Austin City Council orders special May elections for 8 propositions

Austin voters have some big decisions to make come May 1.

On Tuesday, the Austin City Council called a special election for eight propositions, including the homeless camping ban.

Experts like St. Edward's University political science professor Brian Smith believe it's growing pains for Austin. "We've seen Austin grow from a tiny city to now being one of the large cities of America and with that comes challenges in governing and also other policy challenges and they are all on the ballot May 1," he said.


Proposition A gives the Austin Firefighters Association the authority to require the city to participate in binding arbitration of all issues in dispute with the Association if the City and the Association reach an impasse in collective bargaining negotiations.

Proposition B will reinstate the homeless camping ban that the council repealed in 2019 and also limit panhandling to specific hours of the day.

"Top of the ballot is going to be the ban on the public camping. Everybody knows the homeless problem is a huge crisis but nobody knows what the solution is," Smith said. "Even if it does pass and goes into law the underlying problem of what to do with our homeless crisis still exists."

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"Save Austin Now" co-founder Matt Mackowiak says if there is any confusing ballot language for this item, he will take legal action.  "If they are playing games with the ballot language that disenfranchises the rights of everyone who signed the petition, we will be filing a lawsuit within one hour," he said.

"Ballot language is huge," Smith said. "When we go and vote yes, we think it means I think I'm for it. When we go and vote no, we think it means I'm against but we've had cases here in Austin including the more recent one with Uber and Lyft where a no vote actually meant I support it and a yes meant I oppose it and that's confusing to voters."


Proposition C will allow for the Office of Police Oversight to become more independently operated.

Proposition D will let voters change the date of the mayoral election to coincide with the presidential election, meaning the candidate elected in 2022 will only serve two years. 

Proposition E will allow for ranked-choice voting in city elections, which would eliminate runoff elections.

Proposition F, if passed, would change Austin to a strong-mayor system.

RELATED: Council leaves strong mayor, camping ban up to Austin voters in May

"Ten years ago Austin was a very weak mayor, very small council, then we moved up to the 10-1 plan, created wards," Smith said. "Now what they are doing is saying we want an even stronger mayor position and a bigger city council. Most large cities in the United States have a form of government like this."

Proposition G creates an additional City Council district and Proposition H will adopt a public finance system that Smith says would help eliminate corruption in elections.

To read the proposed ballot language for all eight propositions, click here.