Learn about the "next CodeNEXT" at the Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center on October 19 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM

The draft of the proposed Land Development Code (a.k.a. the next CodeNEXT) has been released. Here is an opportunity to learn about the code, ask questions, make suggestions, determine if your property will be impacted, and identify possible unintended consequences.

On October 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center at 808 Nile Street there will be a walkable demonstration to educate the public on the new draft and allow the public a chance to ask questions to city staff.

The changes to the land development code are city wide.


Saturday, September 28 2019
Huston-Tillotson University (Davage-Durden Student Union)
900 Chicon Street, Austin, TX  78702
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM.

National Expungement Week (N.E.W.) is a week of events across the U.S. that offers expungement and other forms of legal relief to some of the 77 million Americans with convictions on their records. These convictions can restrict access to housing, employment, education, public assistance, and voting rights long after sentences have been served. 

The Austin Justice Coalition will be hosting this event in partnership with the UT Law Clinic to offer complimentary criminal record-sealing education and a roadmap to record-sealing for those that qualify. Easy Expunctions will help with providing eligibility reports on site. We will have legal advisors onsite to help answer questions.

Voter registration and information about employment and licensing opportunities will also be available to the public.


ZONED OUT: A short film about the continuing threat of CodeNEXT

ZONED OUT image.jpg

Do you know what land use plans are? Do you know what they are intended to do? Do you think land use plans are boring and benign? I hope not! Austin’s upcoming land use plan (a.k.a. “zoning”) will have adverse consequences to neighborhoods throughout Austin, but especially neighborhoods close to center city or urban core. City Council Districts 1, 2, 3, and 4 will be hit first and hit hardest. Watching this film will prove that to you.

 Austin's City Council is planning to fast-track the next installment of CodeNEXT. This warmed-over version of last year’s plan will reshape neighborhoods across the city, impair the value of the property of individuals who want to live in family homes, crush the “American Dream' of home ownership created across generations, and push individuals out of Austin who are viewed as disposable or not valued.

The film “ZONED OUT” exposes these dangers. The film was created by nationally known director Steve Mims. It shows the dramatic and negative impact of land use policy on Austin neighborhoods and Austinites. The story is told with simple, direct imagery and compelling interviews. This film is a wake-up call to Austinites of all backgrounds, creeds, income levels, and ethnicities. You should invite your neighbors to watch it with you.

Austin’s land use plans have historically been developed by and for real estate developers and to increase tax revenue – not for the average, ordinary citizens. In 2018, just before the council election and because of the uproar of citizens across the city, the initial and costly installment of CodeNEXT was halted.

Now, the city has simply revived CodeNEXT and intends to force it on property throughout, Austin regardless of your desires as the owner of the property.

Your property will be rezoned from single family to dense residential and your taxes will increase – without your agreement. The zoning will reshape our city and driven out individuals who have called Austin home for years and who want to remain in the city.

Be alert, pay attention, and watch out! The city plans to fast-track the “next installment of CodeNEXT”. The city will unveil the plan on October 4th and the City Council is scheduled to take a final vote in December, less than 2 months later. Clearly there will not be enough time for ordinary citizens to understand the impact the code will have on their property, offer suggestions, resist the code changes or the unintended consequences that will occur.

The most controversial issue in the new plan is “up-zoning.” Up-zoning is another city tool, much like urban renewal, which causes property to change hands from one group of people to another. Up-zoning replaces single-family homes with a minimum of four housing units on the same lot. Up-zoning is the city’s tool to turn over Austin from those people judged undesirable to those who are judged desirable. Up-zoning is a land grab by developers and an attack on single family homeowners who want to continue to live in their “little piece of heaven.”

Land use upheaval will impact all neighborhoods, but the neighborhoods hit hardest and quickest are those close to center city, inside the urban core, and east to Hwy183.

Tens of thousands of homes near major roads and activity centers will be included in “transition zones.” Property in or near these transition zones will be up-zoned from single family homes to multi-family homes in the ongoing saga of CodeNEXT. See this map to find out if your home will be up-zoned.

You can watch “ZONED OUT: The Legacy of CodeNEXT” on your computer or smartphone by clicking this link. You can watch the film on your smart TV by going to the YouTube channel and searching YouTube for “ZONED OUT.”

 For more information about the film and the new land use plan, please see this article in the Austin Bulldog.

My farewell to City Council

Thank you, Mayor Adler and colleagues for the opportunity to offer some final comments.

Good morning everyone in the Chamber, those watching on your electronic devices or those listening on KAZI 88.7 FM.

Ephesians 4:1-16 reminds us to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. With all humility and gentleness, with patience. I have tried to live my life by this conviction and with bold intention,

This Council began over 175 years ago with the intention of serving citizens. In the past, our city was under the “gentlemen’s agreement” which had the goal of artificially reserving 2 seats to represent the diversity in our city. With the new 10-1 form of governance, we must continue to be even more deliberate in our actions, as we are losing much of the historic diversity in our community.

I hope the City will continue to be deliberate with regards to equal representation, not only in the makeup of the Dais but - perhaps even more importantly – equity in our actions.

The district #1 office operated with intention and conviction. Intention to truly demonstrate equality; to demonstrate deliberate diversity and inclusion; to put partisan issues aside and intentionally listen to different perspectives. I have tenaciously held to my convictions, even when it may not have been the politically expedient thing to do.

My intention has always been in the best interest of the “blended family” who call District 1 home, especially those who have been marginalized, neglected, ignored and left behind.

The blended family contains many wonderful ethic and cultural groups, a myriad of religious traditions, different political ideologies, a variety of languages and different abilities.

The family also includes some stark contrasts – in the areas of educational attainment, income levels, employment opportunities and health inequalities. I have represented the individuals in the district to the very best of my ability.

From the work on a resolution addressing the lack of protections for individuals residing in boarding homes; to the passage of the preservation & rehabilitation plan for Rosewood Courts, which includes additional living units in an area that continues to change.

I was intentional about collaborating with business and tech companies to encourage and connect them to the historic black universities in the State. To develop a pipeline that allows the city, business and companies to recruit interns and employees at the two state institutions that were built intentionally for Americans of African ancestry and my alma- matter Huston-Tillotson University, the oldest institution of higher learning in Austin and the heartbeat of District 1.   

I was intentional about assisting constituents living far from healthcare alternatives by partnering with Central Health to begin the process to provide medical care and behavioral healthcare east of Hwy 183 south.

I have been intentional about engagement and inclusion; over the years, my staff and I attended countless community and neighborhood association meetings to connect with the people of the district.

We were intentional about engagement – making it the hallmark of my service to this community.  We hosted quarterly town halls, and coffee chats throughout the District’s 46 square miles.

I worshipped at over a hundred different communities of faith, in variety of languages from Arabic to Vietnamese to make certain that they were aware that this Council represents them.  

Those of you know me, know that I have been intentional in bringing everyone to the conversation. Something as small as asking staff and colleagues not to use acronyms. This deliberate action removes the distance between experts and ‘we the people’ by eliminating a mysterious language that only a few speak. Because the business that goes on in this building is the people’s business and we should be intentional about speaking in a way that allows and encourages the people to participate. (O.mit R.idiculous A.cronyms!)

I have been intentional in my mission to rebuild trust in government; looking deliberately at everything we touch from budgets, to contract, to programs, to purchasing, to identify and create opportunities for diversity. To involve, engaged and encourage constituents to be part of the solutions. Always asking the question, “who are we missing”? My intention was always to bring my experience and the life experiences of individuals often-overlooked and marginalized to conversations around public policies in this City.

I want to thank my colleagues for their dedication and their service. I want to thank my amazing and selfless staff: Genoveva Rodriguez and Chris Hutchinson were on the campaign trail with me. Beverly Wilson, returned to City Hall to be the wind beneath my wings; Andre Ewing, a Veteran, and the voice of the District on the phone; Sophia Williams came on board to help with the 2017 budget process; Alex Uhlmann joined us in August to help get us across the finish line at the conclusion of the land development process.

To the wonderfully diverse community volunteers who served on the various Boards and Commissions, thank you for your service.

My heartfelt thanks to the dedicated, unseen staff who work tirelessly day in and day out, behind the scenes for those of us who have ability to live in this city…building services, public works, resource recovery…next time you see a crew out and about, say thank you.

To my daughter – Gina Houston, my rock, confidant, encourager and technology guru – I love you a bushel and a peak~

Congratulations and best wishes to Ms. Harper-Madison. It is my desire that you will delight in your public service to the District. As I have shared, the job is 8 days a week/24 hours a day.

And finally, to the residents of the District and all Austinites – thank you for trusting me, for working with me, for arguing with me, for laughing with me, for crying with me and for being my strength and constant reminder for me to work with intention.

I close with a quote from one of the most intentional leaders of my lifetime, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “Don’t worry about being safe, political or popular nor make decisions out of cowardice, expediency or vanity; but simply take actions your conscience tells you are right.“

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve.


NAACP Banquet Greetings, December 1, 2018


Good evening.  I bring you greetings from Mayor Adler, who is out of the city, my colleagues, Council Members Flannigan and Renteria, and City Manager Cronk. I would like for employees of the city of Austin to stand, so that we can give them a hand to thank them for the work they do for the people of Austin.

It is great to be with you tonight to celebrate the 53rd Annual DeWitty / Overton Freedom Fund Banquet.

The NAACP has been a fierce advocate for the rights guaranteed under the constitution for “we the people.” After joining the local branch, I became a life member in 1983. I continue to support the organization with my financial contributions and encourage you to do the same.

On February 12, 2019, the national organization will celebrate 110 years of advocacy. The NAACP was founded because White and Black folk believed that all people are created equal. It is the institutions, systems, policies, procedures and practices that are created unequally or not applied with equity.

We, the collective “we”, face so many challenges and unknowns in our country, state, and city. It is important for people to work together as allies, now more than ever before. We must find space between the extremes to do the hard work of listening, compromise and collaboration for the betterment of our community. We must provide ways to allow “we the people” to trust and have confidence in those who are elected to serve.

Being a part of this gathering, honoring the public service of Arthur B. DeWitty and Volma Overton, gives me hope. I believe the spirit of those who fought for civil rights and equality for all will continue as long as we remember our collective history.

As I end my term on the Austin City Council, I hope that the conversations we have had around “Undoing Racism,” “Undoing White Supremacy,” and “Beyond Diversity,” will continue. I hope those conversations will be the lens though which policies are made. I hope the relationships we have cultivated will continue to empower the larger community to be intentional about the inclusion of different ideologies, cultures, and ethnic groups in the decision-making process. Most importantly, I hope we will focus on equity in our city by being intentional about including more people at the table, especially those who are being “left behind.”

The goal must be to make our fair city better for everyone.

As we start a new year, remember that members of the diaspora are resilient, strong and nimble even though disconnected. Especially disconnected in this city. We must commit to showing up and working to facilitate reconciliation where there is strife and do it with civility and respect.

I close with a quote from one of the most intentional and fearless leaders of my lifetime, The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – “Don’t worry about being safe, political or popular, nor make decisions out of cowardice, expediency, or vanity; but simply take actions your conscience tells you are right.”

I thank you for allowing me to serve.


My Choices on the November, 2018 Ballot

Constituents have asked which candidates and propositions I will support in November’s election. (Early voting started Monday, October 22!) I am humbled to be asked. I believe every voter should make up her / his own mind. I also realize that asking people their judgments is a way to make your personal decisions. In that spirit, here are my choices for selected ballot decisions.

Remember to go “down the ballot!” There are very important Propositions which need your vote. Also remember that if you vote a “straight ticket” – which I don’t recommend – your “straight ticket” vote doesn’t make any selections in Austin city elections because Austin’s politics are officially non-partisan. Each ballot choice deserves your attention.


United States Senator: Beto O’Rourke

District 10, United States Representative: Mike Siegel

District 25, United States Representative: Julie Oliver

District 35, United States Representative: Lloyd Doggett


Governor: No choice

Lieutenant Governor: Mike Collier

Attorney General: Justin Nelson

Comptroller of Public Accounts: No choice

Commissioner of the General Land Office: Miguel Suazo

Commissioner of Agriculture: Kim Olson

Railroad Commissioner: No choice

District 14, State Senator: No choice

District 46, State Representative: No choice


Mayor: Laura Morrison

City Council, District 1: Vincent Harding

City Council District 9: Kathie Tovo

PROPOSITION A, Affordable housing - $250,000,000: NO – I agree with Austin’s 2018 Bond advisory group which recommended less than $250M. Also, the responsible city department responsible does not have the capacity to manage that amount of housing bonds.

PROPOSITION B, Libraries, Museums and Cultural Arts Facilities - $128,000,000: YES – The bond issue includes $300,000 for deferred maintenance for the Carver Museum.

PROPOSITION C, Parks and Recreation - $149,000,000: YES – Funding is included for the District Pool at the Colony Park Sustainable Community.

PROPOSITION D, Flood Mitigation, Open Space and Water Quality Protection - $184,000,000: YES - for much needed infrastructure improvements throughout the city and in District #1.

PROPOSITION E, Health and Human Services - $16,000,000: YES – Includes completion of the neighborhood health services center in the Dove Springs.

PROPOSITION F, Public Safety - $38,000,000: YES – Includes funding for fire stations in the southern part of the city.

PROPOSITION G, Transportation Infrastructure - $160,000,000: NO – Duplication of items already funded.

PROPOSITION H, Planning Commission - Shall the City Charter be amended to provide that the term of service and process for removal of the Planning Commission members be determined by ordinance?: YES

PROPOSITION I, Non-substantive corrections to Charter - Shall the City Charter be amended to make non-substantive corrections to grammar, typographical errors, capitalization, punctuation, and sentence structure; and to change or remove charter language that is obsolete?: YES

PROPOSITION J, Land Development Code - Shall a City ordinance be adopted to require both a waiting period and subsequent voter approval period, a total of up to three years, before future comprehensive revisions of the City’s land development code become effective?: YES – This will allow time for “testing” that was not included in the last process.

PROPOSITION K, Citizen-initiated ordinance regarding an efficiency study - Without using the existing internal City Auditor or existing independent external auditor, shall the City Code be amended to require an efficiency study of the City’s operational and fiscal performance performed by a third-party audit consultant, at an estimated cost of $1 million - $5 million?: YES - There is a need for an external review of the performance and finances of the City Departments. The Zucker Report pointed out recommendations, efficiencies and savings in Development Services, making it a much more effective and efficiently run Department.


PLACE 7, ACC Trustee, Austin Community College District: No choice

PLACE 8, ACC Trustee, Austin Community College District: No choice

PLACE 9, Trustee, Austin Community College District: No choice

PROPOSITION A, Austin Community College District: Approving the annexation by the Austin Community College District of the following territory: the territory in Pflugerville Independent School District that is not currently included in the boundaries of the Austin Community College District, and authorizing the imposition of an ad valorem tax for junior college purposes, which is currently set at a rate of $0.1048, per $100 valuation of taxable property.: No choice





Remember to go “down the ballot!” There are very important Propositions which need your vote.

I Endorse Vincent Harding for District 1 City Council Member

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Genoveva Rodriguez
Email: Genoveva@oraatx.com
Phone: 956-551-0887

 Incumbent Ora Houston Endorses Vincent Harding for District #1

Austin, Texas - City Council Member Ora Houston announced her endorsement for District #1 Candidate Vincent Harding during a press conference Monday morning at Country Boyz Fixins on E. 12th Street. In June Houston advised that she would not seek re-election.

"What makes Vincent my choice in this crowded field? He listens, he has a wide range of experiences, and he is courageous," said Houston. "In some ways Vincent is much more experienced than I was 4 years ago.”

In November 2012, the voters of Austin approved a charter amendment that transitioned City government from years of at-large representation to 10 district representatives. The Mayor is elected by all voters. Houston is the first individual elected in 2014 under the change to district representation.

"I am grateful and honored to have been trusted with the opportunity to serve the 'blended family' of District #1. Many amazing City employees are part of the family. It is complicated to describe my experiences over the past four years in simple terms. Parts were all consuming - ’eight days a week, 24/7‘, complex, complicated, and very rewarding," said Houston. "I am eager to return to my spontaneous self and travel."

After four years of serving District #1, she is proud to say that one of her greatest accomplishments was the ability to form relationships with the 'blended family' throughout the district. Individuals who have very different views about the role of city government and encouraging them to be part of the process. She hopes that the community has the confidence to speak up and feel like they will be heard by their elected officials.

"I am confident Mr. Harding will continue to encourage constituents to speak up and get involved in the policy discussions that impact the district and the city." Houston added, "The people of District #1 held me accountable for four years, I am confident that they will do the same for Mr. Harding."

"How do voters hold elected officials accountable - VOTE on November 6th! Vote for your council member, vote for our mayor, and remember to go down the ballot to vote on the Propositions."


I have decided not to seek re-election

Dateline Austin, Texas – June 13, 2018

Council Member Ora Houston, Decision Made

Austin, Texas - Council Member Ora Houston, District #1, has decided after months of personal discernment and conversations with confidants, that she will not seek a second term on the City Council.

"It has been a joy, privilege and a huge responsibility to represent the 'blended family' of District #1," said Houston. "Over the next seven months there are major issues to address and votes to take which will impact our City for generations, and the individuals who live here now and in the future."  

"The council must make equitable decisions on the land development code and associated chapters; the adoption of the FY 19 budget; the contents/amounts to include in the 2018 Bond Proposal to be voted on in November; the possibility of placing changes to the City Charter on the same ballot; and assuring that 'justice for all' is accountable, transparent, unbiased, effective, and affordable."

Council Member Houston will focus on executing the responsibilities as the  representative of the District and will continue to support the City to not lose sight that all planning, transit and infrastructure, must be inclusive of the outer edges of the City not only the center city.

The future for her will be a blend of a lot more personal time with opportunities for continued activism and citizen engagement.

"For three years, five months and 8 days (but who’s counting), I laid a foundation of listening to the people, of civility, and approachable through many important transitions that were outlined in the State of the District, on June 9th. I will continue to represent all constituents with integrity, vigor and compassion until my term ends. As I am fond of saying, "This is an 8 day a week job, 24/7."

What's next? Council Member Houston adds, "Time to unclutter my home and look forward to checking off my ABC list - Alaska, Belize and Cuba. Please be assured that I will not become a slacker, I will remain an active, inclusive and civil voice in the City I call home: Austin, Tejas!"



"The State of District 1" is "in transition"

On June 9th I delivered the "State of District 1" address  in the Boyd Vance Theater at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center. I am honored to be the first Austin city council member from District 1. 

The district was created to give our neighborhoods – all of them - a voice in city government. The district’s voice is a combination of the council member – me - and the engaged residents of the district - you.

The State of the District video

Introductions to the State of the District video

City Council Should Let The Voters Vote - on CodeNEXT

CodeNEXT is a major rewrite of Austin's land development code. It will effect every city resident - renter and property owner. The people of Austin used their right of petition to allow voters to approve CodeNEXT or any such major revision. City Council should put that measure on the November ballot and let the voters vote.

At this press conference on May 24, I was joined by Council Members Pool, Alter, and Tovo as well as Fred Lewis of Community Not Commodity, Nelson Linder of the NAACP, and activist Lauren Ross, to explain why council should let the voters vote.

The press conference is a total of ~16 minutes and is in two parts:
May 24 "Let The Voters Vote" Press Conference - Part 1
May 24 "Let The Voters Vote" Press Conference - Part 2

I support the Episcopal Church’s opposition to Texas Senate Bill 6

I want you to know why I support the Episcopal Church’s opposition to Texas Senate Bill 6, also known as “the bathroom bill.” All people are entitled to respect, fairness, and equal protection, regardless of race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation. Everyoneshould be respected by our neighbors and peers, and certainly by our elected government.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry and The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies, sent a letter to Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, praising his opposition to the bill. Bishop Curry and Rev. Jennings explained the Senate Bill would force the church to face the “difficult choice” of moving the Episcopal General Convention from Austin this July.

Their letter explains the Episcopal Church is “proudly diverse: racially, economically, and in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity … We are duty-bound to ensure that all of our people are treated with respect, that their safety is guaranteed, and that our investment in the local economy of our host city reflects our values …” The letter notes that the Church moved the General Convention from Houston in 1955 because the Texas city could not offer sufficient guarantees of desegregated housing for its delegates.It is our humane obligation for each of us to give equal respect to all people we meet and encounter in our daily lives.

I served as a lay deputy to three prior General Conventions. I was elected to those positions by the people of the Diocese of Texas. I am proud of the position the church has taken today and I support that position.

I wanted you to know where I stand, as a private citizen and member of our community; not just as an elected official.

Voters approved the GO Big Bond

Austin’s voters decided that the GO BIG Mobility Bond is how they want city hall to address the congestion in our city. I will work constructively to implement the proposals in the Bond to address the increasing transportation and development needs we face.

The Bond allocates resources to complete some studies, engineering designs and construct sidewalks and bike lanes in District #1. I will work with the residents of the District to prioritize those resources to address the needs of the district.

 I will also work to:

1.    ensure that the needs of commuters, individuals who use mobility devices, pedestrians, and bikers are addressed,

2.    structure the Bond’s proposals and measure  them by their effectiveness in reducing traffic congestion, and

3.    mitigate the impact of those proposals on property owners, renters and local businesses which contribute so much to Austin’s unique character.

Our way forward is clear. We must work together, as outlined in the Bond, to reduce traffic congestion in Austin.


Thank you for Attention! Go Vote NO!

I have voted “no” on Prop 1, because it will make traffic worse, it costs too much, its impact on property taxes is unknown, and because it wasn’t defined in the spirit of 10-1. I will continue to work with the community and council to define effective actions to address traffic congestion in our fair city.

My “no” vote on the Transportation Bond is based on 5 objections. I hope you will consider them:

1. “Makes Austin’s automobile traffic worse”
2. “Financially flawed”
3. “Flawed process created a flawed proposal”
4. "Damages Austin’s local businesses and Austin’s unique character”
5. “District #1’s needs are not considered”

Finally, please, no matter your position on the bond, remember to “go down the ballot” and vote your preference on the “GO BIG” transportation bond.

My Last, But Definitely Not Least Reasons Why I'm Voting No On Prop. 1

These are the last days to vote early before the November 8th election. Please remember to go "down the ballot" to vote your preference on Prop. 1.

Here are my final two reasons why I'm voting no on Prop. 1.

4) Damages Austin’s local businesses and Austin’s unique character – The Corridor Improvement Projects will force closure of our local businesses and turn those properties over to real estate developers. Austin’s character is rooted in the small local businesses.
Let me give an example – East Austin's iconic El Azteca Restaurant. I want to share what happened to El Azteca. 
El Azteca has been an iconic restaurant on the East Side for 53 years. I know the owners, the Guerra family. I’ve eaten at their restaurant for decades. Their business was severely impacted by what looks like one of the “Corridor Improvement Projects.” For months, street construction disrupted traffic on 7th St., restricting access to the restaurant. Then their parking was reduced by street “improvements.” Street improvements are similar to the “new mobility” principals in the Bond proposal. 
As a result, Austin lost a family business and I lost a favorite restaurant. What will be built on the property? Perhaps, luxury living units like the ones being built on E. 6th Street.
The "GO BIG" Bond will duplicate what happened to El Azteca throughout the city. 
5) District #1’s needs are not considered – District #1 has specific transportation needs, just like each of the 10 new council districts. The "GO BIG" Bond’s approach of “one size fits all” does not fit in District #1.
I don’t claim to have a complete list of District #1’s transportation needs or the solutions, but I'd like to have the opportunity to consult with experts, individuals who live in the district and transit experts.

I open to ideas from the communities that are impacted and experience Austin traffic problems and needs first hand.
These are my 5 reasons for voting “no” on the "GO BIG" Transportation Bond proposition.

I hope you'll join me, and many others, in voting "NO" ON PROP. 1.


My 3 Top Reasons Why I'm Voting No on Prop. 1

1) Makes Austin’s automobile traffic worse - Managing automobile traffic is Austin’s most pressing transportation problem and the Bond will make traffic congestion worse. 
The projects outlined in the Bond proposal will increase congestion by removing existing turning lanes as well as the center turning lane (a.k.a. “chicken lane”) on many main thoroughfares. Automobile capacity will also be reduced by creating more bus-only lanes on arterial streets during peak traffic times.
The Bond proposal does not address transit options for commuters before they drive into the city.
2) Financially flawed – The real costs of the "GO BIG" Transportation Bond are unclear, the property tax impact on Austinites is unknown, and this bond proposition comes really close to using up all of Austin’s borrowing capacity. 
The work described in the Corridor Improvement Projects is a key example of how unclear the Bond’s costs are. City staff stated that just the make-over of the corridors will cost triple the claimed amount: $1.5 billion versus the $482 million in the Bond proposal. 
The impact on individual taxpayers is unknown. Property taxes will go up to pay for the Bond, but by how much? Supporters of the Bond state an increase by $5 per month. Opponents of the Bond, an increase will be more than 5 times that amount. 
Honestly, I don’t know the tax impact. 


The Bond is a poor use of Austin's borrowing power and comes really close to using up all of the borrowing capacity. It's important to make sound fiscal policy decisions for things that justify a property tax increase. I don't believe this Bond is justifiable.
3) A flawed process created a flawed proposal – The "GO BIG" Bond is an “old Austin” proposal. By that I mean the proposal is rooted in the at-large council districts. I was a member of the grassroots coalition which worked to establish 10 geographic council districts. The at-large system was flawed because most of Austin was under-represented when decisions were made. The center-city decided what was best for the entire city. 
The "GO BIG" Bond was defined in much the same way, limited input from some council districts, no input from other districts, and a “one size fits all” approach to Austin’s varied neighborhoods. 
The voices shaping the Bond were limited. The Bond was designed by a “coalition” of organizations, advocacy groups, and individuals but was not inclusive. 
Let me not forget to mention that the definition of the Bond was rushed. The Bond was defined and designed in 6 months. The City’s usual practice is to allow 12 to 18 months before putting a Bond before the voters. 
The separate proposals in the Bond are bundled together unnecessarily. The Bond bundles 3 or 4 distinct proposals into a single “all or nothing” decision.

Thank you for listening.

I Am Voting No On Prop. 1, Let me Explain

I have voted “no” on Proposition 1 - the “GO BIG mobility bond” - also known as the “Transportation Bond.” As council member for Austin’s District #1, I voted to not support the bond when it was presented to us at city council. I want to explain my reasons and I hope you’ll listen to them.

The "GO BIG" Bond is an “old Austin” proposal. By that I mean the proposal is rooted in the old at-large council districts. I was a member of the grassroots coalition which gave Austin our 10 geographic council districts. The old at-large system was flawed because minorities were under-represented and because center-city decided what was best for everyone else.

You have to decide your position on this important issue. No matter your position on the bond, please remember to “go down the ballot” and vote your preference on the “GO BIG” Transportation Bond.

My “no” vote on the Transportation Bond is based on 5 objections:

  1. “Makes Austin’s automobile traffic worse”
  2. “Financially flawed”
  3. “Flawed process created a flawed proposal”
  4. “Damages Austin’s local businesses and Austin’s unique character”
  5. “District #1’s needs are not considered”

I will continue to explain in detail each of my reasons as we near election day, November 8th. Please consider why so many people feel as I do.

VOTE NO on ‘GO BIG’ Mobility Bond

I will be voting against the 'GO BIG mobility bond' proposal. Please allow me to explain why.

When I ran for office to become a member of the first 10-1 council, I did so to stop the top down manner in which decisions were made by the at-large councils. I am dismayed that the $720 million transportation bond that will be on the November ballot, is the product of ‘the way things have always been done.’ The process was not inclusive. The process was not transparent. This proposal was conceived by an ‘exclusive group of power brokers’ in Austin.

We do not actually know what the total cost of the bonds will be or what the cost will be to individual taxpayers.  We have figures from staff that indicate double the amount that is on the ballot. We have no information about what it will cost taxpayers in District #1. In addition, this plan will increase congestion not lessen it because of plans to reduce vehicle travel lanes from 6 to 4 or from 4 to 2 on major streets and doing away with left turn lanes on major corridors.

There has been immense pressure on the Council to ‘do something really big’ in an incredibly short period of time on many fronts in Austin, including this bond package.

A typical bond process can take up to 18 months. This proposal was conceived in six months. The largest ‘general obligation’ (GO) bond package in the history of Austin, should have been developed with input and agreement from ‘regular individuals’ who live and work in the city. A proposal of this magnitude should be the product of a more inclusive, thoughtful and thorough process to limit the unintended consequences.

I am dismayed by the unwillingness to compromise on priorities in very different geographical areas, the amount of the bonds, or allowing the taxpayers of Austin to vote separately on which proposals they are willing to support. Standing up for my district is not “ward politics”, it is my duty and the very reason we voted for 10-1 - to allow each geographic area to be included in the decisions at city hall. The process for this bond package is in direct conflict with the vision of 10-1.

I want the public to understand the real numbers related to this bond are huge and will impact homeowners and renters for years to come. According to Assistant City Manager Robert Goode, just the makeover of the corridors, $482 million, will cost taxpayers $1.5 billion in spending. We are not only rushing this decision; we are also voting on incomplete information being fed to us - I’m not biting.

I respect Mayor Adler and his ability to be a creative thinker. His legal mind and skills serve the people of the City of Austin well, as does his demeanor. I appreciate his values regarding social justice and equity. However, the Mayor and ‘the coalition’ that met to develop the bond proposal must understand that I am a person of integrity – I will not be bought, bribed or bullied. The fact that congestion is a major problem in the City of Austin and the region, is no more or less of a problem than Austin’s road to being unaffordable for so many of the people who call our city home. I firmly believe it is sound fiscal policy to insure that our borrowing is for things that justify the impact on our property taxes.

As the duly elected representative of District #1, I had no input regarding the priorities, regional mobility, corridor mobility, local mobility (which includes modes of transportation) or the dollar amounts of this massive proposal. The buckets were decided for me. If given a choice, in addition to sidewalks and transit, I would have placed funds in a bucket to partner with CapMetro for rapid transit on 969. I believe all Austinites should have been given the option of voting on 3 or 4 proposals, not a proposal that forces voters to take an all or nothing approach.

The demographics of my district are wonderfully varied. I took an oath to represent individuals on fixed incomes, renters, wisdom keepers, homeowners, the wealthy and individuals who are barely hanging on. Taxpayers must know the fiscal impact prior to going to the polls. (Remember the ‘medical school tax’ election that raised property taxes?) If there is a miscalculation after the bond passes it will be too late to do anyone any good! Not revealing the real cost of this bond and the tax impact is a violation of the trust the people of District #1 put in me when I was elected! Please take time, between now and November 8th, to get all the information you can about this bond.

The League of Women Voters will release a voter’s guide on October 23rd for the November 8th elections. Information regarding the Pros and Cons of Prop. #1 will be included. Get a guide and decide for yourself whether the cost of the bond is justified by the projects planned and the limited impact on congestion. Most importantly, be sure to go down to the end of the ballot and find Proposition #1 – make your voice heard.

I hope you will join me in voting Against Proposition #1.

“ YOU HAD THE POWER ALL ALONG” - Glinda the Good Witch, Wizard of Oz

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Seven months ago, I stood before a gathering of friends, neighbors and strangers and asked for their support to become Austin's first City Council member for District #1.

Together, we  worked hard to achieve that goal! Look at what WE  accomplished!

December 16th was the second historic and beautiful night in the neighborhood!

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everyone who participated in the process. I know you love this district, this city, and the people who call it home as much as I do.

I am honored and humbled by the confidence you have placed in me. District #1 is home to a 'blended family' composed of a mosaic of cultures, income levels, beliefs, ethnicities, ideas, educational achievements, languages and interests.

Now our task is to identify our shared goals and affirm our uniqueness while moving Austin forward in the most inclusive way possible. I know we can do it.

I want to acknowledge and thank the eight candidates who also offered themselves to serve the public. I know they sacrificed much of their personal and professional lives to run for City Council to make sure people had options.  They are talented people who care deeply for this city. I look forward to working with them as we begin this new journey.

We must work together. Changes are necessary, they are possible and yet, I can not do it alone, I still need your help.

I challenge individuals, organizations, advocacy and trade groups to look for intentional opportunities to work with 'others' whose position might be different. We have lived in silos for long time; it’s time to dismantle them and work as allies. We must identify core values for the city and work together for solutions.

To my parents, O.H. Elliott and Thelma Elliott, whose call to activism and service to this community runs through my veins, I am eternally grateful. To the staunch supporters and pioneers who laid the foundation for this election and who are now part of that great cloud of witnesses, your efforts and spirit will follow me as I take on the challenges of this new role.

I am so very grateful for the hard work, perseverance, and commitment of the members of Team Ora and countless volunteers and shareholders – THANK YOU!

Soon, my second home will be at 301 West Second Street, City Hall – the hall of the citizens – come visit sometimes. Even so, y'all know where I live. The house my parents built in 1954. You know my phone number, if you leave a message and a phone number...I will return your call.

I will not forget who I am; what our common goals are; the hopes and desires we have for our City; and how important it is to listen to the people.

I dare not step into this awesome new adventure without you.  If you are interested in serving on a board or commission, please send me your contact information.

There will be a steep learning curve before the 'official swearing in' on January 6th. With your help, I am ready.  WE are ready!  Our work begins NOW! On January 10, 2015, at Noon, everyone is invited to attend the 'District swearing in' at St. James Episcopal Church, 1941 Webberville Road, 78721.

Have a Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Holiday Season that is filled with joy, good health, safe travel and peace,



No Public Endorsement for other races

Since May, I have focused on the District #1 race and have not been public about my personal preference in the Mayor's race. Supporters have brought to my attention that some people are linking my race with one of the mayoral candidates.

These innuendos are not true. I have not publicly endorsed either of the candidates in the run off for Mayor -- or any candidate in the other districts. Regardless of who is elected Mayor I will work with them, on behalf of the people in District #1, to make all of Austin a more livable, equitable, employable city.

In Peace,
Ora Houston

Inspiration From a Friend

When all else outside of our being appears to fail, the ONE thing we can do is LISTEN.  I know this to be true and this was  a great reminder……

Take some time today to listen. There are many ways you can do this and all of them will enhance your life.

Today, listen to those who are talking to you fully. Become present with their entire being, not focused on their clothes, hair or even the observation about the sound of their voice. Listen with your full being to what they are expressing. Shut down the mechanism that is preparing a response while they are still speaking. Don't interrupt your hearing of them with preparations to speak yourself.

Listen to your mind, or better yet observe it. What is your mind doing through the day? It may not be convenient to do throughout so take some time to sit in meditation for 15 mins or more and become aware of what thoughts your mind is running through. As you move through your day periodically look at the thoughts moving through your mind as you are engaged in your day. What is your mind's response to the casual moments in your day?

Listen to your heart. Take time and feel down into your heart, into the emotional well of your being. What does your heart have to tell you today? How is your heart doing? Take a moment and be with your heart and just listen; it will speak to you. Here are are not going up into our mind and intellect, we are going down into our heart, into our emotions and actually opening to our feelings.

Listen to your body. Is your body trying to get your attention? Is it calling for a bit more of your attention, your time, your thoughtfulness? Is your body communicating something it wants you to do or to stop? Throughout the day tune into how your body feels.

Don't simply dismiss the things that you notice. Your mind, heart and body are three aspects of your being that are always communicating with you. And whether you are listening to them, another being or Spirit, be available to truly hear what is being said beyond words.

-Jason Mitchell