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. ( 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.