By Kelli Weldon
Local civic group to inform voters, politicians before November
The city of Austin is gearing up for its first City Council elections under Austin's new 10-1 districting system. To help prepare voters and potential candidates for campaigning season, nonprofit Leadership Austin is developing a series of meetings to be held this summer.
The organization, established 35 years ago, prepares community leaders by helping them develop skills, explore issues and build relationships. Providing the public with as much information as possible and making residents familiar with the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan are goals of the meetings series, Leadership Austin CEO Christopher Kennedy said.
As voters prepare to elect City Council members within Austin's newly established geographic districts, local nonprofit Leadership Austin plans to inform candidates and the public about city governance with a series of meetings as part of its Imagine One Austin effort.
In November 2013, the 14-member Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission established the boundaries of the city's 10 new voting districts. Starting with the November elections, City Council members will be elected in those geographic areas, while the mayor will still be elected at-large.
Leadership Austin CEO Christopher Kennedy said the upcoming Imagine One Austin series will cover different topics at each session to strengthen potential candidates' knowledge and provide information to the community.
All meetings will be open to the public and free.
Leadership Austin will work with a variety of partner organizations from throughout the city to present Imagine One Austin, Kennedy said.
"The more we have a common understanding of the baseline issues, the more engaged our community will be as we try to encourage all of these voices to participate," Kennedy said.
The first Imagine One Austin meeting will focus on demographics and how Austin has changed in the past several years. Attendees will also be introduced to the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, which the city adopted in June 2012 to direct Austin's growth and redevelopment for the next 30 years.
Imagine Austin covers several categories: land use and transportation, housing and neighborhoods, the economy, conservation and the environment, city facilities and services, and society and creativity. Current and future council members will continue to work with the Imagine Austin plan, he said, so Imagine One Austin meetings will address those issues.
Kennedy said the overall goal is to provide baseline information that Leadership Austin hopes will enhance the quality of dialogue that will take place this fall as the community begins hearing from 10-1 candidates.
Kennedy said Leadership Austin hopes 10-1 results in greater civic engagement and larger voter turnout.
"We have a huge opportunity to change the way that our community gets engaged," Kennedy said.
History of 10-1
Austin has changed the way it elects its City Council.
Currently the six council members and mayor are elected at-large, meaning they each represent the entire city. Starting with November's elections, Austin has 10 geographic districts.
Voters in November 2012 approved a proposition to switch to a 10-1 system, wherein voters in each district will elect a single council member from their district to represent them on City Council, and the city's mayor will still be elected at-large.
City staff conducted public meetings in different parts of Austin to encourage residents to get involved with establishing an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw the boundaries for the geographic districts. The city auditor's office helped form the 14-member ICRC in May 2013.
The ICRC split the city Nov. 25 into 10 districts (see map).
Among other criteria, the new districts had to have roughly equal populations and comply with the federal Voting Rights Act, according to the city charter.
Some council candidates have begun campaigning within their districts.
Key Dates for 10-1
The city of Austin has established several dates related to the November elections, including the following:
- July 15–Deadline to file semiannual report of campaign contributions
- July 21–First day candidate can file application for a place on the ballot
- Aug. 18–Last day for candidates to file
- Oct. 6–Last day to register to vote either early or on Election Day
- Oct. 20–First day to early vote in person
- Oct. 24–Last day to apply for early ballot by mail
- Oct. 31–Last day of early voting in person
- Nov. 4–Election Day
- Nov. 18–City Council canvasses results
- Nov. 18–23*–Council can call for runoff election
- Dec. 16–Runoff election day
*A runoff election must be ordered no later than the fifth day after the date the final canvass of the main election is completed.
More information about elections can be found on Travis County's elections site,
For the meetings schedule and more details about Imagine One Austin, visit www.leadershipaustin.org.