On May 1, Austin, Texas voters will decide eight ballot measures. All but one, Proposition C, were put on the ballot through initiative signature petition drives.
Proposition A was sponsored by the Austin Firefighters Association, Local 975. The measure would amend the city’s charter to require the city and firefighters association to participate in binding arbitration when an agreement cannot be reached through collective bargaining regarding working conditions. The union is set to begin the negotiation process with the city for a new contract in the spring of 2022.
Proposition B was sponsored by Save Austin Now, a bi-partisan PAC founded by Cleo Petricek (D) and Matt Mackowiak, chairman of the Travis County GOP. The measure would make it a criminal offense for anyone to sit, lie down, or camp in public areas and prohibit the solicitation of money or other things of value at specific hours and locations. The measure is in response to a 2019 unanimous vote by the Austin City Council to repeal an ordinance that prohibited sitting, lying, or panhandling in the downtown area. The city council also voted 9-2 to prohibit camping in public areas under certain circumstances.
Save Austin Now campaign said on their website, “Incompetent policy has encouraged aggressive public camping and panhandling that creates unsafe living conditions on the streets and unsafe streets for everyone else.” The measure is opposed by Homes Not Handcuffs. The Homes Not Handcuffs campaign said, “These laws also make the underlying problems that cause homelessness worse. People wrack up fines and fees that they cannot pay. They are saddled with criminal records, making it more difficult to get housing and employment.”
Proposition C was referred to the ballot in a 10-1 vote of the Austin City Council with Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly opposing the measure. Proposition C would amend the city’s charter to authorize the city council to determine how the director of the Office of Police Oversight is appointed or removed through a city ordinance. Currently, the director of the Office of Police Oversight is appointed by the city manager. Council Member Gregorio Casar, a sponsor of the amendment, said, “If we want police accountability, then we need our police oversight office to be as independent as possible. In other cities, the Office of Police Oversight is independently appointed or is overseen by a civilian board, but right now our options as a city are limited. By making this proposed charter change in May, the community and city council have the opportunity to create more transparency and accountability of our police department in the future.”
Austinites for Progressive Reform sponsored five initiatives related to elections and local governance:
- Proposition D would align mayoral elections with presidential election years instead of gubernatorial elections years beginning in 2024.
- Proposition E would enact ranked-choice voting provided state law allows it.
- Proposition F would change city governance from a council-manager system to a mayor-council system.
- Proposition G would add an additional city council district, thereby increasing the total number of city council members from 10 to 11.
- Proposition H would adopt a public campaign finance program that provides $25 vouchers to registered voters to contribute to campaigns of qualifying candidates.
Austinites for Progressive Reform said, “Our goal is to amend Austin’s city charter to enact proven campaign finance reforms, election reforms, and governance reforms. By doing so, we will increase political participation, increase voter turnout, and make sure our city works for everybody.”
The last day to register to vote in the election is April 1. Early voting begins on April 19 and runs through April 27. On election day, the polls will be open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.
- Austin, Texas, Proposition A, Binding Arbitration for Firefighters Association Initiative (May 2021)
- Austin, Texas, Proposition B, Prohibition on Sitting, Lying, and Camping and Limiting Solicitation in Public Areas Initiative (May 2021)
- Austin, Texas, Proposition C, Appointed Director of Police Oversight Amendment (May 2021)
- Austin, Texas, Proposition D, Change Mayoral Elections to Coincide with Presidential Election Years Initiative (May 2021)
- Austin, Texas, Proposition E, Ranked Choice Voting Initiative (May 2021)
- Austin, Texas, Proposition F, Eliminate City Manager and Establish Mayor-Council Government Initiative (May 2021)
- Austin, Texas, Proposition G, Addition of City Council District Initiative (May 2021)
- Austin, Texas, Proposition H, Funding for Public Campaign Finance Program (May 2021)