AUSTIN, Texas - Tuesday the Texas Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of Save Austin Now PAC's lawsuit alleging that ballot language passed by the Austin City Council was unfair, prejudicial, and distorts the actual petition language in an attempt to intentionally bias voters against the public camping ban which will appear on the May 1st ballot.
Save Austin Now PAC co-counsel Bill Aleshire, on behalf of relators Linda Durnin, Eric Krohn and Michael Lovins issued the following statement:
"We won. The Council must change the wording of the Prop B ballot. It also appears from the Opinion & Dissenting Opinion, that if the Council does not use the petitioned-ordinances' caption on the ballot, then the election results could be challenged. All of the Supreme Court Justices held that the City Council's ballot language was not lawful. The majority held that Council's language saying the ordinance would make a criminal offense for "anyone" to camp or sit/lie down on the sidewalk would mislead voters. And 3 Justices held that the City Council was required to use the neutral wording of the caption in the proposed ordinance as the ballot language because the City Charter requires it. The Opinion and Dissenting Opinion can both be read, as a strong warning to the Council: If the Council does not adopt the ballot language as required by the City Charter and Prop B fails, then an election challenge is likely to be successful."
In January, Save Austin Now submitted more than 27,000 petitions to the City Clerk to put reinstatement of the public camping ban on the May 2021 ballot.
The ordinance reinstates the ban on homeless camping citywide, restores the sit/lie ordinance to downtown and extends it to the UT campus and surrounding area, and bans panhandling at night citywide from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Co-founders of Save Austin Now Matt Mackowiak and Cleo Petricek, SafeHorns president Joel McNew, and Austin Police Association president Ken Casaday all expressed, in a news release, their support that the ban will be on the ballot.
Save Austin Now says it will now create a PAC to conduct its activities for the election phase. For more on the organization, you can click here.
The first effort to reinstate the ban was ruled invalid back in August, and Save Austin Now decided to try again starting December 1.
Save Austin Now is also calling for a "thorough and independent" audit of the city of Austin's spending on homeless programs. The organization wants the audit to especially focus on housing facilities purchased by the city since July 1, 2019, when the initial changes to the homeless camping ordinances went into effect, including any information on commissions related to property purchases and sales.