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Looking back at 2013

Monday, January 6, 2014 by Elizabeth Pagano

No doubt one of the most significant events over the past year was the drawing of Austin’s first geographically-based single-member City Council districts. In November 2012, Austin voters approved a charter amendment to create 10 single-member districts in the city. Those Council members will be elected this upcoming November and, as of last November, we have a map of the districts.

 

The process took place outside of city government. The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission was selected through a fairly convoluted process, designed to favor those outside of political influence. Made up of 14 people, the commission met most weeks (sometimes several times a week) taking public input, figuring out how to run their meetings and, finally, drawing maps.

 

Commission members included Chair Magdalena Blanco, Vice Chair TJ Costello, Catherine Cocco, Mariano Díaz-Miranda, Rachel (Farris) Truair, Stefan Haag, Harriett Harrow, Phil Hewitt, Henry Johnson, Arthur Lopez, Carmen Llanes Pulido, Ryan Rafols, Anna Saenz and Maria Solis.

It was a process that was never going to make everyone in the city happy. And, with a strategy of “working from the outsides in” when drawing the map, the commission quickly disenfranchised the very franchised, upsetting South Austinites who didn’t want to be paired with those north of the river, and flat-out mystifying those in far North Austin whose district stretched all the way to Lady Bird Lake. They made it clear that, even with a gutted Voting Rights Act that would not subject the map to preclearance, their primary goal was to get as many minority-opportunity districts as possible.

 

By the final draft of their map, most had settled down, and turned to navigating this newly-mapped Austin. Just before the New Year, Austinites got their new voter registration cards with their brand-new districts officially marked, making the change officially official.

 

For a more detailed sense of the process, see the In Fact Daily article from Nov. 14, 2013. For a look at the new districts, go to the ICRC website.

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