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New Mayor and 'Council of Firsts' Sworn In

Hundreds of people attended the swearing in of Austin's new mayor and City Council last night. Once the council chamber was full, people stood in stairways and hallways and watched on screens as the new council members delivered their first messages to the geographic districts that elected them.

The diversity of those in attendance was significant. In the crowd, there were toddlers in their parents' arms and folks whose age demanded they move with the help of canes. Some wore the most sophisticated brands and others wore simple attire. But the faces of those in the crowd were similar in that they all looked hopeful, according to political consultant and former journalist Mike Madison.

"Even the people here who do this for a living, who have to be here every week, who are going to be fighting with these people going forward on issues that come up – they're still not jaded. They wouldn't be anywhere else,” Madison said.

The ceremony was notable for the new era it represents. This was the first time in modern history that districts were represented, and this is the first council with a female majority. Sheri Gallo represents District 10. Her father and stepmother were at the ceremony.

"There's another historic event tonight that is really important to me. My dad served on the Austin City Council as mayor pro tem over 50 years ago. And it is the first time in the history of Austin that a father and daughter have served on the Austin City Council,” Gallo said. The crowd cheered.

This is a council of firsts. And since everything is so new – the process, the players, the goals – Austin mayor Steve Adler said some Austinites are afraid inexperience may mean failure.

"Skeptics have said that this council can't do anything about traffic, that we can't do anything about inequality, that we can't do anything about affordability, and I disagree,” Adler said.

Adler also said he and the new council have started brainstorming ways to incorporate more of the public's ideas to tackle the city's big problems. He said a new process for public input will be unveiled ahead of the council's first meeting on Jan. 29.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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