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Policy Changed Concerning Austin Redistricting Commission
The City of Austin is collecting application for the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC), however one group is outraged saying a city council decision is making it harder for people to apply.
The commission will draw the lines for the 10-one charter voters approve in November. This will elect Austin City Council members from 10 geological single-members districts with a mayor at-large.
Attorney Fred Lewis who wrote the charter said, “The most important thing is that citizens get to draw the lines. And it gets to be divided by gender, race and geography.”
The volunteers will not be paid, but Lewis says the charter explains they will get reimbursed. It reads taxpayer dollars would cover expenses that were reasonable and necessary incurred in connection with its duties.
Councilman Mike Martinez explains council had the authority to change the language.
“Some of us felt like it was open ended. And it could cost the city substantial money,” said Martinez, “So what we did was realign it with our city policy.”
According to the city policy, the reimbursements would pay for travel including meals, parking and registration. The concern is it will not cover child care or bus rides.
“I certainly understand childcare is a tremendous burden in terms of cost and arrangement. If we were to have a policy that allowed for that, who's to say where you take your child?” said Martinez.
However, Lewis is concerned the amendment will deter people from applying.
“I call it Catch 22 that the commission will not pay for expenses that commissioners are not likely to occur. They won't pay for the ones that are likely to occur,” said Lewis.
Now he’s asking for council to change the policy.
The budget for the ICRC will be set once all of the 14 members are chosen.
If you would like to join the commission, visit http://austintexas.gov/department/10-one for more information.
By Christie Post