It was a packed house at Austin City Hall this morning, as Mayor Lee Leffingwell gave his state of the city address. KUT’s Mose Buchele reports a lot of what the mayor talked about could be labeled, "Coming Attractions."
In his speech today, Mayor Leffingwell explained how the future of Austin could hinge on one single day.
"Tuesday November 6, 2012, will potentially be a landmark date for this city,” he said.
That’s when many of the ambitious proposals Leffingwell outlined could go before voters for approval. Topping that list: the Mayor’s plan to increase turnout in city elections by changing the city charter to allow for single member districts.
“My proposal, a starting place, is to add six geographic districts, retaining two at large representatives and an at large mayor for a total of nine council members," Leffingwell said.
He also wants to move city elections to November in odd number years, to extend council terms from three to four years, and to increase the amount of money that can be donated to city candidates. In an interview after his address, Leffingwell said he thought voters were likely to approve the plan because of changing demographics.
“In the past it’s been largely minority groups that have felt disempowered," Leffingwell said. "Now added to that we also have a very large and growing part of our suburban population particularly in southwest and northwest Austin that do feel underrepresented.”
The Mayor also set a goal of breaking ground on a new 800-room hotel in downtown Austin within the next 12 months to attract convention business. He imagined that coming from private investment, and said he had already had several lunches with interested investors.
And what would an Austin political speech be without talk of traffic gridlock?
Leffingwell renewed his commitment to calling a bond vote, that would include funding for an urban rail system, on that important date: November 6, 2012. Of course, the Mayor runs for re-election in May 2012. So there’s no guarantee that he will still be in office at that time.
“That’s true," Leffingwell said. "I’m sure that all of these things will be huge election issues in the spring of 2012 and we’ll have to answer all those.”
And for the three council members running for re-election this year, they’ll have to answer to voters even sooner.