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McCracken, staffers honored at Council meeting

Friday, June 19, 2009 by Austin Monitor

Thursday was Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken’s last day at the dais, and the event provided an opportunity for the Council to honor his six years of service, and dispel any harsh feelings left over from a tough mayoral campaign. And it gave McCracken an opportunity to bid farewell to his colleagues and staff.


Mayor Will Wynn started it off, saying McCracken had “creative vision” and was “cool.” Wynn said McCracken had helped make Austin a model city by emphasizing new urbanism, sustainability and technology. McCracken said that Wynn was a great backroom negotiator. “He doesn’t pick favorites,” he said. “He brings us together.”


Council Member Randi Shade, who served the shortest time with McCracken, praised his leadership on the Pecan Street Project, which could ultimately change how electricity is generated and distributed in Austin. McCracken said Shade has long been ahead of the curve on things like clean energy. “If you want to see where things are going, see where she’s looking,” he said.


Council Member Laura Morrison worked closely with McCracken on design standards and the McMansion ordinance when she still was head of the Austin Neighborhoods Council. At the time, there was some tension between the ANC’s goals and McCracken’s new urbanism philosophy. She acknowledged that there was a “lot of disagreement” but she praised him as a master of the “great art of compromise.” She said that he was “completely involved, and showed real leadership.”  McCracken said the same about Morrison. “She was chairing a McMansion committee where everyone wanted to kill each other,” he said. “At the end, it was a fifteen to one vote.”


Council Member Sheryl Cole, one of McCracken’s most reliable allies, spoke next. “We sit next to each other on the dais,” she said. “And that makes you become close.” She talked about how McCracken had helped show her the ropes when she first was elected, saying he “taught me how to jump in and make motions.” She ended by saying, “I’m losing my best friend.” McCracken, in turn, praised Cole’s sense of humor and sense of conscience. “One time we were referring to the ‘meat and potatoes budget,’” he said. “And Cole said, ‘This mother knows we need vegetables too.’ She was referring to funding Health And Human Services. She has real values.”


Mayor-elect Lee Leffingwell and McCracken have been on opposite sides of many issues, even before they ran against each other for mayor. But he rose to the occasion, talking about McCracken’s “intelligence and energy” and expressed a desire to “work together on the Pecan Street Project.” McCracken returned the graciousness and then some, remembering how the two had worked together to repeal the ban on domestic partner benefits. “He showed great leadership,” he said. “He’s going to be a great mayor.”


Council Member Mike Martinez talked about McCracken’s support of rail, and complimented his ability to stick with something until it was completed. “It wasn’t always easy, but you definitely know the art of compromise,” he said. McCracken responded by telling a story about working with Martinez when he was head of the firefighters union, and he agreed to ask his members to take a pay cut during the last budget crisis. “He had the courage to take that to his colleagues,” said McCracken. “He was fearless.”


McCracken and Wynn also gave each of their staff members proclamations for their distinguished service. The mayor will have to wait until Monday to be feted at the inauguration ceremony. Chris Riley and Bill Spelman will be sworn in and Leffingwell taking the oath as Mayor at a ceremony set to being at 4pm in Council chambers. Martinez and Cole will take the oath to begin their second terms of office and Martinez is expected to be chosen by his colleagues to serve as Mayor Pro Tem. There will be an inaugural celebration beginning at 7:30pm at Threadgill’s on Riverside.

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