My Plans for the Future
In February I announced here that this would be my final session as a member of the Texas House. Today, as the Legislature adjourns the special session called last month by Governor Perry, effective immediately, I am officially resigning my office in order to pursue an exciting new opportunity as head of Google Fiber in Austin.
Letting my geek flag fly
For those who may not have heard, Google selected Austin to be the second city (after Kansas City) where they intend to lay fiber optic cable to the home, enabling a 100-fold increase in internet download speeds and 500-fold increase in upload speeds compared to what most Austin broadband users experience today. Remember how different surfing the internet felt when you went from dial-up internet service to broadband? The increase in bandwidth from today’s broadband to Fiber is much greater than the increase from dial-up to broadband.
No one knows for sure where this technological advancement will lead. In the near term, it will simply allow you to do all the things you currently do online, only much faster. But once a critical mass of consumers has access to faster internet service, new applications will evolve that unleash uses of the internet none of us had previously contemplated.
It is entirely possible that we will someday look back on this evolution of technology as an inflection point similar in significance to the introduction of the internet itself. It may be that gigabit-per-second internet service enables such functionally different utilization of the internet that it ultimately creates an internet environment that is different in kind, not just degree, from today’s internet. Video-on-Demand, 3-D video conferencing, telecommuting and telemedicine, immersive online educational and gaming opportunities….I don’t know where it goes, but I’ll bet it goes somewhere really cool.
Moving past politics
Obviously I’m pretty pumped about this. But it does mean I’m getting out of politics. I had considered a run for mayor, and of course, most political observers took that as an indication that I was definitely going to run for mayor. But this unique opportunity in the private sector has the potential to be as impactful, as transformational, as anything I could hope to achieve in the public sector. And it’s one that allows me to be home in time to have dinner with my wife and daughters most nights - which is important to them, and to me.
This has been an incredible ride, and an incredible privilege. Though being so profoundly in the minority has had its share of disappointments, I am immensely grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to serve the State of Texas. I’m proud to have passed significant legislation in the areas of renewable energy, education, and child care. I’m honored to have received Honorable Mentions on Texas Monthly’s Ten Best Legislators list in three of my five sessions.
I’m grateful to my family, especially my wife Crystal, for the sacrifices that all families of politicians must make. And I want to offer one final and heartfelt thank you to all the people who supported me politically over the past decade.
What I’ve learned here
I continue to be saddened by the general level of distaste and distrust the American public feels toward politicians. In a democracy, people should view their political leaders as almost a reflection of themselves. But the effects of money, gerrymandering, and a polarized electorate have distorted the political process in such a way that what voters see in their political representation is like their reflection in a funhouse mirror. I believe this is caused largely by the deficiencies in the political system, not the politicians in it. My greatest regret as I exit public office is that my proposals to end political gerrymandering and limit money in politics never got any traction.
But despite the systemic obstacles they face, the politicians I observe every day, up close and personal, are almost universally people with honorable intentions who endeavor to do what they think is right. And despite the high-profile examples of political dysfunction in the news on a daily basis, this country, this state, and this city continue to thrive. I’ll close with a paragraph I wrote back in February:
If the Texas House didn’t exist for the purpose of democratic self-government, it would need to exist for the purpose of sociological research into what happens when you assemble the most diverse cast of characters imaginable, place them in a small chamber every day for long hours over a five month period, and force them to talk about all the things your grandmother taught you not to talk about in polite company - politics, religion, even sex. All in the context of a reality TV environment in which each action everyone takes has the potential to get them voted off the island. People complain about how unproductive the political system can be; the miracle is that anything ever gets done at all.
Thanks for allowing me to be a part of our democratic miracle,