The race for 29th Ward alderman may be roughly a year away, but the incumbent, Ald. Chris Taliaferro, has already attracted a challenger. Community activist Dwayne Truss announced last month that he would run for the position.
During a phone interview last week, Truss, 54, said that he decided to put his name into the race because of some irresolvable differences with Taliaferro, particularly over how the alderman handled the redevelopment process for two shuttered schools in Austin and the fact that he allowed a liquor store to reopen that Truss and other activists had worked to close.
Common to both of those issues was what Truss claimed to be Taliaferro's "lack of transparency."
"We just found him not to be a transparent person," said Truss, who had supported former alderman Deborah Graham in the 2015 election.
Truss said that he had vowed to work with Taliaferro after he got into office, but the working relationship eventually went south.
Truss, who along with his wife serves on the Columbus Park Advisory Council, said that he had worked Graham to have the business license of a liquor store on the corner of Central and Van Buren revoked.
"Taliaferro allowed that store to reopen under new ownership and admitted that he met with the owner at least three times," Truss said. "And in those three times he never thought to have a community meeting? We were upset."
According to Truss, Taliaferro said that he didn't know a new license for the store was being issued, a claim that Truss said members of CPAC were able to refute after filing a FOIA request for documents that showed that the owners had sent the alderman a letter about the liquor license application.
Truss said that he also disagreed with Taliaferro's handling of the repurposing of Emmet School, 5500 W. Madison St., which was one of the 50 schools that closed in 2013. Truss said that Taliaferro did not bring key stakeholders, in particular Loretto Hospital, to the table during discussions.
"It was just really shady, in a sense," Truss said. "Why didn't he tell them about this? The vice president of Loretto is state Rep. Camille Lilly. That was very disrespectful … He's never been willing to answer those questions."
Truss also suggested that Taliaferro prioritizes the Galewood neighborhood over the rest of Austin. While he didn't say this explicitly, when Truss was asked if this was his indication, he said, "I would just say look at the facts."
"Go to his website, look at his announcements and how he engages [different sections of Austin], look at the town halls he's had," Truss said.
Truss announced that he would run in a March 20 Facebook post. In addition to serving as a member of CPAC, Truss is also a member of the Austin Community Action Council, the Westside Branch NAACP and Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education. He's worked as an auditor with the state of Illinois for 29 years, he said.
Truss said that, if elected, he'll work to try to increase engagement in south Austin.
"The Galewood and Montclaire sections stay engaged and that's a great thing," he said. "We're a very diverse ward and I believe our diversity is our strength.
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