Dueling district plans to drastically change Austin’s representation
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From Circle C to Allandale, Hyde Park to Montopolis ---the neighborhoods of the Capital City all have their own style and demographic. This election will determine how they will be carved into council districts.
Proposition 3 is the 10-1 plan which would divide the city into 10 districts, each representing 10 percent of Austin's population, with the mayor elected at large. The group Austinites for Geographic Representation gathered 33,000 signatures from the community to put the 10-1 plan, as designed by citizens, on the ballot.
"I believe that 10 districts will fairly represent all Austinites in our city, 10 districts will give a plurality district to African-Americans where as eight will not," Jessica Ellison with Austinites for Geographic Representation said.
“Eight” is what Proposition 4 proposes. It divides the city into four districts, with two at-large positions and one mayor.
"A hybrid is superior to either all at large or all districts, it combines the best of both worlds," Proposition 4 proponent Fred McGhee said.
The breakdown of the two propositions isn't what concerns the nonpartisan Austinites for Geographic Representation that showed up at city hall Tuesday, it's the way the districts will be chosen.
Prop 3 allows a 14-member citizen committee to draw the lines. Prop 4, on the other hand, doesn't specify who will do it.
University of Texas professor Steve Bickerstaff says it will be in the hands of the council, and that's not a good plan. Bickerstaff says two at-large positions is unfair because Austin is overwhelmingly white. He thinks Prop 4 is better for minorities.
"They tend to draw districts that contain only friendly voters," Bickerstaff said. "They can be better served by districts in which they can constitute either a majority or a substantial plurality of voters."
Prop 4 supporter Fred McGhee disagrees, he says district reps aren't going to cut it.
"You also want people that are going to look at the big picture. You want people that are going to keep in mind things that go beyond geography," he said.
Election Day is Nov. 6.