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Single-member district questions on Council agenda

Thursday, February 14, 2008 by Austin Monitor

The City Council could vote today to schedule a public hearing on Feb. 28 to take input on whether to put single-member districts on the ballot in May. The Council could also vote to request a briefing at that meeting from a representative of the Charter Revision Committee that studied the issue and from consultant J. Gerald Hebert. The Council will have to decide by March 6 whether to place the issue on the ballot for the seventh time.


Council Member Mike Martinez says the public hearing and update from the Charter Revision Committee would be the next logical steps in the process begun last year when the committee was established. “The committee held community meetings, took public input, we did an online survey,” he said. “An external third-party group has conducted a poll on the issue. So I just think that if Council is going to do something, then it’s time to take those next steps to have a full briefing, then have full public input from the community.”


Not all members of the Council are as enthusiastic about proceeding on track for a May 10 election on changing the way the Council is elected. “The Charter Revision Committee was not even able to identify a plan they would want to send to the voters,” said Council Member Brewster McCracken. “A big challenge about putting this on the ballot is that we don’t even know what kind of district plan anyone is envisioning…and there’s been zero public input on the plan or how we would do Washington, D.C.-style redistricting here in Austin.” McCracken was skeptical of the possibility that a map outlining the boundaries and number of proposed districts could be drawn in time for the May 10 election. “So I think that this district plan that has no districts at all…and involves continual redistricting messes…is probably not ready to go to the voters.”


Martinez, who co-sponsored the two items on today’s agenda calling for a public hearing and briefing, said Council should not stop the process in its tracks. “This agenda item is just saying: come back Feb. 28 for the full public hearing and give us your thoughts,” he said.

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