AUSTIN (KXAN) — Five propositions on the May 1 municipal ballot would overhaul the structure of government and electoral process in Austin.
The group Austinites for Progressive Reform is behind the bundle of proposals, most notably Proposition F, which would replace the city manager with an elected “strong mayor” as the city’s chief executive.
But the group says Propositions D-H should be considered together as a comprehensive expansion of accountability and voter participation.
“This is about democracy, it’s about expanding our government to have more people participate in who we elect,” said Nelson Linder, co-chair of Austinites for Progressive Reform.
ELECTIONS: Propositions D, E, H
Proposition D would move mayoral elections from gubernatorial election years to presidential election years when voter participation is greater.
Proposition E would replace the two-round runoff election structure with ranked-choice voting, which would require a change to state law. Austinites for Progressive Reform argue that a single election will save taxpayer money and ensure greater turnout.
Every registered voter would receive up to two $25 vouchers to contribute to city political campaigns if Proposition H is approved. City staff estimated that so-called democracy dollars would cost taxpayers $2.3 million annually.
“These are all proposals and they’re all complementary,” Linder said. “If you understand democracy dollars, for example; if you understand ranked-choice voting; these are clearly power-sharing avenues. They make it more inclusive. For example, many people right now don’t contribute financially in our districts.”
GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE: Propositions F, G
Proposition F — the most contested proposal put forward by Austinites for Progressive Reform — would replace the city manager with an elected “strong mayor” as the city’s chief executive.
Austin For All People formed solely to oppose the strong-mayor proposal. Nearly every member of the Austin City Council has publicly opposed Proposition F. Council Member Paige Ellis said she would not be taking a position on the proposal.
Proposition F would give the mayor veto power over all city council decisions and the responsibility to appoint most department leaders.
“I recognize that all systems are inherently flawed and are not perfect, but I cannot support a change that would weaken the voices like mine providing district-level representation,” Council member Vanessa Fuentes said during a press conference.
Proposition G would add another geographic council district, which would result in 11 council members elected from single-member districts. The added district would come with an operating cost of $518,103 with $125,000 in one-time capital costs, according to a memo from city staff.