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Clerk certifies anti-CodeNEXT petition

Tuesday, April 24, 2018 by Jo Clifton

City Clerk Jannette Goodall on Monday certified that she and her staff had validated enough signatures to require the city to place a referendum on CodeNEXT, the proposed rewrite of the city’s Land Development Code, on the November ballot.

According to Goodall, the petition comprises 9,707 pages containing 31,062 signatures. Under state law and city charter, those seeking to put a matter on the ballot by petition must present signatures from 5 percent of the city’s qualified voters or 20,000 signatures, whichever is smaller.

“Based on the analysis of random sample results, it has been determined that the petition meets the requirement for the minimum number of signatures of valid voters, based on the required minimum of 20,000,” Goodall states in her certification. Her analysis report states that the statistical analysis by the clerk’s office resulted in an estimate of 25,790 valid signatures.

Of course, having the signatures validated is not the final step in the process of getting the matter on the ballot. As the Austin Monitor reported in March, the city’s Law Department has warned City Council that the wording of the petition makes it illegal.

Council members have not specifically weighed in on the legality of the petition or whether they would vote to put it on the ballot. However, Council members Delia Garza, Pio Renteria and Greg Casar have said that they support greater density in order to achieve more affordable housing. Part of their plan includes adoption of CodeNEXT.

The final day to put items on the ballot is August 20.

Among the groups that have criticized CodeNEXT petitioners, known as Community Not Commodity, and its leader, Fred Lewis, is Eric Goff. Goff is a director of the nonprofit urbanist organization known as AURA.

He told the Monitor, “First of all, the biggest (problem) is how the petition says that it takes precedence over other city statutes, the charter or state law. You don’t have to be an attorney to know that it is crazy and illegal. State law does specifically address petitions related to zoning. And it very clearly says in the Local Government Code that the only time a petition process is valid is if it’s for the repeal of all zoning or for the initial application of zoning.”

He concluded, “It’s just a brazen attempt to score political points and was written specifically to be overturned. It’s obvious that their intention was just to declare the Council rejected the petition and hates democracy – when anyone that actually reads the language can see that it’s just a transparent farce.”

For a response, we turned to the leader of the petition drive, Linda Curtis, who ironically can’t vote on the issue because she lives outside of Austin.

Curtis said via email, “The Council should tread lightly on putting themselves in-between a duly qualified citizen petition and very simply the right to vote to ratify or reject the Council’s decision on CodeNEXT.”

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Photo by Kate Groetzinger

Curious about how we got here? Check out the Austin Monitor’s CodeNEXT Timeline.

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