Anti-CodeNext PAC delivers 32,000 signatures to hold CodeNext election


Highlights

Petitioners submitted 32,000 signatures to put CodeNext on the ballot.

A referendum election would ask voters if they should get to vote on all comprehensive land use changes.

The city’s legal team has questioned the validity of the petition.

A coalition of anti-CodeNext advocates filed a petition Thursday that would put CodeNext on the ballot.

A group including representatives from the Austin Neighborhoods Council, the local NAACP and the anti-CodeNext nonprofit, Community Not Commodity, delivered several boxes to the Austin City Clerk’s office containing signatures from more than 32,000 residents gathered over the past six months.

About 20,000 signatures are needed to trigger an election.

The clerk’s office has no deadline to certify the petition. However, a city spokesman said it would be reviewed in a speedy manner. Once certified, the Austin City Council would decide whether the proposed ordinance will be put on the ballot.

NEWS STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX: Click here to get our Morning Headlines email

While the petition effort’s organizers’ stated intention is to place CodeNext on the ballot, the proposed referendum would ask Austin voters whether all comprehensive changes to the city’s land development code should be put to a vote.

“The reason I believe 32,000 people signed the petition is that CodeNext affects everyone’s life,” said Fred Lewis, an Austin attorney behind one of the political action committees that pushed for signatures. “It affects ever one’s property, whether they own a home or they rent. And frankly there have been some controversial aspects about CodeNext and how it was handled.”

CodeNext is the city’s answer to the 2012 Imagine Austin comprehensive plan by revising what type of development can go where. The effort aims to address many of Austin’s problems, including a lack of low-income housinggentrification and traffic congestion.

Opponents of CodeNext believe it will destroy neighborhood character by encouraging redevelopment and the demolitions of homes. Proponents believe that CodeNext will make housing cheaper by making it easier to build in the city.

Following a press conference at City Hall, Mayor Steve Adler told a group of reporters that Austin City Council members would work on behalf their constituents to approve a code that the public would approve.

“I am concerned about the petition because I think it disenfranchises large parts of the community. … We sought to make sure that all parts of our community — through their council members — have a voice in rewriting the land development code,” Adler said. 

WATCHDOG COVERAGE: Click here view VoteTracker, our log of the Austin City Council’s votes on high-interest issues

The petition could put the City Council in a thorny position.

The city of Austin’s legal team drafted a memo in February that told the City Council the petition is invalid and that placing it on the ballot could be illegal. An outside attorney has advised the city that the petition is flawed because it outlines an ordinance that would override conflicting portions of the Austin City Charter. Ordinances cannot trump the charter.

“While city leadership respects the voices of those who have signed the petition, this has been an exhaustive process with unprecedented public involvement,” an emailed statement from the city said. “The City Charter and state law determine Council’s role in making amendments to the zoning code, and this petition may be inconsistent with those legal standards.”

Lewis said that that argument is irrelevant. Any legal challenge to the petition would only be proper after voters approved the ordinance that would put CodeNext on the ballot.

And, if the council does not put the referendum on the ballot, Lewis said he would sue.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the amount of time the city has to certify the petition.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Valdez squeezes past White, faces big Abbott challenge next
Valdez squeezes past White, faces big Abbott challenge next

Lupe Valdez was beaming Tuesday night as she accepted the cheers of supporters at a downtown Dallas restaurant in her hometown for making history as the first Latina and the first lesbian to become the Democratic nominee for governor in Texas. “I am constantly hearing this is going to be such an uphill battle,” said Valdez, elected four...
Familiar name, black voters helped Cole win in House District 46
Familiar name, black voters helped Cole win in House District 46

With name recognition and a push to mobilize African-American and white women working to her advantage, Sheryl Cole narrowly defeated immigration attorney Jose “Chito” Vela III in the Texas House District 46 Democratic runoff Tuesday. Cole, a former Austin City Council member, earned 4,967 votes, or 50.9 percent, on Tuesday, 173...
Early Bird: Scooter company, license in hand, relaunches in Austin
Early Bird: Scooter company, license in hand, relaunches in Austin

Bird, once again, is the early bird. The Venice, Calif.-based scooter-rental company, which released its electric vehicles onto Austin streets in early April without city permission, scattered them about Central Austin on Wednesday after being granted a city license to operate. The company, and its chief competitor, Lime, had taken their stand-up electric...
Feds: Lockhart man ‘verbally harassed’ Sutherland Springs church members, said shooting was a hoax
Feds: Lockhart man ‘verbally harassed’ Sutherland Springs church members, said shooting was a hoax

A Lockhart man and his girlfriend went to First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs in March and “verbally harassed” church members, saying that the Nov. 5, 2017, shooting that killed 26 people at the church was a hoax, the U.S. Department of Justice said Wednesday. Robert “Side Thorn” Ussery, 54, was charged Wednesday with...
Are there black bears in Central Texas?
Are there black bears in Central Texas?

If you’ve traveled to East Texas, you’re likely aware of the danger of black bears. But black bears in Austin are unheard of, right? Well, not exactly. According to Texas Hill Country, black bears used to be plentiful all across Texas, but over the years, populations have decreased. However, recent sightings may indicate they’re making...
More Stories