I’ve spent a majority of my life advocating for small and local businesses that welcome the LGBT community. These businesses have come in all shapes and sizes, from Dell to independent realtors, from national insurance companies to local restaurants and bars. Many of these businesses were not owned by LGBT people, but by smart business owners who knew that a diverse staff and a diverse customer base was the right decision for their businesses and for their community.
In many ways, this is the success story of America. We are not just one culture, one community, or one set of beliefs. We are the United States of cultures just as much as we are the United States of America. Our diversity of thought is what makes this the greatest nation in the world, though there is more work to be done. Challenging our assumptions, calling out injustice, and ensuring all voices are represented isn’t easy. But it’s valuable work that we must do together if our democracy is to succeed.
Each city council district has its own makeup of cultures and communities. District 6 (and Northwest Austin) has the highest percentage of Asian American residents in the city. Those communities are composed of a rich tapestry of languages, cultures, and beliefs. Ensuring their voices are prominent and heard, not just on an Asian commission, but in all areas of city government, is the right thing to do and the best thing for the city, just as we want to ensure that all of our diverse voices are represented.
If elected to the city council, I would be the first gay man to serve (acknowledgements to former council member Randi Shade who was the first, and only, member of the LGBT community to have been on Austin City Council). But I would also be the first Williamson County resident to serve on city council. Williamson County makes up half of District 6 and I’ve lived there for nearly my whole adult life. I am excited for the opportunity to bring these new perspectives to City Hall.
Unfortunately, not everyone on our city council shares our values or our positive vision of the future. My opponent, the current council member, has been an embarrassment to District 6 and the whole city. His overt racism and homophobia does not represent the values of Austinites and his bullying and condescending to regular citizens does not represent what we expect from our public servants. Furthermore, his belief that diversity is somehow unfair and any attempt to address racism is the real racism is just a dog-whistle to the same backwards thinking that we see in the Presidential race. We don’t need that in Austin anymore.
There are some big challenges we face as a city. Traffic, utility bills, property crime, and affordability need champions that are willing to make tough decisions and work across the city to find the right path forward. My Northwest Austin Coalition’s innovative citizen-led corridor study process was successful in getting a bad road in District 6, Anderson Mill Rd, included in the transportation bond. Moving forward, we can take that citizen-driven process and fix the other problems that we face.
Our problems are complicated and solving them will not come easily or without constant community engagement and vigilance, but Austin is full of creative, innovative, and weird people willing to try new things and listen to new voices. I truly believe that we can fix these problems together, and I hope that you will join me.