The rumors that began swirling a few weeks ago turned out to be true. Delia Garza has replaced Kathie Tovo as mayor pro tem. From what I hear, this was not Tovo’s idea, but she agreed to support Garza for the position as soon as a group of Council members, including the mayor, got behind her colleague from Southeast Austin.
I wouldn’t read too much into the shift. While there may be a couple Council members who wanted to elevate somebody whose politics align with the recently-expanded urbanist majority, I think most agreed to support Garza based on the idea that the MPT position should change every few years. In addition, it was an opportunity to elect the city’s first Latina MPT (Garza is also the first Latina CM).
If there were any arguments over the issue, they took place behind the scenes. Tovo gracefully made the motion to nominate Garza for the position, several members (Adler, Casar, Renteria) spoke in support of Garza while expressing appreciation to Tovo for her service. The motion then passed unanimously.
The key duty of the MPT is to run meetings in the mayor’s absence. Tovo, ever the diplomat, was very good at this. I think Garza will be too, but perhaps in a different way. Garza often gets impatient with aimless, meandering Council conversations; having somebody suggest that people STFU can help move things along. Adler could stand to improve in that department.
Tovo and Garza represent different schools of thought on Council procedure, particularly public comment. Tovo, like most other neighborhood association folks, is much more deferential to Council tradition, believes there can never be too public comment and is skeptical of efforts to change the structure of meetings so that they end earlier. Garza is much more open to change on that front. She has suggested beginning meetings earlier or holding public comment on separate days from when Council acts. Of course, none of these big changes can be implemented unilaterally, and in most cases the mayor will be leading the meeting anyway, but I just thought it was worth mentioning…
Congratulations to Garza on the historic honor and thank you to Tovo for her continued service. It will be weird calling her Council Member Tovo. I may never get used to it.