He earned a linguistics degree from Northeastern University before earning master’s and doctorate degrees in Archeology from the University of Texas. Like many residents of Austin and neighboring areas, McGhee has German roots. He was born in Karlsruhe, Germany, and has been an Austin resident for more than 20 years. McGhee’s running for city council, with this slogan: “He’s tough, and he knows stuff.”
On Nov. 4, 2014, Austin residents will enter the polls to elect city council members from single member districts for the first time ever. Under its new 10-1 voting structure, Austin will elect 10 city council members from single member districts that each represent 10 percent of the city’s population. Voters will continue to elect one mayor to represent the entire city. McGhee, accustomed to firsts, is running to be elected as council representative for the third district.
Historically, seven city council members each represented the interests of the entire population of Austin. It’s easy to imagine how representatives vying for citywide votes could overlook the special interests of some Austin neighborhoods. In 2012, more than 30,000 citizen signatures placed Citizens Districting 10-1, known as “Prop 3,” on the ballot, where voters then approved it. The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission approved a final map of the new districts in November of 2013.
The new model creates four new council seats, and combined with current councilmembers facing term limits, the next election could potentially add 10 new members to Austin’s council. The single member districts are designed to give representation and a voice to citizens from the different communities in Austin.
McGhee is a family man, with a wife and three young children, and McGhee says he is running for city council, “because of my children. I have three young children and it is hard to raise children in Austin.” His platform is simple and family-oriented: transportation, housing, sustainability and universal Pre-K. His universal Pre-K model is that of Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York.
“In terms of solving transportation challenges, nothing is off the table.” He supports urban rail development, with special interest in environmental concerns including air quality.
It is no secret that it is increasingly difficult to secure affordable housing in Austin. According to non-profit HousingWorks, “From 1970 to 1990, Austin was one of the most affordable cities in the U.S. But, in 1999, the Community Action Network stated housing affordability in Austin had reached crisis proportion. Austin has the highest housing costs for an urban area in Texas.”
According to McGhee, “In Austin we don’t just have an affordability issue, we also have an inequality issue.” He wants to make sure that affordable housing enables more people to live within the city, rather than being pushed to the outskirts.
For McGhee, “sustainability” is more than an environmental concern; it’s cultural. The loss of historical buildings in East Austin due to gentrification has been a great concern in the local African American community. McGhee bills himself as a principled collaborator and plans to respect historical integrity while encouraging investment in Austin.