Moving Texas Forward: A Conversation With Kirk Watson

Monday, May 4th 2020

Judy Maggio talks with Kirk Watson about how Texas should move forward post Covid-19, his role on the Governor's Strike Force and his reflections on more than 20 years serving Austin as Mayor and State Senator.

__Interview Highlights __

On his work with the Governor’s Strike Force

Part of the reason I'm happy to be on this and willing to be a part of it, is because I don't think we need to make all this a binary choice. And it's not an all or nothing you know winner-take-all sort of decision-making process. And in my conversations with the governor and in conversations with the whole group, he made it very clear when he asked me to do this, that he was gonna base this on science and medical professionals. And the medical professionals that he has involved with in it of course are people that that we recognize their names and are our first class. But be recognizing that at the same time we're doing that, there are a lot of people that are really really suffering economically, and being able to get them in a situation where their livelihoods and their ability to take care of their families and to pay their bills If we can get them in a position where they can do some work that is something we ought to at least be looking at.

On what gives his pause about reopening Texas

I worry that that if we were going to have a more robust program of testing and tracing and ramp that up as part of phase one, I think I would have preferred to see that be phase one, and then then do some partial opening so that you're not having to try to figure out what the corresponding increases you might see have to do with either increased testing or an increase in the incidence of the disease because of some of the things that you might have done in terms of the partial opening. And then I think right now one of the things that I have concerns about, is not sticking with the plan. If you're gonna have phase one, let's see how that works before you start doing additional re-openings since we said we were gonna do those in phase two.

On the importance of collaborating and compromising during this challenging time

I think the reason we're doing so well in Texas and in Austin, is because people got the message and they acted well. I think there's a lot to be said for how how smart people reacted to this now a few were outliers, but that's gonna happen and you're never gonna get a 100 percent good conduct, but the fact that the numbers didn't end up where some were predicting they would or could I think is in large part a function of people coming together and doing some of what what we're talking about.

But here's been our biggest problem, the best way to get to collaboration, the best way to do that, is to speak plainly, and to be clear in leadership positions even if people disagree with you. If you're clear with them about what the requirements are, you're going to get pretty good compliance and at least an effort to go along in something like a crisis like this. And the truth is, that at the very top we didn't have that. The president has been, he's been bad under these circumstances. The lack of clarity and the jerky nature of his leadership has created, I think, the opening for us to fall back into an easy way of dealing with issues and treat a global pandemic, as though it's a simple political issue, and it's not.

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