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Council to set language for Charter amendment vote

Thursday, August 21, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Council Members will vote today on language for two items amending the City Charter, questions that will appear on the November ballot. Although there has been little discussion of a Council-sponsored proposal to give the Council authority to hire and fire the City Auditor, there has been a great deal of discussion of the Stop Domain Subsidies proposal.


Obviously hoping to avoid a replay of the acrimony and litigation over ballot language relating to the SOS-backed clean water and open government amendments, the city’s lawyers have come up with a simple 34-word proposition.


The Proposition 2 language says, “Shall the City Charter be amended to limit the City Council’s ability to enter into economic development agreements with financial incentives for projects that will sell consumer or commercial goods directly to the public?”


Some Council Members were taken aback to find the proposed ballot language in Council backup before they were briefed on the matter. Council Member Lee Leffingwell, for one, was not pleased with the language proposed. He said, “I don’t think it accurately reflects what the proposed charter amendment says or does. It appears to only address future economic agreements and the charter amendment addresses economic agreements that are already in place.”


On the other hand, Leffingwell said, the language suggested by Stop Domain Subsidies founder Brian Rodgers in a letter to Council “is reasonably accurate.” Rodgers lengthier statement “might be some minor tweaking to it that would be helpful but basically I think it’s a fairly reasonably fair statement,” Leffingwell said.


Under Leffingwell’s leadership, the Council has adopted a policy against entering into any future agreement to provide financial incentives for retail developments. Leffingwell and others have opposed the Stop Domain Subsidies amendment because they fear it could hurt the city’s bond rating and because they do not want the city perceived as backing out on a deal.

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