A couple hundred people at Threadgill's World Headquarters Monday evening celebrated the return of former City Council Member Laura Morrison to local political combat, this time as a candidate to replace incumbent Steve Adler, and become Austin's "second female mayor" (after Carole Keeton Rylander, 1977-83). That was one note struck repeatedly in the festivities, along with Morrison's pledges to promote affordable housing "in all parts of town," to work toward "real mass transit," and to both save money and address homelessness by finding ways to focus resources on "the neediest people."
Morrison declared it is "time for a change" at City Hall, describing Austin in recent years as "more expensive and less affordable" for residents "here now." She denounced any consideration of Austin parkland for Major League Soccer (or similar projects), said there should be no consideration* [see correction below] of economic incentives for Amazon, and said the city needs a mayor who governs "for all of us."
She briefly sketched out her background and her religiously active parents, recalling their support for desegregation of a swimming pool in their small Tennessee town that involved even their children, effectively teaching Morrison then "what it takes to stand up and make positive change." The candidate didn't mention Adler at length, but in passing described the incumbent as representing "the real estate industry" rather than all of Austin, and pledged to return to a city "less about buildings and more about people."
Morrison was introduced by Robin Rather, who called her a tireless fighter for "civil rights and justice"; Jane Rivera of the Parks Board, noting Morrison's penchant for appointing people who showed active interest in specific policies; Diana Earl of Moms Demand Action (for gun sense in America); and environmental attorney Sarah Faust, who recalled Morrison's Council action to end development fee waivers for Austin Water connections and "make growth pay for itself."
In addition to the speakers, familiar names among the crowd included: attorney Brian McGiverin, Gary Hyatt, Bill Oakey, D8 Council candidate Bobby Levinski, mayoral candidate Travis Duncan, Mary Ingle, AISD board member Ann Teich, Bill Bunch, Dyana Limon-Mercado, Council aides Barbara Rush and Amy Smith, Fred McGhee, and Jim Duncan. Former Mayor Pro Tem Mike Martinez also attended, "out of respect and friendship" for Morrison – he has taken no position on the race – and because he "knows what it's like to put your name out there" for a seat as important as mayor. (Martinez lost to Adler in 2014.) Martinez said he's not decided whether he'll be "involved in the campaigns in some way."
Asked afterward if she expected to define Adler as "representing the real estate industry," Morrison said, "At least in part ... just adhering to the facts." In passing she had described the in-progress CodeNEXT revision as only "making things worse" for the city – asked if she thought the election would become a referendum on CodeNEXT, she said, "It's a fluid situation ... it's too soon to tell."
Concluding her speech, Morrison said, "We need to get this city on the right path," but said that doesn't mean "returning to the Austin of the past, but coming together to put the future on the right path ... for the economy, the environment, and equity." She said she will implement ways to "manage Austin's growth, and not growth to manage Austin."
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