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Beth Cortez-Neavel is a contributing reporter covering Travis County for the Austin Monitor. Beth works in words, data, photography and radio. She's a long-time Austinite living in the District 1 area.
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District 10’s Gallo to focus on transparency in 2015
District 10 City Council Member Sheri Gallo was sworn in Tuesday evening, along with the rest of Austin’s new 10-1 Council.
Gallo, a longtime resident of the area, boasts a 35-year background in residential real estate and a legacy of civic engagement through her involvement with the Settlement Club, the Housing Authority of Austin and various parent-teacher associations.
Gallo beat out Mandy Dealey in the December runoff election with 58 percent of the vote, and as determined by a pull-the-colored-marble-from-a-bag lottery process reminiscent of a child’s game, will be serving a two-year term. Regardless of term length, she said she is ecstatic to be a part of this year’s Council.
When she recently returned from vacation, Gallo said she stepped off the airplane, got down to the baggage claim area at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport, and then it dawned on her: “I looked around and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m on the City Council!’ It was a bizarre place for it to hit,” she said.
The Austin Monitor spoke with Gallo before her inauguration about her primary goal to create more transparency in the Council process.
One of Gallo’s priorities, which the new City Council will address today, is changing the Council’s format to be more accessible to the public and more respectful of the constituents’ time.
More than a few Council members have shown frustration with the process in the past, Gallo said. The meetings lasted too long — some ran until 3 a.m. — and many decisions on new resolutions were made late at night.
“It’s very disrespectful to expect people to be somewhere in the middle of the night when they have work and they have families,” Gallo said.
She said she sensed there was also frustration with who had input on certain resolutions. “[Citizens] wanted to be involved in a discussion… and often when they spoke at the Thursday meeting, they felt like the deal had already been done. The decisions had already been made,” Gallo said.
To remedy this, Gallo said she and the Council will work to shift agenda items to other meetings and create Council committees — where a few members preside and most of the discussion and public work on a resolution happens — for issues that don’t have enough open discussion.
Gallo said her staff is also working to keep communication and information between her office and District 10 more transparent by creating a district-wide website.
The site will most likely be linked off the main City of Austin website and will host information and events from neighborhood associations, schools in the district and the Council. Gallo staff member Tina Cannon, who also ran for the position but didn’t make it to the runoffs, will be in charge of the design, and the project will be funded by Gallo’s Council member budget.
Gallo said it will “really be a resource for District 10 and hopefully enable communication.”
Gallo said she’s also looking forward to zeroing in on neighborhood development and transportation issues in the district, but the site is her first priority for the new year.
As far as pulling the white two-year-term marble out of the lottery bag?
“I think we’ll get a lot done [in two years],” she said. “The time is just going to go by really quickly.”
Photo courtesy of The Hall Monitor
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.
Sheri Gallo: Austin City Council member who represents District 10