Recall petition process begins targeting Austin mayor, 5 council members

A new political action committee, Our Town Austin, has launched the petition process to recall more than half of Austin City Council members.

“Voters from all districts are frustrated by the lack of transparency and honest public engagement between council members and constituents on numerous issues like the homeless crisis, the new land-development code, rising property taxes, massive corporate tax incentives, and declining affordability,” the PAC said in a statement.

The members being targeted for recall are Democratic Austin Mayor Steve Adler and council members Natasha Harper-Madison of District 1, Pio Renteria of District 3, Ann Kitchen of District 5, Paige Ellis of District 8 and Kathie Tovo of District 9.

For a recall to take place, city law requires a valid petition with signatures totaling at least 10 percent of registered voters in the elected official’s jurisdiction. For the mayor, this means 66,000 signatures according to last November’s citywide registered voter numbers. Of the council members, Harper-Madison’s district has the least number of registered voters, ten percent equates to 5,494 signatures from District 1 registered voters.

Urelated to the PAC, a Change.org petition was created to also attempt to recall Adler. And #RecallAdler petition signs are posted at many polling stations throughout Austin.

The PAC describes itself as “a grassroots network of individuals who have tired of our Mayor and City Council’s lack of respect for our citizens and our neighborhoods.”

Sharon Blythe, the PAC’s treasurer, told KLBJ Radio, “I have witnessed the city council, over a number of years, not paying attention to the taxpayers of Austin, not having transparency in their decisions, and not listening to the citizens,” she said. “We are a citywide organization that [is] fed up with the city council and the way they are voting.”

If the required number of signatures is collected and the PAC’s petition is certified by the city, the respective officials have five days to resign under the law. If they choose not to, the council is required to order a recall election.

The PAC says it is confident it will be able to collect the required number of signatures.

“It’s going to be a big effort, but we feel like we are well going to be able to achieve those goals,” Blythe said. “I think the time has come where people need to stand up and say enough is enough with the city council.”

Blythe told Community Impact Newspaper, “The one that pushed people over the edge the most was the homelessness issue. We just have to do something as citizens to try and pull the city back to normalcy.”

The city council rescinded a ban on homeless encampments in June, leading to widespread criticism from residents, state lawmakers and the University of Texas police chief. Gov. Greg Abbott also ordered a state cleanup of tent sites in the city.

“This is a challenge that is everywhere, we’re just seeing it in Austin, it’s more visible right now,” Adler told Fox News. “And we did that so we could fix it, so we could clean it up, so we could house people. Because ultimately, we need to end [homelessness]. We don’t want people camping anywhere in the city.”

On the recall effort against him, Adler said, “Democracy is vigorous here in Austin. I was just elected in an eight-person race with a 40 percent margin over the person that came in second place. I think this community is united.”

The remaining five members of the council not targeted for recall are up for re-election in 2020. They are Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza (District 2), Greg Casar (District 4), Jimmy Flannigan (District 6), Leslie Pool (District 7) and Allison Alter (District 10).

This article was first published by The Center Square.

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