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Council puts off reconsidering ballot language

Friday, February 26, 2021 by Jo Clifton

After the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals rejected a petition from three Austinites seeking to force the city to change the ballot language for Save Austin Now’s proposal to reinstate bans on public camping, City Council postponed consideration of an item to change the language. The trio – Linda Durin, Eric Krohn and Michael Lovins – appealed the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court early Thursday. According to a city spokesperson, “Item 7 on today’s special-called Council agenda, which relates to ballot language for Proposition B, is being withdrawn following last night’s Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the city.” He explained that the item would be placed on the agenda for Tuesday’s work session and Thursday’s Council meeting, “as a placeholder in case of an adverse ruling from the Texas Supreme Court. The city continues to believe the ballot language correctly identifies the chief features of the proposed ordinance.” Also Thursday, the National Homelessness Law Center filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the city. The brief, filed by attorney Joseph M. Abraham, argues that “regardless of how the ballot describes the proposed ordinance, both the ultimate text of the proposed ordinance and its effect remain the same: to return to failed policies of criminalizing the status of being homeless.” While supporters of the lawsuit say the city’s language ignores a city charter provision requiring the ballot language to match the caption on the petition, the city and its supporters argue that use of that language is not required and that the ultimate goal of Proposition B is to make homeless people into criminals. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir has said that next Wednesday is the final day to change the ballot language for the May 1 election.

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