Props 3 & 4: New Structure for Council
Austinites will vote on proposed amendments to the city charter in the November election, and KUT News will take a closer look at each of the charter propositions. Propositions 3 and 4 would change how the City Council is elected.
Local government in Austin is run by six council members, each elected by the whole city, and the mayor, who also runs at large. But two proposals on the November ballot would change that. Propositions 3 and 4 would have council members elected from geographic districts. If passed, either plan would fundamentally change local politics.
Austin voters have rejected six similar proposals since 1973.
Proposition 3, also called the 10-1 plan, would establish 10 districts in the city. Each district would elect one council member who would represent that district and be accountable to it. Under the 10-1 plan, the mayor would continue to run at large.
“It comes from the grass roots, from tens of thousands of citizens who said, ‘We want this,’” said David Van Os, who is campaigning for Prop 3.
More than 30,000 thousand people signed a petition to put the 10-1 plan on the ballot.
Van Os says the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, LULAC and the NAACP are among the groups who believe Prop 3 would change Austin’s status quo, “the inequality and the discrimination, and the anti-democratic legacy of the at-large plan,” he said.
Prop 3 supporters say their plan aligns directly with the way the Legislature and Congress are elected. Those supporting Proposition 4, the 8-2-1, say a better system would be to have the mayor and two council members elected at large and eight council members representing individual districts.
“What they’re forgetting is the details about how we elect our Legislature,” said Ann Kitchen, one of prop’s 4 supporters. “We have Senate and we have state rep. The Senate seats are much larger than the state rep. The other thing to remember is, if you look at Congress, our senators are at large — there’s two that are voted from by the entire state of Texas, and our representatives that we send to Congress are by districts.”
But having two competing proposals for geographic representation on the ballot has some supporters concerned about splitting the vote or confusing and discouraging voters.
And both Proposition 3 and 4 fall at the end of a long ballot. Voters must choose Yes or No for both propositions. Both propositions need a simple majority to pass. If they each get 50 percent of voters, the one with the most Yes votes wins.