Interview with Ashely Gordon, Green Party Candidate
What are the primary concerns of the citizens in Travis County as it relates to your run for office?
Ashely: The root of all of the issues in Travis County is equity. We are defining equity as “fairness and justice in the way people are treated; freedom from bias or favoritism”, as it is defined by Merriam- Webster Dictionary. The biggest inequities we see are with transportation, housing, and economic opportunities. The workforce and housing market have favored those in the tech industry. The working class (which is comprised mostly of Black and Brown people) have been swindled out of homes they’ve had for generations or land has been taken via eminent domain for the sake of development. This now ties into the transportation issue. Austin wants to invest in expanding highways as a solution to traffic issues, but more money needs to be invested in public transit because the displaced working class may live out in the crescent cities (Pflugerville, Manor, Austin’s Colony) and don’t have ways to get into town to work. The bus system is lacking, the train only services a couple of parts of the city of Austin, and taxis are expensive. There is also the situation with toll roads. The working class has to take the major toll roads such as 130 to get to work on time since I-35 is not a feasible option. All major highways that run parallel to I-35 are tolled. It is unaffordable. The only neighborhoods that get sidewalks, bikes, covered and benched bus stops, etc. are the gentrified areas. They add these additions and then force natives out to make room for the people moving into the county for jobs (makes downtown walking distance for their comfort… for the “sake of being green”.) There is a lack of representation for these residents. The focus in the county is to appease the upper class.
Follow up: How do you plan to address these concerns if elected?
Ashely: I have already begun the work. I’ve gone before Austin City Council to testify about the Mobility Bond with the Sierra Club. The first testimony was concerning the toll roads. I gave testimony about the people who take the toll, but haven’t paid the bills because they can’t afford it. I talked about 130 being the only major highway near Austin’s Colony and it is unjust that they have to pay to use the only highway available to them. Earlier this summer I interviewed with a local news station to bring attention to the matter:
I’ve also testified that a larger part of the budget needs to be invested on developing public transit, fixing and extending sidewalks before trying to create a tunnel or expand I-35.
I also advocate for traffic signs and crosswalks in Austin’s Colony. They have two main streets and neither have adequate crosswalks. Children have already died from being hit by cars.
What has been the biggest hurdle for you politically during your campaign run?
Ashely: Access to media outlets. The League of Women Voters and both newspapers (The Austin American-Statesman and The Austin Chronicle) refused to acknowledge my campaign during the primaries. Recently I was invited to a candidate forum at the last minute because the Pflugerville Chamber of Commerce saw my name listed for the race, but didn’t think I was actually in the race. People have preconceived notions about 3-party candidates. Most believe we sign up as a protest, not to win. It has been difficult letting people know I am a viable candidate.
How do your proposed policies benefit Travis County as a whole and how do they differ from those of your opponents?
Ashely: My approach is different than those of my opponents. I look at people. I see people, not constituents. I see neighbors, not votes. Any policy I create, whether it deals with transit concerns or mental health services, will always have the community in mind. I know it is impossible to find solutions that benefit everyone all the time, but I refuse to make decisions that negatively impact people’s livelihood and health in order to make friends in the system. I am of the people and for the people. My policies will take care of the community from a holistic point of view. This is possible because I don’t owe anyone any political favors.
Do you have an outline of goals to achieve once you are elected to office?
Ashely: My goal the first year in office is to review and audit the budget that currently exists. It is my understanding that we are investing in services that are not reaching the people. I plan to terminate contracts with organizations that receive county funding but don’t provide the services they claim to offer. We need independent auditors to come in and make these assessments. Once we rid ourselves of excess spending and misappropriation of funds, we will have a more clear path of which service we can offer to supplement that which exists already. We should be creating opportunities for locals (individuals, smalls businesses, and not for profit organizations) to have government contracts. They should take priority in contract considerations.
How do you plan on implementation of those goals?
Ashely: This isn’t an easy feat. There are other commissioners and the county judge. We must agree before policy can change, be added, or completely removed. I believe the best way to tackle this is to make sure any proposals I submit are fair and benefit all of the precincts, not just mine. Although I will preside over 1 precinct as our representative, the entire county is my concern and responsibility. We are a body and all parts need to be cared for.
Dr. Cornel West recently spoke at the Green Party convention in Houston, what was one thing he said that you think you can apply to your campaign?
Ashely: Unfortunately, there were complications getting me to and from the cafeteria for lunch the day he spoke so I only caught the end of his speech. I did, however, have the honor of speaking to him one-on-one later that night. He imparted wisdom that went beyond campaigning. He encouraged me to stay outside of the box, outside of the accepted system. Never stop challenging and breaking down the system. He believes the Green Party is the only party that is centered around issues that affect disenfranchised populations. All in all, he inspired me to continue being an ally, advocate, and rebel.
What has your experience been in the Green Party, as a Black woman?
Ashely: I haven’t been a member of the party for long, but the national conference gave me a big dose of reality concerning race relations in the party. It has traditionally served the same population as the other parties- the White, well-to-do majority that may care about social issues, but are not directly affected by them. We see this dynamic with the presidential nominee- Jill Stein. She is a rich, White lady who can campaign the way she does because her husband financially supports their family. She is well-meaning, yes, but she doesn’t represent me. She is not poor or a person of colour. We had options to have representation, but the party chose her because it “improves our chances of winning.” Thankfully there are caucuses inside the party that are organizing to. deal with this dynamic. It won’t be easy because there are a lot of prejudice/racists people in the party (I know because they were squirming at my workshop on the state of Black America), and they are going to either change or leave. So my experience nationally is one part really accept me being vocal about my Blackness and others are not so welcoming.
There are those who question the sustainability of the Green Party, and some who don’t know what it is, what would you say to those who are not convinced?
Ashely: Do your research! Any organization is sustainable if it has moving parts. We need people to join who are willing to do the work to change their communities. What makes this party different is we are made up of local chapters. How those chapters look are loosely defined. We have the same principles, but how that translates is different based on your location. The community needs of Baltimore are different from those of Austin. We work and then share our solutions with one another. And if we can go and work in solidarity somewhere, we do. At the end of the day, we can’t spend time trying to “convince” anyone of anything. We can tell you who we are and what we do then you decide if it’s for you.
Do you think the overall progressive position of the Green Party alienates some voters, especially since Texas trends Red?
Ashely: How do we alienate anyone? The party supports everyone. I care about the city dweller as well as the farmer. When I found out the current commissioner of my precinct refused to send help to Bastrop to help the farmers a few years back, I was livid. Honestly, you are not going to find a party that caters to all of your beliefs, but you should choose a party that recognizes and honors your humanity. If you have traditional Christian values, we figure out a way to preserve that for you. The key is to make sure that in your endeavor to live the way that pleases you the most doesn’t take away someone else’s civil or human rights. We compromise. We’re diplomats.
Do you think Austin’s voters are outliers to the dominant trend of the state?
Ashely: For sure. Austin/Travis County is going to focus more on green (ecologically sound) solutions. This isn’t true for the entire state, especially since oil is such an important part of the Texas economy. I believe we can transform these ideals though. I’m from a refinery town and have managed to get people to at least recycle. It is a hard sell, but as we move globally towards sustainable energy, Texas will catch up with the green way of living, which will also change how we vote. We just have to show everyone there is a place for each of us at the table.
How will you change Austin for the better if elected?
Ashely: This election is bigger than Austin, bigger than Travis County. This is about global impacts that start at home. I’m in Montreal, Quebec, Canada right now at the World Social Forum. I’m here in the capacity of n interpreters but also a participant. We are discussing the necessity for a global community, a world without borders. I think my largest contribution to Travis County and to the global community is information and access. The inequity we speak of can be remedied by access- access to jobs that pay fair wages, access to clean water and food, access to transportation, access to education. I provide these connections and I teach people how to take advantage of that which exists. If it doesn’t exist, we create it. I will change my country and contribute to the global community education and providing access.
Green Party Interview: http://youtu.be/0n7eSi5hN3g