City sued in Texas Supreme Court regarding CodeNext ballot language

CodeNext might be dead, but litigation regarding the controversial land-use rewrite is alive and well.

On Friday, a petitioner sued the city of Austin in the Texas Supreme Court concerning ballot language tied to the now-abandoned comprehensive rewrite of the city’s land-use rules.

The suit marked the second time this week that a petitioner represented by former Travis County judge Bill Aleshire sued seeking to alter ballot language that the Austin City Council approved Aug. 10.

This time, it was the CodeNext petition ordinance initiative that drew Aleshire’s ire. He is representing Allan McMurtry, one of the more than 30,000 people who signed a petition that called for subjecting CodeNext and all future large-scale rewrites of the land-use code to a vote and a waiting period.

The suit contends that the council violated the City Charter by approving ballot language that was not the petition ordinance’s “caption” verbatim. The wording the council adopted struck any mention of CodeNext from the ballot proposition and noted that a waiting period for adopting a comprehensive update to the code could take as many as three years.

“First, the Adler Council refused to respect the voters’ right to have their proposition placed on the ballot at all,” Aleshire said in an email. “A court ordered them to follow the charter; so then, they fiddled with the wording to discourage interest and support in the proposition. We’ve now asked the Supreme Court to order the council to follow the charter and fix the unlawful ballot language the council adopted.”

On Monday, another petitioner represented by Aleshire sued the city over wording in Proposition K, which asks voters if the city should conduct an outside audit of government efficiency at City Hall.

The clock is ticking on both lawsuits. Final ballot language must be turned into the Travis County clerk’s office by Sept. 4 in order for a measure to appear on November’s ballot.

The latest suit marks the second time that the CodeNext petition ordinance has headed to court. After the City Council refused to place it on the ballot, petition supporters sued and a state District Court judge overturned the council’s decision.

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