Council to vote on reinstating camping ban or letting Austin voters decide

In a special-called meeting Tuesday, Austin City Council is set to take up the camping ban issue.

"If the discussion on Tuesday is taking too long, then we have Wednesday set aside to also take time for that and also Thursday," said Mackenzie Kelly, Austin City Council, District 6.

Last week, the group "Save Austin Now," received the necessary and certified signatures to be on the May election ballot. The petition is pushing for Austin to reinstate the camping ban.

"My hope is that it is successful because it will be able to help people and change the way the city is perceived," said Kelly, who also voted in favor of the HEAL Initiative.

"Our ordinance reinstates the camping ban city-wide, restores the sit, lye ordinance downtown and extends to the UT campus, and bans panhandling at night from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm," said Matt Mackowiak.

Mackowiak spearheaded this petition. He says he only had 50 days to get the required amount of signatures. And the response was robust. "We turned in about 27,000 and the city certified last week that we were at 26,100 and change so well above the 20,000 number," said Mackowiak, of Potomac Strategy.

He hopes council can properly word the ballot language so voters can understand what they are voting for.

"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," said Mackowiak.


Council also has a choice to avoid the issue going on the ballot altogether, by adopting the ordinance at this week's meeting. "They are obviously not going to do that. They believe the camping disaster is good public policy," said Mackowiak.

"I don't think that we will adopt the language just off the bat, based the tone of how the council has handled the homeless situation prior to my arrival on the council," said Kelly.