Civility In The News

Austin’s groundbreaking new ‘social contract’ is first of its kind in nation

By December 11, 2020December 16th, 2020No Comments

By Katie Friel // Culture Map Austin

During its meeting on Thursday, December 10, the Austin City Council issued a groundbreaking directive to the city manager: write a social contract for Austin. The council has tasked City Manager Spencer Cronk to work with the city’s Joint Inclusion Committee to write the document, which is to be presented to the council by June 1, 2021.

“A global pandemic and racial unrest have led this nation and communities across the country to an inflection point; and … despite the polarization playing out on the national stage, the Austin community strives to rise above,” reads the resolution.

This resolution is the first of its kind in the nation, according to those who worked on the initiative.

The contract should reflect values shared by the people of Austin, reads the resolution. Those values are outlined as:

  • Be respectful
  • Listen to understand
  • Act with good intentions
  • Support ideas with evidence and experience
  • Disagree without being disagreeable
  • Critique the idea not the person
  • Invite wonder

Austin’s social contract would not be a legal document, but rather serve as a “written agreement outlining a community’s core values and instructs the direction of laws, regulations, policies, contracts, culture and more.”

“The recommendations in this resolution are an important step to give our city a shared compass — rooted in equity — that leads us toward our north star: A city where everyone can reach their full potential,” said David Smith, CEO at United Way for Greater Austin.

Compassion 2020 is part of a nationwide campaign that was spearheaded locally by United Way for Greater Austin and Citizen Discourse, an Austin-based company focused on community development. Leading the effort on the city council was Councilmember Natasha Harper-Madison, who wrote the resolution. Mayor Steve Adler and councilmembers Jimmy Flannigan, Ann Kitchen, and Pio Renteria co-sponsored.

“The historic challenges we’ve faced in 2020 set in deep relief the drastic inequities that have grown virtually unchecked in Austin,” said Harper-Madison in a release. “I’m proud that, as a community, we have united to say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

“We know now where we want to go as a city, and the only challenge now is to figure out how to get there,” Harper-Madison continued. “You can’t spell ‘compassionate’ without ‘compass.’”

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