Interview with Sara Inés Calderón: Independent Citizens Redistricting Commissioner

Interview with Sara Inés Calderón: Independent Citizens Redistricting Commissioner

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Austin has a process for residents to redraw the boundaries of the council districts every ten years. The boundaries of the council districts greatly impact Austin’s government, including our 10 Councilmembers and Mayor, and will shape how residents are represented for the next decade.

It’s time for Austin residents to redraw the council district boundaries, so ATA is chatting with the Austin residents on the Commission that have the responsibility of drawing the district boundaries through an open and impartial process.

Up first: Sara Inés Calderón

What inspired you to apply for a Commissioner position with the ICRC and what inspires your desire to be involved in local politics?

I was inspired by all of the folks protesting against the murder of George Floyd and for Black
Lives Matter. I was sitting at home, working my cush software job and realized that I wasn’t
really giving back to my community to the fullest extent I could be. I saw the note about the
redistricting commission on Instagram and sent in my application.

Representation is important, and it matters, and so I wanted to do some volunteering that would
help my community. Luckily, I was chosen by the Commission and I’m very excited about the
work we’re doing.

What are your general priorities for this upcoming redistricting session?

The ICRC’s biggest priority at the moment is seeking public feedback. Due to the quick
turnaround required of us once we incorporate the 2020 Census data (August/September), our
primary goal at the moment is to get as much public input as possible. This includes things like,
what pieces of your district should stay in the boundaries, or shouldn’t or should be
incorporated.

Once we have Census data, we can utilize public feedback to inform the drawing or redrawing
of City Council districts, at which time we will have another round of public feedback sessions.
For the most up-to-date information, check out our Facebook Events page:
https://www.facebook.com/pg/AustinRedistric/events. We also have Instagram and Twitter,
where we work hard to ensure there’s the latest information about our public forums, meetings
and general work.

What do you believe are the biggest issues the people of Austin are facing right now, and how do you think redistricting can help or hurt?

The biggest issue I’ve encountered from folks I know in town is housing affordability. For my
former apartment neighbors, it’s that they’ll never be able to buy a home. For my professional
friends, it’s that they’ll never be able to buy a home. For folks I know who own homes, it’s that if
they ever leave they’ll never be able to come back.

I think redistricting is an important element in ensuring that housing affordability is something
that is continually relevant and discussed in City proceedings. If districts exist where these issues are of concern to elected officials, then they’ll be part and parcel of city discussions;
otherwise folks will be suffering in silence.

What do you think is the best way Austinites to get involved in local politics?

The short version is — it depends.
Depending on what is important or of interest to you, there are a variety of ways folks can get
involved. If you’re passionate about green spaces, housing, transportation or anything else,
there are places you can get involved. I would suggest picking one thing that’s really important
to you, and then looking up organizations related to that thing, or you can even reach out to your
City Council district and ask them for help in how you can get involved.
Once you start with one organization, you’ll most likely meet other folks or come across other
organizations and encounter more options.

How can technology help Austin return to more normalcy?
Currently, one of the ways the ICRC is hoping to utilize technology is by providing virtual forums
and holding virtual meetings, as well as sharing as much information as possible on our social
media channels so that folks can be in the loop on redistricting without having to stress out
about Stage 4 COVID restrictions. We’ve had a lot of feedback from community members
specifically asking for virtual options, and we have been planning to have at least one virtual
form, if not more. That said, if anyone would like to share their feedback about redistricting they
can reach the Commission here: icrc.commissioners@austintexas.gov.

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