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‘Ain’t Nothing but a House Party’

Cole announces a 10-district ‘listening’ tour

By Michael King, 8:52PM, Tue. Apr. 22

The Original Showstoppers
The Original Showstoppers

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole is not yet a declared mayoral candidate. But she’s beginning to act like one – Tuesday evening, she announced a “10 District Spring House Party Tour Across Austin,” telling Newsdesk she wants to “listen” to Austinites and take a “hard look” at running for mayor. (And by the way, there’s yet another candidate …)

Announcing a string of 10 “House Party” events in each new City Council district – beginning on May 3 in District 3 – Cole said in a press release, “I also see this as a welcome opportunity to move our public dialogue beyond sound bites and photo ops, to real conversations. … Because the citizens of Austin have posed a challenge — show us leadership that can raise all our voices, not just their own.”

Hosts for the House Parties include such local political luminaries as Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, businesswoman Amy Mok, and philanthropist Dick Rathgeber. Cole says she’s responding to some public concerns over the potential of 10-1 to become a “circus” or to leave some people out. Rather, she says, “My view is that we’re on the verge of seeing an unprecedented level of civic engagement, with Austinites coming together in a spirit that is both ready to tackle issues and unafraid to acknowledge problems honestly — with new ideas, new energy and more voices to move our city forward together.”

Asked by Newsdesk Tuesday evening if the “Tour” isn’t simply a campaign kickoff under another name, Cole insisted, “I’m not there yet.” She said the tour is her way of “taking a hard look at the mayor’s race, and I’m going to listen to the community before I make a final announcement.” The events run through May 14, so presumably “sometime after that” she’ll be ready to announce her decision.

At Newsdesk, we doubt that either the Showstoppers or the J. Geils Band will make the scene, but we’re hoping for at least an amateur chorus or two of “They’re dancing on the ceilin’, / They’re dancin’ on the floor, / People everywhere comin’ through the door …”

Nonetheless, if we can’t get J. Geils, maybe we’ll settle for … Todd Phelps. Also via Tuesday evening press release, local musician and businessman Todd Phelps announced he’s throwing his Stetson into the mayoral race, with a Friday evening kickoff (5-7pm) at the Mean Eyed Cat, featuring Malford Milligan and representatives of the local tech industry.

Phelps, who elsewhere recalls enthusiastically his performance at Scholz Garten on the night of Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Member Mike Martinez’s 2012 election night joint victory party, continues, “I believe we need a new and fresh approach to governing here in Austin. My roots and professional experience have led me to understand that we must be mindful of Austin's history, while ensuring that it remains the strongest hub for technology and innovation and of course the most dynamic music city in the world.” Phelps is apparently serious about making a run, having put together a campaign team and filed a treasurer designation earlier this week.

If you’re counting (and it's getting where we all better be), that makes four declared mayoral candidates – Steve Adler (who’s announced a formal kickoff for May 4), Mike Martinez (who did his district whistle-stop April 5), Randall Stephens, Todd Phelps – and the still-undeclared-but-listening Sheryl Cole.

Meanwhile, about three dozen wannabe Council Members have now filed treasurer designations, and another couple of dozen or so are on the verge. Watch this space, the print edition, and the Chronicle election page, for further developments.

Newsdesk is truly trying to keep up … but people everywhere comin’ through the door

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