The commission's work is over. Austin has 10 voting districts. What will this mean for the region?

For the first time, Austin residents in 2014 will have the chance to elect a City Council member to represent their part of the city.

Southwest Austin neighborhood groups have begun to mobilize and connect within their newly established voting districts. Representatives from different organizations have met to talk about priorities in their districts, and some residents are contemplating candidacy.

Jim Schissler, president of the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods, said local issues can be better addressed with dedicated representatives at City Hall.

"It has been a long time coming, and it will be important for people to get involved and be aware of the city politics," Schissler said. "People out here have been dissociated with [City Council elections] because all the candidates were from downtown and [voters] didn't feel [council members] were representative, so they stopped voting or didn't vote as often."

Drawing the districts map

The 14-member Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission charged with creating Austin's new voting districts split the city Nov. 25 into 10 districts. Community Impact Newspaper defines Southwest Austin as the area south of Southwest Parkway, east of FM 1826, west of I-35 and north of FM 1626. The ICRC divided that area into four districts: 2, 3, 5 and 8.

Schissler said most Oak Hill residents are pleased with how boundaries were drawn after OHAN presented its own map to the ICRC. All Oak Hill neighborhoods ended up in District 8, he said.

Since the redistricting, also known as 10–1, residents are learning about other neighborhoods in their districts, Circle C resident Ed Scruggs said.

"Some of the districts across the city extend out very long and on the surface don't have a lot in common," he said.

Dan Page, a resident of the Legend Oaks neighborhood in Oak Hill, pointed out the ICRC had to meet certain criteria.

"They added a couple [of neighborhoods] north of here that really have more of an affinity for downtown, like Stratford [Drive] and the Zilker Park areas. That's not really considered part of Oak Hill because it's across Barton Creek for one thing, and then it's closer to downtown and closer to Lady Bird Lake," he said, adding the ICRC did so to meet population requirements. "It was a logical expansion of the district, in my opinion."

Westcreek Neighborhood Association President Jennifer Voss said she is happy with the way the map came together. Keeping Oak Hill together will help boost influence at city hall, she said.

"There's this perception that we have to compete [with Central Austin] and that's probably because unfortunately we have low voter turnout in Southwest Austin. While we might think we are underrepresented, and we are, there are people in way worse shape in this city that need attention in less fortunate areas. So I really hope that [redistricting is] a win-win all the way around," she said.

ICRC splits some neighborhoods

The Southwood neighborhood in ZIP code 78745 was split between Districts 3 and 5, Southwood Neighborhood Association President Joan Owens said. Owens lives in District 5, which includes some of 78704.

"We'll have to make sure we're heard, but there's a number of very, very politically active people in [the 78704] area, and they may be able to help us get through the maze of city staff and politics," she said.

SNA First Vice President Matthew Todorow lives in District 3. He said he understands why the ICRC split his neighborhood. District 3 is one of the city's four opportunity districts, which aim to give minorities such as Hispanic and African-American residents a better chance of getting elected in those districts.

"It just so happened that they kind of parceled out the east part of Southwood to create an opportunity district. So I am in a different district even though I'm in the same neighborhood association. I'm OK with it," he said.

The ICRC also split the South Austin Combined neighborhood into three districts despite Owens and others asking to keep it together. South Austin Combined consists of three main neighborhoods— Westgate, South Manchaca and Garrison Park—and is a planning area in the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan the city adopted in June 2012 to direct Austin's growth and redevelopment for the next 30 years.

"District 5 [residents] are probably going to have different issues to worry about than those other two districts," Owens said.

Woodhue resident Ken Craig lives in South Austin Combined. He said the ICRC in November moved the eastern boundary of District 5 west, putting him in District 2.

"I'm disappointed that the area that we felt was a strong community of interest was divided amongst multiple districts. We recognize that [South Austin Combined] is a city initiative and this planning area is part of the whole Imagine Austin process, and so we really felt like the area would be better served with a single representative," he said.

Craig said he is excited to learn about his district—although he resides in District 2, almost all of his daily activities take place in District 5.

New districts consider key issues

Transportation is a top concern for Southwest Austin, Scruggs said.

"The Y in Oak Hill is just a disaster," he said. "It does not meet modern needs of transportation, and it's a regional problem because it is the main access to the western part of the county, to Hays County, to Southwest Austin [and] to west Austin."

Other priorities include park maintenance, fire safety, and affordability in terms of home prices, property values and tax rates, Scruggs said.

In addition to the Y at Oak Hill, traffic on Brodie Lane is a concern, said Marion Mlotok, southwest sector representative for the Austin Neighborhoods Council.

Speaking as a resident, she added the environment is also important for District 8, said. She said she had opposed single-member districts because she thought the environment was better protected through an at-large system.

"Barton Creek and the Edwards Aquifer are going right through our district, so it's almost like we need to be the guardians of that," Mlotok said.

Establishing an Oak Hill town center is a goal for resident Laura Lancaster Faulk, who said she has lobbied for years for such a project.

"I'd like to see some progress made on that," she said.

The 10-1 system should allow neighborhood and civic groups to form more effective alliances across district boundaries, said Lorraine Atherton, a resident of the Zilker neighborhood in District 5.

District 5 spans from Barton Springs Road to Onion Creek, Atherton said.

"There are such disparate geographic areas that it really doesn't meet the standards laid out in the 10-1 ordinance, but other than that, I think being matched with the Southwood neighborhood [and] the neighborhoods along Manchaca [Road] south of Ben White [Boulevard], that's a good match. I think we have a lot in common that we can work with them on," she said, pointing to the Onion Creek floods in 2013, noting parts of the Zilker and South Lamar neighborhoods are subject to flash floods.

Potential infringement of builders in District 5 is a concern, Owens said.

"We're not opposed to some growth, but we want the growth to match the character of our neighborhood," she said.

Council candidates cannot form campaign committees until May, Scruggs said. OHAN and the ANC will hold candidate forums prior to the Nov. 4 election.

"We can't rely on voter turnout in the city races to be high just because it's in November," Atherton said. "We're going to have to get out there and get people out to the polls to vote on the City Council candidates."