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Auditor continues to push for diversity among 10-1 panel candidates

Friday, February 8, 2013 by Michael Kanin

City of Austin Auditor Ken Mory on Thursday continued his push for a more diverse pool of applicants for two panels that will help determine the city’s political future. Mory announced several events and partnerships designed to bring more minority applicants to the fold over the next two-plus weeks before a deadline closes the process.


“At this point, I do have enough according to the charter amendment to do what I need to do as far as selecting the individuals,” Mory said. “But we’re looking for more robust, more diversified (participation) to make sure that the whole ethnicity, race, gender – all that is represented in the pools.”


Mory also offered the most up-to-date figures. He said that his office has received 98 applications to serve on the commission that will draw new geographic political lines for the city. Mory and his team have collected 29 applications from parties interested in serving on a panel of three CPAs that will help select the districting commission.


The Auditor’s office is bound by language in the charter amendment passed by voters in November that instructs the City Council to divide itself into 10 geographical districts. That document also lays out a specific time frame, which has since been altered to reflect a change of the city’s election date from May to November.


According to the new schedule, Mory has until Feb. 22 to collect a pool of candidates for both panels. He and his team must then vet the applicants to make sure that would-be panelists and commissioners meet a set of stringent goals laid out in the charter. For the districting group, these feature no affiliation with city hall, no past or present political ambition for a decade on either side of the panel’s work, and proof of having voted in three of the past 5 city elections.


The three panelists that assist the auditor in selecting the final pool of commissioners must all be CPAs.


Late Wednesday, Mory’s office issued a statement that signaled concern about a lack of diversity in both applicant pools. “My office has initiated an extensive outreach campaign that not only includes advertising, but many one-on-one meetings with Austin’s leaders in the LatinoAsian-American, and African-American communities,” Mory said in the release. “We are not getting the number of applications that we expected. In addition, the applications we have received do not reflect the diversity of the City of Austin.” (See Whispers, Feb. 7, 2013.)


According to the release, 90 percent of the applications that the auditor’s office received were from Caucasians. Eighty percent were from males. Of the CPA panel applicants, only a quarter of those received thus far met eligibility guidelines.


Mory broke those numbers down further for In Fact Daily Thursday. Of the 98 applications for the commission, 21 were from women, two were from African-Americans, 1 was from an Asian, five came from Hispanics, and 1 came from a Native American.


Of the seven qualifying applicants for the CPA panel, Mory said that six are male, and one is female. No minority applicants have yet to meet the criteria for the panel.


Mory noted that he has yet to vet the qualifications of the applications submitted for the districting body.


In an attempt to bolster participation, Mory said that he and his team had partnered with a number of local organizations to host events throughout the city in the coming days. These events include an event at 6pm yesterday hosted by the Community Action Network at City Hall.


Upcoming commission drive efforts include a Latino Policy Coalition and the Austin Latino Coalition-hosted event at the Mexican-American Cultural Center on Saturday. There will also be events hosted by the NAACP (at 7 p.m. the Millennium Youth Center) and the Indian American Coalition of Texas (at 6:30 p.m. at the Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce, 3432 Greystone Drive Suite 202) on Feb. 12.


On Feb. 16, the Austin chapter of the League of Women Voters will host its contribution to the drive at the South Austin Recreation Center at 1 p.m. The group behind the passage of the 10-1 charter amendment – Austinites for Geographic Representation – will host their own event at the Austin Firefighters Association Hall on Feb. 20, at 7 p.m. 


Despite the disappointing returns, Mory told In Fact Daily that he remains “cautiously optimistic” about the situation.

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