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SPOTLIGHT REPORT


Two families highlight Austin's political divide


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Celeste Simons and her children
Bree Buchanan and her son

 

Political analysts often speak of a nation divided between red states and blue states -- predominantly Republican states and predominantly Democratic states. Yet, these fractures often go much deeper. Communities often find themselves divided between red neighborhoods and blue neighborhoods Here in Travis County, rural and suburban voters dend to vote Republican while inner city voters vote Democratic.

Celeste Simons, who teaches in the University of Texas College of Communications, and her husband Michael, an attorney, live in suburban western Travis County. They, like a vast majority of their neighbors, tend to vote Republican.

"Republicans and Democrats alike want educated children," says Celeste Simons. "We both want healthy grandparents. We both want a strong and vibrant community. The difference is how we get there. Democrats want to get there by expanding government, by taking money from one group of people and giving it to another. Republicans want to get there by allowing the people the freedom and the flexibility to take what they earn, to stand up on their own two feet, to give people opportunities and hold them accountable for the responsibilities they have."

Meanwhile, in East Austin, Bree Buchanan, who works for the children's rights clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, and her husband Joe Melomo, a designer, share a different political philosophy with their neighbors.

"In 1999, I had just started a new job where I was working on behalf of victims of domestic violence to try and get new laws passed for them and funding," says Buchanan. "So, it was my first day at the Capitol -- the first Senate finance hearing of the session -- and first off, in comes a Republican senator, sits down in front of the committee, and he says 'Members, we have an emergency on our hands,' and they're going to have to suspend the rules and put this to the front of the line, and the emergency was that the oil companies in West Texas had a dip in profits.

Now, I'm sitting there in the audience watching this and thinking 'How many women in Texas are going to die in the next week, and how many thousands are being brutalized? We need to help them. Isn't that an emergency?' And that shows the difference in putting business and business profits ahead of the needs of the people. That's the difference between Republicans and Democrats."

The Simons and Buchanan-Melomo families and their neighbors have distinct visions about what's best for their future and their children's future. As communities become more and more politically divided, it is less clear which vision will prevail.

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Produced by Tom Spencer.

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