SOS: The Amendment That Didn't Bark

SOS slow to submit paired "open government" petitions to city

Save Our Springs Alliance, first among equals in the environmental coalition hoping to revise the city charter in the May election, submitted its petitions Monday supporting the Save Our Springs amendment. If adopted by voters, the charter revision would enact stricter and more enforceable restrictions on development over the Edwards Aquifer and the Barton Springs watershed. Once the city clerk verifies the petitions contain at least 20,000 signatures of registered voters, the amendment will be forwarded to City Council in time to be confirmed for appearance on May's municipal ballot.

SOS and the other environmental groups supporting the amendment say it is necessary to protect the aquifer and the watershed from explosive commercial development, represented currently by the decision of AMD to move its major Austin facility to the Lantana tract on Southwest Parkway, in the contributing zone to the Barton Springs watershed. Groups opposed to the amendment are also mobilizing, charging that it will mean economic damage to the city and continuous lawsuits by property owners and developers over development rights and conflict with state law – an argument that will ensue at megaphone volume over the next two months.

Curiously, at press time SOS had not yet submitted its paired "open government" petitions (the petition effort is called "Clean Water Clean Government"), although SOS Director Bill Bunch said Monday he expected it would be filed in the next few days, pending ongoing discussions with City Council members and city administrators, who want to recommend revisions that would make the amendment more acceptable (among other issues, the city claims it would cost $36 million to create and monitor the real-time online computer system the amendment mandates).

Therein lies another tale. Last week Jo Clifton, editor of online political newsletter In Fact Daily, reported she was physically barred from a city hall meeting between SOS petitioners (among them Bunch, petition consultant Glen Maxey, and the ACLU's Kathy Mitchell) and City Manager Toby Futrell and Council Member Lee Leffingwell. "I tried to follow them into [City Clerk Shirley Brown's] office," said Clifton later. "Toby said I couldn't come in. And when they saw me standing outside the door, they moved the whole meeting down to the end of the hall to a room without windows. I was a little annoyed."

To Clifton, the episode suggested that the petitioners' commitment to "open government" is conditional at best. Although it was city administrators who explicitly barred her from the meeting, she said, Bunch and the others "didn't say anything. They say they want open government – they only want it when it suits them. As a reporter, I represent everybody. … Then they come out of the meeting, and all they say is 'no comment.'"

Asked about the incident later, Bunch said, "We didn't keep her out of the meeting. The city did that. I would have been happy to have her there."

Got something to say on the subject? Send a letter to the editor.

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Headlines and happenings from Austin and beyond

    City Cuts Scofflaw Cafe No slack

    South Congress Cafe appeals unsuccessfully for code variances for illegal deck and patio

    Sayonara Shoal Creek Frankencurbs

    City hands down death sentence to street's controversial curb islands
  • NASA Joke Has Aggie Punchline

    It takes a real Aggie to spot an Aggie wannabe

    Tree Flakes?

    Recent Austin tree spats are symptoms of our need for a coordinated plan to manage the urban forest

    Birdshot Blunders

    White House turns what could have been a forgivable hunting accident into suspicious cover-up, replete with excuses, denials, and, of course, no apologies

    Education Irony

    Texas Education Agency gives $10 million to schools slated for closure in AISD repurposing plan

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle