Monday, August 23, 2021

Virtual Redistricting Forum + Preliminary Maps || ICRC

 AUSTIN, TX (Aug. 23, 2021) – The public has one more opportunity to give input before the preliminary map for the ten city council district boundaries is drawn by the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC).

 

While the ICRC has met its City of Austin charter requirements of holding ten public forums, the commissioners added two more public forums via virtual format due to the complications created with COVID. The final virtual forum is Friday, Aug. 27 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

 

"When the ICRC began planning for the public forum portion of the redistricting process back in June, the COVID-19 pandemic was a pressing issue to consider. Some residents prefer an in-person option for their public testimony, others are still adhering to social distancing guidelines," said ICRC Vice Chair Luis Gonzalez. "Additional virtual forum options were the obvious choice to ensure the ICRC was maintaining a balance between fair access to the process and our concern for public health. The two additional options gave the commissioners more opportunities to receive direct input from Austin residents as we begin our redrawing. Given the current severity of the pandemic and the benefit of hearing more voices, we feel we took the correct approach."

 

The public is invited to attend the last public input meeting, before the preliminary map is drawn, at this location:

 

Friday's, (Aug. 27) forum from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., can be accessed by registering with this link: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_FvRbBtg0QWirQxYWmBuTzA. After registering, a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar will be sent.

 

As the ICRC wraps up its first round of public forums, their mapping specialist George Korbel has been busy looking at numbers since the U.S. Census data published their count on Aug. 12, 2021.

 

George Korbel, who has been drawing redistricting maps for over 50 years, has been studying the different software platforms used by different entities – cities, school districts, counties. These "different software platforms will interpret the data a bit differently" and the ICRC wants to analyze all software platforms used before drawing its own maps.

 

The Texas Demography Center, the state entity that processes Census data for use in redistricting, will have redistricting data available the first week of September and the ICRC will draw up its own maps after that time.

 

The City of Austin's demographer released population numbers for the city that showed a 21 percent growth in population. According to the U.S. Census, Austin has a population of 961,855. With the addition of 171,465 people, the ideal size for each one of the ten city council districts is 96,186.

 

The population growth extended across demographic sectors, with the largest growth among non-Hispanic White residents, expanding by 67,723 to 452,994 persons, followed by Asian American residents growing by 36,694 to 85,853 persons, Hispanic residents growing by 34,741 to 312,448 persons, and African American residents growing by 5,242 to 66,002 persons, according to the U.S. Census data.

 

Korbel, who has attended all but one ICRC public forum, plans to use the public's input in his map making process.

 

"They're giving suggestions as to what changes should be made, and when I get access to the data, we will determine what the population of each one of the current city districts will be," Korbel said. "Based on that information, we'll start making changes to the districts, but I really can't tell until I get a hold of the data."

 

Korbel has been involved in redistricting over 50 jurisdictions such as cities, counties and school districts. Most recently, they redistricted education institutional boundaries in Houston and for Lone Star College, one of the largest community college districts in the nation.

 

He was instrumental in challenging the fairness of at-large elections in Texas in the '70s. He and the ICRC's legal counsel David Richards were part of the team that litigated the landmark case known as White v. Regester.

 

The case, which made it all the way to the Supreme Court in 1973 and won, found the urban voting district in Dallas and Bexar counties reduced Latino representation in the Texas House of Representatives. The case also expanded into other counties with large urban districts in the state including, Tarrant, Nueces, McLennan, Travis, Galveston, Jefferson, Lubbock and El Paso.

 

"(The case) set down the proof pattern for litigation in almost literally all redistricting that dealt with at-large elections," Korbel said.

 

Gonzalez said the ICRC is hard at work trying to find in-person venues in September to host the four public forums for the public to view and comment on the preliminary map when it is drawn.

 

To submit feedback directly to the commission about redistricting visit SpeakUp Austin! at https://www.speakupaustin.org/city-of-austin-redistricting. Scroll down to the "Event Feedback" tab and click on "Your Suggestions for Redistricting." After registering on the site, the public can take the survey and even upload a map or instructions for redistricting. This information will be gathered through October 2021 and used to help draw the new city district boundaries.

 

Another way to participate is to contact ICRC commissioners or leave feedback please email: icrc.commissioners@austintexas.gov or write to: Housing and Planning Department, Attn: ICRC, P.O. Box 1088, Austin, Texas 78767.

 

Due to rapid changes in scheduling due to COVID restrictions, for the most up-to-date events information from the ICRC please refer to events pages:

 

https://www.speakupaustin.org/city-of-austin-redistricting/

 

https://www.facebook.com/pg/AustinRedistric/events/

 

 

Public input forums are recorded and made available after the meetings here: http://www.austintexas.gov/page/watch-atxn-live.

 

Past meetings and agendas can be viewed on the commission's website at www.austintexas.gov/cityclerk/boards_commissions/meetings/116_1.htm

 

Interpretation and/or translation services will be available free of charge by advance request in Spanish, Chinese or Vietnamese. Call 311 or email matthew.dugan@austintexas.gov to request these services 48 hours in advance of a forum.

 

To find City Council Districts in Austin visit this link and type in an address: https://www.austintexas.gov/GIS/CouncilDistrictMap/

 

 

ICRC Information

Commissioners are: Joshua Blank (District 8), Sara Inés Calderón (D2), Erin Dempsey (D10), Camellia Falcon (D7), Luis Gonzalez (D10, Vice-Chair), Errol Hardin (D1), Shaina Kambo (D9), Prabhu Kannan (D5), Dr. Sterling Lands (D4), Hoang Le (D3), Brigham Morris (D3), Christina Puentes (D7, Chair), Eugene Schneider (D6) and Selina Yee (D1).

 

The ICRC board will hold its weekly commission meeting via videoconferencing 6 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. 

 

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