Anticipating growth, Buda begins transition to single-member districts


Though there are no contested races, City Council elections in Buda this year mark a significant moment for the city.

After Nov. 6 three of the Buda’s City Council seats will go from being elected at-large—to represent the entire city—to being elected by the residents of three individual geographic districts with roughly the same number of residents.

“The most important aspect of the single-member districts,” City Council Member Evan Ture said, “is making sure there’s not a single group of like-minded folks that are spread thinly enough throughout the city, or have just enough votes, where they are a big group but they can’t get any representation.”

Ture belongs to one of the council seats—Place 6—that will move from representing the city at large to representing a geographic district; after November, Ture will belong to District B, which straddles I-35 and includes the easternmost area of the city. Council Member Wiley Hopkins, of Place 2, will be transitioning to representing District C, which covers north Buda; and Council Member Paul Daugereau, Place 4, will move to representing District A.

The other three seats will stay at large until Buda grows to 25,000 residents, a plan designed by the charter review commission that met for the first time in May 2017. The charter amendment that established the new structure was among 18 the commission produced. All but one of those amendments were approved by the council in August 2017 and then by voters in November 2017.

U.S. Census estimates put Buda’s population in July 2017 as about 16,163, but that is up from 7,350 in April 2010, an increase of almost 120 percent.

Most large cities have single-member district representation. Austin, Buda’s much larger neighbor, rejected a charter amendment to move to single-member district representatives six times but finally approved it in November 2012; 10 single-member district representatives were elected a year later, when the city had more than 885,000 residents.

“I think Austin was overdue in going to single-member districts,” Ture said. “And Buda I think it was perhaps a little bit early, but I think it’s also a little bit of planning for the future.”

Nearby Kyle, with about 40,000 residents, has a City Council much like the one Buda will have after the election—with three at-large representatives and three single-member districts—but Kyle has had the same City Council structure since 2000 and has no plans to change it, according to the city.

There will be one change to Buda’s City Council makeup after November; David Nuckles, currently in Place 3, is not running for re-election, and he will be replaced by Ray Bryant, the only person to file for the seat. Bryant previously served on the Kyle City Council, representing a single-member district for several terms before moving to Buda three years ago. Representing a city at large will be a change for Bryant, but he said his strategy does not have to change.

“Once you grow, at a certain point, they start trying to divide [the city]up for better representation,“ Bryant said, but “you have to be careful because people get too district-focused.”

Regardless of what type of representation, in any city, “you not only should hear from your district, you should hear from the city,” Bryant said.

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Katharine Jose has written about politics, infrastructure, environment, development, natural disasters and other subjects for The New York Observer, Capital New York, and The New York Times, among other publications. She was an editor for several publications in New York City before she moved to Texas, and has a master's degree in urban planning from the University of Texas-Austin.
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