Austinites for Progressive Reform, a local political organization, has put together a set of four charter amendments that they say will make Austin “the most pro-democracy city in the country”. On January 11, Austinites for Progressive Reform (APR) submitted 24,000 signatures to City Clerk Jannette Goodall, in order for their four proposed amendments to appear on the May ballot. While Austin City Council has the ability to take action without voter approval on many issues, APR’s reforms propose amendments to the city charter, which does require voter approval. In late January, the City Clerk determined that there were enough valid signatures to move forward with putting the measures on the ballot in May.
Here is a short synopsis of what the 4 reforms/charter amendments include:
Move the mayoral election to presidential years: The mayor is currently elected in midterm years—APR advocates that moving the mayoral elections will maximize turnout and representation.
Ranked- choice voting: This potential amendment to the city charter would establish ranked-choice voting at the city level but would only be implemented should state law change allowing it.
Democracy Dollars: A $25 voucher would be provided to all registered voters for each of their city council/mayoral elections that can be given to the candidate of their choice.
A strong mayor form of government: The most debated of APR’s four proposed amendments, this reform would make the mayor, as an elected official, the chief executive of the city rather than the city manager who is appointed by City Council. This would allow the mayor to appoint the city’s top staff in place of the city manager (which is how Austin operates now under the council-manager form of government). APR advocates that the change in form of government would increase responsiveness to voter concerns, provide more accountability, and produce higher voter turnout.
Austinites for Progressive Reform was founded by Andrew Allison, Jim Wick, Laura Hernandez Holmes, and Eugene Sepulveda. A full list of the organization’s supporters and chairs can be found on their website along with more in-depth information about their proposed reforms. https://www.austinprogress.org/about
Austin for All People (A4AP) is the primary organization opposing the city charter amendments. They do not take a strong stance against the first three proposed amendments, and are focused on opposing the strong mayor charter amendment. A4AP advocates that switching to a strong mayor system (especially while 10-1 is still in its infancy) would transfer power from the people of Austin to the city’s political elite. The organization was founded and is co-chaired by Jesús Garza, Catherine Morse, Mason Ayer, and Pastor Joseph Parker. Nico Ramsey serves as the Director of Community Engagement. More information about A4AP and their position on the strong mayor issue can be found on their website: https://austinforallpeople.org/about-us/.
The third installment of our live speaker series, ATXL Live, focused on these potential city charter amendments put forth by APR. We hosted Andrew Allison and Eugene Sepulveda from Austinites for Progressive Reform and Jesús Garza and Catherine Morse from Austin for All People to have an hour long, in-depth discussion about the proposed amendments and their possible effect on Austin. This issue will only become increasingly important as we get closer to May, so we encourage you to listen to this discussion here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=820269132196692&ref=watch_permalink