AUSTIN (KXAN) — During Austin’s Thursday City Council meeting many students spoke up from several city-funded groups asking for continued support.
It was what Austin City Council member Don Zimmerman said after the group of students addressed the council in Spanish that is sparking a lot of reaction on Twitter. The students were asking for funds to help their after-school program.
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. Thank you.” Zimmerman said.
Shortly after he made this comment boos could be heard reverberating throughout the audience.
Council member Delia Garza spoke an estimated two hours later saying, “Earlier council [member] Zimmerman said something that was really offensive and it happened really quickly and now I’m hearing from members of our community that they are disappointed that more of us didn’t stand up and say something. And I want our community to know that we do not condone what he said. And we have your back.”
A 20-second applause followed Garza’s statement.
KXAN reached out to Zimmerman for an interview; he sent back his response via text message that night:
“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.”
Councilman Gregorio Casar tweeted that Zimmerman implied people who rely on and ask for public programs are non-productive citizens.
Friday, after the incident, Council member Zimmerman’s office sent another statement saying, “A handful of Zimmerman’s colleagues assumed there was a racist motive behind the comment and rushed to “apologize” for what was said.”
The release goes on to say Zimmerman has made similar comments before and cites three meetings where it has happened. He went on to say “The only people we should be apologizing to are non-subsidized taxpayers and business owners who are being chased out of Austin due to the runaway cost of government”
“If my comment was designed to humiliate our young guests yesterday evening, then that begs the question: why would I say that about my own newborn son, or even myself?” Zimmerman asked.
This isn’t the first time Zimmerman has received backlash for his comments. Last summer, he wrote on Facebook comparing gay marriage and homosexuality to pedophilia.