Ora's Speech

Good afternoon, everyone. I am Ora Houston. Thank you for being here today.

Thanks to Joseph Brown, Lisa Byrd and Rev. Lisa Saunders for your kind words of introduction.

Before I share with you the reason we are gathered here today, I would be remiss if I didn't thank two people for laying the foundation for today: My parents – O.H. Elliott and Thelma Elliott. Both were activists in their own way, in a very different era. My father graduated from the University of Kansas in 1933.

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My mother was one of the first women of African descent to graduate from the School of Social Work at the University of Texas. -ad lib- She was the director of Project Enable and she had the opportunity and good fortune to mentor a young man who started his career as a community organizer and ended his career as State Senator – Gonzalo Barrientos. Gonzalo and I both carry the values and a focus on assisting and uplifting people who live in our community in our DNA, because of O.H. and Thelma.

And today, I am asking for your support to become Austin’s very first city council member elected by the people of DISTRICT ONE. I am excited today. Excited to see long-time friends and greet new ones.

For those of you who already know me – who grew up in Austin or have lived in the District for a long while – it’s our time. For those of you who are getting to know me – who have recently come into District 1 to live, work, and play – I say welcome! It’s your time, as well.

Together, we are on the verge of showing up, speaking out and representing this neck of the woods like it has never been represented before. I grew up in District 1 and I live in the house my parents built in District 1 in 1954 I know this community very well.

I attended Blackshear Elementary School and Kealing Jr. High in District 1. I graduated from the old L.C. Anderson High School which was in District 1 – until the name moved to Northwest Austin. I graduated from and continue to support Huston-Tillotson College – the oldest University in District 1. I attend church in District 1. I’ve made amazing, life-long friends here in District 1.

I walk these streets, eat at these restaurants, and enjoy myself at these entertainment venues. District 1 is my home. My community. My life. I am one of you.

Our district changed rapidly over a short period of time. And the community is feeling the impact of that change. At the same time, our beloved district was under-resourced and ignored by the powers that be. Today, however, the city, speculators, developers, absentee landlords – it seems EVERYONE considers our district to be a bright, shining diamond in the rough.

We were always shining. People didn’t know it, because they didn't take the time to look or they looked another way. Now we have been included in the central city and the powers that be are focused on a single attribute – our land. But our greatest attributes are our people, including many city employees, who form the neighborhoods in District 1. The people who should have the most input on how this district will grow are the very ones whose voices have been and continue to be silenced.

District 1 needs a leader at City Hall who will speak out and truly represent the community. Who we are and what we want. The best way to accomplish that is to work together.I can bring us together. Because I am one of you.

I was one of the original supporters of geographic representation. I worked hard for the 10-1 plan. You worked hard, too! And together we voted for change.

I’ve listened to the people who live and work in our community. And I heard you when you said there are major issues you need your city council member to work to change: I hear you talk about high property taxes.

Development, progress and prosperity can be good things. It’s not a good thing when the people who helped build this city with their property taxes are being forced out. It’s not a good thing when people can’t afford to live in the homes they’ve owned all their lives or grew up in. It’s not a good thing when elderly parents can’t leave the family home to their adult children.

I hear you talk about jobs and workforce housing. People who live in District 1 work as hard as people in other areas of the city. Yet there are many people in this district who are seeking meaningful work, close to where they live. People want to pay their rent or own a starter home without breaking the bank or losing their sense of hope. We need companies to bring their jobs to District 1.

I hear you talking about traffic congestion. People have come and will continue to come to District 1. We see and experience the increased traffic. We see the new bike lanes. We welcome our new neighbors. But with all the new traffic comes congested roadways – a serious threat to our families who walk, bike and drive our neighborhood streets every day.

We must have a different conversation about public transportation options – options that will improve connections and infrastructure within District 1 and connections to high opportunity areas throughout Austin. 

As your city council member I will not be afraid to bring these kinds of issues to the table. I have a clear vision of Austin – what it was yesterday, what it is today and all it can be in the future.

District 1 can set the tone regarding the common good of the city – the whole city. We are one community with many voices. And it’s time for our voices to be heard. I will work to make sure the city hears the richness of the diversity in our voices; I will work to help the city see the humanity in our community and in our neighborhoods. I will work to ensure that the wider community respects the people who, for generations, helped build this District and this city. I will invite people who have felt marginalized, disconnected and discounted to get involved: People with differing abilities. People with limited resources. People whose voices may not be heard because their first language isn’t English.

 I will be listening for your voices. I want to hear from you.  I am one of you. If you’re finding it difficult to find common ground in the beautiful diversity of District 1, I ask that you find common ground with me. Allow me to be your advocate.

As a great philosopher was found of saying, “its a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” I am asking for your support as I seek to represent the people of District 1 on the Austin city council. Let's make history together! I am asking for your vote, your time, your funds, your energy and your creative solutions.

I am one of you....I need your support.

Thank you so much.