Save Austin Now rushes to reach goal of 30k new signatures in support of petition to reinstate camping ban
This story was updated at 5 p.m. on Tuesday to include details about Save Austin Now's submission of petition signatures.
Save Austin Now, which previously attempted to file a petition that would reinstate the city's camping ban, submitted a new batch of more than 24,000 signatures to the city clerk's office on Tuesday. The goal? To get its petition on the May 1 ballot, where the fate of the controversial ban would be up to Austin voters.
As of Monday morning, Save Austin Now had collected more than 28,000 signatures in support of its petition, with a goal of 30,000 by the Tuesday deadline to qualify for the upcoming election. The city requires 20,000 valid signatures for a petition to be included on the local ballot and will issue its ruling by mid-February.
In addition to asking registered voters to sign the petition and submit it, in person, at various drop-off locations, the group also requested $10,000 in additional donations "to finish our in person collection efforts, text message campaign, and digital ad campaign," according to a Facebook post.
This is not the first time Save Austin Now has rallied its supporters. The group 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 signatures, however, Austin City Clerk Jannette Goodall discovered a number of issues, including duplicates and requests from some signers to have their names removed, and ruled it invalid.
Save Austin Now co-founders Matt Mackowiak, who is also the chairperson of the Travis County GOP, and Cleo Petricek filed a lawsuit against the city last month, disputing Goodall's ruling. But this effort could "take months or years," according to a Dec. 8 letter they sent to Austin residents.
In the meantime, Mackowiak and Petricek have focused on this new petition drive ahead of the upcoming local election. Another petition effort, led by the political action committee Austinites for Progressive Reform, could also be included.
Criminal justice reform advocates have criticized Save Austin Now for misleading signers, echoing concerns that were raised during their first attempt.
Things that paid Save Austin Now Canvassers did yesterday A) Physically blocking people's path into HEB to get the… https://t.co/V2rUq3sc0Y— seneca s (@seneca s)1610821831.0
After the Travis County GOP tweeted on Friday that the "MLK holiday weekend makes for an excellent opportunity to sign the homeless camping petition," Chris Harris, director of criminal justice programs for the local nonprofit Texas Appleseed, responded.
Austin City Council overturned the city's ban on public sitting, panhandling, lying and camping in August 2019 after advocates said such bans criminalize homelessness. 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 businesses during operating hours.
Still, the policy has remained contentious.
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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Following the purchase of a converted 34-foot-long van, Addicus' Legacy Dog Rescue's pups headed to their forever homes in style during its maiden voyage last week.
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