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Large crowd helps Spelman kick off race for Place 5

Friday, January 23, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Former Council Member Bill Spelman kicked off his campaign for Place 5 on the Council before an enthusiastic crowd at Scholz Garten Thursday night with a pledge to make Austin city government more accountable and more accessible. Spelman so far is running unopposed for the seat being vacated by Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken.

 

“Like many of you, I’m here because I think our city government can make sense. I think it can spend our money wisely. I think many of us think that it can make decisions that improve our lives,” Spelman said. “I think it can follow-through on long-held publicly-held decisions, and I think like many of us it can listen, it has the capacity to listen before it makes those decisions.”

 

Spelman said greater public involvement would be the key to dealing with problems facing the city such as unemployment, poverty, traffic, and the high cost of housing. “If the city government had to deal with problems like this all by itself, particularly in the midst of the worst fiscal crisis in the last 20 years, these would look like insurmountable crises. But if we all share the responsibility…if an inclusive, open and responsive city government engages its citizens by making it just a little bit easier for all of us to do the right thing, they’re just problems,” he said. “And like all problems, we can solve them.”

 

He listed a few programs he said had worked in other cities that should be considered here, including neighborhood grant programs and assisting small businesses with health insurance premiums for their employees. But Spelman’s main focus was on including the public in the decision-making process. “City government should not be a mystery. We may agree, we may disagree, but at the end of the day we need to know why,” he said. “The only way government can count on getting the assistance it needs from the public is if it is inclusive, open, and responsive in everything it does.”

 

Spelman’s campaign is currently working with students at the LBJ School of Public Affairs to solicit public input on policies for improving the economy, dealing with the city’s budget, and promoting housing affordability. The campaign is also planning a town hall-style meeting in April to discuss those subjects.

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