Prop 3 Proponents to Monitor Implementation

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Peck Young
Peck Young

Austinites for Geographic Representation form committee to help guide work on 10-1 system 

Fresh off a major victory in the November 6 election, some three-dozen fired up members of Austinites for Geographic Representation (AGR) packed the meeting room at the Austin Firefighters Hall last Monday evening to map out how to stay involved during implementation of the 10-1 system for council elections.

Volunteer political consultant Peck Young, who provided the strategy for the winning campaign, roused the crowd.

Peck Young
Peck Young

“We need to remember we won a campaign. We created districts. We have changed something a half century old and changed it for the rest of this century,” he said.

But he added a note of caution.

Young said, “The work to keep this fair and honest isn’t over. I promise you we have work to do so this process is not perverted or corrupted by people who never wanted this in the first place.”

“We’ve got at least another year of hard work to be sure it’s implemented correctly.”

The plan going forward is for each of the 30 organizations that endorsed the 10-1 plan to provide a member to a new AGR committee that will actively monitor every phase of work.

Initially the AGR committee will observe the work of the city auditor’s office as it announces a call for interested persons to apply to serve on the Citizens Independent Redistricting Commission (CIRC), which will draw council districts the City Council will have no choice but to accept, subject to federal approval under the Voting Rights Act.

Thereafter the committee will birddog the entire process.

The committee will be co-chaired by retired State Senator Gonzalo Barrientos (D-Austin), NAACP Austin President Nelson Linder, and attorney Roger Borgelt, vice chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, Young said.

Volunteers needed

Young urged AGR volunteers to consider applying to serve on the CIRC.

Fred Lewis
Fred Lewis

To that end, attorney Fred Lewis, who wrote much of the language in Proposition 3: Ordinance No. 20120802-015, which will guide the process, provided a detailed brief of the requirements that each applicant must meet to qualify to serve.

Although CIRC members will not be paid, they will be eligible for reimbursement of expenses, such as travel mileage and child care, Lewis said, “so at least you will be no worse off by serving on the Commission.”

The city auditor will also solicit applications from independent auditors who will form a three-member Applicant Review Panel to screen applicants who want to serve on the CIRC, to be sure they meet every requirement set forth in the Ordinance.

Young said the new AGR committee should be prepared to observe the auditors to be sure that no one who does not qualify to serve on the CIRC slips through and winds up on the pool of 60 people who are considered eligible to serve.

Once the pool of 60 qualified applicants is formed the list of names will be provided to City Council members, who will have five days to strike one member each, if desired, and must do so in writing. No reason need be given for striking anyone from the pool.

The names of applicants who are not struck will form the pool from which the city auditor will publicly conduct a random drawing that will provide the names of the first eight members of the CIRC.

Those eight members will then appoint from the remaining pool an additional six members to balance the CIRC for race, ethnicity, gender, and geographic diversity. To add these additional members requires at least five votes from the initial eight members.

Once formed the CIRC will hire consultants to handle the technical aspects and then hold public hearings to gather input and adopt a plan for the boundaries of council districts.

City auditor seeks council approval

The city’s Strategic Audit Plan prepared before the election indicates the city auditor’s office would need 1,500 hours of work to implement the requirements of the Proposition 3 Ordinance if it passed.

Ken Mory
Ken Mory

City Auditor Ken Mory recently doubled that estimate and now figures his office will need 3,000 hours to carry out its responsibilities for forming the CIRC and Applicant Review Panel.

Jason Hadavi, chief of investigations in the city auditors office, told The Austin Bulldog that no cost estimate was available for the 3,000 hours of work needed to implement Proposition 3.

Mory appeared before the City Council’s Audit and Finance Committee Monday to brief Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole, who chairs the committee, and Council Members Laura Morrison, Bill Spelman, and Kathie Tovo.

Mory proposed to provide the additional hours needed to carry out his responsibilities for Proposition 3 by shifting priorities in the Fiscal Year 2013 service plan, and possibly hiring outside auditors to do some of the scheduled audit projects that were slated to be done by city employees.

After a brief discussion, Cole said the auditor’s request will be posted for possible action on the City Council’s December 4 Work Session.

Want a detailed road map?

The auditor’s office began work on this complicated project well before the November 6 election in anticipation of voter approval. The pace of work stepped up as soon as Proposition 3 passed.

Auditors staff have met with the activists who led the campaign for Austinites for Geographic Representation. They have also met with the lawyers who drafted the ordinance’s procedures for picking people to serve on the CIRC and how that Commission will draw council districts.

The 29-page City Auditor’s Project Plan, which The Austin Bulldog obtained through a public information request, provides a detailed summary of these meetings and the key points that came out of them. The two pages marked “Critical Path – Prop 3” (see pages 9-10 of the pdf) lay out the specific schedule the auditor‘s office will follow as the process goes forward, Hadavi said.

However, City Auditor Mory, in a follow-up e-mail November 21, stated, “The dates in the critical path document you received from us has not been finalized. They are one of the things we intend to discuss at the December 4 work session.”

For those who want to delve into the details of the auditor’s action to date and see what lies ahead, the Project Plan is a must-read.

The Project Plan includes $100,000 for “legal support/independent consultant” but Hadavi said, “ We do not think we will need the $100,000. We’re not sure we need legal support or an independent consultant.”

City Auditor Mory and his staff are currently working to get the process established to accept applications for volunteers who wish to serve on the CIRC and the independent auditors who wish to serve on the Applicant Review Panel.

Mory’s e-mail stated, “the proposition language requires that the City Auditor ‘initiate and widely publicize an application process’ … by December 1, and we intend to meet that deadline.

“The proposition does not speak to a specific date for making the applications available to potential candidates,” Mory’s e-mail said.

“At this time we have not finalized specific dates for each step of the process including when applications will be available to the public,” Mory’s e-mail said. “It is critical that we ensure that the applications and process are done right to meet the objectives of the charter amendment, which may require some additional time.

“We also understand the importance of the (CIRC) having sufficient time to complete their task.”

This report was made possible by contributions toThe Austin Bulldog, which operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to provide investigative reporting in the public interest. You can help to sustainThe Austin Bulldog’s coverage by making a tax-deductible contribution.

Related Bulldog coverage: This is The Austin Bulldog’s 40th article covering issues and activities pertaining to proposed changes to the Austin City Charter.

City Hustles to Inititate Prop 3 Tasks: Auditor coordinating with proponents of the 10-1 plan to begin what will be a lengthy transition process, November 15, 2012

10- Plan to Rule Council Elections: Both propositions for geographic representation pass but grassroots group dominates election results, November 7, 2012

Mayor: My Commission Beats Your Commission: Mayor Lee Leffingwell lifts idea for citizens to draw council districts and undercut opposing proposition, November 2, 2012

Prop 3 Fundraising Outpaces Prop 4: Financial support for 10-1 far outstrip dollars donated for 8-2-1 hybrid, September 29, 2012

Proposition 3 Campaign Relies on Grass Roots: Austinites for Geographic Representation going door-to-door, running phone banks, and distributing info at polling places, October 21, 2012

Prop 3 Proponents Question Prop 4 Legality: Civil rights attorney and two minority groups say federal preclearance for 8-2-1 is unlikely, October 21, 2012

Poll Triggers Backlash from 10-1 Proponents: Proposition 3 advocates saying Prop 4 playing dirty with a misleading poll, Prop 4 denies the charge, October 17, 2012

Proposition 4 Campaign Reports Finances: Late report indicates $2685 raised in last three months but fails to provide details about campaign expenses, October 10, 2012

Proposition 3 Campaign Reports Finances: 10-1 campaign proponents raised more than $40,000, Proposition 4’s 8-2-1 advocates’ report not submitted, October 9, 2012

Proposition 3 Rally Draws 150-200 People: Crowd hears fiery speeches by proponents of the 10-1 systemfor electing council members, October 8, 2012

Attorney Bickerstaff Addresses Critics’ Concerns: His September 24 article drew numerous comments about the Proposition 3 Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, October 5, 2012

Feisty Debate Over Electing Council Members: One panelist argues for no change to the at-large system of City Council elections, October 4, 2012

Proposition 3 and 4 Proponents Rev Their Campaigns: Raising money, organizing troops, and pushing plans for geographic representation on Austin City Council, September 28, 2012

Redistricting Need Not Be a Quintessentially Political Process: Independent redistricting commissions for U.S. states and cities, September 24, 2012

Barrientos Lampoons Prop 4 With a Fable: Other proponents of alternative plans for geographic representation push their points, September 14, 2012

Proposition 3 Advocates Falsely Accuse RECA: Group alleges ‘rumor’ of $100,000 pledge by Real Estate Council to defeat Proposition 3, but RECA says not so, September 12, 2012

No-Change Option Surfaces in Ballot Debate: Former Council Member Bob Binder opposes both options on the ballot for geographic representation, September 11, 2012

The Election Wars Have Begun: Interest in how council members elected running high, as face-off debates abound, September 9, 2012

Your Guide to Proposed City Charter Amendments: What’s on the ballot, what it will cost taxpayers, and details provided in the ordinances for each proposition, August 30, 2012

Loud Rally Follows Final Council Vote for 8-2-1: AGR’s Cries Foul Over Work Session Vote for Hybrid; Mayor Leffingwell Said Votes Driven by Ballot Deadline, August 7, 2012

Council Backers of 8-2-1 Plan Accused of Self-Interest: But Facts Don’t Seem to Substantiate Such a Claim, as Related Actions May Bar Most Incumbents From Reelection, August 6, 2012

8-2-1 Near Certain to Go on Ballot: City Council Votes on Second Reading to Put Competition Election Plan on Ballot, July 31, 2012

10-1 Plan Qualifies for November Ballot: Consultant Estimates That 22,435 Signatures Are Valid; Austinites for Geographic Representation Readies for Battle, July 26, 2012

Petition Completed for 10-1 Council Districts: Austinites for Geographic Representation Claims 33,000 Signatures, of Which About 22,800 Are Considered Valid, July 16, 2012

Council Puts 10-1 Election Plan on November Ballot: Votes 5-2 on Three Readings to Adopt Petition Language, Votes 4-2 on First Reading to Also Put 8-2-1 on Ballot, June 29, 2012

Citizens Group to Make Final Petition Push: Austinites for Geographic Representation Claims to Have 17,000 Signatures, and Shoots for 13,000 More, June 4, 2012

City Council Tackles Charter Amendments: Redistricting Expert, Charter Revision Committee Members, and Grass-roots Group Critical of Task Force Plan, April 26, 2012

Council District Backers Want Quick Ballot Decision: Big Press Conference, Big Pressure Promised, to Get Council Decision Before Council Elections, March 8, 2012

Hard Fought, Heartfelt Charter Decision: Charter Revision Committee Votes 8-7 to Back 10-1 Plan for Council Elections, February 3, 2012

New Restrictions Proposed for Lobbyist Fundraising: Lobbyists Can Only Give Candidates $25 But Can Collect Unlimited Contributions For Them, January 22, 2012

Committee Debates How to Elect Council: Charter Revision Committee Divided Over Pure Districts vs. Hybrid System, January 9, 2012

Thirteen Charter Changes and Counting: Charter Revision Committee’s Next Job: Tackle Plan for Geographic Representation, December 14, 2011

Council Confirms November 2012 Election Date for Charter Amendments: Resolution Ensures Citizens Initiative Won’t Force May 2012 Charter Election, November 3, 2011

Coalition Launching Petition Drive to Get on the Ballot for May 2012 Election, October 18, 2011

Broad Community Interest Focusing on How Mayor and Council Members Elected, October 4, 2011

Coalition Nearing Petition Launch for Grass-roots Council District Plan, August 24, 2011

Maps Prove Select Few Govern Austin: Forty Years of Election History Expose Extent of Disparity, August 4, 2011

City Council to Consider Proposal to Create Geographic Representation: Election Dates, Term Lengths, Redistricting and Other Charter Changes in Council Resolution, April 27, 2011

Petition Launch Imminent to Force Election for Geographic Representation in City Elections, March 7, 2011