May 1 Special Election Results: First Five Win, Last Three Lose

$1 million buys camping ban; strong-mayor couldn't be weaker

Photo by Jana Birchum

The folks behind Proposition B, the citizen initiative to re-criminalize public camping in Downtown Austin and near the UT Campus, got the victory they sought for the more than $1 million they spent. With all votes counted Saturday night, the measure backed by Save Austin Now prevailed by 14 points, 57.1%-42.9%.

That's a slightly weaker showing than was predicted before polls closed by SAN co-founder Matt Mackowiak, also chair of the Travis County Republican Party, but a win's a win:

Those who have been paying attention will note that Mayor Steve Adler and much of Council have already decided that the June 2019 vote that Prop B reverses was a failed experiment, and have moved on to other strategies to house Austin's unsheltered poor. Perhaps SAN will catch up soon. Whatever its merits as policy, the campaign for Prop B did almost certainly boost turnout, which all told was 22.55% countywide (just under 90% of that was city voters). That's the highest Austin's seen in a May election since 1994.

Even CM Greg Casar, the politician most directly rebuked by tonight's results, is looking ahead: "I do not believe Austin is as divided as this election makes it seem. The overwhelming majority of Austinites share a common goal, no matter how folks voted on Prop B. We all want to get people out of tents and into homes," Casar said in a statement. "Our community must come together after this election & house 3,000 more people."

There will be no moving on, it would appear, for Austinites for Progressive Reform, whose marquee proposal to replace Austin's council-manager city government with a "strong mayor" system, Proposition F, lost by more than 70 points. The two APR charter amendments that followed on the ballot, Props G (adding a Council district) and H ("Democracy Dollars") did a little better, each losing by 13 points, while the group's other two proposals came up winners (Prop E by 17% and Prop D by 33%). So whoever's elected mayor in 2022 will only serve 2 years before the date shifts to the presidential cycle, and there could possibly be ranked-choice voting in that election to replace a December runoff.

One Central Austin voter had these thoughts:

Those same voters, once they were done sternly rebuking, did a 180 to deliver big progressive wins to wrap up the ballot.The Austin Firefighters Association scored a 4-to-1 victory for Proposition A,while a 63%-37% win for Proposition C opens the door for more power and independence for the Office of Police Oversight..

PROPOSITION A: Firefighters' contract arbitration

FOR: 119,369 (81.2%) * AGAINST: 27,685 (18.8%)

PROPOSITION B: Restoring partial ban on public camping, etc.

FOR: 85,830 (57.1%) * AGAINST: 64,409 (42.9%)

PROPOSITION C: Office of Police Oversight

FOR: 93,655 (63.4%) * AGAINST: 54,192 (36.6%)

PROPOSITION D: Moving mayoral election date

FOR: 98,540 (66.9%) * AGAINST: 48,742 (33.1%)

PROPOSITION E: Ranked choice voting

FOR: 84,826 (58.5%) * AGAINST: 60,048 (41.5%)

PROPOSITION F: Mayor-council system ("strong mayor")

FOR: 20,801 (14.1%) * AGAINST: 126,847 (85.9%)

PROPOSITION G: 11th Council district

FOR: 62,702 (43.4%) * AGAINST: 81,722 (56.6%)

PROPOSITION H: Public campaign financing ("Democracy Dollars")

FOR: 63,809 (43.4%) * AGAINST: 83,092 (56.6%)

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May 2021 Special Election, Proposition B, Save Austin Now, Matt Mackowiak, Greg Casar, Greg Abbott, Proposition F, strong mayor, camping ban

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