Three months ago, in our State of the District address, I listed four major challenges facing the District and the city. I address these challenges every day, so will the next council member.
First: Make geographic representation work for the residents of District and for all of Austin.
Second: The district is in transition; experiencing unparalleled population growth, demographic changes, inadequate and failing infrastructure, lack of employment opportunities, and rising property taxes.
Third: Austin must have a comprehensive land use plan. A plan developed with an eye to equity and protecting neighborhoods. Austin has a racialized history with land use plans. The 1928 Master Plan used the force of law to segregate Austin. In 2018, the now-shelved CodeNEXT plan would have had a negative impact on vulnerable populations but by using indirect forces. Forces such as increased density, artificially increased land values, and escalating property taxes. We must be careful as we imagine a process to develop a new Code.
Fourth: Elected officials must manage the people’s money carefully because every dollar spent comes from the wallets and purses of Austinites. Next year’s $1.0 billion General Fund budget comes from property taxes, sales taxes and fees, which are ultimately paid by renters, property owners, and homeowners.
Those 4 major challenges are constant. Our next council member will face those and other issues because this job is a 7-day-a-week; 24 hours a day.
The district has 7 individuals vying for our support. I personally welcome that much interest in public service. All the candidates are earnest and have a passion about issues which affect the District. I appreciate each of them offering to serve the public. The number of candidates willing is proof that the shift to geographic representation is becoming a reality.
The district has started on the path of geographic representation - the determination to give the 'blended family' a voice at city hall. We need an individual to continue to guide the District on the path to mature, representative democracy. We need someone experienced, courageous, and caring to be the district’s next elected representative on Austin City Council.
In elections, one must make informed choices.
That is why today, I am endorsing Vincent Harding for City Council, District 1.
What makes Vincent my choice in this crowded field? He listens, he has a wide range of experiences, and he is courageous.
At candidate forums, I have witnessed Vincent listen to individuals in the audience and the other candidates. He will continue to listen to the District’s 'blended family' and do his best to represent us at city hall. I am also confident he will continue to encourage constituents to speak up and get involved in the policy discussions that impact the district and the city.
Vincent is experienced. In some ways, much more experienced than I was 4 years ago.
· He served on Austin’s EMS Advisory Board.
· He served on the City of Austin’s Board of Adjustment.
· He is a Realtor, who understands all sides of land use and land development.
· He is an attorney, and has represented public entities.
· He was elected chair of the Travis County Democratic Party. Yes, I know, Austin City Council positions and elections are non-partisan. [Smile] However, Vincent’s success in a challenging political environment will serve the District well in our nonpartisan city hall.
Vincent is courageous.
He has shown he will stand for what he believes is right, even if that means standing alone against powerful forces.
In 2014, as a 26-year-old, Vincent drafted a political party resolution calling for police accountability and transparency. This was after years of silence on the subject from that party. His resolution worked to end disproportionate car stops, searches, and use of force against minority populations.
In 2015, Vincent advocated at the Texas Legislature for passage of SB 158 encouraging the use of body cameras by law enforcement agencies, establishing controls on the use and retention of the videos, and assuring pubic access to the videos. He advanced the idea by facilitating multiple conversations between members of the community and elected officials.
That same year, the University of Texas held a forum regarding the statue of
Confederate President Jefferson Davis on the UT mall. The first 13 speakers advocated keeping the statue on the mall. Vincent was the first person to speak in favor of removing the monument to a more appropriate setting.
In 2017, as Austin considered a police accountability resolution, Vincent created a transparent community process to advocate for the resolution. He acted despite resistance from some Central Texas leaders. He later spoke at City Hall to urge Council to vote against the police contract.
Listening, experience, and courage are why I support Vince Harding’s candidacy for city council.
I also admire Vincent Harding the man.
Vincent is a man of deep faith and conviction. He consistently speaks about two things: his faith and his wife. His words and actions show that he is driven by something larger than himself and he knows accomplishments are the result of relationships, trust and collaboration.
I believe Vincent is a compassionate, humble person, who will stand for what he believes is right, even if others disagree. I am impressed with his ability to bring people together and stand against opposition. And although he has not lived in Austin as long as I have [smile], he has a lived experience that will be his north star and guide him on issues, policies, compromise, and governing.
I know Vincent is his own man. How do I know? He and I disagree on a number of policy issues. I accept that because I know the District needs his leadership, experience, courage, conviction, and faith.
The stakes are high in November’s election for the district and for the city collectively. We face opportunities and threats. An example, is Austin is the largest, fastest growing city in the nation that has experienced a decline in the population of Americans of African ancestry. Why is that happening? What solutions could reverse that fact?
Let me repeat, the city and the district will also face:
· Making geographic representation work
· Designing a process that will create an equitable land use plan,
· Delivering the funds and executing the projects in the current/future budgets,
· Assuring the district receives its identified share of investments from the numerous bond issues also on the ballot, and
· Controlling the growing tax bill from the city as it relates to the tax bills of the other four jurisdictions.
The District needs an individual who is able to deliver effective representation immediately. Vincent is by far the best candidate to do that.
Vincent Harding is my choice on the November 6th ballot. I hope you will consider Vincent and then make him your choice for District 1. I encourage you to support him with your time, your resources, and most of all, your vote.
Vincent has my support.
One last thing. When you vote, remember to go down the ballot. The Propositions require your vote too.