A Republican Texas city councilman gave some excruciatingly tone-deaf advice to a group of Hispanic students who were visiting the council chambers on Thursday.
The Austin Statesman said on Friday that Council Member Don Zimmerman told the group of minority students to pull themselves up by their bootstraps so they don’t end up being burdens on the state.
“I’d ask for everyone here, including the children, when you grow up, I want to ask you to pledge to finish school, learn a trade, a skilled trade, get a college education, start a business, do something useful and produce something in your society so you don’t have to live off others,” Zimmerman said, causing the room to erupt in boos.
His remarks came just after Council Member Sheri Gallo encouraged the kids — many of whom were there with their parents and families — to get involved with their communities and make sure to register to vote when they turn 18.
The group was there to lobby the council to approve funding for after-school programs in Austin’s public schools.
Council Member Delia Garza took the microphone to assert that Zimmerman’s words were racially insensitive and an unacceptable way to speak about minorities.
“We do not condone what he said,” Garza said to the audience. “We have your back, not just the ones that are brown or black on this council. There are other progressive members of this council that understand you and support you.”
The crowd in the chambers applauded wildly as Garza wiped her eyes.
Zimmerman released a statement by way of apology that accused minority voters of soaking up more city resources than they’re entitled to.
“On behalf of those non-subsidized taxpayers being forced out of our city by legions of special interests, I apologize for the greed and selfishness of those willing to expand city government force, through the ‘political process’ to maintain and increase their own subsidies at the unaffordable expense of others,” the Republican said.
Jimmy Flanagan — Zimmerman’s Democratic challenger for the District 6 council seat — said that the remarks were “offensive and condescending.”
“These are not the values of District 6,” Flannigan said. “His offensive statements, ideological grandstanding, and constant bullying are an embarrassment to our community and it’s time for him to go.”
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