The Austin Chronicle

Meet the People Behind the Props With the Chronicle’s Virtual Election Forums

VIDEO: Local campaigns join News Editor Mike Clark-Madison to discuss what they’re supporting – or opposing – on the May 1 ballot

April 9, 2021, News

With every election cycle, the Chronicle News team and editorial board take seriously the trust our readers have given us to navigate the issues and make our recommendations for who and what deserves your vote. This year, we've added opportunities for you to see and hear firsthand from the people behind the propositions on the May 1 special election ballot. Chronicle News Editor Mike Clark-Madison conducted three virtual election forums, focusing on Proposition B – the citizen initiative to restore Austin's prohibitions on public camping, panhandling, and other activities of homelessness – and on the suite of "democracy promotion" measures placed on the ballot by Austinites for Progressive Reform.

• Of these, Proposition F – which would create a "strong mayor" system in which the elected mayor would replace the appointed city manager as Austin's chief executive – has garnered most of the attention, both pro and con. So it got its own forum, with APR founder Andrew Allison and Austin NAACP President Nelson Linder squaring up against Emily Timm of By the People ATX and Nico Ramsey of Austin for All People, the two campaigns being waged against the measure.

• Allison and APR campaign manager Jim Wick also joined Clark-Madison to discuss the group's other proposals to change the timing of mayoral elections, expand the size of City Council, replace run-offs with ranked choice voting, and create public financing of Council campaigns with a "Democracy Dollars" program.

• For Prop B, Save Austin Now co- founder Cleo Petricek and Homes Not Handcuffs' Chris Harris debated the controversial camping ban and the city's broader policies to address homelessness.

You can also listen to forums on KOOP-FM, which will be broadcasting them on Tuesday, April 13. We'll have our endorsements and more election coverage in the April 16 issue; early voting begins April 19.

What’s on the Ballot?

Seven of the eight propositions (all except Prop B) would amend the Austin City Charter, which can only be amended by election every two years – a state law provision that, by a matter of days, made the APR amendments (Props D-H) ineligible for the November 2020 ballot. Save Austin Now had submitted Prop B for the November 2020 ballot but fell short of the required number of signatures from Austin voters; it succeeded on its second try. Find info on vote-by-mail and early voting here.

Prop A: Charter amendment allowing the Austin Fire­fighters Association to force the city into binding arbitration if they reach an impasse in collective bargaining.

Prop B: Code amendment prohibiting public camping, in addition to sitting or lying down on a public sidewalk or sleeping outdoors in and near Downtown and the UT-Austin area.

Prop C: Charter amendment permitting City Council to appoint or remove the director of the Office of Police Oversight.

Prop D: Charter amendment moving Austin's mayoral election to presidential election years.

Prop E: Charter amendment creating ranked-choice voting for city elections. If passed, voters would rank candidates instead of voting for just one candidate.

Prop F: Charter amendment changing Austin's form of government from "council-manager" to "mayor-council," also known as "strong mayor." If passed, this would eliminate the city manager position; the mayor would not have a vote on Council but would have the authority to veto Council decisions.

Prop G: Charter amendment creating an 11th City Council district. Because the mayor would be rendered a non-voting member of Council if Prop F passed, an 11th single-member district was included by APR in its proposed text for Prop F, in an effort to avoid potential 5-5 deadlocks on Council. However, because Prop G is a standalone proposition, it is not dependent on Prop F's passage or failure, so we could wind up with 12 Council Members.

Prop H: Charter amendment creating a so-called "Democracy Dollars" public campaign finance program that, if passed, would provide up to two $25 vouchers to every registered voter who could then contribute them to candidates for city office.

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