• 126 pages
  • 6 x 9
  • 9 tables, 5 figures, 1 halftone, 1 map
  • Price: $19.95
  • EAN: 9781439920008
  • Publication: Jul 2020
  • Price: $55.50
  • EAN: 9781439919996
  • Publication: Jul 2020
  • Price: $19.95
  • EAN: 9781439920015
  • Publication: Jul 2020

Reinventing the Austin City Council

Ann O'M. Bowman

Until recently, Austin, the progressive, politically liberal capital of Texas, elected its city council using a not-so-progressive system. Candidates competed citywide for seats, and voters could cast ballots for as many candidates as there were seats up for election. However, this approach disadvantages the representation of geographically-concentrated minority groups, thereby—among other things—preventing the benefits of growth from reaching all of the city’s communities.

Reinventing the Austin City Council explores the puzzle that was Austin’s reluctance to alter its at-large system and establish a geographically-based, single-member district system. Ann Bowman chronicles the repeated attempts to change the system, the eventual decision to do so, and the consequences of that change. In the process, she explores the many twists and turns that occurred in Austin as it struggled to design a fair system of representation. Reinventing the Austin City Council assesses the impact of the new district system since its inception in 2014.

Austin’s experience ultimately offers a political lesson for creating institutional change.


This is a deeply researched yet readable analysis of Austin’s shift in city council composition. Austinites will recognize the players and positions, but the interested reader will find much to ponder as well. The impact of Austin’s new governance structure is still evolving—and this book is essential for understanding it.
Annise Parker, former Mayor of Houston

“Reinventing the Austin City Council is a welcome addition to a literature that generally focuses on the consequences of city council representation systems as opposed to their adoption. This brief but powerful text focuses on Austin’s struggle to move from at-large to district elections. In it, Bowman expertly weaves together historical narrative and political science research to explain the roles that activists, elected officials, and voters played in producing institutional change. It is a must-read for students of urban politics.
Timothy B. Krebs, Professor of Political Science, University of New Mexico

About the Author(s)

Ann O’M. Bowman is a Professor of Government in the Department of Public Service and Administration in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and holds the Hazel Davis and Robert Kennedy Endowed Chair. She is the coauthor of several books including State and Local Government and Terra Incognita: Vacant Land and Urban Strategies.

In the Series

Political Lessons from American Cities

The Political Lessons from American Cities series, edited by Richardson Dilworth, will publish short books of approximately 25,000-30,000 words, each covering one major American city and an important lesson that city has to offer to the study and practice of American politics. These lessons will span a relatively broad range of topics, encompassing globalization, labor, race relations, immigration, financial crisis and decline, organizational structure of government, political reform, and more. Combining synthesis and original research, these short, accessibly written books will be particularly useful for course adoption. 

Prospective authors should contact series editor Richardson Dilworth or Editor-in-Chief Aaron Javsicas at Temple University Press to discuss their work in progress for inclusion in the series.