Austin Theater Voting Endorsements

So the Austin Chronicle came out with their voting endorsements and they’re good. I’d suggest printing them out and taking them with you to the voting booth.

But I wanted to take a minute and point out two issues that are particularly important to the performing arts.

Theater is a Special Interest Group

Special Interest Groups have a bad rap right now. It’s very easy to get voters riled up against them. But let’s face it, we are they. We advocate for and receive money from the city. There’s a tax that exists specifically to fund grants we receive (the Hotel Tax).

Single Member Districts

I bring this up because Single Member Districts were proposed specifically to suppress the influence of Special Interest Groups and have closer alignment between geographic areas and a single city council member. The city will be carved up into districts each represented by a single council member. Since all theater practitioners don’t live in the same geographic area we potentially would have a harder time garnering support for theater related legislation.

Four Choices

So there are really 4 choices on the ballot with regards to single member districts:

  1. Vote no to single member districts (No on Prop 3 and Prop 4)
  2. Vote yes for only geographic representation (Yes on Prop 3)
  3. Vote yes for a hybrid of geographic and at-large representation (Yes on Prop 4)
  4. Vote yes for any form of geographic representation (Yes on Prop 3 and Prop 4)

I can see why people would chose to go with voting no to both. As theater artists we stand to lose our collective power under a geographic representation system, but geographic representation has the potential to provide more engagement between city council and some of the less represented parts of town. So I’m a bit torn on this issue.

I cannot advocate for voting yes on Prop 3. Prop 3 carves Austin up into 10 districts, each of which votes for 1 council member. There is only one council member we’d all vote for – the Mayor. While this is being sold as a populist solution it would make mobilizing theater advocacy very difficult and we’d potentially have to have 10 advocacy groups in each geographic region (or more likely we’d need 5 and then work to get the mayor on our side).

I think ultimately if you’re going to vote for geographic representation, I’d recommend Prop 4. Prop 4 is a hybrid system with 8-2-1. That is 8 geographic representatives, 2 at-large representatives, and the mayor. We’d all vote for the 2 at-large council members and the mayor, plus our geographic representative. That would mean that it would be fairly easy to get a coalition of at least the 2 at-large council members, the mayor and we’d only need to get 3 geographic regions on board.

Voting Yes on Prop 3 and Prop 4 will mean your vote will count towards both, and whichever gets the most votes will be implemented.

I’d love to hear your comments and reasoning. This issue is complex and I can’t say my mind is solidly made up.

Prop 18

Prop 18 potentially includes money to replace the Daugherty Arts Center. So this one is very important for all theater artists to get out and vote for. In pretty much every survey they do The Creative Alliance gets lack of rehearsal space as one of the biggest challenges for theater companies in town. Very rarely do we get the chance to vote on something that so directly addresses our pain point as artists.

So get out and vote!