Your Geographic Representation Cheat Sheet

A guide to competing maps and more Charter Revision issues

The Charter Revision Committee meets tonight, and boy, do they have their work cut out for them. The committee’s chimed in on a few election-related proposals floated by Mayor Lee Leffingwell. But the main question of geographic representation and single-member districts remains decidedly unsettled. But don’t worry, the Hustle has your crib sheet.

A district map, if approved, will radically change elections. (Feel the excitement!) (Photo courtesy Flickr user ragesoss [CC])

Geographic representation – where council members would reside in and represent specific districts, as opposed to our current citywide, at-large system – has been rejected by voters six times. The issue received a shot in the arm early this year, when Leffingwell proposed a six-district, hybrid SMD/at-large system totaling nine council members in his State of the City address – which lead to competing plans from groups who felt the mayor’s scenario needed more districts, which lead to a brief face-off between the city and Austinites for Geographic Representation over when to hold the charter election (AGR floating the possibility of a petition-iniated May 2012 election, instead of the city’s proposed Nov. 2012 contest.)

The Charter Revision Committee (membership here) has already sounded off on a few separate proposals Leffingwell's floated, recommending against his call to eliminate staggered council terms and change term limits, for starters. But the question of what sort of district scenario Austin voters should be presented – if they should be presented one at all – is decidedly unsettled. Although there’s more scenarios floating around than the following three, they give a sense of what’s under consideration.

The mayor’s scenario

Leffingwell came out in support of a 6-2-1 scenario, which he argued would create geographic representation without drastically increasing the size of the council from its current seven members. The six districts would each have their own representative from the area; two other members, along with the mayor, would run city wide (with Leffingwell calling for increased campaign contributions in these at large races. This map is just one of several six district scenarios available on the commission website

Austinites for Geographic Representation

That plan hasn’t sat well with AGR, who are pushing for a 10-1 scenario: 10 districts, with only the mayor running at large. They’re not big on maps, since the measure they hope to place before voters in November calls for an “independent citizen's redistricting commission” to ultimately draw the lines. They argue 10 districts will more likely create an "opportunity district" for African-American voters, where they’ll have an opportunity to elect the candidate of its choice; conversely, it could be argued that plan diminishes the one-of-seven African American representation on our current council, via the “gentleman’s agreement” (a topic Sheryl Cole expounded upon yesterday).

Austin Center for Peace and Justice

This map represents a 8-4-1 scenario: eight individual districts (pictured above), with two council members each serving in "superdistricts" that halve the city (pictured below). The mayor would be the only truly at-large candidate, for a total of 13 council members. Austin Center For Peace and Justice president Rudy Williams writes “The 8‐4‐1 model is based on the city council configuration in Memphis.” You can find more in the Nov. 3 back up here.

At their meeting tonight, the committee will take up issues all these maps raise: single member district maps versus a hybrid approach; the total number of districts for a future map; and a recommendation about council campaign finance. That’s 6:30pm, at the Carver Library, 1161 Angelina, BYOM (Bring your own … oh, you get it, right?)

HEY! Sign up for the Hustle's weekly e-mail newsletter, recapping news, politics and more every Friday. Don't worry, we'll never spam or sell your address. Visit here, enter your info, and click 'City Hall Hustle.'

Got something you wanna show the Hustle? Email it to wells [at] austinchronicle.com, tweet it @CityHallHustle, drop by the Hustle's Facebook or Tumblr page, or leave a comment in the section below.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More City Council
City Council Candidate Forums
City Council Candidate Forums
Say hello to your district's candidates

Chase Hoffberger, Aug. 24, 2018

Zimmerman and Flannigan Face-Off in Candidate Forum
Zimmerman and Flannigan Face-Off in Candidate Forum
Zimmerman doubles down on opposing climate change, living wage

Mary Tuma, Sept. 16, 2016

More Lee Leffingwell
Mayor's Day Off
Mayor's Day Off
"Routine procedure" or football hookey?

Michael King, Oct. 23, 2014

Film Flam: El Rey Shines on Austin
Film Flam: El Rey Shines on Austin
Robert Rodriguez's TV channel to become permanent production fixture

Richard Whittaker, June 10, 2014

More by Wells Dunbar
Top 10 City Council Stories
Top 10 City Council Stories
Dais and months

Jan. 6, 2012

City Hall Hustle: The Hustle Bids Farewell ...
City Hall Hustle: The Hustle Bids Farewell ...
To the beating hearts of a great city

Dec. 30, 2011

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

The Daily Hustle, City Council, Lee Leffingwell, Elections, single member districts, geographic representation, Austin Center for Peace and Justice, Austinites for Geographic Representation

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle