Consultant Estimates That 22,435 Signatures Are Valid; Austinites for Geographic Representation Readies for Battle
City Clerk Shirley Gentry e-mailed a statement late this afternoon to announce that the plan petitioned for by Austinites for Geographic Representation is qualified to put the proposition before voters in November. The plan calls for election of council members from 10 districts, a mayor elected at-large, and an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw district boundaries the council would have no choice but to approve.
The City Council voted 5-2 on June 28 to put the same plan on the ballot but the petitioners chose to complete the work and get the measure on the ballot to make it the “people’s plan” and not something the council was offering.
When the petition approval was announced at tonight’s meeting of Austinites for Geographic Representation (AGR), the crowd of some 30 members broke out into a loud and sustained applause and cheers. As well they might after completing the petitioning that began last October and planning that started in February 2011.
But AGR is wasting no time and is gearing up for two immediate chores:
First, they will lobby the four council members who voted June 28 on first reading to put the 8-2-1 on the ballot: Mayor Lee Leffingwell and Council Members Laura Morrison, Chris Riley, and Kathie Tovo. The 8-2-1 plan needs a fifth vote to immediately approve putting it on the ballot, or two more readings with four votes. If just one of the council members who voted for the 8-2-1 plan defects, that plan will not be on the ballot.
Second, AGR spent most of tonight’s meeting organizing its volunteers to immediately begin working on a battle plan to win voter approval in November—regardless of whether the 8-2-1 plan is put on the ballot.
“Now the real work begins,” said AGR petition coordinator Linda Curtis. “You can get things on the ballot, and people do most of the time—and way more than the majority of those things fail” to win voter approval.
“I’m not saying we’re going to fail,” Curtis added, “but it’s going to be very difficult. We’re not going to have a lot of money. We’re going to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.”
Curtis presented a draft plan for work that needs to be done as the campaign moves forward. She called for volunteers to sign up for work on four teams:
Neighborhood teams—Ten teams will cover areas within their assigned sectors, devise organizing strategies, and use the database of petition signers for their sector to visit, call, and/or e-mail supporters. House parties are encouraged to rally people and raise funds.
Speakers team—Volunteers will be trained to deliver a consistent message and will take advantage of every public speaking opportunity. The objective is to sign up more people to build the database of supporters and to raise money.
Events team—This group will organize events focused on local artists, musicians, and dancers by reaching out to people that AGR members already know to volunteer to perform. These events will be designed to reach a larger audience and to raise funds.
Central team—This is the administrative group that supports the work of the other teams. Its first job is to complete the database with e-mails and phone numbers offered many of by the 33,000 some-odd people who signed the petitions. A draft script has been devised to help guide volunteers to contact petition signers.
Other volunteers will work on wooing major donors to kick in cash to help fuel the campaign’s work through the three-plus months till election day.
“This is the kind of campaign I’ve dreamt of for years,” Curtis said, “combining fundraising with community building.”
“This is about power politics,” volunteer political consultant Peck Young announced.
Petition validation process
City Clerk Gentry’s e-mail stated that the petition validation work was completed at 3pm today and a random sample of 25 percent of the signatures were verified against the voter registration databases of city voters in Travis and Williamson Counties.
The city consultant’s report states, “… the city is virtually certain that the true number exceeds 20,000,” which is the minimum number needed to qualify Austinites for Geographic Representation’s plan to go on the ballot.
Petition coordinator Linda Curtis said at tonight’s AGR meeting, “This is probably the best validation process of any petition drive I’ve worked on.”
The AGR petition’s success marks Curtis’ fifth successful petition drive to get measures on the City of Austin ballot.
To see the consultant’s analysis of the petition, click here.
This report was made possible by contributions to The Austin Bulldog, which operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to provide investigative reporting in the public interest. You can help to sustain The Austin Bulldog’s reporting by making a tax-deductible contribution.