Group looking to reinstate camping ban sues the City of Austin

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The group Save Austin Now is suing the City of Austin after it says the city clerk rejected a large number of signatures on the group’s petition to help reinstate the camping ban.

Last year, the city passed an ordinance that largely decriminalized sitting, laying or camping in public places, which went into effect July 2019. Supporters of the change have previously said it would help those experiencing homelessness break the cycle.

Save Austin Now worked to put together a petition to reinstate the ban, the lawsuit said, which upon getting 20,000 signatures, must either be approved by Austin City Council or brought in front of voters to make a decision.

The group exceeded that 20,000-signature threshold, ultimately submitting 24,598 signatures to the city clerk on July 20, according to the lawsuit. But on Aug. 5, less than two weeks before the deadline to have the ordinance appear on the November ballot, the city clerk’s office said the petition fell short by an estimated 900 signatures.

A City of Austin spokesperson explained to KXAN that there’s a tedious verification process involved to make sure the signatures included are valid. The spokesperson said the city is confident in the city clerk’s work on the petition.

“The City of Austin follows well known State law and City requirements for all citizen initiatives—regardless of the subject matter. Signature validation is a legal requirement that the City Clerk must undertake with every petition. It is important and time consuming work, and the Clerk is careful to ensure that everyone involved follows all necessary protocols,” the spokesperson’s statement said. “We are confident in the integrity of the process the Clerk followed, and are frankly disappointed to have received this lawsuit after the election, and just over 15 weeks after the end of the signature validation process.”

Save Austin Now is suing for $100,000, the lawsuit said.

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