In response to my previous post about the three “political parties” in Austin, one Facebook commenter aptly pointed out that Council Member Sheri Gallo does not neatly fit into the “conservative” group.
I said the following in response:
I was strongly considering using fractions, and saying there were 2.5 conservatives, since Gallo is very different from Zimmerman & Troxclair. She is a true moderate –– I call her a “Rotary Club Republican.”
What is the Rotary Club Republican? As I explained on Facebook, I regard Gallo as the type of conservative that is almost extinct in the modern GOP. For starters, she is clearly out of place in Trump’s anti-immigrant, authoritarian GOP. But more importantly, she also does not embrace the vehemently anti-government philosophy championed by Republicans in Congress or state government in recent years.
Although Gallo expresses reluctance to raise taxes and regularly raises flags about spending she finds imprudent, she rarely characterizes her opposition to spending on anti-government principles.
A telling example was her recent abstention from a vote to authorize libraries to spend $1 million in the coming years on CDs. It wasn’t the library spending that bothered her; it was that her belief that money was being diverted from more pressing library needs. Indeed, she has campaigned on supporting libraries, in stark contrast to her tea party colleague Don Zimmerman, who recently expressed bafflement that institutions that lend out free media exist.
Gallo made a similar argument when she abstained from votes to authorize spending for a number of contracts with social service providers. She said repeatedly that she supported the spending in principle but could not vote for any new spending measure because the city’s budget reserve had temporarily dropped below the recommended 12 percent. Gallo was sensitive to the criticism she received over that vote, insisting that she supported the spending but wanted assurance from city management that the reserve fund would be replenished.
Whether Gallo’s positions are a result of her own beliefs or the muddled politics of her district, she has adopted a political identity that is almost unrecognizable in the national political landscape.
Why “Rotary Club” Republican? I suppose I could say “Chamber of Commerce” Republican –– referring of course to local chambers, rather than the vehemently right-wing national chamber. Either way, I think of the Rotary Club as a place where community elites gather to discuss ways collaboration between government, business, churches and other nonprofits can improve the community. Gallo’s approach to government similarly seems based on fostering cooperation between government, business and nonprofits, rather than advocacy for one over the other.
As a result of Gallo’s relatively moderate positions on public spending, a number of otherwise progressive or Democratic-leaning activists in the city will likely be rooting for her to hold onto her seat in her race against Alison Alter, who is more closely aligned with the progressive movement/Democratic Party this November because they want to make sure they keep a pro-development vote on Council. Alter (whose husband is my former University of Wisconsin history professor, Jeremi Suri!) has emerged as a leading opponent of a major development (at least as proposed) in the district, the Grove at Shoal Creek, and will likely be supported by the bloc of city progressives more closely aigned with neighborhood groups that are skeptical of dense development.