City Charter

Geographic Representation
1:48 pm
Tue November 13, 2012

Now With Prop 3 Passed, Backers Look to Stay Part of the Process

Prop 3 supporters, including Nelson Linder and Jessica Ellison (foreground) , announced formation of an "advisory group" today.
Joy Diaz, KUT News

The group of Austinites that collected signatures to get a single-member district plan on the November ballot wants to remain a part of the process now that Proposition 3 has passed. 

Prop 3 supporters, Austinites for Geographic Representation, gathered at City Hall today to announce the formation of an “advisory committee” to ensure single-member districts by 2014.

Former state Senator Gonzalo Barrientos, one of Prop 3 most active promoters, was on hand. He says many of the original activists are eager to help. 

“There are many people in Austin who participated, who are experts and have decades of experience in the different fields of redistricting, of drawing lines, of fair representation,” Barrientos said. “And we want to facilitate the city efforts – whatever we can help with – we have hundreds of years of experience among all these folks.”

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The Lead
8:33 am
Thu November 8, 2012

The Lead: Austin Elections Debrief

Good morning. That dense fog advisory is still in effect, so stay safe on the roads. Here’s some stories KUT News has been working on.

“Nonprofits that help people in Austin get into housing are scrambling to come up with a plan B after Tuesday’s election. They were expecting Austinites to pass Proposition 15, which called for $78 million to build affordable homes and maintain existing ones. They never expected it to fail at the polls.”

“Austin’s form of government will never be the same. Voters have approved sweeping changes to way Austinites will vote in the future and who will represent them at City Hall. It all comes down to single-member districts, but it will be a long road from election night to a 10-1 City Council.

A citizens’ commission will draw the district boundaries. And that commission will get to work quickly. Prop 3 calls for the city auditor to start looking for volunteers next month, with an eye toward elections in November 2014.”

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Charter Election
12:54 am
Wed November 7, 2012

Watching the Returns With Austinites for Geographic Representation

Linda Curtis signs a thank you card to the people who helped put Prop 3 on the ballot
Reshma Kirpalani for KUT News

By 8 p.m. the mood at Opal Divine's was already celebratory, with Proposition 3 supporters pumping 10-1 signs in the air.

Members of Austinites for Geographic Representation (AGR), the backers of Prop 3 and sponsors of the watch party, were clad in 10-1 stickers. Drinks and laughter flowed freely.  An oversized projector at the back of the private room displayed local election coverage.

Former State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos – chair of the city commission that narrowly recommended the 10-1 plan, and a staunch backer of Prop 3 – greeted fellow guests. "I've been around elections for a long time," Barrientos said. "It's a weird feeling in the beginning. I never like to jump too quickly upon hearing good news, and it's been good news up to this point. If I were a betting person, I would bet that proposition three would win." 

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2012 Election
7:19 pm
Tue November 6, 2012

Local Election Results: Austin, Central Health, AISD and ACC

Here are voting results from the City of Austin, as of 1:18 a.m.:

Central Health

Prop: 1 (Expanded healthcare and medical school)

For: 55%

Against: 45%

City of Austin Charter Amendments

Prop: 1 (Moving elections to November)

Yes: 77%

No: 23%

Prop: 2 (Moving elections to November and changing City Council terms)

Yes: 76%

No: 24%

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Election
1:04 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

The 18 Propositions Before Austin Voters This November (Updated)

When Austinites cast a ballot this fall, they'll have numerous propositions to consider.
KUT News

Update 2 (Nov. 5): Early voting is over in Austin, but on Election Day (Nov. 6) Austin voters can cast ballots at any polling place in Travis County. For more on the local issues facing voters, see our topic page, "Austin Election: Bonds, Props and More." 

Update (Oct. 22): Early voting began today, Monday, Oct. 22. KUT News has more information, including a map of early voting locations. And for more information on the $385 million in bond spending proposals, check out KUT News’ bond election coverage.

Original post (September 13, 2012): Austin elections are traditionally sleepy affairs – you can look at local turnout to bear that out.

But moreover, the elections themselves are pretty straightforward: the election of the mayor and city council members (held in May), or every few years, a bond election to fund city initiatives (usually held in November.)

This fall, it’s a different story: While no elected positions are on the ballot, a $385 million bond election, coupled with several possible amendments to the city charter, means Austin voters will face a whopping 18 propositions when they head to the polls on Nov. 6. Below, we list them all.

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The Lead
8:48 am
Mon November 5, 2012

The Lead: Election Day’s Almost Here (And Formula 1’s Up Next)

Good morning. This weekend’s week cold front will lead to highs in the lower 80s, along with a chance for some isolated thunderstorms in the region, according to the National Weather Service. Here’s a look at some stories KUT News has been working on.

"Now let’s get into the big change for this presidential election. You probably know that during early voting you can stop anywhere with a 'Vote Here' sign – usually at a grocery store or other high-traffic public location.

Travis County has decided to adopt that strategy on Election Day. 'You can vote at any one of the polling places that are designated' within Travis County, said County Clerk Dana Debeauvoir."

Voters should also know the state’s contested Photo ID requirement is not in effect this election –  a voter registration card, copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or other government document showing your name and address are all acceptable forms of ID.

"If Prop 4, the 8-2-1 plan, were to pass, the City Council would presumably be drawing Austin’s new districts. But Prop 3, the 10-1 plan, provides for a redistricting commission. The commission would have 14 members; three auditors would randomly select eight people from a pool of candidates, and those eight would then pick the remaining six, ensuring that they are diverse in race, ethnicity, geography and gender.

Some redistricting commissions in the country have been accused of drawing maps for political gain or with cronyism in mind. Others, like those in San Diego and Minneapolis, have been commended for keeping politics away from the process."

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Charter Election
12:44 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Everything You Need to Know About Prop 3 and Prop 4

A detail of an Austin neighborhood map. Voters are facing competing plans to bring geographic representation to the Austin City Council this election.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News

While Austin voters will face 18 city propositions this election, two dueling propositions are getting the most attention: Prop 3 and Prop 4. Both propositions would fundamentally alter Austin’s form of city council representation and elections. Here’s a closer look at Prop 3 and Prop 4, which would bring different forms of geographic representation to the Austin City Council.

What is Prop 3?

Here’s the yes/no question voters will be asked to decide upon:

Shall the city charter be amended to provide for the election of council members from 10 geographical single-member districts, with the mayor to be elected from the city at large, and to provide for an independent citizens redistricting commission?

Currently, all seven members of the Austin City Council (including the mayor) are elected at-large, meaning they represent the entire city and not just specific geographic parts of it. Prop 3 would change this by dividing the city into 10 separate geographic districts, which council members would represent. (Only the mayor would continue to run citywide.) A citizens commission would be tasked with drawing the district lines and have the final say on those boundaries. Prop 3 was put on the ballot by a citizen petition drive.

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Austin
12:35 pm
Thu August 9, 2012

The 11 (or 12 or 13) Ballot Proposals That Could Change Austin for Decades (Updated)

Changes to elections, protections for rank-and-file city employees, and civil service status for EMS responders are among the items voters will consider this fall.
Ambulance photo Daniel Reese for KUT News; all other photos credit KUT News.

Update: The city has  finalized the fall 2012 ballot since this post was originally written. For a look at the City of Austin's ballot propositions, read "The 18 Propositions Before Austin Voters This November." 

Original post: While a potential 10-district scenario for electing Austin City Council members – and the council’s controversial decision to put a competing “hybrid” plan on the same ballot – may be getting the most attention when it comes to November’s city charter election, those aren’t the only items Austin voters will face.

Not by a long shot.

By KUT News’ estimation, 11 items are in the bag already, set to be put before Austin voters. And two other potential changes to the city charter – Austin’s governing document – are still a distinct possibility.

Some are small housekeeping measures. Others could impact how the city runs for decades to come. But as a charter election can only be held once every two years, when voters head to the polls  they’ll face a dozen or so proposed charter changes.  Here, we run them all down.

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City Council
12:16 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Council Members Plan to Place 10 District Proposal on the Ballot

A detail of the petition Austinites for Geographic Representation is circulating.
Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Austin City Council members Sheryl Cole and Mike Martinez just announced that they will move to place the 10-1 geographic representation proposal pitched by Austinites for Geographic Representation on the ballot this November, in an attempt to avoid the headache of validating the group’s thousands of signatures – and potentially give the initiative a little wiggle room.

The announcement states Cole and Martinez will withdraw a similar, but not identical, item calling for a 10-1 plan today – ten single-member districts represented by individual council members, with only the mayor running at-large – and instead, replace it with the “language contained in the Austinites for Geographic Representation’s citizen-led petition efforts.”

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City Council
9:53 am
Thu June 28, 2012

City Council Preview: Running the Geographic Gauntlet

Geographic representation is the topic du jour at City Hall.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The Austin City Council faces a full agenda today. It’s the last scheduled meeting before a month-long break.

They may well need a break, considering what’s on the agenda.

Sure to be the center of discussion are City Council proposals for geographic representation. As KUT News reported earlier this week, Mayor Lee Leffingwell is proposing a hybrid 8-2-1 system – eight council members representing individual districts, plus two additional members and the mayor running at large. Council member Mike Martinez is proposing a 10-1 system – 10 council members in single-member districts, with only the mayor running at-large. In its numbers, Martinez’s proposal is similar to the 10-1 proposal brought forward by Austinites for Geographic Representation, which is wrapping up a signature drive to place the initiative on the ballot.

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City Council
10:57 am
Wed June 13, 2012

Dueling Single-Member Districts: Coming Soon to a Ballot Near You?

The Austin City Council will soon set the ballot for this November's charter election.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The presidential election is just one thing on the ballot this November. Closer to home, voters will decide an election with broad implications for Austin’s future.

The Austin City Council began heavy lifting on these issues in a work session Tuesday. Although Austin voters face a multifaceted ballot, the initiatives can be broadly broken up into two categories: potential changes to the city charter – including a new, geographic-based form of council representation – and a bond election.

At its work session Tuesday morning, the council received a tentative timeline for setting the ballot:

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Charter Revision
1:24 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Austin League of Women Voters Endorses 10-1 Geographic Representation

A detail of the petition Austinites for Geographic Representation is circulating to put the 10-1 plan on the ballot.
Photo by Wells Dunbar for KUT News

The Austin-area League of Women Voters says it now supports the “10-1” plan for geographic districts for the Austin City Council.

The plan, supported by single-member district advocates Austinites for Geographic Representation, would create a city council comprised of members representing 10 individual districts, with only one member – the mayor – running city-wide. Currently all council members are elected city-wide.

The League of Women Voters spent a year studying how city council members are elected, and looking at what happened in other large cities that changed from an at-large system to one that was fully or partially district-based.

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City Council
9:00 am
Fri April 27, 2012

City Council Recap: Districting Proposal Deep Sixed, Solar Group Approved, Payday Lenders Zoned Out

A flurry of activity City Hall yesterday, as council met for the last time before the May 12 elections
Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News

The big story out of the Austin City Council meeting on Thursday was the decision to withdraw a proposal that would have called for a community task force to advise on single-member council districts for future elections. A citizens group pushing to put its own districting proposal on the ballot applauded the withdrawal.

Several other items related to city elections did pass, including an item which will ask voters whether to move local elections from May to November.

The council also held a public hearing and approved an ordinance over zoning for “alternative financial services businesses,” aka payday lenders.

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Politics
2:23 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

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

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.

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City Council
10:00 am
Thu April 26, 2012

City Council Preview: Coming Down Like Cats and Dogs (And That's Just the Animal Shelter)

City Hall is hosting a council meeting that should stretch well into the evening.
Photo by Callie Hernandez for KUT News

At 142-items long, saying the Austin City Council faces a full agenda today is an understatement.

Today’s regular meeting is filled with a number of contentious and convoluted issues – certainly not the stuff incumbent council members up for re-election would prefer to address on the eve of early voting. Here's a roundup of three big items up today:

1. Speaking of Voting: Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution that would create a task force to study options on organizing the city into council districts. The task force would be made up of Austin voters. (Currently council seats are elected at-large.)  The proposal has garnered pushback from a citizens group, Autinites for Geographic Representation, which is collecting signatures to put their 10-1 district plan on the ballot.

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Austin
9:04 am
Tue April 24, 2012

Austin City Council Considers Austin Pets Alive Lease

The city council will discuss what will happen to the old Town Lake Animal Shelter.
Photo for KUT News by Ihwa Cheng

Today the Austin City Council will consider changes to a temporary lease agreement with Austin Pets Alive. Austin Pets Alive has been using a portion of the Town Lake Animal Center since the city shelter moved five miles east to the Austin Animal Center, and now the nonprofit wants to operate out of the entire building.

Also on the agenda at today’s work session, beginning at 9 a.m., is a resolution that would establish an advisory task force on drawing geographical districts for city council elections. The proposal is similar to what was proposed by the city's Charter Revision Committee.

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City Council
10:29 am
Thu April 12, 2012

City Council Preview: Of Pedicabs and Charter Changes

A pedicabber counts his cash during South by Southwest 2012.
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

It’s relatively light work for the Austin City Council today, what with a scant 40-item agenda and nary a single zoning item. Still there’s a few items of interest for intrepid council watchers.

Pedal Power: On the agenda are a couple of items regarding pedicabs, those ubiquitous, people-powered cabs pedaling all over Austin’s entertainment districts. The biggest change is a moratorium on new pedicab permits for six months.

Items 21 and 22 include new rules over how pedicabs can operate in the Sixth Street area. In addition to defining acceptable areas of operation, other possible changes include how customers may pay a pedicabber:  both customers and pedicabs must form lines, and a customer may only hire the pedicab at the front of the line.

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City Council
4:49 pm
Tue April 3, 2012

In Charter Revision Talks, City Council Ponders How to Put Themselves Out of Office

Council members Bill Spelman and Laura Morrison are wrangling with how best to institute proposed reforms.
Photo by Daniel Reese for KUT News

The Austin City Council held an initial discussion on sweeping reforms to local government this morning reforms that may result in booting them all from City Hall.

The council discussed several recommendations from the 2012 Charter Revision Group. Many measures, largely campaign finance reforms, could be made simply by council action. Council member Laura Morrison suggested they start that work immediately, and put unresolved issues before the voters. “I would like to move forward as quickly as possible,” she said, “and see what results from there, and we still have the option to consider putting it on the ballot.

One reason council members may make the changes themselves – instead of putting them before voters – is to streamline a cluttered ballot this November. They don’t want to distract voters from the biggest local change: a switch from Austin’s current form of elections, where all council members run citywide, to a form of geographic representation, where council members would run in and represent individual districts.

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Austin
12:59 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

Final Charter Revision Meeting: Pro Forma or Fireworks?

Vice-Chair Ann Kitchen, and Chair Gonzalo Barrientos at the Charter Revision Committee's last meeting.
Photo by Erika Aguilar, KUT News

So, the hard part’s over, right?

Tonight marks what should be the final meeting of the 2012 Charter Revision Committee, a City Council-appointed citizen task force. The group has recommended numerous changes to the city charter that should be put before voters this November, but their biggest issue has been reaching agreement on how Austin should change its form of municipal elections.

At the Feb. 2 meeting (which was then expected to be their final one), there was widespread support for moving from Austin’s current, at-large system of City Council elections, where every candidate runs citywide, to a form of district representation.

But just what form that change should take created a rift on the task force. 

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Austin
2:53 pm
Fri February 3, 2012

What Does Last Night’s Charter Revision Vote Mean?

Supporters of the "10-1" district plan for future City Council elections, at the Charter Revision Committee meeting last night.
Photo by Erika Aguilar, KUT News

Last night, the 2012 Charter Revision Committee narrowly voted to recommend a new form of government for the City of Austin – a city council comprised of members representing 10 individual districts, with only the mayor running city-wide.

So what’s next?

For starters, the committee isn’t completely finished yet. In a sign of the contentious nature of the 8-7 vote to recommend the “10-1” plan, the committee called for another meeting, to go over the language in the final recommendation it makes to council.

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