Editor’s Note: Jennifer Virden answered our questions over email on 10/04/22. Virden is a candidate for Austin Mayor, former candidate for Austin City Council, and a business owner. She will face Former State Senator Kirk Watson, State Representative Celia Israel, UT Student Phil Brual, Security Guard Anthony Bradshaw, and Cosmetics Executive Gary Spellman in the November 8th election. Virden’s website can be found at jenniferforaustin.com.
Garrit: In 2020, you ran for city council and narrowly lost. What did you learn from that race that you are now applying to your mayoral run?
Jennifer: I learned a lot – mostly about the lengths to which the current mayor and his supporters will go to deny people who challenge what their “leadership” has done to Austin.
Garrit: The Austin Chronicle has referred to you as “far-right” and has described your views as “pretty darn fringey, even by Texas Republican standards.” Can you address that?
Jennifer: The Austin Chronicle (AC) is a shell of its former self and has gone all-in on the radical left in Austin. How is reducing property taxes, increasing staff at Austin police, and using effective means of addressing homelessness “far-right?” It isn’t – it is in-line with the vast majority of Austinites. The writers at the AC devolve to personal attacks like that because they don’t want to engage the ideas.
Garrit: How do you plan to win over the voters of Austin given the city’s left-wing and progressive nature?
Jennifer: Affordability, property taxes, crime, and homelessness are issues all (or most) Austinites want to see addressed in new, effective ways. The issues I care about are the same issues most Austinites, left, right, and center, care about.
Garrit: How do you feel about the GRACE Act passed by the Austin City Council?
Jennifer: During the campaign and also as mayor, I have promised not to push my beliefs on state and national issues, over which the city has little to no control.
Garrit: What do you think is the best way to approach the homelessness issue?
Jennifer: Starts with enforcing the camping ban – no exceptions. Then we have to focus limited resources on enforcement of existing laws against camping and drug use, and require mental health and/or substance abuse treatment. Putting people in an apartment without requiring and ensuring they are getting the help they need is a dead-end approach to addressing homelessness.
Garrit: How do you plan to enforce the camping ban passed last year?
Jennifer: We have to increase staffing at APD [Austin Police Department] first. It is the city manager’s responsibility to enforce the law. Once we have adequate staffing, and if the camping ban is still not being enforced, as mayor, I will post a public meeting every week in which the city manager must report to the public on the status of enforcement of the camping ban, why the ban is not being enforced, and what else he needs in order to fully enforce the law.
Garrit: One of the issues highlighted on your website is “spend money wisely.” Can you cite specific examples of money being spent improperly in the Austin city government?
Jennifer: We need to refocus city resources on the core municipal functions – public safety, roads, parks, and city infrastructure. Those things should take priority over all other city spending. We’ll drill down on and eliminate wasteful spending by performing a third-party audit of all city expenditures – this is a top priority as soon as I take office.
Garrit: APD has seen an increase in officers resigning or retiring. How do you plan to build trust between the police department and the public, and how do you plan to cultivate a culture that values public safety and the police?
Jennifer: Well, it starts with changing the mayor. Steve Adler has not been a supporter of the police. I have been and will continue to be. APD already knows how strong my support is for them, so if I’m elected, seeing this positive change in city leadership will have an immediate effect on the culture change we need.
Garrit: How do you plan to work with the Austin City Council?
Jennifer: Every council member is accountable to their constituents. I imagine that when I bring forward plans to reduce property taxes or to address rising crime, many of the council members will follow, because their constituents will demand it.