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Will the November Ballot See A Pair of Geographic Representation Plans?

Andy Uhler

Right now - every member of the Austin city council runs city-wide. But early this morning, the council voted to put the so-called ten-one plan on the November ballot. That plan would divide Austin into ten geographic districts represented by individual council members, with only the mayor running at-large. Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and Council Member Mike Martinez decided earlier in the day that they would support a ballot measure containing the exact language of a group called Austinites for Geographic Representation. That group says it has gathered 30,000 signatures in favor of its 10-1 plan. Council Member Martinez noted that this is not the first time city council has been tasked with this issue.

"There's a fundamental difference this time," Martinez said. "And that is a movement has occurred and that there are thousands and thousands of signatures. The work has been done. And it should be respected and honored."

A second plan under consideration calls for eight district representatives, two at-large Council members, and an at-large mayor. Council also gave initial approval to that so-called "hybrid" plan this morning - much to the dismay of 10-1 supporters like Peck Young.

"We want to work with you to make a change to make every part of this city have a voice on this city council," Young told Council Member Bill Spellman."So please, put 10-1 on the ballot or don't put anything on the ballot. Let us finish our petitions and we'll put 10-1 on the ballot." 

Spelman said he has been in favor of switching to geographic representation on the council since the mid-eighties. But in the end, he said he couldn't vote for either plan - if they would both end up on the ballot.

"What I believe is true is the plan least likely to succeed is the plan that shares a ballot with another plan, Spellman said. "And if we continue to move in the direction we're in, they're both going down and I'm not going to get what I want, which is single member districts of one kind or another."

At around 12:30 this morning, council voted 5-3 to put the 10-1 plan on the ballot come November. The hybrid plan will need final council approval later this summer. If both plans make the ballot and both are approved by voters, the plan with the largest number of "yes" votes will be the winner.