Austin voters to decide charter amendments, bond propositions



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Posted on November 6, 2012 at 11:39 PM

AUSTIN -- Austin voters have a lengthy ballot, deciding on 18 propositions.

The first 11 are charter amendments that would tweak how the city is run.

Proposition 1 would move the City’s general election date from May to November.

Proposition 2 would amended the city charter to not only move the City’s general election date from May to November, but would also provide that council members serve four-year staggered terms, to provide that council elections occur in even-numbered years and limits the mayor and council members to two terms.

Perhaps the most talked about propositions are three and four. Both would change the make-up of the city council.

Proposition 3 is for 10-1 geographical representation. It would change the current council make-up  from six at-large council members and one mayor to 10 council members, each representing a geographical region in the city, and one mayor.

This proposition was put on a ballot because the grassroots organization Austinites for Geographical Representation got 33,000 signatures to put it on the ballot.

"Prop 3 is the best plan on the ballot because it is the only plan that includes an independent commission to draw district lines," said Jessica Ellison with the Austinites for Geographical Representation.

The city council also authorized proposition 4 to be put on the ballot, known as 8-2-1. It would change the council make up to eight geographical council members, two at-large members and one mayor. It would also allow people in Austin to vote for a total of four members on council, opposed to two in the 10-1 plan.

"Proposition 4 calls for a hybrid, mixed system," said James Nortey with Austin Community for Change. "Eight geographic districts, two at large and one mayor. This is the best plan because it's the best of both worlds."

Still Austinites for Geographical Representation say their plan to divide the city into more areas would allow for better representation among African Americans. 

"Ten districts will fairly represent all Austinites, and with 10 districts you can draw a district in which African Americans can not only have the plurality but or not only have an opportunity district, but actually have the majority," said Ellison. 

However, Nortey disagrees. "My concern with the 10-1 plan is it's very, very difficult for African Americans and also Asian Americans to get representation on council because we're dispersed. We don't just live in East Austin."

Nortey says the solution is having two at-large council members who can look at the city as a whole when basing decisions, opposed to what's best for one area.

What makes the ballot a little interesting is that voters can actually vote for both of these propositions or against them both. If both pass, the proposition with the most votes will go into effect.

Proposition 5 would amend the city charter to permit the members of the city council and the city council’s appointees to hire and manage their own staffs.

Prop 6 would allow the city council to appoint the city attorney opposed to the city manager.

Proposition 7 would reduce the number of signatures needed for a citizen initiated ordinance or referendum.

Proposition 8 allows council members to raise political funds for 30 days after an election in which the council member was elected.

Proposition 9 would allow the city council to lease parkland to an independent school district for a purpose that the council has found by a two-thirds majority.

Proposition 10 would create a civil service system for most city employees who are not already covered by a state civil service statute.

Proposition 11 would adopt an emergency medical services personnel civil service law.

Then there are the eight bond propositions. They total about $385 million. The City does not specify exactly what projects the money will be used for, but instead brakes the money down into seven categories.

Proposition 12 would spend $143,299,000 on transportation and mobility projects.

Proposition 13 would allow the City to spend $30,000,000 on open space acquisition and watershed protection.

Proposition 14 uses $77,680,000 for improvements to the parks and recreation department.

Proposition 15 issues $78,300,000 in housing bonds and notes to help low income and homeless families have housing.

Proposition 16 would spend $31,079,000 on public safety improvements.

Proposition 17 authorizes $11,148,000 be used for health and human services.

Proposition 18 would use $13,442,000 to improve libraries, museums and cultural arts facilities in Austin.

City officials say there would be no increase in property taxes if the bonds pass.

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