By RICH KEITH, Four Points News
Four Points now has representation on the Austin City Council in District 6 with last week’s approval of new redistricting maps.
Last November, Austinites voted for geographic representation. The successful campaign achieved what had eluded citizens and planners for over 30 years: a city charter amendment which changed the make-up of the City Council members from six at-large members and a mayor to 10 members, each representing one district, plus a mayor.
Made official on Nov. 25, Four Points will lie in District 6. The new district encompasses all of River Place and Four Points areas to the north of RM-2222 and only portions of Comanche Trail. The Steiner Ranch peninsula is not in the district except for the River Ridge neighborhood and those bordering areas close to Lake Austin which lie in Austin’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction or ETJ.
“It’s going to be a whole new ballgame at City Council,” said River Place resident Jay Wiley, the first candidate to announce to run for District 6 next November. “Our neighborhoods will finally have a seat at the table, and that will make a big difference in how the Council discusses everything from infrastructure to traffic to parks.”
District 6 continues north along FM-620 and TX-45 and extends into Cedar Park, approaching Loop 1 to the east and nearly to the Domain shopping center in the furthest reach. Interestingly, at River Place District 6 jumps over Lake Austin and includes some land around the Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park and mostly uninhabited areas on the south side of Lake Austin.
The new maps were drawn and prepared by the Austin Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission or IRC which is comprised of 14 randomly-selected citizens who applied for the task and who reside throughout the Austin metroplex.
Each district is meant to be geographically contiguous and compact, thus minimizing the impact on local neighborhoods or communities. Where possible, the team used existing election precinct boundaries, and most have geographically identifiable boundaries.
On Nov. 18, the Commission voted unanimously to approve a final map, and on Nov. 25, it certified the maps. The Final Certified Plan was presented to the City on Nov. 26.
Criticism of the old, at-large city council surrounding its treatment of suburban areas has raged for years. “Austin is a big city, so on the positive side, single member districts ensure that we have at least one council member representing our (very large) part of the city,” said Sandy Perry, who spoke on behalf of the Friends of River Place Trail. “That should be helpful when dealing with local issues like hiking trails.”
“I think Council has viewed us as a big piggy bank for too long,” Wiley said. “Now we will get to have a bigger say in how our tax money is allocated.”
When selected, the 10 new commissioners will serve 10-year terms. The IRC’s work is not finished. As Austin annexes new land the IRC will return to adjust the map. And in 10 years, new commissioners will be selected to re-draw the maps according to the City’s changing demographics, according to the IRC’s website.
The new districts represent a significant change for city government. “With each member carrying the issues of their own districts, it will mean that politics will require horse trading among the council members for issues to rise to the top,” River Place’s Perry said. “It remains to be seen how effectively Austin will implement this major political change.”