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

glenda2 (1).jpg

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,

Ora

 

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

Happy Thanksgiving from Team Ora!

We are all thankful for special things in our lives. Here are a few words from Team Ora:

Matt Harvey:
During this time of of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my dear friends and family above all else. I am also thankful for the unique and occasionally crazy political family I have gained while working with Team Ora. We have all come from different walks of life, and I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to learn from each and every one of you. And at this particular moment, I am thankful for the Pumpkin Spice latte that's keeping me caffeinated and working hard on the campaign trail.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!
Matt

Genoveva (Geno) Rodriguez:
 I am thankful for my family and friends that have always supported me. I am especially grateful for the new family I have gained while working with Team Ora. I am one lucky gal! (I'm also very thankful for pumpkin pie and whipped cream!) Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

God bless,
Geno

Ms. Ora Houston:
I am grateful for many people, know and unknown; and things, small and large. However, this Thanksgiving I want to give thanks to a special group of people we never see, those who work over night in all kinds of capacities.  

I give thanks for people who work while we sleep. Thank you for the work that you do. Help us to remember that our common life, our humanity, depends upon each other's work, including those who work at night. 

In peace,
Ora

 

Have a happy thanksgiving and be safe!

Call to Action By: Hugh Mayfield

HBCU call to action to all veterans, registered voters, Alum from Texas Southern University, Alum from Huston-Tillotson University and Alum from Prairie View A&M University.

I am asking you to vote for Ora Houston, candidate for City Council District #1. Early voting starts on December 1st and ends on December 12th. You can vote at any location that has a ‘vote here’ sign. You can vote, even if you did not vote on November 4th.

As a veteran, registered republican, and Alum from Texas Southern University, I fully support Ms. Houston and her vision for a better and prosperous Austin. She attended Dillard University and graduated from Huston-Tillotson University. She continues to be an active alumni, sharing her time and treasure with HT.

I have been involved in city government, served as Former City of Austin Environment Board member, Vice Chairman for the Flood Plane Task Force and Solid Waste Advisory Commission, and I know the effort and desire that exists in the heart of someone who chooses to serve their community.

Ms. Houston is one of a kind who is mindful of and sensitive to the diversity of people and the challenges 'real' people are exposed to on a daily basis.Her service to the community is undeniable and her passion for her neighbors is indisputable.

She has taken the time to explore, investigate and analyze the issues in our city and commits to bringing everyone to the table to work together and find the best solutions.

My request if you are reading this is: Please support Ora Houston and vote on December 1st when early voting begins, or on election day, December 16th.

-Hugh Mayfield

 

My Endorsement, By: Evie Nichols (11 years old)

Hi, 

I am Evie Nichols. I am 11 years old.

Ms. Ora Houston is running for city council in district 1. I think she would be good for this spot because she represent all the needs of all the people in her neighborhood. Another reason she would be good for this spot is because she is fair and honest. She would never ever tell a lie in her entire life.

She is fair because she would not take sides when two people are arguing. I think Ms. Houston is the most experienced person running for city council in her district. She is super nice and will always try to make fair and right as they should be. She is very smart and will always find a way to improve things. She will always speak her mind not what other people tell her to think and sometimes she will agree with people and sometimes she won’t agree with people.

That’s why I think Ms. Ora Houston would be right for the city council job. 

But I am not saying that the other person running for city council is bad I am just saying that Ms. Houston would probably be better.

Off and Running, By: Ora Houston

Six months ago, I stood before a gathering of my friends and neighbors and asked for their support as I officially announced my intention to become the first city council member for District #1.

Together, we worked hard to achieve that goal! Look at what WE accomplished on November 4th! Over 6,000 friends and neighbors voted to make that goal a reality - we fell a few votes short - so now we kick start our campaign for the election on December 16th.

To those who didn't get a chance to vote, or voted for someone else, I look forward to getting to know you.

I want to thank everyone, from the bottom of my heart, who voted in this historic election. I know you love this district, this city, and the people who call Austin home, as much as I do.

The history of my activism in this city demonstrates that I am not part of the status quo. I have always been a public servant, not a politician. My goal has been - and will continue to be - to bring the reality of 'regular' folks into the decisions and the solutions made by city government. There are many unintended and negative consequences when everyone doesn't get a seat at the table and it is time to change that.

We have a common goal to develop an Austin that is prosperous for the collective. In order to reach that goal, we must be aware of the history, (of our growth) as we actively work in the present to create a future that is unique and inclusive. We must create space for all people to participate in the conversations and decisions which affect the quality of their lives.

We are a 'blended family' composed of a mosaic of cultures, income levels, beliefs, ethnicities, ideas, educational achievements, languages and interests.

We MUST work together.

From the beginning of this process I have listened as you have shared your hopes, dreams and concerns regarding a variety of issues which city government has not dealt with effectively. You know the list:

  • escalating property taxes (residential and small business);

  • unplanned growth;

  • working class jobs and job training in the district;

  • quality education for our children in the public schools;

  • workforce housing all over Austin;

  • ending traffic congestion downtown;

  • an efficient bus system throughout the district and the city;

  • a sense of community and peaceful neighborhoods;

  • add your issues to the list.

Changes are necessary and they are possible as we move forward in a more inclusive and planned way. Yet, I cannot do it alone. Everyone must continue to be engaged in the process.

We have a bit further to go, (but not too far.) Early voting begins December 1st.

This is not a rest stop. This is an energy break before full steam ahead to December 16th.

I am so very grateful for the continuing hard work, perseverance and commitment of the members of Team Ora. Without them I would not have been able to make it this far:

  • Jonathan Panzer

  • Matt Harvey

  • Genoveva Rodriguez

  • Sunny Ogunro

  • Charlotte Moore

  • Jonathan Clarke

  • Aaron Clay

As well as all of the energetic interns and every single one of the hard working volunteers.

Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU!

In Peace,
Ora

 

Outside Money, By: Roxanne Evans

Why would folks from New York City be interested in trying to influence the outcome of an Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees election in East Austin?

It is part of a troubling pattern of influence by the alleged reform movement that is pushing charter schools, vouchers and privatization. The benefactors who gave us Teach for America have created Leadership for Educational Equity. Leadership for Educational Equity claims it is dedicated to “empowering Teach for America corps members and alumni to grow as leaders.”  It wants to grow leaders such as David “D” Thompson, a candidate in the District 1 trustee race. He has received approximately 40 percent of his campaign donations from out of state. This makes one wonder who he would listen to, were he to get elected.

District 1 residents want a trustee who will listen to us. And, for more than 40 years, District 1 residents have developed a solid track record of electing strong, representatives without outside influence. 

  • In 1968, former State Rep. Wilhelmina Delco became the first African American elected in Travis County when she was elected to the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees.  
  • District 1 voters also elected the late Rev. Marvin C. Griffin, the iconic pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. He served the community and the school district well by being a steady hand when the school district was in the first phase of desegregation. 
  •  The late veteran educator Bernice Hart was elected by District 1 voters. Her legacy is still felt in the school district, and a Northeast Austin elementary school bears her name.
  •  Loretta Edelen, daughter of Wilhelmina Delco, and a strong education advocate on her own.
  •  Current trustee Cheryl Bradley was also elected to the District 1 seat without outside influence or guidance

There is much work to be done in District 1. The remedy for District 1 public schools needs to be crafted by a District 1 trustee in concert with District 1 families. New York equity firms and corporations need not apply for this work.

District 1 does not need outside interests telling us how to vote, or who to vote for. This district has done well electing its own and it deserves to be able to keep that electoral autonomy.  

A New Day in Austin, By: Genoveva Rodriguez

The Tuesday after the first Monday of November. 

For many it's a Tuesday like any other, but for people who have been working for months or years toward the 2014 Election, this Tuesday means so much more.

It is the goal, the destination, the conclusion, or grand finale. It is the end. 

Many friends and family do not understand why I choose to work in politics or on campaigns. Truth be told, sometimes I'm not sure either. The hours are long, the work is tedious, and quite often things are on the brink of a nuclear meltdown. Yet, there are so many others out there who do this day in and day out.

It takes a certain kind of person to want to do this work or volunteer to do this work. (Yes, some do this work for free.) You can describe these people as ambitious and driven, but I think the most genuine ones are those who are humble and compassionate as well. Overall, it takes people who have a passion for humanity and the greater good.

I know some may say that not all politicians are in it for the right reason (and you are probably correct), but sometimes there is magic in the air and you find the ones who are doing it for all the right reasons and you just can't help to continue working as hard as we sometimes do.

It is so hard not to be drawn in when you meet a candidate, a campaign manager, a team of volunteers or a family that is invested and working toward the betterment of a community or city. It's pretty awe-some when you work in this field long enough and find many of those amazing people. I can see why others do this over and over again when it's the right person and the right time.

The Tuesday after the first Monday of November has been election day for more than 160 years. And for more than 160 years, people made efforts to campaign for the best candidate and travel to the polls in groups to vote for said candidate.

So, while it will be just another Tuesday, just another election, just another day to some, for many it's the day we've been working toward. The bitter end regardless of result because it means that we have given and left so much of ourselves out there on the field that we will never get back, but was well worth it.

Always vote because it is your voice. It may be your only chance to be heard.

Mass Transit for Austin, By: Pinaki Ghosh

In recent months there has been quite a debate over the light rail in Austin. We are going to have a vote on a billion dollar bond for light rail. The issue has taken somewhat toxic turn where most city council candidates are keeping a safe distance from it and not supporting it. This seems to be hurting the “Mass Transit” or “Public Transportation” discussion as a whole. A handful of candidates who engineered this idea (aka proposition 1) do support it. There seems to be enormous external money used for campaigning in favor of this proposition – we do not know who is providing this funding but it must have its supporter to get such funding. If this fund is used to build the light rail then over the next 20 years each household in Austin will be forking out somewhere between six and seven thousand dollars to pay for it through property taxes. If the project is not finished on time or within budget then this total amount will go up. The current design of the light rail will serve the riverside corridor and some portions of downtown very well but people living in east side will hardly get any use out of it. (to-be honest folks living in west Austin will also hardly get any use out of it.). This does not mean we do not need Mass Transit Systems in Austin – we desperately need them.

When we design a Mass Transit System (not just “public transportation”) then we typically solve some of the most critical problems due to the nature of the capital expenditure. I do not think in anybody’s wildest imagination Riverside is the biggest challenge in Austin traffic problem. The north-south corridor of I-35, 183 and Mopac pose much more serious challenges. We have to look at I-35 as an opportunity instead of a problem because it connects the 3 of the 4 biggest cities in Texas and we happen to be in the middle. Dallas and San Antonio will have a stake in I-35 solution and we need to use that. We will be forced to spend money on the I-35 corridor but the good news is that we will have partners. 

We need to look at east and west Austin traffic issues more locally – we go to groceries, children’s museum, stores, gyms within our locality so we need local transportation. I will give a specific example here – Mueller has developed great facilities but everyone who come to Mueller, from outside of Mueller, to use these facilities use cars (unless they are on bicycles) so parking is already a problem – most of the people who go to the Mueller HEB or will go to the future movie or to the parks stay within 3 to 5 miles. It would be great if there are 2 or 3 local bus routes which take people to Mueller or Lamar Bus Depot from various locations within that 3 to 5 mile radius every 10 or 15 minutes. Today we have no such routes or options. Building these routes do not cost billion dollars and can be very targeted. Use of public transportation is a culture which needs to develop. Everybody will talk about pollution and environmental effects – well busses can run on CNG.

The other important point to understand that all public transportation does not need to be publicly funded all the time. The local buses can be private-public collaboration and owner operated by individuals of the locality instead of capital metro. The idea would be to provide public transportation, local employment and improved inter-neighborhood mobility. 

We already have a light rail and its utilization needs to be improved before we jump into another rail project and local transportation can help. It is also important to note that a bond is like a credit card debt except for the fact that it is collateralized against the city itself. We need to draw our lessons from Detroit – which during its hay days spend like a drunken sailor and today is bankrupt. Detroit was a bigger city than Austin and had larger industries so let us not take our sunny days as permanent and save some for the rainy days.

Weighing in on Real Estate "Experts" on 10 Best Neighborhoods to Buy in Austin, By: District 1 Neighbor

I recently came across an article on Culture Map Austin about a what real estate "experts" claim is the top ten best neighborhoods to buy a home in Austin right now.

It is interesting to hear that the real estate agents refer to these areas as eclectic, diverse and affordable, but do not mention what some of the underlying issues of any of these neighborhoods might be going through.

On this list, 3 out of 10 are in District #1, which is currently experiencing displacement by high property taxes, a change in the cultural face of the neighborhood and traffic issues (like everywhere in Austin) due to the rapid growth happening all over the city and district.

It's important that as people are joining our unique community, the history and genetic make-up of a neighborhood is being shared and considered for preservation, otherwise it loses the soul which brought people here in the first place.

THE MEXICAN-AMERICAN AND THE CHURCH BY CESAR CHAVEZ

Source: El Grito, Summer 1968
T
he following article was prepared by Mr. Chavez during his 25-day "spiritual fast" and was presented to a meeting on Mexican-Americans and the Churchä at the Second Annual Mexican Conference in Sacramento, California on March 8-10, 1968. 

The place to begin is with our own experience with the Church in the strike which has gone on for thirty-one months in Delano. For in Delano the church has been involved with the poor in a unique way which should stand as a symbol to other communities. 

Of course, when we refer to the Church we should define the word a little. We mean the whole Church, the Church as an ecumenical body spread around the world, and not just its particular form in a parish in a local community. The Church we are talking about is a tremendously powerful institution in our society, and in the world. 

That Church is one form of the Presence of God on Earth, and so naturally it is powerful. 
It is powerful by definition. 
It is a powerful moral and spiritual force which cannot be ignored by any movement. 
Furthermore, it is an organization with tremendous wealth.

Since the Church is to be servant to the poor, it is our fault if that wealth is not channeled to help the poor in our world. In a small way we have been able, in the Delano strike, to work together with the Church in such a way as to bring some of its moral and economic power to bear on those who want to maintain the status quo, keeping farm workers in virtual enslavement. 

In brief, here is what happened in Delano.

Some years ago, when some of us were working with the Community Service Organization, we began to realize the powerful effect which the Church can have on the conscience of the opposition. In scattered instances, in San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland, Los Angeles and other places, priests would speak out loudly and clearly against specific instances of oppression, and in some cases, stand with the people who were being hurt. 

Furthermore, a small group of priests, Frs. McDonald, McCollough, Duggan and others, began to pinpoint attention on the terrible situation of the farm workers in our state. 

At about that same time, we began to run into the California Migrant Ministry in the camps and field. They were about the only ones there, and a lot of us were very suspicious, since we were Catholics and they were Protestants. However, they had developed a very clear conception of the Church.

It was called to serve, to be at the mercy of the poor, and not to try to use them. After a while this made a lot of sense to us, and we began to find ourselves working side by side with them. In fact, it forced us to raise the question why OUR Church was not doing the same. 

We would ask, "Why do the Protestants come out here and help the people, demand nothing, and give all their time to serving farm workers, while our own parish priests stay in their churches, where only a few people come, and usually feel uncomfortable?"

It was not until some of us moved to Delano and began working to build the National Farm Workers Association that we really saw how far removed from the people the parish Church was. In fact, we could not get any help at all from the priests of Delano. When the strike began, they told us we could not even use the Churches auditorium for the meetings. The farm workers money helped build that auditorium! But the Protestants were there again, in the form of the California Migrant Ministry, and they began to help in little ways, here and there. 

When the strike started in 1965, most of our friends forsook us for a while. They ran- or were just too busy to help. But the California Migrant Ministry held a meeting with its staff and decided that the strike was a matter of life or death for farm workers everywhere, and that even if it meant the end of the Migrant Ministry they would turn over their resources to the strikers. 

The political pressure on the Protestant Churches was tremendous and the Migrant Ministry lost a lot of money. But they stuck it out, and they began to point the way to the rest of the Church. In fact, when 30 of the strikers were arrested for shouting Huelga, 11 ministers went to jail with them. 

They were in Delano that day at the request of Chris Hartmire, director of the California Migrant Ministry. Then the workers began to raise the question: "Why ministers? Why not priests? What does the Bishop say?"

But the Bishop said nothing. 

But slowly the pressure of the people grew and grew, until finally we have in Delano a priest sent by the new Bishop, Timothy Manning, who is there to help minister to the needs of farm workers. His name is Father Mark Day and he is the Unions chaplain. 

Finally, our own Catholic Church has decided to recognize that we have our one peculiar needs, just as the growers have theirs. 
But outside of the local diocese, the pressure built up on growers to negotiate was tremendous. Though we were not allowed to have our own priest, the power of the ecumenical body of the Church was tremendous. The work of the Church, for example, in the Schenley, Di Giorgio, Perelly-Minetti strikes was fantastic. They applied pressure- and they mediated. When poor people get involved in a long conflict, such as a strike, or a civil rights drive, and the pressure increases each day, there is a deep need for spiritual advice.  Without it we see families crumble, leadership weaken, and hard workers grow tired. And in such a situation the spiritual advice must be given by a friend, not by the opposition. 

What sense does it make to go to Mass on Sunday and reach out for spiritual help, and instead get sermons about the wickedness of your cause? That only drives one to question and to despair. The growers in Delano have their spiritual problems... we do not deny that. They have every right to have priests and ministers who serve their needs. 

BUT WE HAVE DIFFERENT NEEDS, AND SO WE NEEDED A FRIENDLY SPIRITUAL GUIDE. 

And this is true in every community in this state where the poor face tremendous problems. But the opposition raises a tremendous howl about this. They don't want us to have our spiritual advisors, friendly to our needs. Why is this? Why indeed except that THERE IS TREMENDOUS SPIRITUAL AND ECONOMIC POWER IN THE CHURCH. The rich know it, and for that reason they choose to keep it from the people. 

The leadership of the Mexican-American Community must admit that we have fallen far short in our task of helping provide spiritual guidance for our people. 

We may say, "I Don't feel any such need. I can get along." But that is a poor excuse for not helping provide such help for others. For we can also say, "I don't need any welfare help. I can take care of my own problems."

But we are all willing to fight like hell for welfare aid for those who truly need it, who would starve without it. Likewise, we may have gotten an education and not care about scholarship money for ourselves, or our children.  But we would, we should, fight like hell to see to it that our state provides aid for any child needing it so that he can get the education he desires. LIKEWISE WE CAN SAY WE DON'T NEED THE CHURCH. THAT IS OUR BUSINESS. BUT THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF OUR PEOPLE WHO DESPERATELY NEED SOME HELP FROM THAT POWERFUL INSTITUTION, THE CHURCH, AND WE ARE FOOLISH NOT TO HELP THEM GET IT. 

For example, the Catholic Charities agencies of the Catholic Church has millions of dollars earmarked for the poor. But often the money is spent for food baskets for the needy instead of for effective action to eradicate the causes of poverty. 

The men and women who administer this money sincerely want to help their brothers. It should be our duty to help direct the attention to the basic needs of the Mexican-Americans in our society... needs which cannot be satisfied with baskets of food, but rather with effective organizing at the grass roots level. Therefore, I am calling for Mexican-American groups to stop ignoring this source of power. It is not just our right to appeal to the Church to use its power effectively for the poor, it is our duty to do so. It should be as natural as appealing to government... and we do that often enough. 

Furthermore, we should be prepared to come to the defense of that priest, rabbi, minister, or layman of the Church, who out of commitment to truth and justice gets into a tight place with his pastor or bishop. It behooves us to stand with that man and help him see his trial through. It is our duty to see to it that his rights of conscience are respected and that no bishop, pastor or other higher body takes that God-given, human right away. 

Finally, in a nutshell, what do we want the Church to do? We don't ask for more cathedrals. We don't ask for bigger churches of fine gifts. We ask for its presence with us, beside us, as Christ among us. We ask the Church to sacrifice with the people for social change, for justice, and for love of brother. We don't ask for words. We ask for deeds. We don't ask for paternalism. We ask for servanthood.

Austin's "black problem" is a class problem, By: Ellen Sweets

Ellen Sweets - Author, Austin resident

Ellen Sweets - Author, Austin resident

It’s no longer classified information that Austin might have a black problem.

Of the country’s fastest-growing large cities, it’s the only one that’s losing black residents. I’m not the first one to write about why that might be. I’ve called Austin home for six years, but I too am strongly considering packing up and heading elsewhere.

After wrestling with the notion of Austin being generally inhospitable to blacks, however, I realized that much of my distress over the city's shortcomings is rooted not in race but in the dissipation of a working class. 

Elitism is Austin's new normal.

My misplaced frustration was brought home in a metaphorical slap upside the head from a treasured friend, Anita Price James, whose father, the late Al Price, was a civil rights activist and the first African-American from Southeast Texas to represent the Beaumont area in the Texas House.

When I told her I was probably joining the Austin exodus and heading east to New Orleans because of my frustrations about race, she took me to task. Race-based concerns about Austin don’t hold water, she insisted.

"If simmering race-based hostility were to blame, Boston would be whiter," she said. "If long-standing distrust of police were the issue, New York would be seeing the black exodus that Austin is trying to understand."

My energy and frustration, she continued, ought to be directed at an educational system that doesn’t prepare native Texans for the best jobs the “Texas miracle” has created. I ought to instead focus on the companies bringing high-tech jobs here only to encounter an educational workforce unprepared to vie for them. For the most part, she added, successful black people in Austin aren't from Austin — primarily because unlike Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, New York or Los Angeles, Austin has never had enough black people to support a broad-based economic infrastructure or to provide the comforting near-ubiquity that black people can find in those cities.

Virtually forgotten are the efforts of good people — black and white — to preserve neighborhoods like Clarksville, which at one point was home to Austin's largest concentration of blacks descended from slaves. Although registered as a national historic district, gentrification, land speculation and skyrocketing taxes have decimated the racial and socioeconomic diversity the neighborhood boasted even two decades ago. Its minority heritage is now merely a bit of little-known trivia.

My friend Toni Tipton-Martin, a culinary historian and longtime Austinite, has struggled mightily with the foundation she launched several years ago. Designed to promote good nutrition while preserving traditional foodways, she is also determined to have the foundation occupy physical space in East Austin's cultural heritage district. She's also struggling to not be discouraged.

Not too long ago, while discussing my probable New Orleans move with her, we also talked about the possibility of creating a project in Austin based on a highly successful New Orleans nonprofit designed to prepare underserved youth to work in the hospitality business.

We figured that if a version could be replicated in Austin, it would be a certifiable asset to the community. It could create jobs. With support from Austin's business and restaurant community, it could work — if only buildings to house Austin's reinterpretation weren't being bought up, torn down or otherwise assigned new meaning as restaurants or shops. How do you preserve the institutional integrity of a community if the physical attributes that made that community possible disappear?

We’ve put our idea on hold, and Toni is now considering relocating her foundation to the suburb of Pflugerville, whose minority population has grown significantly in recent years.

The more I think about it, the more I see part of the new civil rights battle in Austin being waged over land, property and stratospheric rents. Despite the best efforts of groups like Foundation Communities and Habitat for Humanity, I've come to see class as the unaddressed bugaboo of urban life: If you can afford to live here, you're cool, and skin color is almost irrelevant.

East Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and 11th streets have morphed into an east-of-the-interstate hub of coolness that has priced out long-time residents, many of whom happen to be black. The city's own statistics say that while African-Americans made up roughly 15 percent of Austin's population a few decades ago, the city's black population could drop to 5 percent if trends continue.

In New Orleans, the complexities of urban life — one still grappling with post-Katrina recovery — are still steeped in French, Spanish, British and African cultural traditions. Austin, meanwhile, is rooted in politics, music and being a cool place to live.

New Orleans has its problems, for sure. But it’s earthy, funky and so genuinely weird that it thinks it's normal.

That's how I used to feel about Austin.

Ellen Sweets has reported for The Dallas Morning News,The Denver Post and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She wrote the 2011 memoir Stirring It Up with Molly Ivins, an account of her friendship with the famed Texas columnist.