Austin's 10-1 plan: History in the making
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A monumental shift in Austin city government will take place over the next two years.
On Tuesday, Austin voters approved a city proposition to change the way Austinites are represented in City Hall. Currently, the city is represented by six city council members and one mayor, all of which are elected at-large.
The new 10-1 plan will divide the city into 10 districts, each of which will elect their own city council member to represent them. The plan also provides for a mayor who will continue to be elected by the entire city.
Peck Young, an administrator with Austin Community College, has worked as a redistricting consultant for more than 30 years. He says the greatest challenge faced by the 10-1 plan is guaranteeing African-Americans the ability to elect a candidate.
"We picked 10 districts specifically because it gave African-Americans an opportunity district,” Young said. “Frankly, it also gives Hispanics two districts now and probably by the end of the decade, a third."
Another key element to the 10-1 plan is the independent redistricting committee. Peck says the need for that became apparent when a similar plan was pitched to voters in 1992.
It lost by a narrow margin with 48-percent support.
The 1992 loss was much closer than another attempt in the mid-1980s.
Frank Cooksey was mayor then and felt the change was warranted at the time. Cooksey feels candidates will spend less to campaign.
"I think that there are some people who were not able to be elected before who will be able to be elected now," Cooksey said.
Austin’s current mayor, Lee Leffingwell, expressed concerns election night that 10-1 opens the door to neighborhood politics, which could result in gridlock on the dais.
Cooksey thinks that's only a slim possibility.
"If people are elected who have the long-term best interest of the whole city in their hearts, then I think it will work out OK," he said.
The independent redistricting committee is expected to begin drawing the new map early next year.