(Community Matters) Steve’s speech at yesterday’s swearing-in
January 6, 2015 Austin City Hall, Council Chambers
The excitement in this Chamber and in this city is palpable. The expectations are great. And on this dais, the sense of responsibility is real and felt.
Diane and I love this city. We feel so lucky to be here. Everywhere you go in the world, when you say you’re from Austin, it means something. It means creativity and openness. It means a vibrant culture and a beautiful environment — and more and more it means opportunity.
And even though and perhaps because we love this city, we know we must address our challenges. We are experiencing the stresses of growth every day, whether we’re sitting in traffic, struggling to pay rent and property taxes, or watching our neighborhoods change before our very eyes.
We’ve got to protect our air and water, and also the people and culture which make our city unique.
We need to promote affordability, and ensure that we are creating better-paying jobs for the people who live here.
Because we can’t let the story of Austin be a tale of two cities. We enjoy one of the most prosperous economies in the nation, but nearly half the minority children in Austin are living in poverty. We are losing people, losing whole communities, and with that, we risk losing our city’s soul.
And, if we are going to successfully tackle these challenges, we’ve got to understand each other better. Because, you see differently challenges like gentrification and economic disparity depending on who you are and where you live, and too often, we’ve let our differences define us and let those divisions hold us back.
Yes, we face daunting challenges, but we also have an extraordinary opportunity if we move forward in a new way. Austin’s growth can enrich our communities and our culture, help us solve our problems, and become one of the world’s great and growing cities. All growing cities have growing pains, but few others have the rich resources Austin enjoys.
We have a world-leading economy and an entrepreneurial spirit. Our citizens are creative, involved, invested and courageous. We design and invent cool things. We take on the hard problems and we solve them. Austin can become the “civic innovation capital of the world.”— because together, we will come up with new and effective ways to manage our growth and make sure it benefits all our communities.
Austinites have plenty of good ideas. We just need to find the ideas we can own together and make them happen.
To move forward in this new way, we need all points of view. That’s why we owe such a debt of gratitude to Mayor Leffingwell and the previous council, and so many citizens who worked long and hard to create our 10-1 system.
Today is the day that 10-1 begins. And this is what it looks like.
These are your new leaders. Some of them I’ve known for years. Some of them I met during the campaign. I’ve gotten to know and respect each one of them. Each of them has impressive skills. Each of them inspires me— and each of them sees Austin and its challenges from a different angle. Together they represent much of what makes Austin special. The people you see on the dais today, more than ever before, represent the cultural, geographic, economic and political diversity of our great city.
I’m hoping you see yourself on this dais. And if you don’t, rest assured, we’re going to make sure you’re at the table as together we shape your city’s future.
The only way we’re going to get the “community will” to do big things is to see Austin from each other’s perspective — because that’s where our best ideas will come from. And in that spirit we’ll join and work together with our City Manager and the great people on the City Staff.
To move forward in a new way we must be more proactive, thoughtful and deliberate. We’ve got to plan for the long term, even when we have to move quickly.
That’s why we’ve already come together to propose a new way to involve our community in decision-making at City Hall; new, more effective ways to hear your ideas and opinions.
With the new Council committee structure, you’ll be part of the conversation earlier, with more meaningful impact on the proposals that come before council, more opportunities to weigh in – maybe even online at your convenience. Council business will be more transparent and easier to follow. And, because we’re all working better together, you won’t have to be at City Hall at 3am just so your elected leaders can hear your voice.
Skeptics have said the Council can’t do anything about traffic; we can’t do anything about inequality. We can’t do anything about permitting or affordability. They’ve said this council cannot come together to tackle our biggest challenges. I disagree.
These voices also said we couldn’t come together around real changes in city government, but this week we’re presenting a proposal to you that does just that. You can already see this council is coming together for the work ahead.
This Council begins with mutual respect and real affection and a commitment to changing this community for the better. We begin with a shared sense of responsibility to show what real collaboration looks like. We believe and trust that this will lead to better decisions, and a better city.
We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change how our city works. We’ve got to make this count. Austin has the brains and the heart to solve big problems and seize big opportunities. We can only do it, when we do it, together.
I’m honored to join with these leaders to serve our great city, and to build Austin’s future with you.