As you may know, this past Thursday, the Austin City Council voted 6-1 to stop a plan to rename the East Lawn of Auditorium Shores after Vic Mathias, the CEO of the Austin Chamber of Commerce from 1957 to 1983. Instead, the plan will go through a 90-days public vetting process and review by the Parks and Recreation Board. Mayor Leffingwell was the lone vote for the plan and pushed hard to bypass the public vetting process and parks board review.
Mayor Pro Tem Cole co-sponsored the plan; nevertheless, she indicated that there is a question as to whether or not Mathias took an active role in campaigning against fair housing. She said that:
“After the City Council passed the Fair Housing Ordinance in 1968, a petition drive occurred to put it to an emergency referendum instead. The Ordinance was repealed until the voters decided. And, after a campaign by several business interests, Austinites voted no. In the next election, several of the City Council members who supported the Fair Housing Act were also voted out for having done the right thing. The City of Austin did not pass a new Fair Housing Ordinance until 1977. For those who may be unfamiliar with the impact that this had, I will tell you that the deed to my home says no coloreds allowed. That was voided by the fair housing protections at the local and federal level and it is incredibly important not just to me, but to many, many people in this community.”
Although Leffingwell strongly criticized Cole for bringing up this concern publicly, he could have avoided the situation by withdrawing the resolution and allowing Mathias’ name to go through the public vetting process and parks board review. Since he was not willing to do so, Cole had no choice but to bring forth this concern. She did the right thing.
According to an article in last Tuesday’s Austin American-Statesman, Parks Board member Hill Abell indicated that: “There is a clearly spelled-out process for naming parks … and it’s disrespectful to the citizens that City Council members might rename an iconic property like Auditorium Shores with no public input”.
This situation should serve as a wake-up call to the City Council to respect the citizens and stop routinely bypassing the public vetting process for naming public properties in the City.
David King
Zilker Neighborhood Resident

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