City council redistricting won't do much for students

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In November, voters will choose 10 city council members, one from each of the geographical districts shown in this map.
In November, voters will choose 10 city council members, one from each of the geographical districts shown in this map.

On August 18, the Austin City Council released the 78-person list of hopeful Austinites running for mayor and 10 council positions. District 9, the district encompassing the majority of campus as well as neighborhoods where the population is primarily students, is the only district with any incumbents running. In fact, incumbents make up two of the three candidates. The third candidate, Erin McGann, does not appear likely to win at this point, if the first round of three planned financial reports — and in the case of a run-off, one additional report — are any indication, although it is possible that she raised a significant amount of money shortly after the first deadline to file financial reports, which was July 15. This seems unlikely, though, partly because of her lack of name recognition when compared to the two other candidates, councilman Chris Riley and councilwoman Kathie Tovo. The Daily Texan Editorial Board plans to interview all three candidates at our earliest convenience.

The fact that, come January, the only council member who knows all the ropes of the city council will likely be charged with representing the student population may sound appealing at first, but while these incumbents might have a better idea of what students care about than do people brand new to the council, this by no means indicates that they will work to ensure students' interests are represented. Obviously, I would love to see the council consider students more in their decisions, but from a political standpoint, why should they? College-aged people don't really vote at any significant rate, and students are such a transient population that although the candidates have said they will work to represent students' interests, we don't know who will hold the District 9 representative accountable in the long run. Students don't stick around for long, and while people who work at universities, such as councilman Bill Spelman, an LBJ School of Public Affairs professor, may prioritize students' interests, we can't simply rely on non-students to voice our concerns.