Desperately Seeking Commissioners
The Road to 10-1 just hit another speed bump – not enough people are applying to be "independent commissioners" or "applicant reviewers" (who are to select the commissioners), and there's particular shortage of minorities and women.
On Wednesday, Feb. 6, City Auditor Kenneth Mory sent out a call for more applications, lamenting, “We are not getting the number of applications that we expected. In addition, the applications we have received do not reflect the diversity of the City of Austin.”
The auditor's office is charged with administering the initial stages of the 10-1 districting process, which includes creating an Applicant Review Panel (from volunteer CPA's), and providing to the ARP the group of qualified applicants from which to select the initial eight nominees to the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, who then select six additional commissioners.
The auditor is trying to recruit groups of qualified potential panelists and commissioners by the Feb. 22 deadline. As of Wednesday, reportedly 90% (of 79 applicants for a 60-member selection group) for the commission are white, and 80% male. Of the 24 applicants for the ARP, only 25% are eligible to serve (under the charter standards), and all are white.
The auditor issued a "special call to women and minority groups to increase the diversity of the applicant pools to better reflect the rich diversity of the Austin community." The commission service represents a considerable work and time commitment, including a charter-designated 14 public hearings.
According to the drafters of the charter amendment petition (based on California law) – most notably attorney Fred Lewis of Austinites for Geographic Representation – this was not supposed to happen. Responding to questions about the potential difficulty of recruiting commissioners, Lewis repeatedly declared there would be "hundreds" of applicants. On June 12 he told a City Council work session “I’m trying to remember how many California had, but it was tens of thousands of applicants. There won’t be a shortage of applicants.”
The Austin Latino Coalition is holding a community forum on the ICRC process, including a presentation by the City Auditor, this Saturday, Feb. 9, at 10:00 a.m. at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center located at 600 River Street. Immediately following the forum, the Latina Policy Coalition will facilitate the ICRC application workshop from 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.