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Report: Austin Mayor Steve Adler says camping ban 'is not working'

Amid the possibilities that Austin voters could reinstate the city's camping ban and the implementation of a statewide ban, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the current plan is failing.

Austin City Council repealed the camping ban in 2019, after advocates said it criminalized homelessness. Adler told the Austin American-Statesman on Thursday that the approach "is not working," but added that going back to the previous ban also didn't address the city's homelessness issues.


Save Austin Now, a local campaign led by Travis County GOP Chairman Matt Mackowiak, submitted more than 24,000 signatures to the city clerk's office on Tuesday in support of a petition to reinstate the camping ban. If validated, it will be included on the May 1 ballot, where Austin voted will determine the ban's fate.

The group previously attempted to get the same petition included on the Nov. 3 ballot, but the city clerk ruled their submissions were invalid due to duplicate signatures and other problems.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been a vocal critic of the City Council's decision to overturn the camping ban, said he will soon announce a statewide plan to address homeslessness, including a ban on public camping, during a press conference on Thursday.

Abbott called Austin "the front door for the state of Texas" and said such a ban is important for the city's appeal to visitors.

Austin City Council overturned the city's ban on public sitting, panhandling, lying and camping in August 2019. Although a majority of council members and many advocates supported the decision, it prompted intense pushback. Local business owners, the Austin Police Association and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott criticized the decision,which they said risked public health and safety.

Council members revisited the issue in late 2019 and voted to limit where camping is allowed, banning it from sidewalks, near houses and homeless shelters, and outside of businesses during operating hours.

But the policy has maintained its lightning rod status.

Windsor Park resident and former Libertarian candidate for the Texas House Kevin Ludlow posted a video showing the homeless encampment behind his home last August, where it was viewed tens of thousands of times. Although the city sent a crew to clean it up, Ludlow said it as only a short-term fix.

More recently, former Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, who supported overturning the camping ban, lost in a runoff to now-Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, who opposed the decision.

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