TABLE OF CONTENTS
Austin (Tex.). City Council. Sally Shipman Records
An Inventory of the Collection
City of Austin Government
The original government structure of the City of Austin was established by the Fourth Congress of the Republic of Texas in 1839 and stipulated that the governing body was to be made up of “one Mayor and eight Alderman, who shall constitute the City Council….” Austin was split geographical by ward with each alderman representing a ward and were voted in by the citizens of that ward with the mayor elected by the city in its entirety (except during Reconstruction when the mayor and alderman were appointed by the Governor of Texas). This Mayor/Alderman form of government held until 1909 although there were fluctuations in term lengths and the number of alderman serving at any given time. Because the city lacked individual departments the mayor and alderman exercised a variety of powers in the early years and formed standing committees such as finance, water and light, parks, fire, police, sanitation and sewage, and hospital.
The 1909 charter amendment changed the city’s governing form from that of Mayor/Alderman to Commission style. Replacing the alderman in this new government was a group of four commissioners who were all elected at-large. The elected commissioners, with the mayor, served as the council as well as individually serving as administrative heads of the city’s departments.
In 1924 the citizens passed a charter amendment that would reshape Austin’s government as City Council/City Manager form. While the Commission style of governing had made no organizational distinction between the policy making and the administrative functions of government, Council/Manager government attempted to remove the council from administrative duties by instead placing those duties under the stewardship of a city manager. In the first election under this style of government in 1926 the city voted for five council members at-large and the council decided amongst themselves who would be mayor. Starting in 1971 the mayor was elected directly by voters. Through the years there were other changes such as the expansion of the council, term lengths and restrictions on numbers of terms. The next significant change to city council came in 2012 when voters approved (after 6 previously failed attempts beginning in 1973) a charter amendment to create single-member districts in a system referred to as 10-1 with 10 council members being elected by geographic district and the mayor still elected at-large.
Sally Stevens Shipman was born in Beaumont, Texas in 1938 where she graduated from Beaumont High School in 1956. She moved to Austin, Texas to attend the University of Texas earning her bachelor's degree in liberal arts in 1960. She would go on to receive a master's degree in Community and Regional Planning. Shipman began her political career as a neighborhood organizer and was a founding member of the West Austin Neighborhood Group. She served as the chair of the Austin Building Standards Commission from 1974 to 1977 and then joined the Austin Planning Commission where she served as Vice Chair from 1977 to 1982. She was first elected to the Austin City Council, Place 3, in 1983, and was reelected in 1985 and 1987, completing her tenure in the spring of 1990. She served as Mayor Pro-Tem during her last term. While in office, she remained devoted to improving neighborhoods. A major initiative during her tenure was to create the “Capitol-views corridors” to prevent views of the Capitol building from being marred. She also worked to get land near Town Lake dedicated as park space and to maintain environmentally sensitive areas.
In addition to her political career Shipman taught classes at both St. Edwards University and Austin Community College, co-founded the Austin Parent-Child Association and served as the president of We Care Austin from 1978 to 1980.
Shipman moved to Houston, Texas where she served as the Executive Director of Houston's Coalition for the Homeless and as Regional Director of the United States Inter-Agency Council for Homelessness. Shipman died in Houston of leukemia in 2007 at the age of sixty-nine.
Correspondence, memoranda, reports, budget documents, legal records, news clippings, maps and requests for assistance from Austin citizens in this collection represent the work of Sally Shipman as Austin City Council member from 1983 through 1990. These materials document the political, environmental and social issues facing Austin in the 1980s and Shipman's relationship with the voters.
The Budgets series only contains records from Shipman's final term in office from 1987 through 1990. Much of the materials are responses from the City Manager's Office regarding questions Shipman had concerning specific budget line items. Also included is correspondence from her constituents providing opinions about City budget issues.
The City of Austin was rapidly expanding during Shipman's tenure on City Council and the Municipal Utility Development (MUDs) series (1977-1990) documents the legal and financial considerations of the City concerning MUDs as well as the concerns of the people who resided in these potential annexation areas. Included are plans from developers proposing new developments; correspondence from concerned citizens and neighborhood groups about proposed developments and annexation; reports from city departments and commissions such as the Planning Department, Planning Commission, Office of Land Development Services, Water and Wastewater Department, and the City Attorney's Office regarding feasibility, environmental impact, traffic impact, and staff recommendations; and legal agreement negotiations between the City and MUDs.
The Requests for Assistance (RFAs) series (1987-1990) consists of communications from Austin citizen through phone calls or correspondence directed to Shipman during her final years on City Council that were logged into the City's RFA system. Examples of the types of RFAs received are: complaints about City of Austin department services such as Solid Waste pickup; problems with utility bills, complaints about utility rates and requests for payment plans to avoid service termination; questions about changes to City ordinances and suggestions for new laws; environmental concerns; questions/complaints about zoning laws, building permits and code violations; complaints about treatment by police officers; requests for new or adjustments to traffic lights, crosswalks, parking and other traffic safety issues; the condition of streets and bridges; noise ordinance complaints; complaints about moving violation citations received; concerns about the 6th Street "Entertainment District" and gang/drug activity in neighborhoods; reports about stray and loose animals; illegal dumping and trash in vacant lots; support for a recycling program; and requests to create additional parks. The RFAs were sampled as the types of requests tended to be quite similar. Five to ten RFAs from each month were retained, with those with handwritten notes by Shipman always kept.
The majority of the Subject Files series (1971-1990) consists of memoranda from the City Manager, fellow City Council members and City staff in response to requests for information from Shipman and correspondence to and from citizens with questions or concerns about potential new city ordinances or other City related plans. Often there are reports, maps and news clippings attached to the memoranda to address Shipman's questions. In addition there are meeting minutes and agendas, newspaper and magazine clippings, copies of petitions, handwritten notes and a few color photographs. Issues and subjects that have significant representation in Shipman's records include the Austin Transportation Study; the proposed Municipal Office Complex project; the Police Department and public safety; Public Works Department work on roadways and sidewalks; single member districts and the corresponding case brought against the City by Volma Overton; and the financial ramifications of the Austin voters decision to have the City sell its interest in the South Texas Nuclear Project.
Open to all users
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
Austin (Tex.). City Council. Sally Shipman Records (AR.Z.036). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1981/022
Donation Date: 1990
To avoid duplication the records of the Mayor's Office will retain all the materials sent to/from City Council members to the group as a whole. This collection was heavily weeded to retain only correspondence, memorandum and other documents created for or by Sally Shipman. See the Related Materials section for the list of mayor's collection for the time period Shipman was a Council member.
Initial inventory prepared by Tim Wilder in 1995. Collection arranged and finding aid encoded by Mara West and Molly Hults in 2017.