10-1 vs. 8-2-1

So there’s this huge debate going on about how to represent Austinites on the city council.

The current system is that everyone is elected city-wide. That means, every voter gets to vote for every member of the council and the mayor. An unspoken agreement has kept two seats on the current council open for Hispanic or black members.

There are two proposals on the ballot, which probably means the third option — do nothing — will win: the 10-1 and the 8-2-1 systems.

The 10-1 system would create 10 single-member districts (that is, voters in a certain area would get to vote for a member who will represent their area and the mayor but no others) and a separate mayor.

The 8-2-1 system would create eight single-member districts, two at-large (city-wide) districts and the mayor. This means voters in certain areas would vote for four people — their district council member, the two at-large members and the separate mayor.

The above is a very, very basic explanation (which will be updated as people complain that I’ve left important aspects as), and does not include the discussion of budgets (which one person has noted), who would draw the districts, et cetera. 

One thing I am not in favor of is continuing the current system. I do believe we need some geographical representation. Instead of every council member coming from South Austin or West Austin, I’d like to make sure that every part of town gets its own representation on the council. And we need to get rid of that gentleman’s agreement. Create minority-opportunity districts; not arbitrary (and somewhat racist) under-the-table rules.

At first, I found myself falling in with the 10-1 folks. I liked having a single city council member who would focus on my area. But as I talking with Misty about it, considered my experience working in politics and receiving constituent services, I found myself desiring more. More representation. I think it’s important citizens have more than one person to whom they can address their concerns. If my council member (or his or her staffers) doesn’t like me, I can go to one of the other two council members (and mayor) for help. I can do the same in the more likely situation that one office is more efficient or effective in working with me.

So now I (and Misty, because she agrees with having more than two reps) find myself with the 8-2-1ers. 

I’d like comments, concerns, suggestions, et cetera.

[UPDATE: The Austin Bulldog is an independent resource folks should check out.]

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