City Charter

AG Sues to Remove Planning Commissioners

The City had it coming, did everything it could to ignore friendly warnings and prosecutors' advice Litigation filed in a Travis County district court by...

Attorneys Argue CodeNEXT Petition

CodeNEXT petition backers seek court order to force City of Austin to put petition on November 6 ballot Whether the City of Austin must put...

Charter Revisions Flushed Down the Drain

Two least substantial items on council agenda, if put on the ballot and passed would block other charter changes for two years It looks like...

Nine Charter Revisions Recommended

Public financing for mayor and council candidates, an Independent Ethics Commission with teeth, more Updated Wednesday May 9, 2018 9:30am (Charter Review Commission--not Charter Revision...

City Charter Changes: Who Cares?

 City Charter Changes: Who Cares?

Commission’s public hearings in northwest, southeast
and central Austin draw total of only three speakers

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2018
Posted Monday April 9, 2018 10:24am
Updated Wednesday May 9, 2018 9:40am (Charter Review Commission--not Charter Revision Commission)

The Asian American Resource Center, located at 8401 Cameron Road, is the site of the Charter Revision Commission’s final public hearing on proposed City Charter changes.If you were waiting for the last call to make comments about nine proposals to change the Austin City Charter, this is it: the Charter Revision Review Commission will hold its final public hearing April 12 at the Asian American Resource Center at 8401 Cameron Road in northeast Austin.

Many of the Commission’s recommendations being aired are of major importance. For example:

Should the City establish an Independent Ethics Commission that has the power to issue subpoenas, compel depositions and production of evidence, investigate and hold hearings, all under the oversight of a commission whose members are drawn from a pool of applicants and will be empowered to act without other oversight?

Should the City Council establish a Budget and Efficiency Officer with a small staff that would report directly to and advise the council on financial matters?

Should tax money be taken from the general fund to help fund election campaigns for mayoral and council candidates?

>That's just a small taste of seven recommendations the Commission has already adopted to change the charter and it’s considering two other proposals.(More details about the recommendations are provided below.)

Big Charter Changes Up for Scrutiny

 Big Charter Changes Up for Scrutiny

Charter Revision Review Commission schedules public hearings
to gather citizen input before finalizing recommendations

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2018
Posted Thursday March 8, 2018 7:59pm
Updated Wednesday May 9, 2018 9:45am (Charter Review Commission--not Charter Revision Commission)

We the citizens of Austin, in reverance to the dignity and enrichment of all people, do ordain and establish this Charter to assure economic, environmental, and cultural prosperity throughout our community.

—Preamble to the Austin City Charter

The Austin City Charter is a fundamentally important document that bestows the “powers, privileges, rights, duties, and immunities” that form the foundation and structure for our municipal government.

Such is the Charter’s importance and the need to maintain stability that it may only be amended every two years and then only by the affirmative approval of each proposition offered at the polls.

From time to time the City Council appoints a Charter Revision Review Commission and charges it with identifying potentially useful changes, vetting the resulting proposed changes with the public, and recommending to the council certain propositions to be placed on the ballot.

Propositions may also be put on the ballot via initiative petitions that contain a sufficient number of signatures of the city's registered voters.

The City Council may on its own authority place Charter amendments on the ballot, as it did in 2014 by offering an 8-2-1 alternative to the 10-1 council structure that got on the ballot through initiative.

The 2018 Charter Revision Review Commission was created last June and has met a dozen times, beginning on November 6, 2017. Now it has reached agreement on numerous propositions that it will offer for public input, and then decide what to recommend the City Council put before voters in the November 6, 2018, election.

The Commission last met March 5 and heard pitches for two additional Charter changes—both of which drew heated debate. This article first will cover these two new proposals and then summarize the proposals already approved by the Commission.

Planning Commission appointments

Fred LewisThe first hot-button issue addressed at the March 5 meeting was a staff recommendation on Charter provisions related to terms and appointments of Planning Commission members. Attorney Fred Lewis had studied the issue beforehand and was so adamantly opposed to the recommendation that he immediately moved to table it. (Staff Recommendation linked below.)

Lewis said this was an effort by City staff to “gut the developer prohibition” in the Charter. He was referring to Article X Section 2, which states:

Council Campaigns Funded by Tax Dollars?

Council Campaigns Funded by Tax Dollars?

Seattle council member elected with Democracy Voucher funds
briefed Austin residents and Charter Revision Review Commission

By Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2018
Posted Friday February 23, 2018 10:27am
Updated Friday February 23, 2018 12:24pm to add late breaking news at bottom
Updated Wednesday May 9, 2018 9:51am (Charter Review Commission--not Charter Revision Commission)

Teresa Mosqueda“Hi, I'm Teresa and I'm running for City Council as Democracy Voucher candidate. Would you be willing to sign right here?”

They would say, “Sure.”

Then I would say, “Would you give me $10?”

“It was a little awkward,” she told members of the 2018 Charter Revision Review Commission who met in the community room at the Mueller HEB grocery store Monday, February 19, 2018.

That’s how Seattle Council Member Teresa Mosqueda described her first-ever attempt to run for public office in 2017. She said she inserted herself into public marches and walked backwards to talk to people while soliciting support, getting signatures on her petition, and asking for contributions.

At the time she was running, Seattle was having frequent marches, with lots of people in the streets around the time Donald Trump was nominated as the GOP presidential candidate, “marches for women’s rights, human rights, and I was out there walking backwards,” she said.

Mosqueda’s presentation to the Commission was an encore for a longer talk she gave to a larger audience at the Manchaca Branch Library Sunday, February 18, 2018. That presentation, which included the entire slide show (linked at the bottom of this story) lasted nearly an hour and a half, including time to answer questions.

As a 36-year-old Latina and labor activist, Mosqueda said she was virtually unknown to Seattle’s population of 705,000 people. More than 500,000 of them were registered voters, and each had received four $25 Democracy Vouchers in the mail in early January 2017.

How Democracy Vouchers worked

Top Gun to Defend City Charter

 Top Gun to Defend City Charter

City of Austin has hired attorney Renea Hicks to
defeat Council Member Zimmerman’s challenge

by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2015
Posted Thursday August 27, 2015 2:35pm

Anne MorganRenea HicksInterim City Attorney Anne Morgan has hired veteran attorney Max Renea Hicks, a sole practitioner based in Austin, to defend the city in the federal lawsuit brought by District 6 Council Member Don Zimmerman. Via a letter dated August 13, 2015, the City has agreed to pay him $350 an hour and a total amount not to exceed $55,000.

As previously reported by The Austin Bulldog (see links to stories, below) Zimmerman’s lawsuit seeks to overturn numerous provisions of Article III, Section 8 of the Austin City Charter to allow him to immediately start raising money for his reelection bid in 2016 and accept money from anywhere in the country. The Charter allows money to be solicited or accepted only within 180 days of the election and limits the amounts that may be accepted from sources outside the City of Austin.

The lawsuit also challenges limits on individual campaign contributions, currently $350, and would if successful allow incumbents to raise money year-round and build unlimited campaign war chests—in essence, giving the mayor and council members the same kind of incumbent protection enjoyed by state and federal lawmakers.

Hiring Hicks is somewhat ironic because in 1997 he defended the City of Austin in a federal suit brought by the group that won voter approval for the very restrictions that Zimmerman is challenging.

Activists happy Hicks will defend charter