The petition-initiated 10-1 geographic representation charter amendment will appear on the ballot in the Nov. 6 election after the Austin City Council voted 7-0 at an Aug. 2 meeting to approve a resolution placing it there.
Jessica Ellison of Austinites for Geographic Representation thanked the council for taking the action. AGR put together a petition calling for 10 single-member districts with boundaries drawn by an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. The charter amendment garnered support from 29 organizations—including the Austin Charter Revision Committee, Austin Human Rights Commission and Austin Neighborhoods Council—and the petition was certified by the city clerk as having 33,000 signatures from eligible voters.
"It's a very important day for us," Ellison said. "It's unfortunate for me that the shadow of what happened in the work session on Tuesday is hanging over our heads."
Ellison was referring to the council passing another charter amendment that would have eight council members from geographic districts and two at-large members on second reading at its work session July 31.
At one point during the work session it seemed there would be a vote on second and third readings to place the 8-2-1 plan on the ballot until Councilman Mike Martinez asked his colleagues to vote only on a second reading. Proponents of the 10-1 plan generally do not want the so-called "hybrid" option to be placed on the ballot because it is widely believed placing two options for single-member districts would cause both initiatives to fail.
"If we put two single-member district proposals on the ballot, I think it is extremely likely both of them will fail," Councilman Bill Spelman said at the work session.
Mayor Lee Leffingwell said at the work session there is a divide in the community, and he thinks voters should have the opportunity make the choice between the two plans. Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and Councilwoman Laura Morrison both agreed.
"It boils down really to the at-large seats being able to represent interests that are not necessarily geographically based," Morrison said.
Martinez and Spelman both voted against the 5-2 vote to approve the hybrid plan on the second reading July 31.
"I'm not against a hybrid system per se, but the citizens' initiative, in my mind, prevails," Martinez said.
The council will likely vote on the third and final reading at its work session Aug. 7.