The last meeting for public comments to the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC) regarding the single-member districts in the Official Preliminary Map is Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013 at 6:30 pm at the Asian American Resource Center. (Meeting details posted here).
Many neighbors have expressed concern about the proposed ICRC map and its proposed District 7 for our neighborhood. If you would like to provide input or recommend that the ICRC revise the map to include our neighborhood with neighborhoods from the central and west areas of town, please attend the meeting on Wednesday. Better yet, send your comments to the ICRC by emailing Craig Tounget, at email@example.com. Craig is the Executive Director of the Commission, and can be reached at 811 Barton Springs Rd #425, Austin, Texas 78704, Phone: 512-482-5434.
The West Austin Neighborhood Group (WANG) has provided the following testimony concerning the Official Preliminary Map dated September 28, 2013.
Concerns About District 7: With all due respect for the work performed by the ICRC, we were concerned and dismayed to see our neighborhood included in District 7 which appears to be a bacon-shaped leftover district extending from Lady Bird Lake up a narrow strip along MoPac to the northeastern boundary with Pflugerville. Many folks on both ends of this elongated district wonder what “common social and economic interests” are shared by the “contiguous population” of District 7. However, we understand the challenges of drawing districts that will satisfy all parties, given the mapping criteria that you are required to meet. In addition, we have come to appreciate that there are a number of shared traits in District 7 since the population includes mostly single family neighborhoods located in the central city area that share similar concerns about interior land use patterns and development pressure (such as tear-downs and McMansion homes), traffic problems, rising property tax burdens, historical preservation, infill growth, short term rentals, and MoPac expansion, to name a few. However, we believe that the balance of the mapping criteria do not support the configuration of District 7 because it fails to account for the greater affinity of community interests, neighborhood regions, and geographic boundaries in the central and west parts of Austin.
Requested Boundary Tweaks To Prevent Neighborhood Division: At a minimum, we would request that the ICRC make two small adjustments to District 7 to respect the “geographic integrity” of our “neighborhood or local community of interest.” In particular, we would request that the district boundaries be expanded to include West 35th Street and Mayfield Park (the portion of Precinct 266 below 35th Street) and to include Windsor Road just east of MoPac (the portion of Precinct 250 above Windsor). With these small changes, our neighborhood would no longer be divided across three separate districts, and the revised district would respect the boundaries of our neighborhood association as well as the Central West Austin Combined Neighborhood Plan for our area. In addition to respecting our local neighborhood boundaries, these small extensions would comply with other mapping criteria, including encouraging geographical compactness, using geographically identifiable boundaries, and conforming to the census tract boundaries (Census Tracts 16.03 and 16.04) for our neighborhood.
Alternative Central West Austin Compact Map: We also request that the ICRC consider a more compact arrangement of the non-opportunity districts north of the river (namely Districts 6, 7, and 10). To this end, we have attached an Alternative Compact Map Proposal which uses the ICRC’s population data to provide a more compact and reasonable allocation of districts that satisfies the various mapping criteria without changing or altering any opportunity district boundaries. The revised districts are shown in overlay over the Official Preliminary Map to show the relative changes which adjust only the boundaries between Districts 6, 7, and 10, leaving all other district boundaries in place. (Although the revised map does not show Pemberton being fully included in Revised District 7, we have requested this “tweak” as explained above.) As you’ll see, our Revised District 7 extends west out to Loop 360 and just past 183 to the north (but not all the way to Pflugerville), reflecting the development history in this area as well as other common social and economic interests shared by this area. As a consequence, Revised District 10 extends from 360 and north past 183 into some of the Williamson County precincts, and Revised District 6 takes over the northern portions of original District 7, again reflecting the development history here.
Compared to the Official Preliminary Map, the Alternative Compact Map Proposal makes Revised Districts 7 and 10 more compact, and Revised District 6 appears to be roughly as compact as before. By one calculation, Revised District 7 is 77% more compact, with the length shrinking from 15 miles to 10.5 miles. In addition, Revised District 10 is 68% more compact, with the width shrinking from 12.5 miles to 8.5 miles. Finally, Revised District 6 is only 18% larger due to the increases in length from 11 to 13 miles. The Alternative Compact Map Proposal also provides a more accurate reflection of Austin’s development history which started from the center and extended outward. It is specifically noted that both sides of the 183 corridor are included in the Revised District 10, properly reflecting this historical community of interest which developed on both sides of 183. Finally, it is noted that the populations in Revised Districts 6, 7, and 10 of the Alternative Compact Map Proposal are closer to the target population than in the ICRC’s Official Preliminary Map.
Alternative Map With Compact Districts 6, 7, and 10 (ICRC Population Data)