News
Next Thursday, May 24th, the Austin City Council will consider whether or not to place the CodeNEXT initiative on the ballot.  This is an important hearing for citizen rights of community initiated lawmaking under the City Charter.  The hearing will likely be in the evening, and Save Our Springs encourages everyone to attend the hearing and urge council to put the initiative on the ballot as the law requires.
 
Mayor Pro Tem Tovo and Councilmembers Pool, Houston, and Alter are sponsoring an item to put the initiative on the ballot.  Several of the other council members, including the Mayor, Councilmembers Kitchen and Garza, all of whom are lawyers, have been hostile to calling the required election. They point to a weak legal opinion from their outside attorney that somehow ignores both key case law and the most relevant facts.  
 
As Yogi Berra famously said, this is deja vu all over again. In 1992 a narrow majority, pro-developer city council refused to put the SOS ordinance on the ballot. They managed to delay the vote, but it only helped us show the voters that development interests had too much power at City Hall.  Voters approved the SOS ordinance by a 64% majority.   
 
As with the CodeNEXT initiative, opponents argued SOS was zoning and not subject to the reserved powers of the people to initiate legislation by certified petition.  The opponents lost and SOS was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court in an opinion by then Justice Greg Abbot.  As with SOS, the CodeNEXT initiative does not zone any land and is not a zoning ordinance.  It requires a delay period before any comprehensive land development code rewrite takes effect and also voter ratification for that rewrite.  The council retains all power to determine the substance of CodeNEXT -- voters just get to check their work and approve or disapprove the final version.  It's only the future of our city, and includes rules on drainage, signs, transportation, water quality, heritage trees, and all of the rules that apply to development. 
 
It's understandable that some council members believe that the initiative is bad policy.  But they still must follow the law.  The petition has been certified by the city clerk as valid under the City Charter; now the council must place it on the ballot.  
 
The Mayor, Councilmember Kitchen (who served on the original SOS Steering Committee), and the rest of council need to hear from the voters.  If you cannot attend next Thursdays meeting, please send one email to the entire council HERE  and tell them to put the initiative on the November ballot.
 
On a related note, the Zoning and Platting Commission voted 7-4 last week to recommend that CodeNEXT be shelved and the City instead turn to a more incremental approach to improving the current code. Thank you ZAP!! SOS supports this approach. At the same time, the illegally constituted Planning Commission, with 7 out of 13 members and all of the officers being from the real estate and development related professions, approved dozens of amendments to the third CodeNEXT draft on narrow 7-6 votes. This split in our land development commissions, the 1,500 page length of CodeNext, and the initiative itself should be a wake up call to the council that the process is broken beyond repair. Until they hear us, we need your voice to join with us!!