Austinites realizing the 'power of the petition'

On Monday morning, eight city council members along with Mayor Steve Adler walked out of city hall and, for a few minutes, took off their city government hats.

"Just to be really clear, we actually can't even post this meeting because we won't be discussing any city business.  This is a political statement we are making and a plea to the voters in District 5," said Council Member Greg Casar.

That plea is to stand with Council Member Ann Kitchen who has often been at the receiving end of attacks because of her position as chair of the Mobility Committee and stance on tougher regulations for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

"Some of the things that have been said and implied about the council member just are in my opinion absolutely not true," Casar said.

As FOX 7 reported last week, the mysterious group "Austin 4 All PAC" was going door to door circulating a petition to recall Kitchen. For a recall to be considered, 10% of the 48,000 residents of Kitchen's district would have to sign.
  
In a press release, the group is saying they've reached the number of signatures they need, they've been quote 'internally verified' and they'll be submitted to the city clerk.

"To be very clear, a recall effort like this is a direct attack against good governance in the City of Austin.  This is very serious," Mayor Adler said.

Adler says the people of Austin wanted different voices on the council, that's why 10-1 was implemented.

"Because some people don't like the views or opinions that a particular council member is expressing, is absolutely the wrong reason to ever have a recall," Adler said.

Jennifer Houlihan is one of the directors of "Ridesharing Works for Austin."  In response to tougher ridesharing rules, they turned in signatures to the City Clerk's office instructing council to either adopt Mayor Lee Leffingwell's ridesharing ordinance or let the voters decide in May.

"We are of the understanding that we've got enough, we've got more than the 20,000 that are required to force city council to make a decision," Houlihan said.

Houlihan says Ridesharing Works for Austin had nothing to do with the Kitchen recall petition.

"We may not agree with her on TNC issues but she's doing her job.  And we look forward to working with her in the future, there are an awful lot more mobility issues that need attention," Houlihan said.

After Monday's show of support, council member Kitchen considers this more of an attack on her constituents than herself.

"Of course it's always important for voters to be able to exercise their right for petition.  But as others said earlier this is a subversion of the process.  A...it's secret.  B...it's outside the district," she said.

As for the Ridesharing Works petition, the verification results will be announced during tomorrow's mobility committee meeting.

If verified, the matter will be discussed at Thursday's council meeting.

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