PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) — Voters in Pflugerville approved changes this week aimed at making the language in the city charter more inclusive.
City leaders placed 13 charter amendments on the ballot Tuesday. Those proposals included Proposition D, which would ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as Proposition E, which would change the charter language to include gender-neutral wording. Both measures passed, one by an overwhelming margin.
The election results showed that 70% of the ballots cast favored Prop. D, which amounted to 2,540 votes, while 30% (1,087 votes) opposed the change. Meanwhile, Prop. E passed by a closer margin — 52% (3,175 votes) for, 48% (2,928) against.
These two measures made it onto the ballot after recommendations from the city’s Charter Review Committee. City Council members select residents every five years to join this committee, which then reviews and suggests changes to Pflugerville’s Home Rule Charter — the legal governing document that lays out the organization, powers, function and essential procedures of the city’s government. This year Jim McDonald led the committee and talked to KXAN Thursday about why the group recommended these particular charter amendments.
“However you look at the demographics of Pflugerville, we’re a very diverse community,” McDonald said, “and I think our community embraces that diversity and is stronger for it.”
McDonald explained these changes are an extension of work done by the previous Charter Review Committee. For instance, he said that group worked to address more antiquated, gender-specific descriptions of certain positions written into the charter, like changing the title of “councilman” to “councilmember.”
He said the latest committee members voted unanimously to be intentional this time and add sexual orientation and gender identity to the nondiscrimination provision. The language in the charter previously read, “The city shall not discriminate in the provision of and access to city facilities, programs, and services because of a person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability.”
“There’s evolving changes in terms of how we perceive ourselves and how we we view ourselves, and we just wanted to make sure as a body that that we put that forward to the voters,” McDonald said. “I think. overwhelmingly, we had great support for that amendment, and I think that’s indicative of the diversity here in Pflugerville and that our community embraces that.”
The passage of Prop E, McDonald explained, means that the city charter will now include the gender-neutral pronouns they/them. This is specifically because the review committee identified places in the charter to clean up the language that he said promoted gender stereotypes, like listing the mayor as male, the city secretary as female and city manager as male. He pointed out Pflugerville currently has a female city manager, Sereniah Breland.
“We have an amazing female city manager, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that we’ll have a female mayor or a male city secretary,” McDonald said. “There were a few items that were overlooked five years ago — just in terms of the search and replace of some hers and shes and hises — and those were all replaced to take away any sort of implicit perceptions or implicit biases that might be there.”
Voters ended up approving all 13 charter amendments that made it to Tuesday’s ballot. However, McDonald said the passage of Props D and E in particular will hopefully send a message to people about what kind of community Pflugerville is.
“There’s a reason why we’re one of the fastest growing cities in Texas, and even in the entire country, and that’s because of our welcoming nature [and] because of our quality of life,” he said. “We recognize there’s more that brings us together than separates us. Too often, I think we focus on those minute differences and try to fight each other with that. Here in Pflugerville, we like to send a message that we celebrate those differences and are stronger because of them.”
During Tuesday’s election, McDonald also won a seat on the Pflugerville City Council — capturing 53% of the vote and defeating incumbent Mike Heath. He said his priorities will focus on addressing challenges with growth, like infrastructure, as well as bringing more jobs to the city so that people won’t have to commute as much.
Austin & Travis County policies
The City of Austin includes protections for the LGBTQ community in its city code by preventing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and other areas. KXAN is working to find out when that became part of the regulations.
This summer, Travis County leaders approved a resolution to fly the rainbow Progress Pride flag outside county buildings for the first time. As part of that resolution, county staff members will work to develop a policy that bans contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or veteran status.