Is there a point to the Mayor’s Community Cabinet?

Mayor Leffingwell appointed a new community cabinet. The membership is:

  • Russell Bridges: Government and Community Affairs Manager, 3M Corp.
  • Paul Carrozza: Owner, Run-Tex.
  • Perla Cavazos: Former legislative aide, Texas State Senate.
  • Raymond Chan: engineer, Raymond Chan & Associates.
  • Danette Chimenti: president, Austin Neighborhoods Council.
  • Brandi Clark: executive director, Austin Eco Network.
  • Cloteal Davis Haynes: contractor; former member, Austin Planning Commission.
  • Gary Farmer: president, Heritage Title; former chair, Greater Austin Chamber.
  • Frank Fernandez: executive director, Green Doors.
  • Gus Garcia: former Austin mayor; former trustee, Austin Independent School District.
  • Jesus Garza: former Austin City Manager; executive vice president and chief operating officer, Seton.
  • Joene Grissom: entrepreneur; former chair, Community Action Network.
  • Hopeton Hay: manager, Historically Underutilized Business Technical Assistance Program, University of Texas.
  • Paula Hui: owner, Paula Hui Real Estate Services; Board of Directors, Austin Asian-American Chamber of Commerce,
  • Terry Lickona: producer, Austin City Limits.
  • DeWayne Lofton: risk manager, Texas Association of School Boards.
  • Perry Lorenz: residential developer, Constructive Ventures.
  • Annette LoVoi: trustee, Austin Independent School District.
  • Louis Malfaro: president, Education Austin.
  • Susan McDowell: executive director, LifeWorks.
  • Nan McRaven: chair, Austin Community College Board of Trustees.
  • Sylvia Orozco: executive director, Mexic-Arte Museum.
  • Rev. Joseph Parker: senior pastor, David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.
  • Susan Rieff: executive director, Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.
  • Cookie Ruiz: executive director, Ballet Austin; chair, CreateAustin Working Group.
  • Ted Siff: former executive director, Austin Parks Foundation.
  • Fritz Steiner: dean, University of Texas School of Architecture.
  • Eleanor Thompson: community activist.
  • Michael Whellan: lawyer; president, Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody

So it is a group of high-profile, established leaders.  Judging from the comments at the Statesmen blog, this has disappointed a lot of people who were expecting “regular” people that were not involved in politics.  At first I was a bit surprised at people being miffed, but then it sank in that they have a valid concern.  The present membership of the Mayor’s Community Cabinet still is of much value because it allows for coordination, sharing of ideas, and checking in with leaders of key stakeholders groups.  But it seems that the commenters are seeking a structured format for non-civic elites to continuously participate.

I wonder how these “regular” folks would be recruited, though.  Any process that is built on relationships or an application already creates a lot of self-selection that would taint the likelihood of being representative of an “average” Austinite.  Perhaps a randomly selected group that is appropriately compensated, similar to a Citizen’s Jury might be a good solution.  Or perhaps the City could build on its existing annual polling and build more interactive polling and deliberation technology…but given that our City Manager’s blog doesn’t allow comments, that might be a bit too much.

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4 Responses to Is there a point to the Mayor’s Community Cabinet?

  1. M1EK says:

    Brewster McCracken (and aides) threw together an informal panel to advise him on the CAMPO TWG rail plan that for one of the last few meetings included both yours truly and Jeff Jack. It’s not that hard to go get representation from many different perspectives if you’re really interested in it.

    • Julio Gonzalez Altamirano says:


      I agree that it is not hard to get different perspectives. But I got the sense that the commenters in the AAS piece wanted “regular” people more than they wanted opposing viewpoints from folks that are already involved. Hence, that’s why ended up with something like a compensated Citizen Jury.

  2. M1EK says:

    There’s a lot of room on the continuum between “random jury” and what we ended up with. Leffingwell chose 95% marginally-employed community organizers and non-profit directors.

  3. Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

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