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By W. Gardner Selby November 20, 2014

Martinez says Steve Adler hasn't been active in anything that has to do with Austin's City Hall

Austin mayoral candidate Mike Martinez says his opponent, Steve Adler, lacks experience in municipal matters.

Martinez, an Austin City Council member since 2006, told Austin’s KVUE-TV for a news story aired Nov. 11, 2014: "He’s never been active in anything that has to do with City Hall," stressing "anything." Adler and Martinez are vying in a Dec. 16, 2014, runoff.

Adler’s campaign manager, Jim Wick, asked us to look into Martinez’s claim.

Asked how Martinez reached his conclusion, Martinez spokesman Nick Hudson emailed: "Mike meant something specific when he made this statement. While Mike Martinez has been on the Austin City Council for nearly eight years and has a near-perfect attendance record, Steve Adler has not, to our knowledge, ever taken an active role in our local government by appearing before Council on an item."

That’s a way to get to "never."

To be sure, Adler has been running as a City Hall outsider eager to get city government moving in a fresh direction. Wick told us Adler never has been on a council-appointed board or commission.

But Wick said by email the eminent-domain lawyer has built familiarity with city affairs, in part by representing clients whose land was being condemned by the city. In 2004, Adler represented Lowe’s when the store and city of Austin tried to keep construction of a store continuing in Southwest Austin. The project ultimately proceeded after a 2005 legal settlement involving the city of Sunset Valley and environmental groups.

Adler also has volunteered in causes that connected with city government, Wick wrote.

According to an October 2014 Austin American-Statesman profile, Adler led the board of the Austin-area Anti-Defamation League from 2009 to 2012. In that role, Wick told us, Adler "helped conceive of and serves on the city-led Hate Crimes Task Force."

The Austin ADL says on a web page that when the task force was launched in December 2010, its "convenors" included the ADL, several council members and more than 70 individuals representing 40 organizations or departments.

A May 2011 Austin Chronicle news story, pointed out by Wick, listed the ADL among groups having a hand in starting the task force. The story described Laura Morrison as one of three council members behind the task force’s creation in the wake of the beatings of two men outside City Hall in 2010. "The attack prompted Morrison and colleagues Sheryl Cole and Randi Shade to ask the Austin chapter of the Anti-Defam­a­tion League to put together a proposal for what a city-led task force might look like," the Chronicle said.

The story said: "The idea is for the group – which includes" Travis County’s district and county attorneys, the Austin Police Department, "University of Texas and Austin Independent School District police, members of the Anti-Defam­ation League, Out Youth, and other civil rights groups, among others – to identify and develop an approach to dealing with hate-motivated violence ‘before, during, and after’ it happens."

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That story didn’t mention Adler. But in May 2014, an Adler profile in the Austin Bulldog quoted Austin ADL board member Kirk Rudy saying Adler "was instrumental" in creating the task force.

By phone, attorney Karen Gross, a former ADL staff member, told us she and Adler helped launch the task force by reaching out to any group with a possible stake in the collaboration of city, county and non-governmental entities.

Wick said Adler also had a hand in writing the city’s cultural master plan.

An April 2008 consultant’s report lists Adler among 71 members of the CreateAustin Leadership Council, an appointed group of "civic, business and cultural leaders who agreed to provide the visible leadership in reaching out to engage the community, to assist in crafting the CreateAustin Cultural Master Plan and to galvanize the effort to implement the plan’s recommendations."

By telephone, Janet Seibert, the city’s civic arts program consultant, said the members were chosen by city staff.

The report says the city’s Cultural Arts Division launched the CreateAustin "strategic planning process" in September 2006 because the city "wanted to review and refine municipal roles and responsibilities for cultural support, but that was only half of it. The City recognized they couldn’t support arts, culture and creative industries alone. They sought to trigger and develop community leadership to explore major issues and develop strategies to sustain the creative culture of Austin."

The leadership council, the report said, "met regularly to review research, findings and community input in order to help shape the cultural plan." Adler, the report says, was on the  body’s Cultural Infrastructure task force. Adler co-chaired that task force, Seiberg said to our query. She said the Austin City Council accepted the master plan in June 2010.

Our ruling

Martinez said Adler has "never been active in anything that has to do with City Hall."

Adler hasn’t been a member of city boards or commissions and we accept Martinez’s assertion Adler hasn’t addressed the council. Then again, Adler had a leadership hand in developing the hate crimes task force and the city’s cultural master plan.

All told, this never/anything statement strikes us as incorrect and ridiculous. Pants on Fire!

PANTS ON FIRE – The statement is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim.

Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

Our Sources

News story, "Martinez questions Adler's business connections," KVUE-TV, Austin, Nov. 11, 2014

Email, Jim Wick, campaign manager, Steve Adler campaign, Nov. 15, 2014

Email, Nick Hudson, political director, Mike Martinez campaign, Nov. 17, 2014

News story, "Attorney Steve Adler says as Austin’s mayor, he would offer fresh start," Austin American-Statesman, posted online Oct. 5, 2014

News story, "The Road Against Hate," the Austin Chronicle, May 6, 2011

News story, "What’s Steve Adler Done for Austin?," the Austin Bulldog, May 1, 2014

Web page, "Hate Crimes Task Force," Anti-Defamation League (Austin) (accessed Nov. 17, 2014)

Telephone interview, Karen Gross, attorney, Austin, Nov. 17, 2014

Report, "Culture Matters Here," CreateAustin Cultural Master Plan, April 2008 (viewed Nov. 17, 2014)

Telephone interview, Janet Seibert, civic arts program consultant, City of Austin, Nov. 17, 2014

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Martinez says Steve Adler hasn't been active in anything that has to do with Austin's City Hall

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