Thomas Declares for Mayor
Pro Tem calls for more inclusion and openness
"I come to let you know, as your mayor I will do the best I can."
So began Mayor Pro Tem Danny Thomas' much-rumored but now official campaign for mayor of Austin, first thing on a windy Monday morning at City Hall Plaza. Introduced by his "high school sweetheart" and spouse Janis as "a good man, a fair man, and God's man" the two-term Place 6 council member thanked his wife, family, and friends for their support, and declared himself on a "mission" to bring "open and straightforward" government to Austin. Thomas, who is term-limited in his current seat, said he's "not running against the mayor [incumbent Will Wynn]," but rather "against maintaining the status quo" and "business as usual," and said he would base his campaign and his administration on "positive change, clarity, and inclusion."
As that sounds, the initial announcement was heavy on "fairness," "inclusiveness," and "openness" bromides and light on specifics, although Thomas most often stressed his conviction that "some groups" had been largely excluded from information and the decision-making process at City Hall, and that he hopes to bring them into the process. Pressed by a reporter, he said he thought all sections of the city contained citizens left behind by governance focused primarily on Downtown, and that he hoped to bring a "more inclusive" style, including more frequent citizen meetings, to the mayor's office.
In light of his stress on openness, Thomas was asked if he had an opinion of the just-launched charter amendment campaign that (among other things) would require that much more documentation of city business be provided online. He said that while certain matters, notably personnel and legal discussions, require privacy, otherwise, "Anything we do as a city government the citizens should know," adding that he would consider the specific amendment. Asked about the possibility of single-member council districts, he said that based on his knowledge of Houston, he would prefer a mixed system.
That was about as close as the talk approached current issues, although the candidate did mention Downtown development and the "public safety gap" in services and communication which he said need particular attention. Thomas, who spent 21 years as an Austin police officer, also weighed in gently on the current APD controversies, notably the recent decision by Chief Stan Knee to terminate Officer Julie Schroeder in connection with the shooting of Daniel Rocha. While calling for better communication among all parties the department, Austin Police Association, and the community Thomas concluded, "If the chief makes a decision, we have to stand behind that decision."