‘Strong mayor’ system fails, voters decide against adding another city council district

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin voters decided not to change the city’s government structure Saturday.

Proposition F failed. It aimed to change Austin’s city government to a “strong mayor” system, which would have dissolved or reduced the city manager position and pass on the powers to the mayor.

See election results below:

Currently, Austin has a manager-council form of government, where the non-elected city manager has the most power. If Proposition F would have passed, the mayor would have received veto powers, overseen the city budget and appointed department heads.  

Austinites for Progressive Reform believes a strong mayor can more efficiently and swiftly respond to the needs of the community while being held accountable by voters and brought the proposition to city hall with 24,000 signatures. Nearly every member of the Austin City Council publicly opposed Proposition F. 

Under a strong mayor structure, the police chief would be hired without say from the city council or city manager, who’s currently in charge of hiring and firing department heads. The Austin chapter of the NAACP supports the measure and believes it will bring checks and balances to the city council, as well as increasing democracy for all.

Voters also shut down Proposition G, which would’ve added another geographic City Council district, resulting in 11 council members elected from single-member districts. The added district is based on updated data from the latest census reflecting Austin’s growing population.

See election results below:

If Prop G would’ve passed, City Council would’ve wound up with an even number of members, leaving the potential for tied votes, longer meetings and gridlock.

The added district would have come with an operating cost of $518,103 with $125,000 in one-time capital costs, according to a memo from city staff.

Austinites for Progressive Reform put forth these propositions as part of a package that also includes changing what year people vote for Austin’s mayor and giving each voter “Democracy Dollar” vouchers to put toward their preferred candidates. The group says Austinites should consider Propositions D-H together as a comprehensive expansion to voter participation and accountability.

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