AUSTIN -- In a historic vote last November, Austinites decided to change the make-up of the city council, passing a proposition to create 10 districts, each with it's own representative and one at-large mayor.
As instructed in the proposition, 14 randomly selected volunteers will draw the lines with the help of city experts. The first step in selecting that commission is to randomly select three CPAs to narrow down the commission applicants.
"We're trying to get a pool of those individuals so we can randomly select three of them. Okay, once they're selected, they will then select 60 of the overall pool of commissioners," explained Austin City Auditor Kenneth Mory.
Of those 60 applicants, each city council member will have the opportunity to strike out one person. The remaining applicants will be dumped into a pool and eight will be randomly selected. Those eight will then select the other six commissioners to ensure the group is diverse.
There's just one problem -- those who have applied so far, lack diversity.
"We have primarily a white male situation," said Mory.
That means minorities and women aren't applying. According to the city auditor, 29 Austinites have applied to be on the CPA panel; none of them are minorities. Only seven were actually qualified and of those seven, there is only one woman.
As for the commission candidates, as of Feb. 6, just 98 people had applied and only 21 of them are women. The applicants include only two African-Americans, two American-Indians, one Asian, five Hispanics and one person who listed their race as other.
So when the candidate applications of mostly white men are dumped into the pool, there will only be a handful of minority and women applications, meaning their chances of getting picked are pretty slim.
To solicit qualified applicants, the City launched an aggressive ad campaign in December with billboards, ads on the television, radio and in newspapers. Workers even sent out more than 38,000 letters to qualified candidates. Now, the City is reaching out to community organizations for help.
"We're not going to panic. We're going to do a little work. We're going to go slow, explain the process," said Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder.
The NAACP and other community leaders are planning to host forums over the next two weeks to solicit applicants. So far, city leaders say the plan is working. On Feb. 9, two community sessions were held and the City has gotten 100 more applications.
The deadline for applications for both the panel and the commission is Feb. 22. To apply, a person must live in the Austin city limits and have voted in three of the last five elections. They also can't be a lobbyist or work for the city.