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CodeNEXT petitioners near signature goal

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 by Jo Clifton

The leader of a group working to gather enough petition signatures to put a question on next November’s ballot about whether the city should reject a new Land Development Code said Monday night that petitioners have gathered about 24,700 signatures so far. If all those signatures are verified, that would be enough to put the matter before voters. Linda Curtis, the leader of IndyAustin, which is working to put CodeNEXT on the ballot, told a small group of supporters that by the time the group files the signatures it will have approximately 28,300 signatures. The group aims to have all of the paperwork from its petitioners in IndyAustin’s hands by March 15, and Curtis said it would file those signatures with the city around March 22. She said the deadline for filing is April 1. According to the city charter, a group seeking a referendum must have valid signatures from 5 percent of qualified voters within the city or 20,000 qualified voters, whichever number is less. The group has had some problems gathering signatures at Austin public libraries, with several petitioners being told that they could not stand on public property and had to restrict themselves to sidewalks, where it was difficult to reach out to members of the public. Bill Aleshire, the group’s pro bono attorney, sent a cease-and-desist letter to the city attorney and said he has not heard back on the issue. He told the Monitor that he had advised petitioners to stand on the sidewalk. Curtis reported that she and other petitioners have had no problems seeking signatures since that time. But the real test will come on Saturday when petitioners gather at various public libraries for perhaps a final push to get all the signatures they want. Curtis stressed that petitioners should not be confrontational and should always be polite. If the city does not interfere with petitioners, then there will be no lawsuit. Aleshire said he is hoping that City Council will step up and tell the City Manager’s Office it does not approve of the restrictive rules written by a previous manager.

This whisper has been edited for clarity.

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