ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Since Abilene’s establishment in 1881, the T&P Railway has been a central line for development. Historically, that railroad track has been used as a dividing point for city affairs, including residence requirements for city council candidates.
“The city charter states…Three have to live north of the railroad tracks, three have to live south of the railroad tracks. The mayor is at large,” explained Abilene City Manager, Robert Hanna.
That law was voted into the charter back in 1962. Since then, the city population has grown from 90,000 to upwards of 120,000, and the population distribution has not stayed equal down that central line.
“We have so much of our population south of the railroad tracks that it would be more equitable for the citizens, and for those wanting to run for office, to have a little bit more of an option,” Abilene Councilmember, Kyle McAlister said.
This proposal was put up for discussion at the City Council retreat on March 2. You can follow this link to watch the meeting in its entirety. No formal action was put forward or taken, but the council said it will move forward with gathering data to further develop the idea.
Mayor Anthony Williams said census data would support moving that line to South 14th Street.
“If south 14th was the border, there was still a little imbalance, but it’s very, very slight and almost even,” expanded Mayor Williams, on the pro side of the issue.
Residents KTAB/KRBC spoke with on both sides of the divide said they’d be in favor of such a shift.
“I do think that this would be a valuable and fair thing for all of us,” North Abilene resident, Kimberly Bewly said.
On the south side, Sandra Lopez told KTAB/KRBC, “I can see what they’re looking at and how it would be beneficial for both sides.”
The proposal is all just conversation for now. Any action to change the city charter would require an official vote.