Austin’s May ballot features 8 propositions including camping ban, strong mayor, new council district

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin voters will have a lot to decide on this May. There are eight propositions up for a vote ranging from reinstating the camping ban that would affect those experiencing homelessness to changing the way the city government operates.

Here’s a breakdown of all eight propositions heading before voters this May.

Proposition A

This would give the Austin Firefighters Association the ability to require the City to participate in binding arbitration of all issues in dispute with the association, if the City and association reach impasse in collective bargaining negotiations.

Proposition B

This would reinstate Austin’s public camping ban. The proposition would criminalize and create a penalty for those sitting or lying down on a public sidewalk or sleeping outdoors in and near the downtown and University of Texas areas. Another penalty would be created for those camping in a public area not designated by the Austin Parks and Recreation Department.

Additionally, solicitation, or requesting money at specific hours and spots in an aggressive way, will also be criminalized.

Proposition C

This would allow city council to provide for a director of police oversight who shall be appointed and removed as outlined by future ordinance. Duties would include ensuring transparency and accountability in the Austin Police Department’s policing.

Proposition D

This is a city charter amendment regarding changes to the dates of mayoral elections. This amendment would change mayoral elections from falling in gubernatorial election years to presidential election years, providing the mayor elected in 2022 will serve just a two-year term. Mayoral elections would then start on the same date as presidential elections in 2024.RELATED: New PAC pushing for Austin to adopt a strong-mayor government and election reforms 

Proposition E

This city charter amendment would allow for use of ranked choice voting in city elections, if it is permitted by state law.

Proposition F

This city charter amendment would change the city’s government from ‘council-manager’ to ‘strong mayor-council.’ This would eliminate the role of professional city manager and designate the mayor as the chief administrative and executive officer of the city with veto power over all legislation, including the budget.

It would also give the elected mayor authority to hire and fire most department heads and direct staff. There would also not be articulated or stated charter authority to require the mayor to implement council decisions.

Proposition G

This city charter amendment would add another geographic council district, which would result in 11 council members elected from single-member districts.

Those who support Proposition G said the extra council seat would mean more representation in an ever-growing city, but some city leaders worry that it could potentially create delays in getting things done.

At present, there are 10 city council members representing Austin with Mayor Steve Adler serving as the 11th vote — creating an odd number of votes and preventing the chances of a tie.

However, If Prop G passes, and the current system remains the same with the mayor able to vote, then the Austin city council would end up with 12 votes, an even number with ties possible.

Prop F could have an impact on the council district proposition. The “strong mayor-council” plan would become its own entity and no longer vote alongside the council members. If Prop F and Prop G both pass, the city council would have 11 votes — eliminating the tie.

However, if Prop F fails and Prop G passes, council once again faces a potential gridlock as they would end up with 12 votes on council matters.

Another outcome, if Prop G fails and Prop F passes, it would leave the city with 10 city council districts — again an even number. Nonetheless, District 4 Council Member Greg Casar said he supports Prop G because the city needs more representation.

“We can improve I think local democracy and create more opportunities for representation for some less represented groups such as Asian-American Austinites, and Black Austinites by adding another district or two,” Casar said. “If we wind up in the challenging situation with an even number of council votes then we can come back and fix it in two years.”

Casar had initially proposed adding another proposition to the ballot, Prop I, in an effort to avoid ending up with an even number of council districts, but it did not get the support it needed to go on the ballot.

“I believe without a Proposition I, reduced voters’ choice around how many districts voters want to have. That’s frustrating but it was hard, and I understand why we wound up, where we wound up so I think now it is now on the community to hold the city council to fix it if we wind up with an even number of districts,” Casar explained.

Some council members have expressed they do not support Prop G if it puts them in a situation where votes could end up in a tie.

“At the end of the day, yeah you could say, ‘I am for this if this other thing happens,’ but it’s all happening on the same day so there’s no way to know and again we got put in this challenging situation and I think there was a pathway out but how grueling and long these council meetings are I think in part led to the ballot being this way,” Casar added. “I wish and hope that in the future we work really hard to make sure that the voters have really clear choices in front of them.”

Proposition H

This city charter amendment would allow for the adoption of a public campaign finance program, which would require the city clerk to provide up to two $25 vouchers to every registered voter, who may choose to contribute them to candidates running for city office who meet the program requirements.

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