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The Texas Supreme Court voted unanimously Wednesday for the city's Proposition A ballot language to be replaced with Save Austin Now's captioned ballot language, but the court held that a budget for the proposition must be included on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The proposition, which was placed on the ballot after receiving enough verified signatures on a petition, was rewritten by City Council on Aug. 11. Save Austin Now hopes to mandate minimum staffing levels at the Austin Police Department to two police officers for every 1,000 residents, increase cadet training and implement measures to improve police response times. City Council members added new language and a city-budget staff estimate that the requirements could cost between $54.3 million and $119.8 million each year for the next five years.

Former Travis County Judge Bill Aleshire filed a lawsuit on Aug. 20 against the city for Save Austin Now due to its language and inclusion of the budget in the proposition. According to the Texas Supreme Court ruling, certain language will be taken out and the petition language will be inserted before the city's cost estimate, which will remain at the end of the proposition.

Save Austin Now co-founders Matt Mackowiak and Cleo Petricek said that City Council's rewrite of the ballot was negatively biased against the cause. Supreme Court Justice Rebeca Huddle and the seven other justices unanimously voted against the city's rights to rewrite the ballot.

"The City did not have carte blanche to rewrite the petitioned caption wholesale, and abused its discretion by doing so," Huddle wrote.

Council Member Greg Casar and Mayor Steve Adler, who celebrated the inclusion of the budget, argue that the proposition will allocate too much city money to the police budget. Meanwhile, Mackowiak and Petricek called the vote a "big win for every Austin citizen."

Aleshire also celebrated the Supreme Court ruling.

"The Supreme Court's Opinion today will strengthen the rights of every Austin voter to be able to initiate ordinances without political interference by the City Council in manipulating the ballot language for the proposition," Aleshire said. "It is wonderful to see the Court enforce the Austin City Charter voter rights of the citizens of Austin."

Prop A will be included on the Nov. 2 ballot.


(Bob Daemmrich)

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