When Gregorio Casar was elected in 2014 as the youngest City Council Member in Austin’s history, we all had high expectations. He has, by far, exceeded our hopes. Casar has been a successful champion for working families, for the poor, for immigrants, and for inclusive public institutions–even when powerful interests have opposed his positions.
In his former job as the Policy Director for Workers Defense Project, Casar championed rules to get workers a fair shake in Austin. He also fought for immigration reform at the national level and was an advocate for affordable housing.
Now, as a Council Member, Casar has led successful efforts to get thousands of Austin workers in the private and public sectors a minimum wage of over $13.50 per hour. He and Council Member Renteria authored the Fair Housing Initiative, which, when passed by the Council, dedicated historic amounts of budget dollars to affordable housing.
He’s also had success on public safety issues. He amended the City’s budget to include body cameras for police officers, and he led on initiatives to end the backlog of sexual assault evidence. He’s amended the City Council’s agreement with the Travis County jail to send a strong signal that immigrants should be treated equally in our criminal justice system.
We’re impressed by Casar’s achievements, but we’re even more inspired by how he’s accomplished them. He’s kept his promise to raise the voices of everyday people in our city and especially in North Austin’s District 4.
Casar and his staff helped begin Austin’s first neighborhood associations in mobile home communities. One of these associations successfully, through community organizing and a lawsuit, stopped price hikes and evictions in their community by a new out-of-state landlord.
This organizing work in mobile homes has inspired more tenants across Austin to assert their collective power. In partnership with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, new tenants’ groups across Austin have stopped unfair and unlawful evictions across Austin—with Greg Casar always standing by their side.
Gregorio Casar has worked to support formerly incarcerated individuals as they created the Second Chance Democrats, an organization of Austinites with conviction histories and their allies. The Second Chance Democrats, in partnership with Casar, shepherded the Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance through the City Council. Fair Chance Hiring is an anti-discriminatory law that requires employers to consider a job candidate’s qualifications first, without the stigma of a conviction history, before running a background check at the end of the hiring process.
There was bitter opposition to Fair Chance Hiring from some corners of the city. That opposition was overcome by the powerful stories from members of the Second Chance Democrats who shared their personal experiences of facing discrimination and stigma. The City Council overwhelmingly passed Fair Chance Hiring into law, making Austin the first city in the South with this kind of civil rights measure.
Casar continues to show how the right City Council offices can meaningfully partner with the community to create progressive and historic change. He’s a powerful voice on the dais, but he’s proven that he can be even more powerful by raising the voices of the community.
TODO Austin is committed to inclusivity and diversity in our city. That’s why we’re proud to issue a strong endorsement for Gregorio Casar. We can’t wait to see what he does next as he is re-elected to serve our city.