Geographic Representation

Photo by KUT News

Now that the ballot is set for Austin City Council elections, we've got a clear picture of what the races will look like heading into November. Seventy-eight candidates will be featured on the ballot. Though that may seem like a crowded field overall, some districts have as many as 12 candidates, while other districts could only have a few candidates.

That kind of disparity has some asking whether the new, for-the-people-by-the-people ethos of the 10-1 system can help political neophytes overcome the hurdles and trappings of political campaigns.

Today is the last day candidates can file to run in the next Austin City Council election. Those elected in November will represent one of Austin’s 10 new geographic districts.  Some campaigns are already underway, and candidates are hearing about needs that are exclusive to their district.

A lot of those district-exclusive needs don't involve more international flights or starting another international festival in Austin.

So if the candidates, once they're elected, focus on solving the small-scale problems their constituents bring to their attention during the campaign season, Austin may experience radical changes over the next decade or so.

Bryan Winter/KUT

Austin City Council hopefuls are trickling into City Hall to file for a place on the ballot.

The application period, opened yesterday, goes through August 18. While currently just a handful of people have filed, the election is generating excitement that's hard to come by in local politics

Jannette Goodall is Austin's City Clerk. But if you didn't know that, you'd think she's a wedding planner – for months, Goodall and her staff have been prepping for this moment. "You're kind of planning for the big ball, you know? It's kind of fun," she says.

Bryan Winter/KUT

Come November the Austin City Council is going to look a bit different. The council will expand from six at-large-elected  members to 10 members elected by citizens within their district — plus the mayor, naturally. In anticipation of the change, the city is revamping the council's dais.

Flanked by poster board renderings and city officials, urban planners and arts nonprofits gathered in City Hall Wednesday to announce that two Austin community art projects will receive federal and private funding from the organization ArtPlace America totaling $656,500.

Austin Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole said that Austin, whose population has increased by nearly 70 percent since 1990, is being looked at by the rest of the nation as a hub for artists and art-making.

“All eyes are on Austin for a lot of reasons, but one of the reasons that we have to be very proud of is our creative class,” said Cole. “The work that the artists are doing to bring such vibrancy and diversity to our city – the nation is watching and we are receiving funds for that.”

What's the one thing that would make life on your block better?

As Austin prepares for its first elections with 10 new geographic districts, KUT is diving deeply into District One, which covers large parts of East Austin. But we want to hear from you, regardless of where you live. Tell us: What would make life better on your block? 

KUT News

Austin City Council member Mike Martinez announced this morning he will run for mayor.

His campaign will officially kick off April 5, with Martinez planning campaign announcements in each of Austin's 10 new City Council districts.

"Because of the new district system and because we have moved our election to November, obviously it‘s going to be the highest voter turnout in a mayoral election than we have ever seen in the history of Austin," Martinez says. "Typically in May we see 30 to 40 thousand voters. We anticipate well over 200,000 voters in this November election, so that will be a major, major difference this year.” 


This article is written by KUT's City Hall reporting partner, the Austin Monitor

Council Member Laura Morrison, who has served on the Austin City Council for nearly six years and has been considered a likely candidate for Mayor on the November ballot told the Austin Monitor today that she has decided against the race.

Morrison, 59, said decision was a difficult one for her. “I love this job and it’s been … very complicated and difficult. It’s taken me a long time to make this decision.”  Weighing all the pros and cons of a race that might cost up to a million dollars, Morrison said, “I just think a different future is what’s right for me.”

This article was co-produced as part of an ongoing City Hall reporting partnership between the Austin Monitor and KUT. Listen to the audio story broadcast on KUT in the player below. 

With single-member districts soon to become a reality, Austin City Council candidates are already lining up to crowd what promises to be a very full November ballot. Austin's political insiders and outsiders alike are trying to get a handle on an election that promises to shape the city for years to come.

Roger Borgelt is vice chairman of the Travis County Republican Party. He also served as co-chair of the Austinites for Geographic Representation – the group responsible for getting 10-1 on the ballot. He says that he is excited about the promise of more localized, neighborhood representation, as well as the possibility of conservatives (or at least fiscal conservatives) taking some of the 11 open City Council seats.


Callie Hernandez for KUT News

Austin City Council elections are still some nine months out – but the races are already heating up.

Today saw one of 2014’s first official announcements for mayor: Patsy Woods Martin, a former executive with the United Way for Greater Austin, and founder of umbrella charity organization I Live Here, I Give Here. (Disclaimer: Martin also launched online giving campaign Amplify Austin, which KUT participated in last year.)

Martin is the latest in an increasingly crowded field of official and unofficial candidates. The Austin Chronicle has a comprehensive rundown of candidates. Martin is joined officially by Bill McLellan, whom the Chronicle describes as a “former 3M executive, chief development officer at Family Eldercare, and longtime civic activist.”

Update: Austin’s Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission voted unanimously last night to certify the district maps for future city council elections.

The group split the city into ten districts. Starting next November, voters in each district will elect a single city council member. Previously, all council members were elected at-large.

Check out this interactive version of the district map:

View Larger Map

Daniel Reese for KUT News

This article was co-produced with KUT News’ Joy Diaz as part of an ongoing City of Austin reporting partnership between In Fact Daily and KUT. Listen to KUT's broadcast story in the audio player below.

Among the changes that will accompany the start of districted representation for Austin City Council members, at least one unintended consequence is causing some level of civic heartburn for interests represented by figures ranging from current sitting Council members to the outspoken face of the 10-1 movement: A potential shift in the way things get done at City Hall.

That change, should it play out, will find the office of City Manager – the unelected executive arm of city government –  becoming a much more powerful position. “The City Manager, at least temporarily – until people find their footing – is going to have a substantial amount of power,” said longtime Austin political organizer David Butts.

Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission

After some last minute changes, the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission unanimously approved a map for Austin’s new City Council districts last night.

Most changes to the map were relatively minor, especially compared to previous revisions. South Austin District Five, for instance, was extended to reach up to Lady Bird Lake.

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Thursday night was the final public input meeting for the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission – the group drawing Austin's ten new city council districts.

Held at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex in East Austin, it was a homecoming of sorts. The same places the commission’s first input meeting back in August.

While many district boundaries have evolved, the district containing the Millennium Complex – District 1 – really hasn’t between the commission’s preliminary and final proposed maps.

Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission

Update: Austinites have just two more opportunities to weigh in on a proposed city council district map.

A citizens group is dividing Austin into 10 geographic districts. Starting next November, each district will elect one city council member. Everyone will vote on the mayor.

The district-drawing group is expected to approve the final map soon.

Wednesday's public meeting is at The Lodge on Dawson Road in south Austin. It starts at 6:30 p.m.

Thursday's public meeting is at the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex on Hargrave Street in east Austin. It also starts at 6:30 p.m.

Click here to see an interactive version of the "official proposed final map" drawn by the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

The holiday season will bring more than presents for Austinites. It will also bring maps outlining the boundaries for 10 City Council districts — if the grueling process of tweaking and finalizing the districts wraps up in time for Christmas. 

But the Independent Citizen's Redistricting Commission — the volunteer citizen group charged with drawing the maps — is accepting comments on its preliminary map during a regular meeting tonight and a public input meeting Wednesday.

City of Austin

Update: The group of Austinites in charge of drawing geographic city council districts is meeting this evening for the first time since approving a preliminary map.

The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is splitting the city into ten parts – each will be represented by a city council member.

But some people have expressed concerns that the districts the commission has drawn so far don’t accurately represent communities. For example, right now, District 7 runs along Mopac from North of Parmer Lane to Lady Bird Lake.

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

The Austin City Council convenes today to another crowded agenda. Here’s a rundown:

  • Sound off on the proposed city budget, property taxes and fees

Lots of council action won’t happen until much later today: Several public hearings are set for this afternoon related to City Manager Marc Ott’s proposed city budget, which the council is currently discussing. There’s public hearings on the proposed property tax rate, Austin Energy and Austin Water rates, and additional proposed fee increases (trash, drainage, etc.)

Wells Dunbar, KUT News

Last November, Austin voters approved a plan to fundamentally change the city’s elections and form of government: Right now, all City Council members run citywide and represent all of Austin. But after the passage of Prop 3, beginning next year, they’ll be elected by district.

When Austinites voted last fall to create the independent commission that will draw the city’s new geographic City Council districts, 14 citizens from all walks of life were chosen to be part of this commission.

The understanding was that average Austinites would lead the process. But it turns out the commission may hire an entire staff to give them a hand.