Eric Mitchell Speaks!

Eric Mitchell Speaks!

In keeping with his Reluctant Candidate campaign, mayoral candidate Eric Mitchell declined several Chronicle requests for an interview. He has thus far maintained his promise to speak at length only to KAZI-FM's Frank Garrett and KVET-FM's Sam Allred and Bob Cole -- not surprisingly, since the talk-show hosts have enthusiastically promoted Mitchell's candidacy on the air.

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, Mitchell appeared on Garrett's 7am program, "The Wake-Up Call." In the interest of informing Chronicle readers of Mitchell's opinions, we provide the following excerpts from his prepared statement, as well as from his subsequent remarks on The Wake-Up Call.

On his decision to stand for election: "While we have had good council members, both past and present, serve our community, the current system and lack of citizen participation makes it difficult if not impossible for them to succeed in their efforts. Many citizens have decided enough is enough, and that they would use me as an instrument of change. They would elect me to office to make some important points about politics and issues that we as a community need to address. They feel that there are not too many good people in office that will accept an opportunity to redefine how the game of politics is played in Austin, and return city government to the people that it is supposed to serve."

On campaign finance reform:"This is a campaign in, of, and for the people, all the people of Austin. I will share my thoughts on some points that need to be made, and the current system that has failed us as a community. This campaign will not accept any campaign contributions or in-kind donations. It’s not that money is not required to run a political campaign in a city that has become a large metropolitan city, it is to make a point that the current campaign ordinance has caused good candidates not to run for office. While it sounded good, felt good, and was sold very effectively, it has not helped the process. It has hurt. Today, unless you are a candidate of the political manipulators or independently wealthy, you cannot run an effective campaign under the strictures of the current ordinance."

On the functions of city government: "We must get back to a no-nonsense approach to municipal government. We must do the things that government is supposed to do, and we must do them well and efficiently. Public safety, water and wastewater, waste collection, road construction and repair, are the core functions of municipal government."

On the current election:"I have been present when it was decided who would be the next mayor — not who would run, or who would be supportive, but who would be mayor. This is not how it should work. A small group of manipulators have preyed on Austin politics and the citizens of Austin for quite some time. With the cooperation of certain local media, you are given bits and pieces of information to hopefully steer you in the direction that they want you to go. They have hyped and marketed certain individuals to run for office and carry out their wishes and to profit at your expense. These special interests have been paternalistic and indifferent in dealing with the minority communities in certain parts of town."

On his treatment by the media:"I went into office in 1994 with the altruistic notion of changing the paradigm, doing what I heard from the community as to what they wanted from an elected official in the community, to be honest and straightforward and sincere in my service. But in trying to do just that, I was constantly attacked and publicly ridiculed. If I was passionate about an issue, it was defined as anger. If I was firm in my position, it was defined as being confrontational. If I tried to convey my feelings and the feelings of the people that I have often heard from, I was ‘pulling a race card.’ But I have no regrets, I feel good about my time in Austin, because I know that I was honest, candid, straightforward, and sincere in my service. I realize that local media attacked, lied, and targeted me while I was in office, because I would not play the game, I would not kiss the ring of the special interests, I was a threat to business as usual."

On the reasons he lost the 1997 council election: "A core group of people [in the central city] that have been tricked and manipulated by certain leaders — we pigeonhole, we call them environmentalists — were conditioned to hate me. They would have voted for Mickey Mouse — or Goofy, I’m sorry, everybody loves Mickey — they would have voted for anyone other than me. That’s why I lost. We did not have a big turnout, and they controlled a number of votes, and they did me a favor and got me out of office.

"I try to practice what I preach. While I love my people — I love black people — but I don’t have any problem with people all over town, and I won those [other] precincts all over town. And the same thing can happen now.

"What I’d like to stress, is that it’s not just about me. I’m being used because I have Name ID, whether you like me or hate me. We’re trying to motivate people who’d like change, but who need to stand up and say let’s make a change."

On the current Travis County Bond issues: "I [don’t have] them in front of me to go down the list — although I did vote yesterday. I think that there’s some good ones on there, as always, and there’s some questionable ones on there. And … you need to look at all of those, know what it is they’re asking for, and make your best judgment."

On his vision for Austin and all of its communities: "My vision personally is quite simple. The things we need to be doing in municipal government is not rocket science. The things we need to do to correct some problems in East Austin is not rocket science. The indifference, and the issues of IH-35 and the barriers and everything else is no secret.

"My vision is: We have approximately 400,000 registered voters in Austin. Less than 10 percent — I think they’re projecting 3 percent in this election — but less than 10 percent of those people participate, pay attention, take it seriously, and vote. And we are manipulated as a community. I would just like to see us as a community — whether you’re black, white, brown, red, green, whether you’re north, south, east, west, whatever — wake up, demand better, pay attention, and participate. It’s simple as that."

On Smart Growth: "This is not a conspiracy theory — I have documents which show that these businessmen got together and decided they were going to give away this prime property along the riverfront, without competitive bidding and no RFP, and they did it. Your property … city-owned blocks, acres of land, and it was given away … The last four years or so, it’s been nothing but deals, deals, deals."

On bringing Samsung to Austin: "I was probably the only real vocal supporter of the Samsung deal. It was a good deal. They brought in $2 billion worth of infrastructure, 2,000 jobs, and overnight made the Manor Independent School District one of the richest districts in the state. It was a time we needed that. But there are deals that are just deals, and not for the good of the entire community."

On light rail: "I’ve always been a proponent of and a supporter of light rail. But what we had last time was not light rail, what we had was a deal. …

"We ought to have an issue — we don’t have anybody African-American on Cap Metro, no representation, and that seems to be all right with everybody. Because of that, and because of it being a deal, I don’t support it in its present form, but if it’s designed to benefit the entire community … it’s something that people will get behind."

On the environment and environmentalism: "There’s been a lot of talk over the years about the environment, and there’s been a lot of conflict from group to group about environment. Environment by definition — environment is the circumstances, conditions, or objects that surround and affect an individual. So if I live in an impoverished area, if I’m surrounded by conflict, bullets, gun smoke, poverty, no hope, despair, indifference, racism, bigotry — whether it’s gender, race or whatever — that’s my environment. Environment is the aggregate of the cultural and social issues that surround and affect an individual. So there again — indifference, bigotry, bias, and everything else — that’s my environment.

"And environment is also the biotic conditions that surround and affect a living organism — and that’s what we talk about more often than not: clean air, clean water, and everything else. I have kids, I have grandkids, I believe in clean air and water just as much as the next person. I think we have a precious resource in this earth that we don’t protect enough. But, I also know that you have to have a job, put food on the table, and put a roof over your head. You have to have a job to make it in this world.

"So I think that business and the biotic conditions can coexist. That we need to use the technology that we have, that we need to exercise political will and legislate to make sure that business and environment co-exist in a way, so as not to destroy the natural resources that we depend on, and I also think that we need to give some time, attention, and resources to the entire definition of the environment, and not get totally hung up on just one part of a total definition. …

"I think a lot of people that have been tagged as environmentalists have been misrepresented, and have been misled by insincere leadership that only wanted to use a certain small portion of the environment as a rallying point, as a flag for them to build a political power base, and for them to manipulate and control certain things."

On the proposed Empowerment Zone for Southeast Austin: "Personally, I’m not supportive of the current application, the current process for an Empowerment Zone. The first application came about when I was on Council, and I became intimately familiar with it, back-and-forth to D.C. in my travels on other initiatives and other projects. We thought we had it sewn up because of some supposed inside contacts. I didn’t feel at that time that we deserved to be an Empowerment Zone — or Enterprise Community — because there were a lot of other communities that had conditions far worse than Austin that deserved it more. …

"An Empowerment Zone, what it’s all about, is changing the paradigm of the way government deals with communities — rather than talk down, government dictating down, it’s supposed to be grassroots from the bottom up: develop, discuss, what they want to see happen in their community. This is definitely not a grassroots, bottom up — it’s last minute, by design. We don’t deserve it. By that I mean that all of a sudden you have people running around saying this is going to be great for the community, do good things for you. It will do good things for some of the large businesses in town, that’s going to get tax credits, and monies, money for training, money for hiring — tax credits, which is money — and these kinds of things. Where were all these people when the Council sat down and gave ARA to our detractors? How many [minorities are] going to be on your board, how many people going to be on your executive committee … ?

"Where were these people then? … Where were these people when a true, empowering project, Anderson Community Development Corporation … were stopped for nothing — this whole thing was taken away from them and stopped. Where were these people that an initiative that that community had taken the initiative and developed and had going on — all of a sudden, they’re running over to East Austin and saying, ‘We got something great that’s going to help the community.’…

"It’s a trick. I don’t support it. We don’t deserve it. I don’t care what anybody says — that’s just my personal opinion. I don’t have any great influence on what anybody else thinks — I think you need to pay attention to what’s going on, and I don’t support it.

On his candidacy: "This is not something that I just have to have. … What we’re trying to do, is say ‘Look, vote, get involved, pay attention.’ It’s not about me. I really don’t want it, to be honest with you. I just have this burning desire — I love my people, and I have always just had this burning desire to make an impact, to try to do something. I’ve been here 21 years now, I’ve raised my kids, doing my grandkid thing now. They’re all OK, they’re doing fine. I like me, I’ve got the best wife in the world, I’ve got the best mother-in-law in the world. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, I’m truly blessed, and I don’t need the headache.

"But if people want to use me to make a statement, I’m excited about that. But whatever happens, I’m going to deal with it. I can’t say thank you enough to all the people for all those kind comments, and to all those people who do know how sincere I have been in the things I’ve tried to do, who recognize that. … There’s a lot good people and a lot of good things going on in this community. But there’s too many people sitting on their butts, too many bad things happening. Too many of our kids that we’re losing, too much manipulation, government and people that’s not responsive.

"Just get out and do something about it. Let’s stop talking a good game, whether it’s with me or somebody else — let’s get out and do something about it. …"

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