A local group is starting a petition drive to put the issue of single-member districts before Austin voters next May. Austinites for Geographic Representation (AGR) wants the city to change the way people are represented on the city council.
Currently, Austin City Council members represent the city as a whole. Single member districts, or geographic representation, would create a council elected to represent specific parts of town.
Several citywide votes on the issue since the 1970s have all failed. Group spokesman Charlie Jackson thinks this time, it will be different.
“What we saw was that there was a new opportunity," Jackson said, adding that city council "now seems to be on board having geographic representation. And all of the community groups seem to be on board.”
Last February, Mayor Lee Leffingwell introduced a proposal to create six single member districts, with two other council members elected at large.
But for AGR, the proposal doesn't go far enough. Group member Roger Borgelt says AGR is proposing that an independent citizens' commission draw up ten council districts with no at-large seats.
Borgelt says this will ensure minorities get fair representation on the council.
“One of the major, major benefits of having ten geographic districts, and it’s something that none of the other plans that are under consideration have, is that it will allow the creation of an African-American Opportunity District,” Borgelt said.
A spokesperson for the mayor's office says Leffingwell has backed single-member districts since he joined the council. And that he wants to see a proposal go before voters next spring, as well.