Austin City Clerk Jannette Goodall verified a petition to reinstate a ban on public camping, moving it one step closer to the May 1 ballot.
The local nonprofit Save Austin Now submitted more than 27,000 signatures to the city clerk's office on Jan. 19. The city requires 20,000 valid signatures for a petition to be included on the local ballot and verified more than 26,000 of those submitted on Wednesday, according to Goodall's ruling.
"Today's news is a welcome development for Austinites who only want to live in a safe and clean city," Save Austin Now co-founder and Travis County GOP Chairperson Matt Mackowiak said in a statement. "Now Austinites can choose to fix this mess created by Greg Casar and Steve Adler."
Next up, Austin City Council has until Feb. 12 to decide whether to adopt the ordinance changes as written in the petition or call an election for May 1.
In the meantime, Save Austin Now will create a political action committee "to conduct its activities for the election phase," according to a press release.
Austin City Council repealed the camping ban in 2019, after advocates said it criminalized homelessness. Austin Mayor Steve Adler told the Austin American-Statesman last month that the approach "is not working," but added that going back to the previous ban wouldn't address the city's homelessness issues.
Council members will discuss a proposal to partially reinstate the camping ban in four areas around the city on Thursday.
This is not the first time the nonprofit has rallied its supporters. Save Austin Now announced in July that it had collected 24,598 signatures in support of the same petition. Had it been verified, the petition would have been included on the Nov. 3 ballot.
In reviewing the first batch of signatures, however, Austin City Clerk Jannette Gooddall discovered a number of issues, including duplicates and requests from some signers to have their names removed, and ruled it invalid.
Criminal justice reform advocates have criticized Save Austin Now for misleading signers, echoing concerns that were raised during their first attempt. Some University of Texas at Austin students said they felt misled into signing the petition, according to a recent report by The Daily Texan.
Now verified, the fate of the camping ban will be up to Austin voters. In addition to this petition, the city clerk validated two others last month. One proposes four amendments to the city charter, including a shift to a strong-mayor form of government, and the other would add a binding arbitration clause regarding the city's contract with the local firefighters union, similar to the one that exists for police contracts.
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