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Monday, October 28, 2013 by Elizabeth Pagano

ICRC continues hearing on preliminary 10-1 Council Districts map

As a deadline for establishing Austin’s first single-member districts looms, the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission continued to listen to citizens over the weekend.

 

The commission is currently on a whirlwind tour of the four Travis County Commissioner precincts. This past Saturday, they were in Dove Springs, taking public input on the preliminary map, which was released by the ICRC on Sept. 28.The commission also heard a presentation from the Northwest Austin Coalition.

 

Feedback from Dove Springs residents was positive, with the composition of District 2, in particular, winning high praise from residents. The preliminary map was drawn from the edges of the city in, with the initial focus being on the minority-opportunity districts that include 2 and 3.

 

However, feedback also included concerns that the district could be considered, as drawn, an example of “packing.” Packing is the practice of grouping minority voters in a district in disproportionately large numbers, and is a violation of the Voting Rights Act because it essentially isolates their vote.

 

Currently, District 2 has a Hispanic population of about 73 percent. ICRC legal counsel David Richards said there was a danger that it would be viewed as packed. He added that there was, at least, a simple solution to that problem, which is to remove some of the Hispanic population from District 2.

 

The recently-formed Northwest Austin Coalition presented its map with representatives from North Shoal Creek, Allandale, and the North Austin Coalition of Neighborhoods. The group said they were fine with Districts 6 and 10 as drawn. District 7 was less-praised.

 

Members of the coalition from Allandale stressed the need for better alignment of the Burnet Road Corridor, and grouping those as a community of interest.

 

Kernan Hornburg, who is the president of the Long Crossing Neighborhood Association, made it clear to the commission that NWAC did not speak for him or his neighbors, calling the organization “political.” 

 

The meeting also shed light on some of the other coalitions beginning to spring up around the districting issue.

 

James Nortey spoke for the smartly-named Airport Boulevard Coalition District. The group proposes to keep the neighborhoods along the Airport Boulevard corridor in District 4.

 

Several speakers from the packed room addressed the fracturing of South Austin, including Tom Nuckols, who reiterated pleas to use the river as a dividing line.

 

AGR’s Peck Young also trod well-traveled territory, saying he was saving most of his opinions for a presentation on Wednesday night, but taking time to swipe at a recently-drafted “Compact District Coalition” map.

 

“They seem fascinated with neighborhoods. They do not seem fascinated with the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act,” said Young.

 

The final of the four public input meetings will take place at 6:30 pm  Wednesday at the Asian American Resource Center at 8401 Cameron Road. The commission is expected to continue the revision process through November, with a final map to be drawn by Dec. 1.

 

Mary Rudig of the Gracywoods neighborhood in North Central Austin took time to praise the commission’s work thus far.

 

“The truth is that Austin is broken, and the only way to fix it is honestly not to give those in power what they want,” said Rudig. “I know that you’ve received a lot of heat from people in regards to your preliminary map. What I’ve seen is that you haven’t blinked or broke down from what your charter says. I just want to personally thank you for that.”

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission: The fourteen-member group charged with drawing Austin's ten geographically based districts. Established in 2013, and inactive until reconvened by city charter

Northwest Austin Coalition: Formed during Austin's first districting, NWAC "was formed in July 2013 after a series of meetings with neighborhood leaders in Northwest Austin. Those initial meetings included leaders from Anderson Mill, Millwood, Angus Valley, Northwest Austin Civic Assoc., Great Hills, and Southwest Williamson County. Collaborating with our friends from North Austin (NACN), the leaders decided to expand the meetings to include community leaders from all different types of groups. The first meeting of this newly-expanded coalition was August 5th, 2013," according to its website.

Peck Young

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