First 8 members of Austin's citizens redistricting commission chosen

The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission is beginning to take shape after the City of Austin's Auditor's Office drew eight names from the 60-person applicant pool May 22.

"They're all Austinites. I think that's the biggest qualifier," Councilman Mike Martinez said. "They all care, they all want to be a part of the process and they're all residents of our city. From that perspective, I think it's a great group."

The eight members were chosen at random by the auditor's office. Four of the members come from South Austin, one from North Austin and three from East Austin. The eight members and their corresponding zip codes are:

Magdalena Blanco, 78754

Mariano Diaz-Miranda, 78748

Rachel Farris, 78702

William Hewitt, 78748

Carmen Llanes Pulido, 78722

Arthur Lopez, 78758

Anna Saenz, 78745

Maria Solis, 78745

Jason Hadavi, project manager for 10-ONE with the auditor's office, said the office worked hard to make sure the process and the applicant pool was transparent and diverse.

"We set out to try and publicize the application process to obtain as large and as diverse a pool of qualified applicants as possible," Hadavi said. "We wanted to make sure our pool represented Austin from a geographic standpoint and from age, gender, racial and ethnic standpoints as well."

The chosen eight will choose six more members from the remaining 52 applicants to fill out the commission, which will be responsible for drawing 10 geographic boundaries from which the new City Council members will be elected in 2014.

Peck Young, an adviser for Austinites for Geographic Representation, a group supporting geographic representation for the City Council, said the initial eight members are going to have to make a concerted effort to make sure the additional six members create a balanced and fair group.

"They're going to have to go carefully now to guarantee that there really is a good-faith effort to balance by geography, balance by ethnicity and put a student on there," Young said.

One member of the commission is required to be a student, and the commission is required to reflect the diversity of Austin. Some state and federal requirements for drawing the district boundaries include geographically contiguous districts, an effort to keep neighborhoods intact, use of existing election precinct boundaries and geographically identifiable boundaries.

Austin residents voted Nov. 6 to change the way City Council is elected. Instead of six at-large council members and a mayor, residents voted in favor of 10 geographically elected council members and a mayor who is elected at-large.

"This seems like a group of people with a lot of education and intellectual capacity, and I don't think they're going to have a hard time following the principles of being fair and following the law," Young said. "I think we have the start of a very good [commission]."

The auditor's office received more than 500 applications to the ICRC and gave more than 400 of those applications to the Applicant Review Panel, a three-member group of independent auditors. The review panel selected the 60 most qualified applications for the ICRC. Austin City Council members each had the option to strike one member from the 60 person applicant pool, but no member exercised that right.

"We saw the list just like everyone else, and there was still a random selection process that had to take place to get to the final eight, and I just felt like if those 60 were the most qualified, I should allow them all try to get into the final eight," Martinez said. "There was no compelling reason to strike anyone."

The first meeting for the eight-member commission is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 31 at Austin City Hall, 301 W. Second St. The full commission is expected to have the geographic districts drawn by December.

For more information about the city's redistricting, visit www.austintexas.gov/department/10-one.



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