Category Archives: **Op-Ed**

[NOTE: The views, opinions, or positions expressed by authors in the Op-Ed category are theirs alone, and do not reflect the views, opinions, or positions of the BCNA, it’s officers or members.]

You can have your Porch, and setbacks too …

Will be interesting to see how this plays out in practice.

http://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2016/01/planning-commission-oks-porch-change/

The idea is that a house on a corner lot can’t easily have a wrap-around porch because of lot-size limitations, so now the encroachment into the front setback (an encroachment which everyone who’s ever enjoyed a conversation on a shady porch with a neighbor can probably support) can wrap around to the side setback as well, encouraging a more “connected” style of home much like the traditional homes of yore.

Overall this seems like a good thing. But “what defines a porch?” will likely become the question. What do you think?

Prop 3 (10:1 District Plan) Endorsements

Austin Neighborhood Council (ANC), League of Women Voters, NAACP, and the Tejano Democrats are organizations endorsing City Charter Proposition 3: the 10-1 District Plan with Redistricting Commission

If passed Proposition III on this November’s ballot will eliminate city wide elections for council seats and replace them with ten council seats elected from Austin’s neighborhoods.  Because of Prop III’s potential to empower neighborhoods it has received the endorsement of the Austin Neighborhood Council (ANC ).  Because of Prop III’s potential to reform the electoral system, it has been endorsed by the Austin League of Women Voters.  Because of Prop III’s potential to represent Austin’s ethnic diversity it has received the endorsement of the NAACP, the Tejano Democrats and several LULAC chapters.

Proposition III (also known as 10 – 1) is the most progressive reform proposal put forward in Austin in decades.  It was born of a grassroots petition drive that garnered more than 33,000 signatures of Austin residents and has been endorsed by over 30 of Austin’s progressive organizations and 100s of its prominent citizens.

Austinites have the unique opportunity for removing big money from city council races once and for all.

~  Mike Hirsch
Save Town Lake
Austinites for Geographic Representation
mlhirsch@htu.edu

Endorsers and supporters of Citizens Districting 10-1 (a.k.a.”Prop 3′)

Why the League of Women Voters (Austin) is Advocating for City Charter Proposition 3: the 10-1 District Plan with Redistricting Commission  

League History: In May 2011 at the Annual Meeting of the League, a study committee was formed to review and make recommendations on our position on Single Member Districts, which we have had since 1972. That committee worked for a year, studying and researching relevant information. At the May 2012 Annual Meeting, the study committee recommended a change that broadened the position so we could address Single Member Districts in the various forms in which it might appear. Our main concern was that we wanted to be a part of any discussion of Austin government being changed from at-large to district representation. A large majority of the League membership adopted that position change at the May 2012 Annual Meeting.

10:1 Plan Takes Shape: The Mayor had suggested a 6-2-1 plan early on, but it didn’t seem to be picked up by anyone. By last May, there was already one district plan that was gathering steam. It was the 10-1 plan pushed by a very diverse group called Austinites for Geographic Representation (AGR). They had a petition drive underway that required 20,000 verified signatures of registered voters and aimed to get the petition on the November 6th election ballot. This 10-1 plan had attached to it an important document that directed the way the districts were drawn. It had an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission that was void of any influence from city elected officials and others connected to the city. The famed lawyer, Steve Bickerstaff, was instrumental in putting this together along with other experts on the subject. The 10-1 plan is the only one on the ballot that has this feature of a Citizens Redistricting Commission.

League Decision: The LWVAA Board decided that the League should advocate for this 10-1
plan because, with the best demographic data we could get, it fit within our broadened position on Single Member Districts. Several experts in the field seem to think that it takes at least 10 districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act and provide an opportunity district for African Americans and two or more opportunity districts for Latinos; and most importantly, it contained a Redistricting Commission that would be as independent as possible in drawing the lines of those districts (something the League has been lobbying for in the Texas Legislature for many years – to no avail.)

City Council: Austin City Council appointed a Charter Review Committee (as they do anytime there are Charter amendments to be considered.) It was advisory only. The Charter committee heard testimony and recommended (by a one vote majority) that council adopt the 10-1 plan and put it on the ballot. The Charter committee minority (1 less vote than the other side) preferred a hybrid system of 10 districts, 2 at-large representatives and an at-large mayor: (10-2-1). There were no votes for the Mayor’s plan of 6-2-1.

AGR Petition: In the mean time, Austinites for Geographic Representation members had amassed 33,000 signatures on their petition for 10-1 plus the Independent Redistricting Commission. They verified 22,000 (more than was required) and the City Clerk ruled the proposal would be on the ballot. (The League has been a long-time supporter of citizens’ petitions as a means for citizens to address issues that their government ignores.)

More City Council Action: So, when Council saw there would be a ballot measure for 10-1, they ignored the recommendation of the Charter Committee and many who testified for the 10-1 plan to support the 10-1 plan as the only ballot issue, and the Council decided to put an additional plan on the ballot which is an 8 districts, 2 at-large representatives and the mayor elected at-large (8-2-1). Even the minority of the Charter Committee was in favor of a 10-district plan. Council said they wanted to give the voters a choice. Councilmen Mike Martinez and Bill Spellman voted against putting the 8-2-1 on the ballot. (There are other nefarious reasons that are out there as to why Council did this.)

Why 10:1 and Not 8:2:1? So now, we have a situation where the League’s job is to educate the public, not only about voting the whole, long ballot, but explaining why the 10-1 plan is better than the 8-2-1 plan.

The 8-2-1 plan does not have an Independent Redistricting Commission with it, so the Council itself would decide who draws the lines.

Experts disagree, but the League concurs with the Charter Revision Committee that 10 districts will afford the opportunity for Hispanic and African American districts to be drawn to satisfy the Voting Rights Act. Eight districts would be challenged in court as not complying with the Voting Rights Act and could turned down by the Justice Department. If that happens, we would be back to the current six-member at-large Council.
Minorities regard any at-large representatives as a way to dilute their influence on the Council.

Since voters are faced with two separate propositions on the ballot [Prop 3 (10-1) and Prop 4 (8-2-1)], the League of Women Voters of the Austin Area wants voters to:

-vote YES on City Prop 3 (10:1 plus Redistricting Commission)

-vote NO on City Prop 4 (8:2:1 with no Redistricting Commission)

The one that gets over 50% of the vote with the most “Yes” votes will pass.

~Frances McIntyre, Study Chair, mcintyre.frances@gmail.com