Dear Local Businesses,
I’ve spent more than 10 years advocating for you at city hall. Some of that effort included educating and wooing city officials. Some of that time was spent fighting for you even when the odds weren’t in our favor.
I’m not one to shy away from a good fight for a good cause. But the fights this year have not been good, they’ve been divisive by design. They’ve been created to make a point. While the victors relish their success at any cost, there doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgment of the damage left behind. The damage of disregard and disrespect of local business. The damage of allowing the demonization of local business at city hall.
I have been deeply affected by this damage and find myself in a dark place. The community of local businesses that I care so much for is under attack. Our beloved local businesses have been labeled the enemy. This is a new reality that is difficult to face and even harder to comprehend. It’s led me to many sleepless nights and a lot of soul searching. Not only for me, but for all the amazing local business owners I know. This is painful. I know you to be kind, supportive community folks who strive to do good and turn a modest profit, not at the expense of your employees but in concert with your team. How has an orchestrated political agenda come to define us otherwise?
Should public policymaking include great debates? Of course. Should stakeholders fight hard for what they believe in? Certainly. But we don’t destroy one another in our quest to win—until now.
Many of you know that Jim Murphy recently sold Sweetish Hill Bakery. I wrote to him saying AIBA would miss him. His reply was shocking:
“And I have to say that council meeting was a real turning point for me. I walked out of there and decided I was done owing a business in Austin. And it had nothing to do with the Sick Pay ordinance, but rather the way business owners were treated by the council and the Mayor.”
While Jim took immediate and drastic action, he is not alone in this sentiment. Who believes that destroying someone’s business so painstakingly built is acceptable damage?
Austin is filled with smart, creative and compassionate people. We are better than this. I’ve grappled with how to engage in challenging this new reality. I am unwilling to damage others in pursuit of, well, anything. I am unwilling to demonize employees or anyone else to make a point. I care too deeply about the importance of having thriving local business to let short-sighted political agendas divide us.
I am an unapologetic and optimistic idealist. I believe that the only effective way to solve community problems is to work together. I believe that most people are inherently good and do try to do the right thing. I believe in you, Austin. And that is the light that brings me out of this dark place.
AIBA has begun charting a path to bring us together to solve our issues with A Better Process Proposal. This was crafted with a team of two conservatives and two liberals working together to produce a draft that gives us a starting point for gathering the best ideas to address community problems in a way that achieves the best long-term results for everyone-—employees, businesses and the public.
Thank you awesome local business owners for being who you are. You are my light.
Warmest regards as always,
Rebecca Melançon, Executive Director, AIBA