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Council to consider proposition fix at Friday night meeting

Thursday, February 11, 2021 by Jo Clifton

City Council is scheduled to meet once again this Friday night to consider one more possible ordinance to place on the May 1 ballot.

On Tuesday night, after a long day of making decisions about how to word eight proposed charter amendments and ordinances, Council called it a day and Mayor Steve Adler canceled meetings scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. But Council Member Vanessa Fuentes started worrying about what might happen if voters approved either Proposition F (strong-mayor proposal) or Proposition G (adding a Council district), but not both.

Fuentes wrote on the City Council Message Board: “Upon reflection of today’s votes on ballot items, I would like to gauge interest in convening a special called meeting to discuss a new ballot proposal that would address a potential scenario of 6-6 votes on Council should the ballot item creating the 11th Council district (Prop G) pass and the strong-mayor (Prop F) proposal fail, or vice versa. As an effort to avoid the unintended consequence of gridlock on policy issues moving forward, I ultimately think it’s worth the conversation of adding an additional Council district to maintain the majority vote on Council. This would also serve well for increased representation in our city.”

In response to Fuentes and to Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, Adler posted an announcement of a special called meeting, set for 9:45 p.m. Friday in order to comply with the 72-hour posting requirement for public meetings. Adler told the Austin Monitor that Council could not wait until Saturday, for example, or they would miss the deadline for providing ballot language for the May 1 election. If any charter amendments on the May 1 ballot win voter approval, the city will not be able to hold another charter election for two years, until May 2023.

If approved by voters, the strong-mayor form of government would take effect after the November 2024 election. The city has already appointed a committee to work on redrawing Council district maps this summer. It is not a quick and easy process.

Adler made it clear that Council would not be reconsidering language already approved for the other eight items.

Here is the language proposed for the new item: “Approve an ordinance ordering a special municipal election to be held in the City of Austin on a date to be determined, to submit to the voters a proposed council initiated charter amendment to provide for an additional single member geographic council district, if necessary to maintain an odd number of voting council members; providing for the conduct of the special election, including authorizing the City Clerk to enter into joint election agreements with other local political subdivisions as may be necessary for the orderly conduct of the election; and declaring an emergency.”

Adler asked his colleagues to let him know whether they would be able to attend the Friday night meeting by posting on the message board. Council Member Greg Casar indicated that he would be available, but by early Wednesday evening, only Casar and Council Member Paige Ellis had responded to posts from Fuentes and Adler. Counting Harper-Madison, that would make five Council members who expressed a willingness to attend the Friday night online meeting. Adler expressed some concern about whether enough of his colleagues would attend the meeting to vote on the item.

Photo by Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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