Tonight, the 2012 Charter Revision Committee takes another step towards completing the biggest task in front of them: a recommendation on the format future City Council elections should take.
The committee – a citizen panel of fifteen City Council appointees – was convened last year to recommend changes to the City Charter (the city‘s bylaws). The charter can only be amended by Austin voters once every two years, and the city plans on holding just such an election this November.
The committee has already made several recommendations for changes to campaign finance laws, but the question looming over the group since its inception is what form of geographic representation Austin elections should take. Austin currently elects all of its council members at-large; despite running for seats in individual places, each member of the Austin City Council must run, and represent, the entire city, an increasingly daunting prospect as Austin continues to grow in size.
Three main proposals have been considered. Receiving the most support is the 10-1 plan proposed by Austinites for Geographic Representation, which would create ten single-member districts for council members to run in and represent, with only the mayor running at-large. Receiving less support are an 8-4-1 plan (eight single-member districts, four members serving in two “super-districts” splitting the city, and the mayor at large), and Mayor Lee Leffingwell’s initial 6-2-1 proposal (six single-member districts, and two members and the mayor running at-large).
When we last checked in with the committee, we were told tonight’s January 19 meeting would bring “final recommendations on everything non-maps” for inclusion on the November ballot. That still seems to be the case: among the items of business on tonight’s agenda are a presentation of “final proposed recommendations to Council,” and, more tantalizingly, discussion of the “process for reaching consensus in preparation for February 2, 2012 vote on Council district format.”
The Austin Chronicle’s Michael King notes Leffingwell appeared at the committee’s Jan. 5 meeting, where he delivered “a brief and fairly plaintive plea for some kind of compromise, declining to ‘get lost in the weeds’ of particular plans but hoping that the committee would come up with something all members – and most importantly, Austin voters – can join together and support.” With a switch to geographic representation rejected by Austin voters several times, that’s far from certain.
The meeting is occurring tonight at The Lord’s Church of Austin, 301 W. Anderson, 6:30pm: