Williams Spotlights Progress, Targets "Cultural Divide" in Abilene
In his State of the City address, Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams highlighted progress and economic growth. But Williams didn’t shy away from the difficulties he and the city council have faced in recent months.
Mayor Williams started by praising the city council, his department leaders, local religious and community leaders who he says are making big things happen in Abilene. He pointed to economic development and opportunities for area residents, noting $14,000 of growth in the average household income over four years.
The mayor highlighted the successful rollout of the city’s new See-Click-Fix app-which helped city workers resolve 229 issues and fill nearly 700 potholes in a week.
While talking about the approval and implementation of the Street Maintenance Fee last year, the Mayor said it isn’t perfect, but it’s the best the city could do for now. He suggested the city may make adjustments to it this year, but Williams said it will allow Abilene to be more aggressive in its road repairs. "Last year we allocated about $800,000 for street maintenance. This year it's $7.1 million."
The mayor also expressed his pride in the work done to address homelessness in Abilene. He praised the effort of a number of community groups lead by Michelle Parish, who worked for three years to understand and address homelessness in Abilene. "They had a goal in 100 days to house 50 of our most vulnerable neighbors;" Williams said. "and they housed 64."
The mayor's presentation included a chart showing increased participation on city boards by Hispanic and African American residents in Abilene. In one-year, Hispanic representation grew by five, and the African American community saw 10 more board members. Williams said a number of groups are working to include all demographics in decision making and direction setting.
Wrapping up his remarks, Mayor Williams addressed tensions that arose out of the controversy surrounding social media posts by some city council members. "We don't have a racial issue. Maybe we have a cultural divide," Williams said. "We live in a time when we have neighbors who don't know their neighbors. I've asked some people to work with me, and you, to help Abilene be Abilene."
To demonstrate that point, Mayor Williams closed his State of the City address by inviting city council members and their spouses, community and religious leaders to join him at the front of the chambers, united, with a goal of rising from the challenges Abilene faces, together.