Thursday, January 27, 2011

Travis GOP backs single-member districts for Austin

Piling on to other recently-announced support for single-member districts, the Travis County Republican Party has put out a press release applauding Mayor's Backing of City Council Districts, and praising State Senator Wentworth's Single-Member District Legislation. Here it is:

Austin, Texas — The Travis County Republican Party (TCRP) applauds
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell's new backing of single-member city
council districts, and endorses legislation by state Senator Jeff
Wentworth that would require single-member district representation on
the Austin City Council.

Currently, Austinites are represented by six city council members who
serve in an "at-large" capacity. They each represent the entire
population of Austin and are all elected by the same city-wide
constituency. The mayor, too, is elected by the city as a whole. The
latter is quite the norm; the former is highly unusual, and greatly
ineffective. With the city limits serving as a single at-large
district, multiple people are serving a single district. Invariably,
this setup leads to vast geographic areas of the community being
under-represented, or all together un-represented. Multiple-member
districts also diminish accountability by any one council member to
any group of voters, discourage citizen participation in local
governance, and suppress voter turnout in municipal elections.

"Austin is simply too large — and growing far too quickly — to not
have single-member city council districts," said TCRP Chair Rosemary
Edwards. "Austinites deserve to have direct representation on their
city council with a representative who they can go to with their
concerns and vote out if they want change, just as they do in the
state Legislature and in Congress."

Mayor Leffingwell is advocating a board in which six members represent
six individual districts, and two more members serve, like himself, at
large. He is charging a committee with preparing this and other
proposed changes to the city charter for voters next year.

In the Texas Senate, Sen. Jeff Wentworth is advancing legislation that
would require single-member districts for Austin. Senate Bill 380

requires that "The governing body of a municipality with a population
of 500,000 or more must consist of a mayor elected at large and at
least six members elected from single-member districts. A member must
reside in the district the member represents." If passed by a
two-thirds majority in the state House and Senate, Sen. Wentworth's
bill could take effect this year; if passed with a simple majority,
the act would apply to the 2012 elections.

"I'm encouraged by the growing support for single-member districts,"
Edwards said. "Our country was founded on the principles of direct
localized representation, and the voters deserve a direct voice in
their government in the capital city of Texas."

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