Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
We must rise above the narrow confines of self-interest and find every way to address the broader concerns of our community. Our poverty rate has increased by more than 50% since 2000. While the overall economy booms, poverty in our community is hardening along geographic lines. The areas of very low opportunity are almost exclusively east of IH35, with areas east of SH130 solidly and seemingly intractably low opportunity. I have and will continue to advocate that the County use all of its authority to bridge this economic and geographic divide. I have:
Established the Travis County Tax Team to relieve the burden of county property taxes on those least able to afford them
Refocused the Historic Exemption that previously went overwhelmingly to wealthy Central Austin residents
Lowered taxes for seniors and the disabled
Required a livable wage for all employees of any company receiving tax breaks from the County
Required a livable wage for all construction workers on projects receiving tax breaks from the County
Created an enforceable preference for minority and women owned businesses seeking County contracts
Increased funding for workforce education
When I become County Judge, I pledge to work with our municipalities and school districts to establish Economic Development Zones in areas of the County that lack good schools, job opportunities, good roads, a common water provider, grocery stores, and transit. I will work with our other local governments to use our collective leverage to attract enterprises that will partner with the public in achieving community goals.
Improving opportunity in these Economic Development Zones requires negotiating with enterprises to locate their businesses in these zones; hire residents from these zones; financially contributing to road work, water plans, and transit extensions that improve the experience of residents as well as the enterprise in these zones; meaningfully participate in local school districts and local emergency service district for the education and safety of their neighbors who are also their employees. Make these arrangements routine, explicit and enforceable and we will begin to see increased opportunity in areas that have been left outside the usual circulation of wealth. We will begin to rise above the narrow confines of self-interest to address our shared humanity.