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TABLE OF CONTENTS


Collection Summary

Administrative History

Scope and Contents

Arrangement

Restrictions

Index Terms

Related Material

Administrative Information

Description of Series

1971 Charter Revision Committee, 1971-1973

1975 Charter Revision Committee, 1976

1983 Charter Revision Committee, 1983-1984

1997 Charter Revision Committee, 1997-2001

2001 Charter Revision Committee, 2001-2002

Austin History Center

Austin (Tex.). Charter Revision Committee Records

An Inventory of the Collection



Collection Summary

Creator: Austin (Tex.). Charter Revision Committee
Title: Austin (Tex.). Charter Revision Committee Records
Dates: 1971-2002
Abstract: The collection highlights the work by various City of Austin Charter Revision Committees from 1971 to 2002 to determine whether the City Charter should be amended. The majority of the materials concern the consideration of changing the method of election of city council members, with the emphasis on the creation of single member districts.
Accession number: AR.2006.004
Quantity: 0.8 linear feet (2 boxes)
Location: Archives Stacks
Language: English
Repository: Austin History Center, Austin Public Library,
810 Guadalupe, PO Box 2287, Austin, TX 78768

Administrative History

The City of Austin can hold charter amendment elections only every two years. If the City Council determines that it is necessary a Charter Revision Committee can be created to look at the issues that will be potentially placed on the ballot.

Charter Revision Committee 1971-1973

The 1971 City of Austin Charter Review Committee was appointed on July 29, 1971. The members of the committee included Bill Youngblood, Gus Garcia, Emma Long, Philip White, Dean Banks, Joe Quander, Victor Ravel, Ralph Janes, Jr., Barr McClellan, Robert Tinstman, William Holmes, and Louis Shanks. It was the first time since 1953 that such a committee had been appointed to do an in-depth study covering each section and article of the City of Austin Charter. Over 10 months they held approximately 40 meetings, and presented to the Council on May 25, 1972 their final report which represented a small part of the testimony, statements, recommendations, and suggestions that were made to amend the Charter.

The committee agreed to postpone an election on Charter amendments until after the September 1972 bond election. The Charter revision election was eventually held on April 7, 1973. The two major amendments that were voted on were 1) creating a 6-5 council, where 6 members are elected by district and 5 members are elected at large, and 2) increasing the compensation to $100 per week for all council members so that “qualified people of modest means can serve on the council.” The amendments both failed to gain voter approval. Also failing to gain approval was a proposed revision lowering the council age qualifications from 25 to 21.

Charter Revision Committee 1975-1976

First proposed in 1974 by Mayor Friedman, the City Council selected a 21-member Citizens Charter Study Committee in February 1975. Each Councilmember submitted 3 people to be appointed to the committee. The members included Charles Miles (Chairperson), Mary Beth Rogers (Vice Chairperson), Ruth Epstein, Dick Nichols, Bill Youngblood, Joan Bartz, Diana Camacho, and other citizens. In May 1975, the committee increased to 25 members when Eloise Campos, Margaret Gomez, Cora Briggs, and Dan Ruiz were appointed. They held over 100 meetings and their final report was submitted to Council in February 1976.

Their main recommendation was to amend the Charter to provide for the election of the Mayor at Large and the election of the members of the City Council from numbered districts. The majority report favored a 10:1 system and the minority report favored an 8:1 system. The ballot item never went to election due to state law clarification that had not been properly done earlier. It was not discussed again until October 1977, and went to election in 1978. The proposed amendment was rejected by voters.

Charter Revision Committee 1983-1985

On May 12, 1983 another City Charter Revision Commission was established by City Council, composed of 11 members. The following persons served on the commission: Gary Witt, Chairperson; Margaret Gomez, Vice-President; Missy Mandell, Secretary; Caroline Scott, Parlimentarian; Daron Butler; Bert Cromack; Gabe Gutierrez; Mary Ann Neely; Volma Overton; Bernard Snyder; and Kurt A. Vander-Meulen.

The Charter Revision Commission was created to recommend the following: whether the City Charter should be revised to create single-member districts instead of the current at-large seats; whether council members should serve four-year terms; whether council members should be limited to serving two consecutive terms; whether the City Council should be elected on a staggered basis every two years, if four-year terms are instituted; recommend how often City Council districts should be redrawn; recommend whether there should be a limit on campaign spending; whether there should be a shortened period for runoff campaigns; whether the City Charter’s references to “councilman” be changed to “councilmember”; and if the City Charter should redefine the duties of the Planning Commission.

On January 19, 1985, the City of Austin voted on multiple proposed amendments to the Charter (Propositions 5-19), including creating an 8-1 Council where 8 members are voted from districts and the Mayor is voted at large. That proposition failed to pass, as it did in previous years. Amending the Charter to use both male and female words to address government officials passed, as did the amendment to use revenue bonds for the funding of energy or resource conservation programs, and the amendment to redefine the duties of the Planning Commission.

Charter Revision Committee 1990-1994

Charter Revision Committees were appointed on April 26, 1990 and April 15, 1993 and elections held to vote on amendments to the Charter in 1991 and 1994. Please see Austin (Tex.). Law Department Records (AR.2004.040) for materials documenting these Charter Revision Committees.

Charter Revision Committee 1997-2000

In August of 1997 the Austin City Council established a Charter Revision Committee to advise the Council whether the City Charter should be amended to provide for changes in the method of election of Council Members, with emphasis on election from single member districts. The Committee was composed of nine members chosen to represent the diversity of the City. In addition to the system of election to the City Council, the Committee also considered related issues such as length of term of offices, whether or not the Council should be elected on a staggered basis, term limits, when elections should be held, the need for periodic review of the election system, who should be responsible for drawing the lines of districts and later redistricting, and the possible use of instant runoff voting. Because of changes in the membership of the Committee and an intervening Charter amendment election in November of 1997 the Committee did not start meeting regularly until November of 1998. The group met monthly, often inviting speakers that included election experts, consultants and officials from other cities. The Committee also conducted five focus groups and seven public hearings with the citizens of Austin. Members of the Committee included Barbara Hankins (Chair), Charles Miles (Vice Chair), Raymond Chan (Secretary), Robert Chapa, Jim Harrington, Fred Lewis, Mark Anthony McCray, Eddie Rodriguez, and Diane Spencer.

Previous to the creation of this Committee Austin voters had rejected single-member districts five times since 1973. A sixth attempt in 1997 was shelved when the City Council had legal questions. In January of 2000 the Committee presented its recommendations to the City Council and suggested that a Charter Election be held in May of 2000. The recommendations included:

  • 1. That the City Council consist of a mayor elected at large and ten members elected from neighborhood (single member) districts with the district members having three year terms.
  • 2. That the term of office for the Mayor be four years.
  • 3. That an independent Redistricting Committee be appointed by the City Council to perform the decennial and interim redistricting.
  • 4. That, in the year preceding the year in which the Federal decennial census is conducted, the City Council appoint a Charter Revision Committee to examine and recommend on possible changes to the method of election of the City Council.
  • 5. That Instant Runoff Voting be used to resolve general elections in which no candidates receives the required majority of the votes cast and that this item be a separate ballot item from the above.

In their report to the City Council the Committee expressed that they felt "somewhat hampered by uncertainty about the dispersion of minority populations throughout the community as the most reliable data available is the 1990 census data." After hearing the recommendations the Austin City Council decided there were too many outstanding questions to put the issue to a vote in May of 2000. One of the things the City Council felt was missing was a map of the districts for the voters to see as part of the proposal, even if it was just an approximation. However, the Committee had decided against drawing potential district boundaries because then voters might focus on how the districts are drawn, rather than on the larger issue of how council members should be elected. In addition, reliable demographic data from 2000 Federal Census would not be available until late in 2000 or early 2001.

Charter Revision Committee 2001-2002

The Austin City Council established another Charter Revision Committee in August of 2001 to review the January, 2000 recommendations of the previous Charter Revision Committee. Three of the members of the previous committee members served on the new Committee. This 2001 Committee was able to use the 2000 United States census data that had been unavailable to the previous Committee and the main focus was to reconsider the recommendations of the previous Committee in light of the new census data. The 2001 Committee did not find that the Census data refuted any of the conclusions that the previous Committee had drawn, and in some cases the census data strengthened the argument for single member districts. The only changes in the December 3, 2001 recommendations of the Committee were the removal of both the Instant Runoff Voting issue and the suggestion to establish a Charter Revision Committee in the year preceding the Federal decennial census to review possible changes to the method of election of the City Council.

On May 4, 2002 the Austin voters rejected the charter amendment presented to them which was increasing City Council from 7 to 11 members, eight of whom would have been elected from single member districts, while two members and the mayor would have been elected by the entire city.

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Scope and Contents

The collection documents the activities of five separate Austin Charter Revision Committees dating from 1971 to 2002. Meeting minutes, recommendation summaries, and reports from minority members make up the 1971 and 1975 Charter Revision Committees’ materials. Along with meeting minutes and research in the 1983 Charter Revision Committee materials is a resolution for committee members to not seek political office for a period of 6 years after serving on a Charter Revision Committee.

The majority of materials pertain to the Charter Revision Committee established in 1997. Of significance are the introductory materials given to the Committee that provided background information on the issue of single member districts including an overview of single member districts in Austin, excerpts from Austin's Charter, canvasses of previous charter elections on single member districts, the final reports of the Charter Review Committees of 1984 and 1994, relevant sections of the Voting Rights Act and the Texas Election Code, Overton v. City of Austin, charter excerpts from selected cities, and demographic maps. Also included in the collection are the meeting notices, agendas and minutes, the focus group notes, newspaper clippings, research files, a 1999 annual report of the Committees work done and both the 2000 and 2002 Committee recommendations to the City Council.

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Arrangement

Materials arranged by year of Charter Revision Committee.

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Restrictions

Restrictions on Access

Open to all users.

Restrictions on Use

None.

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Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Hankins, Barbara S.
Subjects (Organizations)
Austin (Tex.). Charter Revision Committee.
Austin (Tex.). Charter Revision Commission.
Austin (Tex.). Charter Review Committee.
Austin (Tex.). Citizens Charter Study Committee.
Austin (Tex.). City Council.
Subjects
Election law--Texas--Austin.
Municipal government--Texas--Austin.
Places
Austin (Tex.)--Politics and government.
Document Types
Clippings.
Correspondence.
Minutes.
Notes.
Reports.

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Related Material

General Collection


  • A 352.0976 AU76CR FEB 12, 1976 Austin (Tex.). Charter Review Committee, Final Report Of Charter Review Committee, February 12, 1976.
  • A 352.0976 AUC383F 1994 Austin (Tex.). Charter Review Committee, Final Report. 1994.
  • A 324.2021 AUC4984S Austin (Tex.). City Clerk's Office, Special Municipal Election, City of Austin. 1973.
  • A 352.0976431 AUC3833F Austin (Tex.). Charter Revision Commission, Final Report. 1984.
  • A 352.0976 AU76CR 1975 Austin (Tex.). Charter Review Committee, Sub-committee Final Reports. 1975.
  • A 352.0976 AU76CR Austin (Tex.). Citizens' Charter Study Committee, Summary of Actions by Citizens' Charter Study Committee, City of Austin.
  • A 352.09764 Au76c Austin (Tex.), Charter of the City of Austin.

Austin Files


  • AF Subject - City Charter A8500(12)

Archives & Manuscripts


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Administrative Information

Custodial History

Donated by the Committee Chair, Barbara S. Hankins. Various Charter Revision Commission meeting minutes and supplementary materials were moved from the General Collection and integrated into the Austin Charter Revision Committee Records (AR.2006.004) in 2018. Final reports are kept in the General Collection.

Preferred Citation

Austin Charter Revision Committee Records (AR.2006.004). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.

Acquisition Information

Donor #: DO/1997/025

Donation Date: 2006

Processing Information

Finding aid created and encoded by Molly Hults in 2010. Additions and updates by Kelly Hanus in 2018.

Materials originally housed in a 3-ring binder were removed and foldered in original order and the notation (3RB) has been added to the folder tab.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

1971 Charter Revision Committee, 1971-1973

Box Folder
2 1 Meeting minutes, 1971 September 8-1972 May 17
2 Council meeting minutes, 1972-1973
3 Citizens' Charter Study Committee summary, 1973

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1975 Charter Revision Committee, 1976

Box Folder
2 4 Meeting minutes, 1976 January
5 Minority report, 1976
Box Folder
1 13 Dissenting report, 1976 February 25

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1983 Charter Revision Committee, 1983-1984

Box Folder
2 6-11 Meeting minutes, 1983 May 26-1984 January 11
12 Meeting minutes (bound copy), 1983 June 22-1984 March 7
13 Supplementary information, 1984 March 7
14 Assorted research; resolution for Charter Revision Commission members to not seek political office for a period of 6 years, 1984 March 7

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1997 Charter Revision Committee, 1997-2001

Box Folder
1 1 Annual report, 1999-2000
2 Committee introduction material, 1998
3 Correspondence and memorandum, 1998-2000
4 Focus groups, 1999, undated
5-7 Meeting notices, agendas, minutes, 1998 December-1999 December
9 Membership, 1998-1999
10 News clippings, 1997-2000
12 Research files, 1999-2001, undated
14 Recommendations, 2000 January 15

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2001 Charter Revision Committee, 2001-2002

Box Folder
2 15 Report and work plan, 2001 December 20
Box Folder
1 8 Meeting notices, agendas, minutes, 2000-2002
11 Recommendations & ordinance, 2001-2002
15 News clippings, 2002

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