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LGBTQ Austin commission inaugurated with first meeting, cake

Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Jimmy Flannigan introduce new group to advise on quality-of-life issues

Long Center’s pavilion with rainbow lights
Long Center, June 2015
Austin Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce/Facebook

Just in time for Pride Month, the city of Austin has a new quality of life commission, this one to advise on issues related to the LGBTQ community and its members.

Council Member Jimmy Flannigan (District 6) and Mayor Steve Adler announced and anointed the commission on Tuesday, which Adler called a “historic day” in the city’s history. Flannigan, who ousted incumbent Don Zimmerman for the District 6 seat in November, noted that seeing the initiative through was his first priority upon taking office.

The first openly gay man to serve on the city’s governing body, Flannigan also said the group was standing on the “shoulders of giants”—including former Council Member Randi Shade, the first openly lesbian member to serve—and credited years of effort on the part of city workers, activists, and others for the commission’s formation.

Adler, stating that “a lot has changed” in the world, but “Austin has remained unapologetically Austin,” spoke to the historic nature of the commission’s formation and to the LGBTQ community’s deep roots in the city. According to the mayor, Austin has the third-largest LGBTQ population in the country; the city also scored 100 on the national Human Rights Commission’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI) last fall.

Flannigan said that he and other city officials purposely avoided “predetermining the commission’s agenda,” and instead ask it to “tell us what we can be and should be doing” to improve the quality of LGBTQ life in Austin.

Like the city’s existing quality of life commissions—include African-American, Asian-American, and Hispanic bodies—the LGBTQ commission will not have what Flannigan called “sovereignty”: Unlike, say, the Planning Commission, which can make decisions about particular projects (most of which still have to get a council vote), the quality-of-life commissions serve in an advisory capacity, making recommendations to the city council and its members.

Following the announcement, the LGBTQ Commission held its first meeting, which included rainbow-colored cake and, according to Community Impact’s Christopher Neely, a run-through of “the laws surrounding meetings, the commission’s structure, its bylaws and bureaucratic reach.”

Currently seating 11 members, appointed by each council member and the mayor according to city precedent, the commission will appoint an additional four members on its own.

Austin’s first LGBTQ Commission hosts inaugural meeting; officials call it a ‘historic’ moment [CI]