Ora's Words

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

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

 

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.

-ad lib-

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.