In November 2008, after we lost the fight to reign in the Domain shopping mall subsidies, we fought many more good fights to no avail. We couldn’t stop the Formula 1 subsidies, though they are extremely unpopular. We couldn’t stop Water Treatment Plant #4, though now some on the Council are saying we were right.
We realized that what was needed was a shake up in how the structure of how people get elected to the city council.
Austin had become the largest city in the United States without district elections. For thirty years and six efforts, we were still operating under all at-large elections which pretty much guaranteed that most Council members would come from the central city and most would raise their money there.
In February 2011 we called a meeting of activists from all parts of town and all political persuasions to begin mapping out a plan to put districts on the ballot. Together, we formed Austinites for Geographic Representation, a specific-purpose PAC, that finished its work in early 2014.
Early on the AGR coalition, under the leadership of longtime and now retired political consultant and redistricting expert, Peck Young, we figured out that 10 districts might suffice, along with the Mayor being elected at-large. And, as part of the plan, Linda Curtis brought in experts to help draft the first independent citizens redistricting commission in the state of Texas — drawn by a lottery system — to draw the lines. The AGR Coalition collected 30,000+ signatures to place 10-1 on the ballot.
The rest is history, with 10-1 passing despite the interference by most of the Austin City Council. Now is the chance many in the coalition have been waiting for to really reform this city. To us here at ChangeAustin.org, it’s all the things you can read more about on this site. We must have fiscal and political reform to save our city from its growing inequities, policy follies, cronyism and outright waste.
Linda Curtis, also recently helped form a new non-profit, non-partisan citizens lobby, the League of Independent Voters of Texas, to reach out to voters of all persuasions across the state for the 2015 legislative session. We can either show up and be counted or get run over by state government thoroughly led by the nose by the growth machine. Please consider joining the League and joining their email list too.
As for Austin and more political reform, we’re developing some good ones for Council Candidates to get after in this election cycle for November 2014. We hope you will listen hard to the candidates at upcoming forums. Historically, after reforms are passed, business-as-usual politics creeps in sometimes rather quickly. So, keep abreast of things in our News Section, or sign in to get our emails. Call us if you want to get involved at 512-535-0989.