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First 8 Members Chosen for Austin Redistricting Commission

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The city of Austin is one step closer to drawing new geographic district maps for the city council. Eight names were drawn yesterday at City Hall to serve on the city’s new redistricting commission, and they have already received their first assignment.

The commissioners’ mission, should they chose to accept it, is to find six more people from the pool of applicants. It’s not exactly mission impossible -- more like, mission diversity. Local political consultant Mark Littlefield says the group of eight is facing a tough task.

“Last week the auditor released the independent redistricting commission list of 60 people,” Littlefield said. “And when it’s all said and done, we’ve picked one person who lives south of Highway 71 and East of I-35.”

From the beginning, the whole idea has been to have a commission that represents Austin’s diversity: gender, ethnic and geographic diversity.

Magdalena Blanco’s name was drawn, from one of those rotating barrel shaped things that you see at lottery drawings. “What? This is crazy!” she shouted.

As Blanco looked at the screen with the names from the first drawing, she noticed there were fewer men than women.

“Three of the eight -- so probably some men are going to be important,” she said. “I can’t tell these days by last name what their ethnicity is, so, that’s going to be something else to consider.”

Commissioners will try to bring in people with diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and life experiences.

Once there are 14 people on the redistricting commission, their mission will get even tougher. Carmen Llanes Pulido, a young community organizer, was also chosen. She says she and the other commissioners will have to draw the lines of the city’s new 10 districts carefully, to make sure each has an equal number of people and that no one group is underrepresented.

“I’m really going to be counting on all the people I know in all the neighborhoods in Austin that I know to be giving feedback by attending the public meetings, because it’s going to take all of us,” Llanes Pulido said.

Texas Standard reporter Joy Diaz has amassed a lengthy and highly recognized body of work in public media reporting. Prior to joining Texas Standard, Joy was a reporter with Austin NPR station KUT on and off since 2005. There, she covered city news and politics, education, healthcare and immigration.
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