District 8 includes what most people have come to think of as Oak Hill.
by Bobbie Jean Sawyer
AUSTIN – Oak Hill residents seemed happy with the final map settled on by a citizen commission, though some were surprised to see Zilker Park included in the Oak Hill district.
The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (ICRC) voted unanimously to adopt the final map for single member districts for the Austin City Council on Monday evening, November 18.
The map keeps all of what most people consider Oak Hill together in District 8, which also encompasses Zilker Park and a neighborhood off of Stratford Drive north of Rollingwood.
The vote came after months of meetings, public forums and citizen testimonies, which helped the commission develop the historic map.
Eliza May, a resident of Travis Country and member of Austinites for Geographic Representation, has been involved with the redistricting process since the beginning.
May said the single-member districts provide a long awaited opportunity for the Oak Hill community.
“Our community out here now for the first time will have its voice heard,” May said. “That by itself is very exciting. You have a voice at the table—Southwest Austin.”
May said having representation on the council would finally bring attention to Oak Hill’s traffic woes.
“Whatever projects we’ve had out here that we’ve wanted to get off the ground— particularly at the Y—this is an opportunity for us to start getting some traction,” May said. “We’ll have our representative to be able to be a voice at the table helping to articulate what those issues are and what those projects are. They can start to negotiate with the other members of the council to make sure that they get them off the ground.”
“I’m hoping that we’ll see some economic development come out of the area,” May said. “I’m hoping that we’ll see some business development also come forth as a result.”
May said the redistricting symbolizes a new beginning for all of Austin.
“This will probably go down in history as one of the most important civic lessons and social experiments in democracy that Austin has had,” May said. “The citizens came and said what they wanted to see in their district. You had a citizen panel group—not politicians but a citizen panel group—that listened to them, responded to them and produced a map that was totally citizen-driven. That is democracy in action. I think it’s beautiful that we got to that point.”
Participants say a side effect of the redistricting effort is that it encouraged the Oak Hill community to come together for a common cause.
Dan Page, a resident of the Legend Oaks 1 community, said he witnessed a united front at a Sept. 28 ICRC meeting, during which the ICRC presented a revised map connecting all of Oak Hill in District 8. The meeting followed a controversial work session in which the ICRC had divided the Oak Hill community with an earlier map.
Page said it was at that meeting that he discovered the Oak Hill Association of Neighborhoods (OHAN) had created its own District 8 map, which was strikingly similar to his.
“Most of the people that spoke at that particular comment meeting were from Oak Hill and talking about (not splitting) our community up,” Page said. “I was surprised—OHAN and I pretty much thought along the same lines as to what constituted the core of Oak Hill.”
Page said he hopes having city council representation for Oak Hill will bring attention to the congested U.S. 290 and Hwy. 71 intersection.
“Just look at how long the ‘Y’ has languished. It’s incredible that they would be talking about State Highway 45 as a priority,” Page said. “How about the ‘Y’ that’s been a priority for decades?”
Rick Perkins, OHAN secretary and resident of Granada Hills, said while he’s pleased with the overall redistricting results, he has concerns about Zilker Park being included in District 8.
“I think I should have stood up and been more emphatic about how much Zilker Park needs to be with the people in the Zilker area. I thought that was an obvious thing and they would make that change but they didn’t,” Perkins said. “It’s going to distract who our city council member is because there’s so much activity that goes on (at the park).”
Perkins said the redistricting process has helped Oak Hill develop bonds with other communities, breaking the isolation Southwest Austin has experienced in the past.
“We’ll find more commonalities with other districts based on the connections that we’ve made through this process,” Perkins said. “The process helped us build alliances and alliances will help us in the future to get the things that we want.”
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