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Cole enters mayoral race emphasizing solving problems together

Monday, June 2, 2014 by Mark Richardson

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole launched her campaign Saturday to become Austin’s first African-American woman Mayor before a crowd of enthusiastic supporters in the front yard of a North University home.


In announcing her candidacy, Cole joins fellow City Council Member Mike Martinez, attorney Steve Adler, maintenance technician Randall Stephens and business owner Todd Phelps in the race. Cole is serving in her third term on the Council, having been a CPA and an attorney before being elected.


She spoke at a home across from Lee Elementary School, where she first became involved in public service by joining the Parent-Teacher Association.


“I am a lawyer and I am a CPA, but some of the best lessons I have learned have been from the PTA,” she said. “I took that with me to serve on several community boards. I was on the Austin Urban League Board, The Planned Parenthood Board, the Communities in Schools Board, and I took it all the way to City Hall. It served me well to be able to put groups of people together and watch what they could do for the city.”


Asked to respond to Saturday’s story in the American-Statesman carrying the sub headline that implied her ‘late entry’ into the race might hurt her, Cole said, ““I think this is a great time. I think I had an incredible turnout. I am so glad that I did the house party tour – I actually went to 10 different houses in every district in a span of two weeks. I think it was well worth the time I spent before jumping in the race. I actually heard from the citizens what was important to them, and learned that they want a city that is responsive to their needs.”


Cole has been talking to her supporters for months, so it is unlikely that any of them committed to another candidate because her announcement did not come as early as the other candidates. Political insiders all knew she was going to run and people with less interest in politics will probably not focus on the race until much closer to the election.


Cole has had several signature issues during her term on Council. But she appears to have a special feeling about the Waller Creek revitalization project.


“I worked on the Waller Creek project, one that had languished for years – over 30 years. And I put people together from the business community, the environmental community and many others to say ‘Don’t we care about this downtown creek?’” she said. “But I’ll tell you who I turned to first – my PTA moms. And I asked ‘Is this what we want for our kids?’ And they said, ‘Sure, we’re tired of driving to San Antonio.’ So that project went forward.”


She has also been a strong advocate for the issue of affordable housing in the city.


“Another thing I have worked on the affordable housing bonds,” she said. “Many of you will remember that those bonds failed at the ballot box when we went in 2012. We knew that that was not a good thing. It was very devastating for the city of Austin. So I brought a broad coalition of people together and we took it back to the voters …and the bonds passed overwhelmingly.”


If elected, Cole would preside over the city’s first Council elected from districts. Before she made her announcement Saturday, Cole went on a tour of all 10 of the new Council districts, holding house parties, meeting people and listening to their concerns about the city.


“I went on my tour and while I was out there, I learned that no one out there thinks there are any easy solutions,” she said. “And no one is really confused about the issues we faced: affordability, transportation, water, diversity. But the real issue is, “Will we tackle these issues together?”


Cole says she would be a mayor who, despite the new system of district politics, will try to being the city’s disparate neighborhoods and constituencies together to get things accomplished.


“We know that stronger neighborhood associations make for stronger neighborhoods.  We know that stronger PTAs make for stronger schools. And we know that civic engagement makes for a stronger city. What we have to do – what is most important – we have to come together, engage and commit to one Austin,” Cole said.


“Everywhere I went the spirit was the same: We got this. So we don’t need to worry about neighborhoods being divided – we need to worry about City Hall being divided from the city itself,” she said.


The new 10-1 District Council will be elected in the Nov. 4 general election, with a Dec. 16 runoff, if needed. The new Council will be installed in January.

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