end of Basic Combat Training that my platoon was standing in line at parade rest waiting to get our class A and B uniforms issued that we heard on the radio that “a plane has just crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.”

That afternoon the battalion played taps and we saluted the fallen. Later that evening we quietly watched video footage of the event in our barracks on the TV set we otherwise never turned on.

It wasn’t until after Thanksgiving weekend in 2002 that I finally made it to Afghanistan with the job of winning hearts and minds. I deployed three times, totaling about 15 months, drove 90km once or twice a week, never had to fire my weapon, and physically only suffered from one pretty bad week of dysentery (though never missing a day of work).

I loved my direct interactions with Afghans, and I’d love to go back sans uniform. I was honorably discharged in July, 2005. I never went to Iraq, and frankly, I’m glad.