As a loyal reader of the Chronicle
, I was disappointed by the content and tone of your July 27 News story ("Point Austin: The Usual Suspects
") on the Austinites for Geographic Representation proposal to amend the city charter and provide for a 10-1 election district plan for the Austin City Council.
I am not a member of AGR. I have not signed the group's petition for a charter amendment because, over the past 40 years, I have represented virtually every type of government in Texas and found that every type of election system has advantages and disadvantages.
However, the Chronicle
story was catty, cynical, biased, and poorly reasoned – unlike most articles written by Michael King. AGR has secured more than 33,000 voter signatures on its petition, the support of many different community organizations, and the recommendation of the Charter Revision Committee. Whether or not Mr. King or the Chronicle
supports the group's 10-1 proposal, they should respect this outstanding achievement and laud the vision and hard work evidenced in this exercise of democratic rights. Council Member Mike Martinez explained his vote in favor of putting this proposal (unchanged) on the ballot as a means of recognizing this group's achievement. Supporters of an 8-2-1 election system could have used a petition drive to show the degree of public support for their plan; they did not.
Also, I was surprised that the Chronicle
, which has been so critical of the gerrymandering and self-interest shown in redistricting by the Texas Legislature, could be dismissive of an independent redistricting commission at the city level. Independent commissions have operated successfully in California at the state level and in a number of cities, such as San Diego and Minneapolis. They can take much of the self-interest and politics out of redistricting. The Chronicle
should be supporting the need for an independent commission in Austin as an essential part of any charter amendment changing from our at-large system. The Charter Revision Committee (13-2) endorsed creation of an independent commission. Many of the members of the City Council that the Chronicle
identifies as preferring an 8-2-1 plan have voiced support of such a commission. Election district lines should not be drawn by the same politicians who seek election in those districts, or by committees appointed by such politicians.