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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Austin Nicholson was ahead of the curve when he got his vasectomy in September 2021, saving himself a long line as Austin-area doctors say the demand for sterilization has seen a “significant” spike since Roe v. Wade was overturned on Friday.
Nicholson, 25, said he would prefer to adopt children, had felt the Supreme Court decision coming for a while, and, wary of the consequences, he decided to pull the trigger and make an appointment.
“A big part of it was the political climate. We could both potentially face consequences and she would definitely face more consequences, which I also personally would not want,” Nicholson said. “I didn't want to be stuck in Texas and have a potential abortion on the mind when it's illegal.”
According to vasectomy specialist Dr. Luke Machen of Austin Fertility and Reproductive Medicine, the clinic received over 150 vasectomy appointment requests combined on Friday and Monday following the ruling. Typically, the clinic performs 45-50 vasectomies per month.
The Austin Urology Institute reported that they received about 70 calls in the first hour after the ruling was released. OBYN at Women’s Health Domain reported receiving over 100 requests from women interested in getting their tubes tied.
“I would say a significant number of patients who scheduled recently have mentioned the Supreme Court case,” Machen said. “A lot of guys have said they were thinking about having a vasectomy over the last year or so, and the ruling was the final push to get it done.”
The average patient at Austin Fertility who receives a vasectomy is about 37, though Machen said he has started to see an increased number of patients with zero children choosing to get a vasectomy. While they put together a study, Machen expects demand for the procedure to plateau but stay higher than before the ruling.
Machen said vasectomy is the most effective form of permanent birth control, requires only about a week of recovery time, is reversible with success rates of up to 95% and has no effects on sexual function or testosterone.
Nicholson said the procedure was less than $700, he was never in any pain, had very little recovery time and has never regretted the decision—in fact, he has happily recommended the procedure to friends.
“It helps me feel better knowing that I won't put a woman in that situation where she'd have to be faced with a potentially life-altering decision, or consequence even,” Nicholson said. “I actually have had three of my friends ask me questions about it and tell me that they were considering it.”
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