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It's All in the Timing: Group Opposes Work on Geographic Representation Before Vote

Supporters of the "10-1" district plan, including speaker Gonzalo Barrientos, at City Hall today.
Photo by Andy Uhler for KUT News
Supporters of the "10-1" district plan, including speaker Gonzalo Barrientos, at City Hall today.

Today the Austin City Council is considering a proposal that would create a community task force to draw geographic districts for future council elections. The task force would then make a recommendation to the council on district lines. But, as the proposal is written now, the council would still have final say on the district lines.

One group of doesn’t think that’s a good idea. In a press conference this morning  in City Hall, Austinites for Geographic Representation said the task force should have the ultimate say on the district lines.

They also want more measures in place to make sure the task force is independent and representative of the community.

“What you do not want is a member of the commission who is profiting by virtue of serving on the commission,” says attorney and UT professor Steve Bickerstaff, who supports the citizens group. “That is, that they can draw a district that they could be elected in or they can win favor from other politicians in order to win election in the future.”  

That said, the requirements for membership on the proposed task force are stringent, mirroring a similar proposal from Austinites for Geographic Representation that the Charter Revision Committee endorsed. Members are prohibited from having served as a city employee, a lobbyist, paid political consultant, or in similar capacities for five years prior. You can read the proposal here

Council members will consider the district plan later today – but with a 142-item agenda, it’s unsure when exactly they’ll get to it.

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