The group behind a petition to put a citywide public-camping ban on the November ballot in Austin said Thursday that they were "engaging a highly respected local Democratic litigator" in their efforts to fight a city ruling earlier in the week that their petition did not enough valid signatures.
Matt Mackowiak, a cofounder of Save Austin Now, the group behind the petition, stopped short of saying the group was planning to file a legal contest—but he did put out a call for donations in a post on Facebook.
Mackowiak, who is also chairman of the Travis County Republican Party, said in a Facebook post that the group has called "a highly respected local Democratic litigator to review the facts, help us determine what additional information is needed, and consider our legal options."
"Put simply: This is expensive and we need your support right now," he wrote. "We have only begun to fight."
Austin City Clerk Jannette Goodall's ruling yesterday was the first time since 2002 that the city invalidated a petition because of lack of signatures, she told Austonia on Thursday.
The struggle has intensified as residents report growing camps near neighborhoods while a consultant hired by the city is advising that moving the encampments won't solve the city's homelessness issue.
Goodall used a random sampling method that the city adopted in 2002 in her review, according to a city spokesperson. State law allows cities to use any reasonable sampling method in determining whether citizen-led petitions contain the required number of signatures.
While Mackowiak was not specific about plans to file, local attorney and activist Fred Lewis—who has spearheaded other citizen-initiated petitions, including one last year that opposed an expansion of the Austin Convention Center— said he would expect the group to file very soon, likely with the state district court.
This is because the last day for the city to order a referendum in the November election is Aug. 17, according to the state election schedule.
"You're talking two or three weeks this has got to be decided - at most," Lewis said. "The court may not be able to decide it in that time."
Save Austin Now filed the petition on July 20, with 24,598 signatures—well over the 20,000 required to put their initiative on the ballot. If validated, it would have allowed voters to decide whether to roll back a year-old city ordinance allowing camping, panhandling, sitting and lying in public spaces.
But in her review, Goodall discovered several issues: some signers asked to be removed; there were duplicate names; and a second version of the petition was detected, which invalidated others.
Ultimately, the clerk estimated that there are 19,122 valid signatures on the petition.
"The probability that checking all 24,201 submitted signatures would find a total of at least 20,000 valid signatures is less than 3 in one billion," Goodall wrote in her ruling.
Some welcomed the news.
Chris Harris, director of criminal justice programs at Texas Appleseed and who was involved in a local effort to decriminalize homelessness, called the clerk's ruling "phenomenal" in a tweet on Wednesday.
"Republican efforts to re-criminalize homelessness & use homelessness as a wedge to turn out conservative voters in November has failed," he wrote.
Save Austin Now co-founder Cleo Petricek is a self-proclaimed local Democrat.
PHENOMENAL news #ATX!!! Republican efforts to re-criminalize homelessness & use homelessness as a wedge to turn ou… https://t.co/Nouy3uT91r— Chris Harris (@Chris Harris) 1596660575.0
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- San Marcos favorite Industry Burger opens "mid-October" on E. 5th, featuring "low key healthy" Texas fare.
- Still Austin Whiskey Co. introduces "The Artist," its new rye whiskey.
- Domain NORTHSIDE favorites Bakery Lorraine, Grimaldi's Pizzeria, Jeni's Ice Cream and Sprinkles released their fall flavors.
- Cinnaholic at The Arboretum opens Friday, October 14, serving "create your own" cinnamon rolls and other sweet treats.
- San Francisco's Marufuku Ramen opens next Wednesday, October 12, in the Mueller District.
- Carpenter Hotel announces its popup food truck, Lil Carpenter, open Fri-Sun both ACL weekends, serving what you want, early to late, coffee to donuts, to dogs/burgers/fries/beer.
With major entertainment events slated for October, the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is gearing up for a busy month.
Artists and music lovers are set to pack into Zilker Park for The Austin City Limits Music Festival in the coming two weekends. Following that, Formula One will bring racing fans to the Circuit of the Americas.
For those two events, the airport is anticipating high passenger days with 30,000 or more people departing flights.
ABIA recommends arriving at least two and a half hours in advance for domestic flights on those days. For ACL, it's expected on both Sundays of the festival along with the Monday and Tuesday after. The F1-driven high passenger days are expected on Oct. 20-21 and Oct. 23-26.
\u201c#AustinCityLimits visitors, you\u2019re in for a weird and wild ride \ud83e\udd18\u262e\ufe0f \n\nFlying in or out of our airport? We got firm and fun tips for you: https://t.co/RawVRalOXN\u201d— Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) (@Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)) 1664894083
F1, especially, could draw in loads of travelers as the three-day event saw 400,000 attendees last year. ABIA warns that highways leading to the airport may see even higher traffic than usual around the event and that travelers should plan their route accordingly.
Bailey Grimmett, a spokesperson for ABIA, said travel numbers come in 24 hours in advance. So, it's hard to predict if the airport will see travel volumes at the same levels that have happened around previous F1 races or if it'll top ACL's flight traffic.
Still, she says historical knowledge points to a chance for it.
“We've had that Monday after F1 break the record for single busiest in airport history," Grimmett said. "So context clues I would say yes, but I can't confirm that. But the historical background points to that."
In anticipation of the high volume of flyers, the airport received additional TSA officers for security screening through the end of October. To prepare even further, the Department of Aviation and partners hosted a job showcase and hiring fair to address the continued labor shortage the airport has experienced.
Relief from hectic travel days is on the horizon with November likely to see a slowdown.
"I don't anticipate it will be as busy as October just because we don't have as many events going on," Grimmett said. "Thanksgiving is kind of our primary holiday that we see a lot of passengers coming in and out of the airport."