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[00:00:04]

IT'S

[1. Conduct a public hearing to receive feedback regarding proposed amendments to the City Charter recommended by the 2024 Charter Review Commission.]

A SPECIALLY CALLED MEETING OF THE CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION.

WE'RE CALLING IT A TOWN HALL TO GET FEEDBACK FROM THE PUBLIC ON A NUMBER OF ISSUES THAT WE ARE CURRENTLY, UM, CONSIDERING AND, AND DISCUSSING.

AND SO I'M GONNA START BY GIVING A LITTLE BIT OF BACKGROUND.

WE DO HAVE A PRESENTATION THAT HOPEFULLY IS VISIBLE TO THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE PARTICIPATING VIRTUALLY.

I KNOW WE HAVE A COUPLE OF FOLKS, UM, WHO ARE PARTICIPATING VIRTUALLY.

AND THEN ALSO, UM, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE HERE, IT LOOKS LIKE THE POWERPOINT IS RIGHT BEHIND ME.

SO WE'RE GONNA WALK THROUGH KIND OF HIGH LEVEL WHAT, WHAT IT IS THAT WE'RE DOING, AND THEN THE ISSUES THAT WE'RE HERE TO DISCUSS TONIGHT.

SO, I KNOW WE'VE GOT SOME FOLKS, I SEE SOME FAMILIAR FACES HERE.

UM, SOME OF YOU HAVE ATTENDED SOME OF OUR MEETINGS AND, AND PROBABLY KNOW A LOT OF THIS INFORMATION ALREADY.

BUT FOR THOSE WHO ARE TUNING IN, UM, AND ARE JUST LEARNING ABOUT THE WORK OF THE CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION, WE WANTED TO START WITH SOME BASIC BACKGROUND.

UM, WHAT IS THE AUSTIN CITY CHARTER? IT IS BASICALLY OUR CITY'S CONSTITUTION.

IT'S OUR GOVERNING DOCUMENT THAT DESCRIBES HOW THE CITY IS MANAGED AND GOVERNED.

UM, AND THESE ARE, YOU KNOW, KIND OF SOME OF THE HIGH LEVEL TOPICS THAT ARE COVERED IN THE CITY CHARTER, UM, THAT ARE SHOWN ON THIS SLIDE.

I ASSUME ALL OF YOU HERE TONIGHT ARE PROBABLY FAMILIAR, INTIMATELY FAMILIAR WITH OUR CITY'S CHARTER.

THE CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION IS A COMMISSION THAT IS APPOINTED BY THE CITY COUNCIL.

WE ARE NOT, UM, A STANDING COMMISSION THAT EXISTS ALL THE TIME, LIKE PLANNING AND ZONING.

UM, WE'RE A SPECIAL PURPOSE COMMISSION THAT IS FORMED SPECIFICALLY TO LOOK AT, UM, GUIDANCE AND PROVIDE GUIDANCE TO COUNCIL ON SPECIFIC ITEMS, UM, THAT THEY ASK US TO LOOK AT, BUT ALSO TO REVIEW THE CHARTER AS A WHOLE AND MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE COUNCIL THAT, YOU KNOW, FOR CHANGES TO THE CHARTER THAT WE AS A COMMISSION FEEL LIKE ARE NEEDED.

UM, SO WE WILL MAKE OUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE COUNCIL HERE IN MARCH IS WHEN WE'RE AIMING TO HAVE OUR FINAL REPORT COMPLETED, AND THEN THE COUNCIL WILL CHOOSE WHETHER OR NOT TO SUBMIT OUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE VOTERS.

SO THE LAST CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION, UM, CONVENED IN 2018.

UM, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE INTERESTED, YOU CAN FIND THAT REPORT ONLINE.

UM, WE HAVE RELIED ON SOME OF THE WORK, UM, AND RESEARCH THAT WAS DONE FROM THE 2018 COMMISSION.

UM, BUT THERE ARE ARE ALSO SOME DIFFERENT ISSUES THAT WE'RE LOOKING AT AS WELL.

AND SO WE'VE HAD TO KIND OF START FRESH, UM, WITH SOME OF THESE ISSUES IN CONSIDERING AND DEBATING, UM, CERTAIN POLICY MATTERS, WHICH WE'RE GOING TO DISCUSS TODAY.

SO THE, THE MEMBERS OF THE CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION, UM, MOST OF WHOM ARE IN ATTENDANCE TONIGHT, UM, AND MANY OF WHOM ARE GONNA HELP TEE UP SOME OF THE DISCUSSIONS THAT WE'RE HAVING ARE LISTED ON THE SLIDE.

UM, SO OUR COMMISSION WAS CREATED BY A RESOLUTION LAST MARCH.

IT TOOK A LITTLE WHILE, OF COURSE, FOR ALL THE MEMBERS TO BE APPOINTED, AND AS SOON AS WE HAD QUORUM, WHICH WAS LAST SEPTEMBER, WE STARTED MEETING, UM, WE HAVE MET ABOUT NINE TIMES IN PUBLIC MEETINGS.

OH, UM, SINCE SEPTEMBER.

UM, THOSE MEETINGS VARY IN LENGTH.

THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE ATTENDED KNOW THEY CAN GO QUITE LONG.

UM, I THINK OUR SHORTEST WAS ABOUT AN HOUR, AND OUR LONGEST HAS BEEN OVER THREE HOURS.

UM, THESE MEETINGS ARE ALL RECORDED.

THE EARLY ONES WERE AUDIO RECORDED, AND THEN WE MOVED OVER TO A TXN RECORDING.

AND SO THEY'RE ALSO, I BELIEVE, BROUGHT SIMULTANEOUSLY BROADCAST DURING THE MEETING.

BUT THEN YOU CAN ALSO VIEW THE RECORDINGS, UM, FOR ANY OF YOU WHO ARE INTERESTED IN THE HISTORICAL WORK OF THE COMMISSION.

SO IN BETWEEN OUR FORMAL PUBLIC MEETINGS, WE DIVIDED OUR WORK INTO FIVE WORKING GROUPS, WHICH ARE ALL SUB QUORUMS, AND EACH WORKING GROUP REPORTED BACK TO THE COMMISSION AT EVERY MEETING.

UM, I DO WANNA MENTION ALL OF THE CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION AS ALL OF OUR CITY COMMISSIONS ARE VOLUNTEERS.

UM, NONE OF US ARE EMPLOYED BY THE CITY.

UM, AND OUR COMMISSION DOES NOT HAVE ANY KIND OF SPECIFIC BUDGET THAT WE WORK WITH.

UM, BUT WE ARE SUPPORTED BY CITY STAFF.

SO AT EVERY MEETING WE HAVE THE CITY CLERK, UM, MYRNA RIOS, WE HAVE CITY ATTORNEY CAROLINE WEBSTER.

AND THEN, UM, BECAUSE WE, AS A COMMISSION DECIDED WE WANTED TO TRY TO HAVE A REALLY ROBUST OUTREACH PROGRAM, UM, WE ARE ALSO SUPPORTED BY MEMBERS OF THE CITY'S COMMUNICATION TEAM AS WELL, WHICH HAVE BEEN, UM, INTEGRAL TO OUR WORK AND TO GETTING THE WORD OUT.

UM, SO WE'RE VERY GRATEFUL AND APPRECIATIVE, UM, TO ALL THE CITY STAFF THAT HAVE SUPPORTED OUR WORK.

SO,

[00:05:01]

MOVING ON TO WHAT ISSUES WE ARE CONSIDERING, THE CITY COUNCIL DID GIVE US SOME SPECIFIC ITEMS THAT THEY WANTED US TO LOOK AT.

UM, THOSE ITEMS ARE LISTED IN BULLET POINTS ON THE SCREEN, BUT WE ARE NOT LIMITED TO THOSE ITEMS. AND SO FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE ATTENDED OR WATCHED OUR MEETINGS, YOU'VE SEEN, WE'VE CONSIDERED A NUMBER OF OTHER ISSUES, SOME OF WHICH WE'VE CHOSEN AS A COMMISSION TO TAKE UP, AND SOME OF WHICH WE HAVEN'T.

UM, WE DO NOT HAVE TIME IN THIS FIRST TOWN HALL, OBVIOUSLY, TO ADDRESS ALL THE ISSUES THAT WE'RE CONSIDERING.

AND SO WE PICKED A HANDFUL OF ISSUES.

THE TWO ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED IN GREEN ARE THE ISSUES WE'VE RECEIVED THE MOST PUBLIC COMMENT AND FEEDBACK ON.

UM, IN FACT, WE'VE RECEIVED A NUMBER OF EMAILS JUST TODAY, UM, ON THE FIRST BULLET POINT.

AND SO THESE ARE THE TWO ISSUES THAT WE'VE CHOSEN TO FOCUS TONIGHT'S, UM, TOWN HALL.

AND WE'VE ACTUALLY BROKEN IT DOWN INTO KIND OF THREE SPECIFIC ISSUES THAT WE'RE GONNA BE DISCUSSING SEPARATELY.

THE FIRST IS SIGNATURE THRESHOLD FOR CITIZEN INITIATED PETITIONS.

THE SECOND SOMEWHAT RELATED ISSUE IS SIGNATURE THRESHOLD FOR RECALL ELECTIONS.

AND THEN FINALLY, UM, MOVING ORDINANCE INITIATIVES AND CHARTER CHANGES TO MUNICIPAL GENERAL ELECTION DATES, WHICH ARE HELD EVERY OTHER NOVEMBER.

UM, ISSUE NUMBER THREE IS RELATED TO THE OTHERS, AND YOU'LL KIND OF HEAR REFERENCE TO IT.

ALL OF THESE ISSUES ARE SOMEWHAT INTERRELATED, UM, BUT WE'VE CHOSEN TO TAKE THEM UP IN THE, IN THE ORDER THAT'S SHOWN THERE ON THE SCREEN.

SO IF YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT A DIFFERENT ISSUE, WE ENCOURAGE YOU.

WE HAVE OUR CURRENTLY SCHEDULED, UM, UPCOMING MEETINGS SHOWN THERE ON THE SCREEN.

WE MEET AT 5:00 PM HERE AT CITY HALL IN THE BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS ROOM.

WE ALSO, AND YOU'RE WELCOME TO COME PUBLIC, UH, GIVE PUBLIC COMMENT AT ANY OF THOSE MEETINGS.

WE ALSO HAVE SET UP AN EMAIL, UM, WHICH IS SHOWN ON THE SCREEN.

THAT EMAIL GOES TO EVERY COMMISSION MEMBER, SO YOU CAN SEND TO ONE EMAIL ADDRESS AND WE ALL RECEIVE IT.

UM, AND THEN WE ARE PLANNING ANOTHER TOWN HALL.

SO IF YOU HAVE OTHER ISSUES, UM, THAT YOU WANNA DISCUSS OR WOULD LIKE TO HAVE ON THE AGENDA FOR THAT TOWN HALL, PLEASE DO EMAIL AND LET US KNOW, UM, BECAUSE WE'VE NOT SET THE, THE AGENDA YET FOR THAT TOWN HALL.

SO THE FORMAT FOR DISCUSSION TODAY, UM, FOR EACH OF THE THREE ISSUES THAT WE'VE IDENTIFIED AS ON THE SCREEN.

SO I'M GOING TO PROVIDE A GENERAL TOPIC OVERVIEW, UM, AND THEN WE HAVE A SPEAKER TO PRESENT AT LEAST ON ISSUES NUMBER ONE AND TWO, WE HAVE A SPEAKER TO PRESENT THE PROS AND THE CONS OF EACH, UM, POSITION.

AND THEN WE'RE GONNA HAVE COMMUNITY DISCUSSION.

AND THIS IS WHERE WE'D LIKE FOR YOU ALL TO WEIGH IN.

I DO HAVE, I'M GONNA ATTEMPT TO FACILITATE, UM, AND ASK SOME QUESTIONS, BUT I'M SURE YOU ALL HAVE THINGS THAT YOU WANNA SHARE WITH US.

AND SO THAT WOULD BE THE TIME, UM, THAT YOU COULD COME UP AND SHARE WITH US.

UH, NOW I MENTIONED THIS AS THE TOPIC FOR, OR THIS IS THE FORMAT FOR ITEMS NUMBER ONE AND TWO ON ITEM NUMBER THREE.

UM, WE WERE NOT ABLE TO FIND A SPEAKER ON THE PRO, A SEPARATE SPEAKER ON THE PRO AND SPEAKER ON THE CON.

SO COMMISSIONER ALTA MURANO, UH, AND I WILL BE HAVING A DISCUSSION AND HE WILL BE PRESENTING BOTH THE PRO AND CON, UM, ARGUMENTS ON EITHER SIDE THERE.

SO THAT ONE WILL BE A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT.

SO, JUMPING IN, THIS IS OUR FIRST ISSUE.

SO THIS IS OUR PETITION THRESHOLD.

UM, THE QUESTION IS, SHOULD THE SIGNATURE THRESHOLD BE INCREASED? UM, FOR INITIATIVE POSITION PETITIONS? UM, AS YOU ALL ARE LIKELY AWARE, THERE ARE FOUR DIFFERENT TYPES OF PETITIONS THAT ARE SHOWN THERE ON THE SCREEN.

UM, FOR PURPOSES OF THIS ISSUE, NUMBER ONE, WE'RE ONLY REALLY TALKING ABOUT INITIATIVE PETITIONS.

AND THIS IS THE PROCEDURE UNDER WHICH LOCAL VOTERS DIRECTLY PROPOSE OR INITIATE LAW.

SO CITIZEN LAW MAKING THROUGH THE INITIATIVE PROCESS ALLOWS VOTERS TO MAKE LAW ESSENTIALLY CIRCUMVENTING CITY COUNCIL.

UM, AND I'M READING FROM THE CITY'S WEBSITE HERE, , UM, BY DIRECT BALLOT BOX ACTION ON NEW ORDINANCES, UM, THERE ARE SIGNATURE THRESHOLDS THAT ARE REQUIRED.

SO YOU DO HAVE TO GET A CERTAIN NUMBER OF SIGNATURES ON A PETITION IN ORDER TO HAVE A, AN INITIATIVE PUT ON THE BALLOT FOR THE VOTERS TO VOTE UP OR DOWN.

THE CURRENT THRESHOLD, WHICH IS CONTAINED IN OUR CITY'S CHARTER, IS THE LESSER OF 20,000 SIGNATURES OR 5%

[00:10:01]

OF QUALIFIED VOTERS, WHICHEVER IS SMALLER.

UM, SO THIS, AS I MENTIONED, WAS AN ISSUE THAT WE SPECIFICALLY WERE ASKED, UM, TO LOOK AT BY THE CITY COUNCIL.

AND THE IMPETUS FOR THIS DISCUSSION WHEN YOU READ THE RESOLUTION THAT CREATED OUR COMMISSION WAS A 2019 REPORT FROM THE CITY AUDITOR, UM, FINDING THAT MOST PEER CITIES DO REQUIRE MORE SIGNATURES FOR CITIZEN INITIATIVES, UM, THAN AUSTIN.

AND THE REASON THIS ISSUE IS NUMBER ONE, IS BECAUSE THIS IS THE ISSUE THAT WE'VE RECEIVED THE MOST COMMENT ON SO FAR.

UM, SO WITH THAT, I AM GOING TO TURN IT OVER TO, UH, JC DWYER.

HE IS GOING TO BE PRESENTING THE PROS IN FAVOR OF INCREASING THE SIGNATURE THRESHOLD.

AND THEN WHEN HE IS DONE, UM, MICHAEL CALS IS GOING TO, UM, PRESENT THE CONS OF THIS APPROACH, AND THEN WE WILL DISCUSS.

SO I'M OVER HERE.

THERE'S JC .

UM, ALRIGHT, JC, I'LL TURN IT OVER TO YOU.

ALL RIGHT, THANK YOU MADAM CHAIR.

AND, UH, HI EVERYONE.

I'M JC THANKS FOR COMING TONIGHT.

UM, IT'S VERY EXCITING TO BE UP ON THIS DICE AS WELL AS TO RECEIVE ALL THE FORM EMAILS WE RECEIVED TODAY.

I'VE WRITTEN A LOT OF, UH, ADVOCACY CALLS TO ACTION OVER THE YEARS IN MY JOB, AND TO BE ON THE RECEIVING END OF THEM WAS SOME, A NEW EXPERIENCE FOR ME.

UM, I JUST WROTE DOWN SOME THOUGHTS THIS AFTERNOON, SO I'M, I'M JUST GONNA READ THEM.

HOWARD ZINN ONCE WROTE THAT YOU CAN'T BE NEUTRAL ON A MOVING TRAIN THAT APPLIES TO OUR SITUATION HERE TONIGHT AS WELL.

CURRENT POLICY REQUIRES US TO ABIDE BY A NUMBER OF 20,000, THE VALUE OF WHICH AS A PORTION OF THE ELECTORATE DECREASES EVERY DAY AND WITH EVERY ADDITIONAL PERSON WHO MOVES TO OUR CITY.

MUCH OF THE LANGUAGE WE'VE HEARD IN DEFENSE OF THE CURRENT POLICY SPEAKS TO, TO PRESERVING AND PROTECTING AND UNMOVING STATUS QUO, BUT IT'S NOT UNMOVING.

ITS VALUE IS DIMINISHING.

AND QUICKLY, THE QUESTION WE FACE TODAY IS NOT WHETHER THE ABILITY OF AUSTINITES TO PETITION FOR ELECTIONS SHOULD BE KEPT THE SAME OR BECOME HARDER.

THE QUESTION IS WHETHER PLACING ISSUES BEFORE VOTERS SHOULD BECOME EASIER WITH EVERY PASSING YEAR, OR SHOULD THE PRINCIPLE THAT PETITIONS REPRESENT A REASONABLE PORTION OF THE ELECTORATE BE UPHELD BY CHANGING THAT NUMBER TO A PERCENTAGE, ALLOWING IT TO GROW WITH OUR CITY.

I, UH, PROBABLY HAVEN'T LIVED IN AUSTIN AS LONG AS MANY OF YOU, BUT MY UNDERSTANDING IS THAT PRIOR TO 2012, WE DID HAVE A PERCENTAGE REQUIREMENT FOR PETITIONS AND A MUCH HIGHER ONE THAN IS BEING DISCUSSED HERE TODAY.

10%.

THAT WAS THE POLICY UNDER WHICH THE SEMINAL GRASSROOTS, UM, SAVE OUR SPRINGS PETITION SUCCEEDED.

THAT WAS THE ENVIRONMENT UNDER WHICH THE TEN ONE EFFORTS SUCCEEDED.

THE REQUIREMENT WAS 10%.

AND DIRECT DEMOCRACY THRIVED TO SUGGEST THAT SUCH IMPORTANT EFFORTS WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE TODAY, IF WE RETURN TO A 5% REQUIREMENT, I BELIEVE IGNORES HISTORY.

I BELIEVE THE BENEFITS OF FINDING OUR WAY TOWARDS A 5% THRESHOLD ARE CLEAR.

THIS SIMPLE PERCENTAGE BASED THRESHOLD, WHICH WOULD PLACE AUSTIN AS CHAIR VINNO SAID AT OR BELOW THE REQUIREMENTS OF MANY OF OUR PEER CITIES ACROSS TEXAS, WOULD ENSURE THAT THE ULTIMATE ACT OF DEMOCRACY, THE PUBLIC VOTE, IS RESERVED FOR ISSUES THAT CANNOT BE RESOLVED UNDER NORMAL LEGISLATIVE OR ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESSES, AND THAT ARE VITAL TO THE PUBLIC INTEREST OF A GROWING CITY, NOT JUST VITAL TO 20,000 OF US.

OUR COMMISSION RECEIVED A NUMBER OF AUTO-GENERATED EMAILS TODAY FROM MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY, IMPLORING US TO PRESERVE DIRECT DEMOCRACY THAT AS STATED EARLIER, I THINK HISTORY SHOWS US THAT THIS CHANGE WILL PRESERVE DIRECT DEMOCRACY.

BUT THE REASON I VOLUNTEER TO SERVE ON THIS COMMISSION, AND THE REASON I CARE ABOUT THIS CHANGE IS THAT I ALSO WANNA PRESERVE OUR REPRESENTATIONAL DEMOCRACY.

THAT REPRESENTATIONAL DEMOCRACY IS AT RISK.

WE ALL KNOW IT.

WE ALL SEE THE HEADLINES TRUST IN OUR DEMOCRATIC PROCESS, IN OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS AND THE INSTITUTIONS THEY SERVE AS RAPIDLY ERODING THE POLITICS OF POLARIZATION, OF RETRIBUTION AND SOUR GRAPES, THE POLITICS OF DIVISION AND PITTING NEIGHBOR AGAINST NEIGHBOR.

THEY'RE HERE IN AUSTIN AS THEY ARE EVERYWHERE, AND THEY'RE TRANSFORMING MANY OF OUR BASIC DEMOCRATIC AND POLICYMAKING TOOLS INTO WEAPONS IN A GAME OF CONSTITUTIONAL HARD BALL THAT IS SLOWLY DIMINISHING OUR NATION.

BEING A LITTLE DRAMATIC HERE, WE'RE DEBATING A SMALL CHANGE TO A MUNICIPAL CHARTER, NOT REWRITING THE CONSTITUTION, BUT SMALL IDEAS CONNECT TO BIG IDEAS.

AND MY POINT IS THAT WE DON'T NEED TO INVITE THESE CORROSIVE FORCES INTO OUR CITY BY GIVING THEM READY FOOTHOLDS AND ILL-CONCEIVED POLICIES THAT ALLOW THEM TO THRIVE MORE AND MORE WITH EACH PASSING YEAR.

WE CAN PUT THE BREAKS ON THE GROWTH OF THESE SENTIMENTS.

AND I BELIEVE THAT REQUIRING A REASONABLE NUMBER OF AUSTINITES TO SIGN A PIECE OF PAPER IS ONE WAY TO DO THIS.

FINALLY, I WANNA ADDRESS A BIAS THAT I THINK MAY BE PRESENT IN THIS ROOM TONIGHT.

LAST MAY, A VERY IMPORTANT PETITION DRIVEN ELECTION WAS HELD ON THE ISSUE OF POLICE OVERSIGHT.

DESPITE THE GREAT EFFORTS OF ADVOCACY GROUPS PRESENT HERE TODAY, AND EXTENSION COVERAGE BY THE MEDIA, JUST 10% OF AUSTIN VOTERS SHOWED UP TO DECIDE THE FATE OF OUR ENTIRE CITY.

THE FACT THAT I PERSONALLY AGREED WITH THE OUTCOME DOESN'T MAKE THAT NUMBER FEEL BETTER.

TO ME, IT FEELS LIKE A REJECTION OF THE PROCESS.

PLEASE RAISE YOUR HAND IF, IF YOU VOTED IN THAT MAY, 2023 ELECTION, FOLKS, WE ARE THE 10% I'D LIKE US IN OUR DELIBERATIONS TONIGHT TO ALSO CONSIDER THE 90%

[00:15:01]

THE FOLKS WHO AREN'T PASSIONATE ABOUT COMING OUT ON A WEEKDAY EVENING TO TESTIFY AT CITY HALL.

THE FOLKS WHO DON'T VOTE IN OFF YEAR ELECTIONS, WHO ARE JUST HOPING TO ELECT SOMEONE THAT SHARES THEIR EXPERIENCES AND THEIR VALUES SO THEY CAN TRUST THEM WITH THE VERY TECHNICAL, THE VERY CHALLENGING AND THE VERY IMPORTANT ISSUES OUR CITY FACES.

I THINK ALL OF US HERE WANT PROCESSES THAT REFLECT THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE.

SO I WOULD ASK YOU TO CONSIDER THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE 90% WHO CHOOSE NOT TO VOTE IN PETITION INITIATED ELECTIONS.

WHAT DO THEY WANT? COMMISSIONER S THANK YOU, COMMISSIONER COLES.

HERE.

COLES.

SORRY.

UM, I WANTED TO, SORRY, I'VE WANTED TO TO MENTION THAT IT'S PRONOUNCED KOHLS .

IT'S ALL RIGHT THOUGH.

UM, SO THANK YOU JC, I REALLY APPRECIATE THAT.

UM, JUST, JUST TO ZOOM OUT A LITTLE BIT, OBVIOUSLY WE ARE TASKED WITH CONSIDERING HOW AUSTIN RESIDENTS CAN AFFECT CITY POLICY WHEN THEY FEEL LIKE THEIR CITY GOVERNMENT IS NOT REPRESENTING THEM.

AND, UH, WE WANT TO ENSURE HOW WE WANT TO ENSURE THAT WE CAN, UH, MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE SYSTEM SO THAT THE PROCESS CAN EFFECTIVELY CHANGE THAT POLICY WITH THE WILL OF, OF THE MAJORITY OF VOTERS AND IS IN FACT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE CITY AT LARGE.

SO WE HAVE TALKED TO A NUMBER OF ADVOCATES FROM AROUND THE CITY AND FROM DIFFERENT, UM, CORNERS OF, OF ADVOCACY.

AND FOR THE MOST PART, WHAT WE'VE HEARD IS THAT EVEN FOR GRASSROOTS GROUPS, THAT INITIATIVES ARE WITH WIDE SUPPORT INITIATIVES ARE VERY EXPENSIVE.

AND THEY HAVE EXPRESSED, UH, CONCERNS THAT IF WE INCREASE THE SIGNATURE THRESHOLD, THAT IT WILL EFFECTIVELY LIMIT, UH, THE BALLOT INITIATIVE PROCESS TO THOSE ORGANIZATIONS WITH, UH, MUCH, UH, DEEPER POCKETS.

SO FUNDED BY MILLIONAIRE AND BILLIONAIRE INTERESTS AROUND THE CITY.

THAT'S, I WOULD SAY THE, THE FIRST CONCERN WITH MAINTAINING THE, UH, BALLOT INITIATIVE THRESHOLD THE WAY IT IS.

THE SECOND IS A MORE PRAGMATIC ONE.

AND IN FACT, JC I'M GONNA ACTUALLY END UP AGREEING WITH YOU ON A NUMBER OF THESE POINTS, BUT COME TO A DIFFERENT CONCLUSION ON THEM.

UM, BOTH THE CITY CHARTER AND THE BALLOT INITIATIVE PROCESS ARE PEGGED TO, FOR A CITY THE SIZE OF AUSTIN, A 20,000 SIGNATURE THRESHOLD.

UM, WE ARE NOT GOING TO CHANGE THE CITY CHARTER THRESHOLD THAT IS EFFECTIVE BY STATE LAW AND IS NOT SOMETHING THAT WE HAVE ANY SWAY OVER.

SO THE QUESTION REALLY IS, DO WE BRING THOSE PROCESSES OUT OF PARITY, UH, INCREASE INCREASING THE BALLOT INITIATIVE THRESHOLD WHILE HAVING THE ABILITY TO AMEND THE CITY CHARTER CONTINUE TO BE AT 20,000 SIGNATURES? AND I BELIEVE THAT, UM, TO DO SO WOULD BE TO INCENT DISINCENTIVIZE THE USE OF THE, THE BALLOT INITIATIVE PROCESS, WHICH I THINK CAN BE MORE RESPONSIVE TO AUSTINITES CONCERNS AND, UM, TO, TO PUSH MORE, MORE, UM, BALLOT INITIATIVE AGENDAS TO THE CHARTER AMENDMENT PROCESS.

SO I WANT TO ALSO BE CLEAR THAT MY, IT'S MY PERSONAL RECOMMENDATION THAT, UM, WE'RE GOING TO HEAR MR. CALLED COMMISSIONER ULTIMA MURANO DEBATE WITH HIMSELF OVER THIS ISSUE.

BUT I DO THINK THAT, UM, I DO AGREE WITH ONE PART OF HIM THAT'S GOING TO SAY THAT THIS SHOULD BE, THAT THE, UH, THE ELECTIONS SHOULD, THESE, THESE INITIATIVES SHOULD BE HELD ON EVERY OTHER YEAR, GENERAL ELECTION, UM, NOVEMBER, EVEN YEAR GENERAL ELECTION, NOVEMBERS.

UM, I THINK THAT, AND I, AND I THINK THAT IF WE CAN DO THAT FOR BALLOT INITIATIVES, THEN WE CAN ENSURE THAT THE MAJORITY OF AUSTINITES ARE WEIGHING IN MUCH LIKE, UH, THE SIGNATURE THRESHOLD.

WE HAVE MUCH LESS DISCRETION POTENTIALLY OVER THE CHARTER AMENDMENT PROCESS AND CANNOT LIMIT THOSE TO HIGH TURNOUT ELECTIONS.

AS, UH, COMMISSIONER DWYER SAID, WE HAVE HAD SEVERAL RECENT ELECTIONS HERE THAT WERE DECIDED BY LESS THAN 10% OF AUSTIN VOTERS.

AND I DON'T THINK THAT WE CAN CLAIM THAT A CITY ELECTION IS REPRESENTATIVE OF AUSTIN, IF IN FACT THE MAJORITY OF AUSTIN DOESN'T EVEN KNOW ABOUT IT.

AND SO THAT IS WHY I ACTUALLY COME DOWN ON THE SIDE OF MAINTAINING THE, THE BALLOT INITIATIVE PROCESS THE WAY IT IS TO ENSURE THAT PEOPLE AREN'T INCENTIVIZED TO ABANDON IT IN FAVOR OF THE CHARTER AMENDMENT PROCESS AND TO, UH, KEEP A BETTER REGULATED BALLOT INITIATIVE PROCESS THAT'S MORE REPRESENTATIVE OF AUSTIN VOTERS.

THANKS.

THANK YOU, COMMISSIONER COLES.

SO NOW WE'RE GONNA OPEN IT UP FOR DISCUSSION.

UM, I'M GONNA ASK, I HAD PICTURED IN MY MIND THAT THIS WAS GONNA BE MORE OF AN INFORMAL DISCUSSION, SO I DO HAVE SOME QUESTIONS TO KIND OF ASK AND I WOULD, UM, ASK THAT YOU ALL, YOU KNOW, JUST COME FORWARD AND TELL US YOUR THOUGHTS, UM, ON THESE THINGS.

AND, AND PLEASE BEAR WITH ME, THIS IS MY FIRST TIME FACILITATING A TOWN HALL MEETING OF THIS SORT.

SO I APOLOGIZE IF THIS IS SOMEWHAT AWKWARD OR DIFFERENT THAN WHAT YOU'RE USED TO.

UM, BEFORE WE START WITH THE QUESTIONS, MYRNA, I JUST WANTED TO CHECK IF WE HAVE A VIRTUAL SPEAKER WHO DOES WANNA SPEAK, WILL WE

[00:20:01]

GET NOTIFICATION OF THAT? OKAY, GREAT.

UM, WELL, I'M GONNA ASK THE QUESTIONS FIRST.

WE'VE KIND OF PO WE'VE KIND OF FORMATTED THIS, SO THERE WERE GONNA BE QUESTIONS AND THEN FOLKS WOULD RESPOND.

SO I DON'T KNOW IF SHE HAS A WAY OF LETTING US KNOW WHEN SHE'S READY TO SPEAK.

SO I'LL LET Y'ALL, I'LL ASK OUR FIRST, FIRST QUESTION AND THEN WE CAN, UM, FIGURE THAT OUT.

SO THE FIRST QUESTION THAT I HAVE FOR YOU ALL IS, WERE THERE ANY POINTS THAT EITHER SPEAKER MADE THAT PARTICULARLY RESONATED WITH YOU? YES, I BELIEVE YOU ARE GONNA HAVE TO COME UP TO THE MICROPHONE YES.

SO THAT IT GETS RECORDED.

THANK YOU.

OKAY.

HOW FORMAL, UM, I KNOW I'VE SPOKEN TO Y'ALL A FEW TIMES AND I REALLY DO APPRECIATE THE LISTENING.

UM, I AM WITH EQUITY ACTION AND WE ARE OF COURSE, THE PEOPLE WHO JUST RAN THAT, UM, MEASURE CAMPAIGN THAT Y'ALL WERE JUST DISCUSSING.

UH, STRANGELY, I ALSO WAS A VOLUNTEER AND ADVOCATE LEADER IN THE SOS PETITION.

SO I'VE BEEN HERE A REALLY LONG TIME AND I SEEM TO KEEP FINDING MYSELF NEEDING TO GO TO THE BALLOT TO GO TO VOTERS FOR THINGS THAT THE CITY DOESN'T WANT TO DO, BUT THAT OUR, THAT OUR PUBLIC WANTS TO SEE HAPPEN.

AND THAT IS REALLY THE DYNAMIC THAT WE'RE DEALING WITH HERE, IS THERE'S NOBODY WHO'S EVER TAKEN A BALLOT MEASURE THROUGH THIS PROCESS WHO DIDN'T TRY GOING TO THEIR ELECTED OFFICIALS FIRST, WHO DIDN'T TRY WORKING WITH THE CITY STAFF, WHO DIDN'T LOBBY IT, AND, YOU KNOW, GO TO ALL THE NEIGHBORHOOD GROUPS OR WHAT, YOU KNOW, ALL THE STUFF, RIGHT? SO, BALLOT MEASURES ARE A LAST RESORT.

AND WHAT I WANNA POINT OUT IS THAT LOOKING AT THE BACKUP THAT YOU ALL PROVIDED, THANK YOU FOR THAT ACTUALLY.

'CAUSE IT WAS A NICE REMINDER WHILE THE PERCENTAGES WERE DIFFERENT, THE ACTUAL NUMBERS WERE NOT, THE WORK THAT IT TAKES TO GET A MEASURE ON THE BALLOT IS NOT VARIABLE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE VOLUME OF PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THE CITY.

SO, ACCORDING TO THIS DOCUMENT, SOS UH, WAS FOUND TO HAVE GATHERED 35,000 SIGNATURES.

WELL, WE GATHERED 37 5 SOS HAD, UH, 25,000 VALID.

AND I THINK WE HAD, UH, 20 SOMETHING FOUR, I FORGET.

LIKE IT WAS LITERALLY THE SAME WITHIN A MARGIN OF ERROR.

WHAT HAPPENED BACK IN THE NINETIES TOOK THE SAME AMOUNT OF WORK, IT TOOK THE SAME MASSIVE VOLUNTEER EFFORT.

IT COST A LOT LESS MONEY BACK IN THOSE DAYS.

A, YOU KNOW, A BIG VOLUNTEER TEAM COULD EVENTUALLY GET THAT JOB DONE.

I KNOW I WAS ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE.

UM, NOW, YES, YOU NEED A BIG VOLUNTEER TEAM AND YOU ALSO NEED SOME PAID FIELD, AND YOU NEED, UH, YOU KNOW, A LOT OF TRICKS AND TOOLS AND SOCIAL MEDIA AND THI WAYS OF COMMUNICATING PEOPLE THAT DIDN'T EXIST BACK THEN.

SO, SO I GUESS MY POINT IS THAT THE, UM, THE METRIC THAT A PERCENT OF POPULATION, UH, TELLS US SOMETHING ABOUT THE MEANINGFULNESS OF THE BALLOT MEASURE IS SIMPLY NOT THE CASE.

I MEAN, WE DON'T HAVE THE EVIDENCE IN FRONT OF US TO SAY THAT WHAT WE DO HAVE THE EVIDENCE IN FRONT OF US TO SAY IS THAT A GRASSROOTS MOVEMENT, THE WORK THAT IT TAKES TO BUILD THAT MOVEMENT AND GET THIS THIS THING DONE, ALL COLLECTED AND THEN, AND THEN BROUGHT TO THE CLERK, IS BASICALLY THE SAME AS IT USED TO BE.

AND THAT THE, THAT THE NUMBERS THAT YOU WERE WORKING WITH HERE BACK IN THE BACK IN THE SOS DAYS ARE BASICALLY THE SAME AS THEY ARE NOW.

AND IT WAS REALLY HARD THEN.

AND IT'S REALLY HARD NOW.

AND I DON'T ACTUALLY THINK THERE'S A PROBLEM.

LIKE IT MAY BE LOWER THAN SOME OTHER COMPARABLE CITIES.

I HAVEN'T

[00:25:01]

SEEN THAT REPORT.

I WOULD SAY IT PROBABLY CAME OUT BEFORE THE COSTS WENT UP SO HIGH AS THEY ARE NOW.

UM, SO THAT'S MY COMMENT.

I JUST WANTED TO BE RESPONSIVE TO THAT KIND OF SENSE THAT BACK IN THE SOS DAYS, THIS WAS MORE RIGHT SIZED AND SOMEHOW THAT HAS SHIFTED.

I DON'T ACTUALLY THINK IT HAS.

THANK YOU, MS. MITCHELL.

HELLO.

AND THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE TO THE CITY.

UM, YOU HAVE IN FRONT OF YOU DIANA PROCTOR, AND I AM A NOVICE AT CIVIC INVOLVEMENT.

AND SO YOU HAVE A GOOD TEST CASE.

I ONLY BEGAN BECOMING, UH, IN CONTACT WITH CITY HALL.

I CAME TO MY FIRST MEETING IN THIS ROOM LAST MARCH, AND I'VE SENT, YOU KNOW, HUNDREDS OF EMAILS AND MADE DOZENS OF PHONE CALLS.

WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO SAY IS THAT WHAT STRUCK ME ABOUT YOUR ARGUMENT IN FAVOR IS THE CONCEPT OF PARODY THAT AUSTIN SHOULD BE IN PARODY WITH OTHER CITIES, THAT THEY'RE AHEAD OF US IN THEIR ESTIMATION OF HIGHER NUMBERS FOR PUBLIC PARTICIPATION FOR THE PETITIONS.

THERE'S SOMETHING GOING ON HERE IN AUSTIN.

IT IS A 20TH CENTURY BUREAUCRACY IN THE 21ST CENTURY.

THEY SEEM TO BE SO OVERWHELMED BY THEIR EMAILS AND THEIR PHONE MESSAGES.

I CANNOT TELL YOU IT'S, IT'S A CONCEPT AMONG THE ACTIVISTS THAT YOU HAVE TO MAYBE KNOW SOMEBODY WHO KNOWS SOMEBODY'S PERSONAL CELL PHONE TO BE ABLE TO REACH SOMEONE AT CITY HALL.

YOU CAN ASK FOR APPOINTMENTS, YOU WILL NOT GET THEM, YOU WILL NOT GET A PHONE CALL BACK.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU MADE A RECOMMENDATION FROM THIS COMMISSION AND IT WAS NOT READ BY YOUR APPOINTED COUNCIL MEMBER, NOT READ? WE FOUND OUT FROM ONE COUNCIL MEMBER THAT IN TWENTY TWENTY THREE, THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY RECOMMENDATIONS BY BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS WERE NOT READ.

I'M A NOVICE.

I DON'T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THAT MEANS.

DOES THAT MEAN IT WAS NOT READ AT A COUNCIL WORK SESSION? DOES IT MEAN THEIR EMAIL WASN'T OPENED? THEIR STAFF PERSON AT THAT COUNCIL MEMBER'S OFFICE WAS ABLE TO LOOK THROUGH SOME RECORDS AND COUNT THEM.

THEY HAD TO HAND COUNT 350.

SO DO YOU KNOW THE AMOUNT OF TIME AND EFFORT AND ACTIVISM OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU VOLUNTEERS TRYING TO MAKE THE CITY MOVE FORWARD? AND YOU CREATE A CONSENSUS, YOU GET A VOTE, AND YOU HAVE ACTUALLY A POSITIVE RECOMMENDATION.

THE CONCEPT THAT IT'S NOT EVEN READ BY THIS CITY HALL IS UNCONSCIONABLE IN THE 21ST CENTURY.

SO WHAT I WOULD SAY IS THAT I WOULD POSTPONE IF I WERE YOU POSTPONE FOR ANOTHER COUPLE OF YEARS FOR THIS COMMISSION TO DECIDE ON THE NUMBER OF PETITIONS BECAUSE WE'RE NOT MODERN ENOUGH HERE YET.

WE DON'T, WE MAYBE NEED A WHOLE LEVEL OF ADDITIONAL STAFF TO ACTUALLY BE RESPONSIVE TO THE CITIZENS.

IT SHOULD NOT BE THAT YOU HAVE TO KNOW SOMEONE'S CELL PHONE NUMBER TO ALERT THEM TO READ AN EMAIL MESSAGE FROM YOU.

BEFORE I CLOSE, I'D LIKE TO SAY I DO APPRECIATE MAYOR, MAYOR WATSON.

HE'S CANDID, HE'S FUNNY, HE'S WARM, HE'S SMART.

I SAW HIM AT A NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION MEETING AND THIS IS WHAT HE TOLD US, THE ACTIVISTS.

AND HE'S RIGHT BECAUSE HE'S OVERWHELMED.

HE SAID, COME TO CITY HALL, TELL ME ONCE.

I MIGHT HEAR YOU TELL ME 10 TIMES.

I MIGHT START TO LISTEN.

TELL ME 50 TIMES AND I MIGHT HEAR YOU.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU, MS. PROCTOR.

YES.

UM, UM, YEAH, HI, CHRIS HARRIS.

UH, THANK YOU AGAIN FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS YOU ON THIS.

UH, I THINK, I THINK THE POINT THAT RESONATED WITH ME MOSTLY, UH, IN RESPONSE TO YOUR QUESTION, UH, WAS WITH RESPECT TO THE, UM, UH, THE, THE INABILITY OF THIS COMMISSION TO CHANGE THE CHARTER RULES.

UM, AND SO, UM, YOU KNOW, THE IDEA THAT SIMPLY CI CITIZEN INITIATED BALLOT MEASURES WILL HAVE A DIFFERENT THRESHOLD.

UM, THE LIKELY RESULT OF THAT IS SIMPLY TO PUSH CITIZEN INITIATED ISSUES TO CHARTER

[00:30:01]

AMENDMENTS, UH, RATHER THAN PEOPLE PURSUING BALLOT MEASURES.

UM, WE'VE SEEN THAT IN SAN ANTONIO, RIGHT? THEY RECENTLY HAD A HUGE CHARTER AMENDMENT EFFORT.

UH, IT DID, IT DIDN'T PASS.

BUT, UM, THESE ARE THE SORTS OF THINGS THAT VERY LIKELY, UH, AND, AND BY THE SAME GROUP THAT RAN, THAT HAD HAD PREVIOUSLY DONE, YOU KNOW, A, A A CITIZEN INITIATIVE.

SO AGAIN, THOSE HIGHER THRESHOLDS ARE, YOU KNOW, ARE GONNA PUSH FOLKS TO DO THE CHARTER.

AND, AND YOU KNOW, I THINK THE PRIMARY ISSUE WITH THAT IS, UM, IS THAT, UH, ONE, YOU'RE, YOU'RE NOT REALLY CHANGING ANYTHING WITH RESPECT TO, YOU KNOW, WHO CAN DO WHAT, WHO CAN GET THINGS ON THE BALLOT, UH, AND WITH HOW MUCH RESOURCES, , IT'LL BE THE SAME IN TERMS OF ACTUALLY CREATING POLICY WITH THE SAME AMOUNT OF MANPOWER, LABOR DOLLARS, WHATEVER IT IS THAT YOU'RE USING, UM, AS IT IS TODAY.

UH, THE DIFFERENCE WILL BE THAT IT WILL BE A CHARTER AMENDMENT, WHICH IS MUCH HARDER TO CHANGE, UH, AND ACTUALLY IS, UH, IN MANY WAYS LESS DEMOCRATIC BECAUSE NOW, UH, FUTURE ELECTED OFFICIALS WILL HAVE LESS CAPACITY, LESS ABILITY TO ACTUALLY MAKE CHANGES TO THAT POLICY.

UH, IT IT CAN ONLY BE CHANGED.

MY UNDERSTANDING IS THROUGH A FUTURE CHARTER AMENDMENT.

SO, UM, SO IN, IN WHILE I UNDERSTAND, UH, YOUR, YOUR ARGUMENT, AND I THINK THERE, THERE'S DEFINITELY AN ARGUMENT TO BE MADE, UH, TO, TO HAVE A, AN INCREASED NUMBER, UM, AND, AND TO HAVE IT INCREASE AS THE CITY SIZE OF A CITY INCREASES.

UM, UM, I, IN THIS CASE, BECAUSE THERE'S THIS STATE MANDATED CHARTER RULE, IT REALLY, UH, DOESN'T MAKE SENSE BECAUSE AGAIN, IT'S, IT'S ACTUALLY GONNA BE LESS DEMOCRATIC BECAUSE WE'RE GONNA NOW HAVE PEOPLE JUST DO CHARTER AMENDMENTS.

AND NOW THOSE THINGS ARE GONNA BE MUCH HARDER TO CHANGE, UH, BY FUTURE COUNCILS.

WHEREAS A CITIZEN INITIATED BALLOT MEASURE, UH, AFTER TWO YEARS, A COUNCIL CAN GO IN AND THEY CAN, THEY CAN PASS POLICY THAT CAN, THAT CAN CHANGE THAT.

SO, UM, SO THAT WOULD BE MY, MY MAIN ARGUMENT OF COURSE, YOU KNOW, AGAIN, UH, BEING PART OF EQUITY ACTION, UH, YOU KNOW, I, MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AS WELL IS, IS JUST THAT, UM, THE COSTS HAVE GONE TR DRAMATICALLY UP SINCE THAT, UM, YOU KNOW, YOU ALREADY AREN'T SEEING THEM AS MUCH, RIGHT? WE DID OUR, UH, MAY, 2023, OBVIOUSLY THERE THAT REALLY, UH, PRECIPITATED THE COUNTER, UH, ONE IN, UH, PROP B.

UH, OTHER THAN THAT, YOU HAVEN'T SEEN AN ELECTION, YOU KNOW, SINCE 2021 WHEN WE REALLY SAW THE COST OF LABOR GO UP QUITE A BIT.

AND THIS IS NOT AN AUSTIN PHENOMENON.

THIS IS AROUND THE COUNTRY PHENOMENON.

TALKING TO OTHER PEOPLE THAT RUN THESE SORTS OF INITIATIVES, UH, IT'S, IT, YOU KNOW, THERE WAS A TIME NOT LONG AGO WHEN IT WAS A DOLLAR A SIGNATURE, UH, THAT, THAT PEOPLE WOULD GET PAID, UH, YOU KNOW, COSTS AROUND, NOT JUST AGAIN, IN AUSTIN, BUT OTHER PLACES AROUND THE COUNTRY, INCLUDING OTHER SIMILAR MID MIDWESTERN SOUTHERN STATES.

IT'S SIX, SEVEN, $8 PER SIGNATURE NOW.

UM, SO IT'S A CONSIDERABLE COST.

UM, AND, AND RIGHT PUSHING IT UP MAY VERY WELL MEAN ONLY THE MOST DEEP POCKETED GROUPS, UH, COULD, COULD ACTUALLY, UH, DO THESE.

SO THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME.

THANK YOU, MR. HARRIS.

THERE ANYONE ELSE THAT WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK TO? YES, MA'AM.

NO.

UM, GOOD EVENING.

I'M MONICA GOSMAN, DISTRICT FOUR.

JUST FOR THE NOTE, FOR THOSE WHO DO KNOW ME, I'M NOT HERE SPEAKING ON BEHALF OF MY EMPLOYER, GAVA, I'M JUST HERE MORE.

THIS IS NEW FOR ME.

SO FOR ME, IT'S MORE, UH, AN EDUCATIONAL THING, BUT LISTENING TO THE PROS AND CONS, LISTENING TO THE PEOPLE THAT ALREADY SPOKE, THAT'S STILL ENOUGH FOR ME TO BE ABLE TO SAY SOMETHING.

AND, UM, I AGREE WITH THE CON.

I MEAN, YES, LESS AND LESS PEOPLE ARE PARTICIPATING, LESS AND LESS PEOPLE ARE VOTING.

SO WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU WANT TO INCREASE IT? IT'S JUST GONNA MAKE IT THAT MUCH HARDER.

AND FOR WHERE I LIVE, IT'S REALLY HARD BECAUSE DISTRICT FOUR IS AN EXTREMELY DIVERSE DISTRICT, ESPECIALLY NORTH OF 180 3.

I WAS PART OF RESTORE RUNDBERG, I WAS PART OF THE REVITALIZATION TEAM, SERVED AS ONE OF THE OFFICERS FOR FOUR YEARS.

AND WE FOUND DURING THAT TIME, THERE'S MORE THAN 50 LANGUAGES AND DIALECTS SPOKEN JUST IN THAT ROUGHLY SIX SQUARE MILE AREA.

AND SO JUST TRYING TO DO AN INITIATIVE FROM THE CITY PERSPECTIVE WAS EXTREMELY CHALLENGING.

SOMEONE WHO'S ACTUALLY TRYING TO DO A CITIZEN INITIATED, AND THEN THE COST OF, ESPECIALLY IF YOU DON'T SPEAK ANOTHER LANGUAGE, NOT EVEN SPANISH, YOU NEED TO FIND SOMEONE WHO DOES.

YOU NEED TO FIND INTERPRETATION, YOU NEED TO TRANSLATE MATERIALS.

THAT'S A GREATER AND GREATER COST.

SO IF ANYTHING, THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A PARTICIPATORY GOVERNMENT.

IT SHOULD BE MADE EASIER FOR US, NOT MORE EXPENSIVE, NOT MORE CHALLENGING.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENTS.

UM, ANYONE ELSE WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK ON POINTS THAT RESONATED WITH THEM OR ANY ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON ISSUE ONE THAT YOU THINK THE COMMISSION SHOULD

[00:35:01]

CONSIDER? GOOD EVENING.

UM, MY NAME IS ROBIN ORLOWSKI.

I'M A FORMER, UH, COMMISSIONER ON THE MAYOR'S COMMITTEE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES.

AND I WAS THE MCPD LIAISON TO THE, UH, JOINT INCLUSION COMMITTEE, WHICH ADVISES THE EQUITY OFFICE AND CITY IM MATTERS OF EQUITY AND INTERSECTIONALITY.

UM, I FEEL THAT, UH, THE PERCENTAGE OF VOTERS SHOULD BE INCREASED FOR BALLOT MEASURES.

UH, 'CAUSE AGAIN, UM, OUR CITY IS GROWING POPULATION WISE, AND WHEN YOU HAVE A SMALL, A SMALLER POPULATION TO GET ON THE BALLOT, UH, IT DOESN'T, YOU GET ON THE BALLOT, BUT IT DOESN'T RESONATE WITH A MAJORITY OF VOTERS.

THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON.

UM, I DO, I AM IN SUPPORT OF OUTREACH.

UH, AUSTIN HAS, UH, 20% OF THE ENTIRE STATE OF TEXAS' DEAF POPULATION.

AND, UH, A SL IS NOT THE SAME AS ENGLISH.

UH, PEOPLE WHO ARE DEAF ARE OFTEN OVERLOOKED IN OUTREACH AND EQUITY.

UH, THAT'S A, THAT'S BEEN A, UH, BIG OMISSION IN THE CITY'S EQUITY, UM, STRATEGY, UH, OVERLOOKING DISABILITY.

AND, UM, I FEEL THAT EXPANDING THE REQUIRED NUMBER IS GOING TO REQUIRE PEOPLE, YES, IF FEELING PASSIONATE ABOUT AN ISSUE IS GOOD, BUT YOU HAVE TO GET OUT AND TALK TO ALL COMMUNITIES, NOT JUST YOUR BESTIES FROM HIGH SCHOOL.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

THANK YOU.

DO WE HAVE ANY OTHER SPEAKERS HERE, UM, PRESENT IN THE ROOM WITH US WHO WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK ON EITHER POINTS THAT RESONATED WITH THEM FROM OUR PRIOR DISCUSSION OR ANY OTHER INFORMATION THAT THE COMMISSION SHOULD BE AWARE OF? CHAIR, IF I MAY? UM, IF WE DO HAVE LISA CHANG, UM, ON THE LINE, MS. CHANG, WOULD YOU LIKE TO SPEAK? UM, I REPRESENT, UH, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS AUSTIN AREA.

AND AT THIS TIME, UM, UNTIL WE FORM ANY POSITIONS, I WILL NOT BE SPEAKING AT THIS TIME.

THANK YOU.

UNLESS THERE IS ANY OTHER COMMENT ON ISSUE ONE, WE'RE GONNA MOVE ON TO ISSUE TWO, WHICH I THINK IS SOMEWHAT RELATED, UM, IN TERMS OF THE SIGNATURE THRESHOLD, UM, BEFORE A DIFFERENT TYPE OF PETITION.

UM, THE SECOND ISSUE IS, SHOULD THE SIGNATURE THRESHOLD BE INCREASED FOR RECALL PETITIONS? THIS IS ANOTHER OF THE FOUR TYPES OF PETITIONS THAT WE TALKED ABOUT AND RECALL.

UM, PETITIONS SPECIFICALLY ARE THE PROCESS WHERE A LOCAL VOTER CAN REMOVE A MAYOR OR MEMBER OF CITY COUNCIL BEFORE THE EXPIRATION OF THEIR TERM.

WE'RE TALKING SPECIFICALLY, UM, TODAY ABOUT THE RECALL FOR A CITY COUNCIL MEMBER.

AND THE CURRENT THRESHOLD, UM, THAT IS IN OUR CITY'S CHARTER IS 10% OF THE QUALIFIED VOTERS WITHIN THE DISTRICT OF THE COUNCIL MEMBER.

UM, THIS IS AN ISSUE THAT THE 2018 CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION DID CONSIDER, AND WE RELIED ON SOME OF THE WORK OF THAT COMMISSION.

UM, THEY RECOMMENDED AN INCREASE, UM, FROM 10% TO 20% BASED ON A SURVEY OF PEER CITIES.

AND SO WE DO HAVE TWO SPEAKERS WHO ARE AGAIN, GONNA PRESENT THE PROS AND CONS OF THIS POSITION.

UH, PLEASE IGNORE MY TYPO ON THIS SLIDE.

I SEE THE QUESTION SHOULD BE, SHOULD THE SIGNATURE THRESHOLDS BE INCREASED FOR RECALL PETITIONS? AND ON THE PRO WE HAVE COMMISSIONER MCGIVEN, AND ON THE CON WE HAVE COMMISSIONER GREENBERG.

UM, SO I'M GONNA TURN IT OVER FIRST TO COMMISSIONER MCGIVEN TO PRESENT THE PRO SIDE OF THE POSITION, AND THEN HE WILL HAND IT OFF TO COMMISSIONER GREENBERG.

THANK YOU.

I AM COMMISSIONER MCGIVEN.

UM, RECALL ELECTIONS, UM, NOBODY'S PROPOSING THAT THEY BE ELIMINATED.

WE ALL RECOGNIZE THAT RECALL ELECTIONS HAVE SOME VALUE IN OUR SYSTEM, BUT I DON'T THINK WE CAN OVERLOOK THE FACT THAT THE VALUE THAT THEY OFFER EXISTS INTENTION WITH THE VALUE THAT WE ALSO HOLD IN DEMOCRACY GENERALLY.

AND MORE SPECIFICALLY WITH THE TEN ONE SYSTEM, THE GOAL OF MAKING OUR

[00:40:01]

COUNCIL MEMBERS WHO ARE ELECTED AS CLOSE TO THE PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE, AS, UH, ACCOUNTABLE TO THEIR DISTRICT AS POSSIBLE.

THESE EXIST IN TENSION.

THEY EACH HAVE VALUE.

UM, BUT FOR INSTANCE, A NUMBER OF THE EMAILS, I THINK ALL OF THE EMAILS THAT CAME IN, IT WAS ALL PRETTY MUCH AN IDENTICAL EMAIL.

BUT THEY CAME IN AND THEY REFERENCED DIRECT DEMOCRACY, PRESERVED DIRECT DEMOCRACY.

AND WHAT THAT OMITS IS, I MEAN, WHAT ARE YOU, WHAT ARE YOU DEFINING AS DEMOCRACY? SIMPLY THE FACT THAT THERE'S AN ELECTION.

DO YOU SEE NO DIFFERENCE IN THE VALUE BETWEEN HIGH TURNOUT ELECTIONS AND LOW TURNOUT ELECTIONS? THAT'S A REAL THING.

IT TAKES TIME, IT TAKES EFFORT.

OFTEN IT TAKES RESOURCES TO BE A PERSON WHO CAN PAY ATTENTION TO ELECTIONS THAT ARE COMING UP.

PAY ATTENTION TO THE ISSUES WE ALL HAVE FINIT ATTENTION SPANS FINIT AMOUNTS OF FREE TIME.

THERE IS A REASON WHY FEWER PEOPLE VOTE IN LOW TURNOUT ELECTIONS.

NOW, JUST SOME BASIC STATS.

OKAY, SO OUR COUNCIL MEMBERS ARE ELECTED IN RELATIVELY HIGH TURNOUT ELECTIONS, EITHER A PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION NOVEMBER, OR AT MINIMUM A MIDTERM IN TRAVIS COUNTY.

AND IT'S ADMITTEDLY NOT EXACTLY CONCURRENT WITH THE CITY OF AUSTIN.

SO FORGIVE ME, TRAVIS COUNTY VOTER TURNOUT IN NOVEMBER, 2020 WAS 70%.

THAT'S OKAY.

AND THAT'S HIGH.

THAT WAS, THAT WAS A BIG PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.

WHAT WAS IT IN THE MIDTERMS? IT WAS OVER 50%.

OKAY.

WHAT WAS VOTER TURNOUT IN MAY, 2023? WHO KNOWS? RAISE YOUR HAND.

I'M NOT CALLING ON YOU THOUGH, .

GOOD, GOOD JOB.

IT WAS 7.7%.

I'M SORRY, WERE YOU GONNA RAISE YOUR HAND NOW? UM, SO TELL ME, WHICH, WHICH IS THE MORE DEMOCRATIC OUTCOME AN ELECTION WHERE A DISTRICT'S REPRESENTATIVES ARE BEING VOTED ON? BY, I MEAN, ASSUMING THAT DISTRICT LEVEL ENGAGEMENT TRACKS THE COUNTY OVERALL, 50 TO 70% OF REGISTERED VOTERS IN THAT DISTRICT, OR ONE WHERE IT COULD POTENTIALLY BE DECIDED BY 7%.

OKAY.

SO AGAIN, NOT ADVOCATING FOR THE RECALL OF, UH, FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RECALL ELECTION, SIMPLY SAYING IT'S AT BEST A VERY BLUNT INSTRUMENT.

UM, SIMILARLY, PEOPLE HAVE BEEN USING THE TERM GRASSROOTS THAT THESE ARE, YOU KNOW, DEMOCRACY AND ALLOWING THE GRASSROOTS TO RISE UP AND, YOU KNOW, HAVE A SAY.

AND I THINK THAT'S JUST A LITTLE BIT OF A PIPE DREAM.

THE REALITY IS THAT IT DOES REQUIRE A LOT OF MONEY AND PAID STAFF, EVEN WITH RELATIVELY SMALL NUMBERS.

UM, I, I LIKE THE IDEA OF IT BEING A GROUNDSWELL OF DIRECT DEMOCRACY.

I'M NOT SAYING IT COULDN'T BE THAT, BUT HISTORICALLY HAS IT BEEN NO, UM, RELATEDLY A SEPARATE BUT RELATED POINT NOBODY TALKS ABOUT.

I MEAN, IT'S EASY TO SAY WE SHOULD HAVE RECALL ELECTIONS FOR THE ELECTED OFFICIALS.

WE DON'T LIKE.

THAT'S A LOT OF FUN TO TALK ABOUT.

NOBODY TALKS ABOUT WHAT ABOUT THE POLITICIANS WE DO LIKE, SO GOING BACK NOVEMBER, 2020, WHAT PERCENTAGE OF TRAVIS COUNTY VOTERS VOTED FOR DONALD TRUMP? ANYONE KNOW? NO.

27.14% OVER A QUARTER OF PEOPLE IN TRAVIS COUNTY.

OKAY.

UM, RIGHT NOW GOING BACK TO HOW RECALL ELECTIONS ARE A BLUNT INSTRUMENT, ULTIMATELY THEY DON'T PASS UNLESS PEOPLE FROM THE DISTRICT VOTE THAT WAY.

YES.

BUT IS THE MONEY RESTRICTED TO THAT DISTRICT? ARE THE CAMPAIGNERS RESTRICTED TO THAT DISTRICT? NO.

SO I, I ASK YOU, HOW WOULD YOU FEEL ABOUT RECALL ELECTIONS IF SOME PORTION OF THE 27% OF VOTERS IN TRAVIS COUNTY WHO VOTED FOR DONALD TRUMP DECIDED THAT THEY WANTED TO RECALL GREG KAZAR KINDA AS A DIFFERENT TENOR TO THE DISCUSSION, DOESN'T IT? AND WHAT'S TO STOP THEM FROM DOING THAT? UH, YOU KNOW, AND THEN INSTEAD OF HAVING AN ELECTION WHERE PERHAPS 50% OR EVEN 70% OF THE CONSTITUENCY IS VOTING, YOU HAVE A SMALL, YOU HAVE A LOW TURNOUT AT ELECTION, UM, LET'S SAY THAT THAT IS SUCCESSFUL, IS THERE IMMEDIATELY A REPLACEMENT REPRESENTATIVE? NO, THERE IS NOT A REPRESENTATIVE UNTIL THERE'S A SPECIALLY CALLED ELECTION.

AND IN THE MEANTIME, THE PEOPLE OF THAT DISTRICT HAVE NO ONE SITTING ON THIS DAIS TO ADVOCATE FOR THEIR LIBRARIES OR THEIR PARKS OR AROUND THEIR DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS.

IT'S AN EMPTY SEAT UNTIL THERE'S A NEXT SPECIAL ELECTION, UNTIL THAT SEAT IS FILLED BY ANOTHER LOW TURNOUT ELECTION.

AND WHO WINS? AND LOW TURNOUT ELECTIONS? PROBABLY PEOPLE WITH MONEY TO RUN A CAMPAIGN.

SO IT IS A BLUNT INSTRUMENT.

AND EVEN, EVEN IF A RECALL ELECTION IS MOUNTED AND

[00:45:01]

THE CANDIDATE THAT YOU LIKE WINS HOW MUCH TIME, HOW MUCH ATTENTION, HOW MUCH MONEY ARE THEY GOING TO BURN JUST TO KEEP THEIR JOB WHEN THEY COULD BE ON THIS DAIS ADVOCATING FOR THEIR DISTRICT? THESE ARE A BLUNT INSTRUMENT.

AND SO IT IS WORTHWHILE TO ENTERTAIN THE QUESTION.

DO WE WANT, UH, I DON'T KNOW, GOING BACK TO THE EXAMPLE OF DISTRICT FOUR, UH, SIGNATURES FROM 3,700 PEOPLE TO GET THE DOMINOES FALLING ON, SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

I THINK IT MIGHT BE WORTHWHILE TO DO SOMETHING A LITTLE BIT CLOSER TO WITH HIS ACTUAL TREND STATEWIDE.

THANK YOU.

THAT'S IT.

COMMISSIONER GREENBERG.

THANK YOU.

UM, MY NAME IS BETSY GREENBERG AND I'M SPEAKING AGAINST RAISING THE THRESHOLD FOR THE NUMBER OF SIGNATURES REQUIRED FOR A RECALL.

THE CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS NEED TO BE ACCOUNTABLE TO THE VOTERS WHO ELECTED THEM.

THIS IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT CONSIDERING THAT COUNCIL MEMBERS SERVE TERMS ARE FOR FOUR YEARS.

RAISING THE THRESHOLD FOR RECALL PETITIONS WILL MAKE THEM LESS ACCOUNTABLE.

NO PETITION TO RECALL A CITY COUNCIL MEMBER HAS BEEN COMPLETED AND VALIDATED.

SO CHANGING THE SIGNATURE THRESHOLD SEEMS LIKE A SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM THAT DOESN'T EVEN EXIST.

DISTRICT PETITIONS MAY SEEM EASY BECAUSE THE NUMBERS ARE SMALL, BUT THEY'RE ACTUALLY MORE DIFFICULT THAN PEOPLE REALIZE.

FORMER COUNCIL MEMBER TOVO DID A PETITION TO RUN FOR A THIRD TERM IN 2018.

THE PETITION REQUIREMENTS FOR A THIRD TERM WERE ONLY 5% COMPARED TO 10% FOR A RECALL.

AND AS A VOLUNTEER ON THAT OFF EFFORT, I CAN TELL YOU IT WAS A LOT OF WORK.

EVEN WITH 80 VOLUNTEERS COLLECTING AND PRE-VALIDATION SIGNATURES, COUNCIL MEMBER TOVO SPENT AN ADDITIONAL $16,000 FOR PAID CANVASSERS.

ONE DIFFICULTY WITH A DISTRICT PETITION WHERE COMPARED TO A CITYWIDE PETITION IS THAT MANY PEOPLE DO NOT KNOW WHAT DISTRICT THEY LIVE IN, SO THEY END UP SIGNING.

AND THOSE ARE NOT VALID SIGNATURES.

AND SO THOSE SIGNATURES HAVE TO BE CROSSED OFF.

FOR THE DISTRICTS THAT HAVE FEWER QUALIFIED VOTERS, UM, IT CAN BE EVEN MORE DIFFICULT PRECISELY BECAUSE THERE ARE FEWER REGISTERED VOTERS AVAILABLE TO SIGN A PETITION.

I'VE HEARD RUMBLING SUGGESTING THAT CERTAIN COUNCIL MEMBERS SHOULD BE RECALLED KNOWING HOW MUCH WORK IT WAS TO DO A 5% PETITION.

MY THOUGHT ON THAT PETITION WITH A 10% REQUIREMENT HAS BEEN GOOD LUCK WITH THAT.

CONCERNS HAVE BEEN RAISED ABOUT OUTSIDERS REMOVING OUR DULY ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES.

IF THOSE OUTSIDERS HAVE FUNDING, RAISING THE SIGNATURE THRESHOLD WON'T STOP THEM.

IN ANY CASE, IF A RECALL PETITION IS SUCCESSFUL, IT STILL REQUIRES A VOTE OF THE CITIZENS.

THE AUDITOR COMPARED AUSTIN'S PETITION THRESHOLDS TO OTHER CITIES AND TEXAS AND FOUND THAT OUR THRESHOLDS WERE LOWER.

I'D LIKE TO KNOW WHEN WE DECIDED THAT WE SHOULD FOLLOW THE LEAD OF OTHER TEXAS CITIES THAT ARE NOT KNOWN FOR THEIR SUPPORT OF INCLUSIVE DEMOCRACY.

I THINK WE SHOULD LEAVE THE SIGNATURE THRESHOLD THE WAY IT IS.

THANK YOU COMMISSIONER GREENBERG.

SO WITH THOSE TWO POINTS OF VIEW, UM, I'M GONNA TURN IT BACK TO YOU ALL, UM, WITH, I'M GONNA NOT ASK SEPARATE QUESTIONS, BUT I'M GONNA ASK A TWO PART QUESTION OF YOU.

ONE IS, WERE THERE ANY PARTICULAR POINTS THAT THE SPEAKERS MADE THAT RESONATED OR, UM, ALTERNATIVELY, WERE THERE ANY POINTS THAT YOU DIDN'T HEAR THE SPEAKERS MAKE THAT YOU THINK IT'S IMPORTANT FOR THIS COMMISSION TO CONSIDER RELATED TO INCREASING THE SIGNATURE THRESHOLD FOR RECALL POSITIONS, PETITIONS, I DIDN'T REALIZE IT WAS OFF .

UM, COMMISSIONER MCG RAISED SOME, SOME REALLY GOOD POINTS, AS DID COMMISSIONER GREENBERG.

AND AGAIN, I'M GONNA PROBABLY LEAN TOWARDS, YOU KNOW, BEING AGAINST IT AGAIN.

PART OF THE REASON IS DISTRICT FOUR, NOT ONLY THE LANGUAGES, BUT ALSO THE REASON WE HAVE SO MANY LANGUAGES IN THE RUNDBERG AREA IS BECAUSE PRIOR TO THE 45TH ADMINISTRATION, THAT WAS A REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT AREA, THE LARGEST IN THE CITY.

THERE WAS A SMALLER ONE IN SOUTHEAST AUSTIN.

SO WE HAD A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO, YOU KNOW, ORGANIZATIONS SUCH AS CARITAS AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS WHO WERE DOING CASE WORK WITH REFUGEES, POLITICAL ASYLEES, THEY COORDINATED WITH APARTMENT COMPLEXES.

WELL, WE HAVE TONS OF THEM UP IN THE, IN THE BERG AREA TO SET

[00:50:01]

UP A HOME FOR THEM WHEN THEY GOT THERE.

THAT'S HOW WE ENDED UP WITH BEING SUCH A MULTILINGUAL COMMUNITY.

THAT ALSO MEANS THEY DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE.

THEY'RE NOT US CITIZENS.

EVEN IF THEY HAVE A GREEN CARD, THEY STILL CANNOT VOTE UNLESS THEY BECOME NATURALIZED.

ALSO, I DON'T KNOW THE PERCENTAGE RIGHT NOW, BUT 10 YEARS AGO, UM, I RAN FOR COUNCIL IN THE TEN ONE INAUGURAL ELECTION.

AND ONE THING I REMEMBER FROM THAT YEAR THAT FROM 2014 FOR DISTRICT FOUR ALONE, ONE IN FOUR BLACK MEN WERE STILL SERVING TIME ON PAPER, MAKING THEM INELIGIBLE TO VOTE.

SO ADD THAT ON TOP OF IMMIGRANTS DOCUMENTED AND UNDOCUMENTED AND REFUGEES.

SO FEWER AND FEWER PEOPLE WHO EVEN HAVE THE ABILITY, THE RIGHT TO VOTE, MUCH LESS EXERCISE THAT RIGHT? AND WHEN I WENT OUT CAMPAIGNING, I MEAN, I KNEW I WASN'T GONNA WIN, UM, BUT IT WAS STILL AN EDUCATION IN BOTH WAYS.

I ENGAGED SOME YOUNG ADULTS WHO LIVED IN THE AREA NEAR WHERE I LIVED, AND THEIR ATTITUDE IS A TYPICAL DISENFRANCHISED, WELL, WHAT'S THE POINT? MY VOTE DOESN'T COUNT.

MY VOTE DOESN'T MATTER.

AND AS THINGS BECOME WORSE FOR THEM PERSONALLY, THAT'S WHAT EITHER GETS THEM GEARED UP AND FIRED UP TO GO VOTE TO GO SPEAK, OR THEY BECOME SO DEMORALIZED THEY JUST STAY AT HOME, THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON.

AND I TOLD THEM, I WAS ABLE TO GIVE THEM EXAMPLES OF TWO LOCAL ELECTIONS THAT THE PERSON WHO WON WAS ELECTED WITH LESS THAN A HUNDRED VOTES.

AND SO I TOLD HIM EVERY VOTE DOES COUNT.

SO I THINK IT'S A MATTER OF, AGAIN, WHAT'S MORE IMPORTANT IS GETTING PEOPLE ENGAGED, MAKING 'EM AWARE, DON'T MAKE CHANGES, RIGHT? AT LEAST NOT RIGHT NOW.

AND, UM, WHILE IT'S A RECALL, I KNOW IT'S NOT THE SAME AS GETTING ELECTED.

I REMEMBER THAT THAT CAMPAIGN, I DID THE PETITION TO GET ON THE BALLOT 'CAUSE I COULD NOT AFFORD THE $500 FILING FEE.

AND I FACED A LOT OF CHALLENGES.

I ONLY NEEDED 38 SIGNATURES.

THAT DOESN'T SEEM LIKE A LOT, BUT FOR A WHOPPING CAMPAIGN TEAM OF ONE, JUST ME, IT TOOK ME SEVERAL WEEKS JUST TO GET 50 SIGNATURES BECAUSE I HAD NEIGHBORS WHO, OH YEAH, I'M REGISTERED TO VOTE HERE.

COME TO FIND OUT THEY NEVER UPDATED THEIR CARD THE LAST TIME THEY MOVED.

SO A LOT OF SIGNATURES INVALIDATED.

SO I WAS GLAD I GOT MORE THAN A HUNDRED SIGNATURES, OTHERWISE I NEVER WOULD'VE MADE IT TO THE BALLOT.

SO SAME THING WORKS FOR RECALL.

PEOPLE DON'T REMEMBER IF THEY UPDATED THEIR VOTER REGISTRATION OR MAYBE THEY'RE NOT AWARE OF THE BOUNDARY IS.

SO I WOULD SAY WHAT'S MORE IMPORTANT IS TO EDUCATE PEOPLE ON THEIR RIGHTS.

PEOPLE WHO NO LONGER SERVE TIME, THEY'RE DONE, MAKE SURE THEY KNOW THAT THEY CAN REINSTATE THAT RIGHT AND GET 'EM OUT THERE.

I THINK THIS ONE EITHER NEEDS TO BE VOTED DOWN OR AT LEAST HOLD OFF FOR WHILE TO ALLOW CHANGE IN THE PROCESS.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU FOR THAT PERSPECTIVE.

ANYONE ELSE WOULD LIKE TO SPEAK AS TO POINTS THAT RESONATED? GO AHEAD.

GOOD EVENING.

MY NAME IS JOE RIDDELL.

I TOOK A LOOK BACK AT THE, UH, CITY COUNCIL ELECTIONS IN 2022 FOR THE RACES WENT TO RUNOFFS.

AND I WANT TO TELL YOU, EVEN WITH A 10% THRESHOLD OR WITH A 10% THRESHOLD, UH, YOU WOULD BE GETTING MORE SIGNATURES THAN PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY VOTED FOR THAT PERSON IN THE RUNOFF.

AND THAT'S TRUE, THAT'S ALSO TRUE FOR, UH, THE MAYOR'S RACE.

SO I DON'T THINK IT'S, UH, MAKES SENSE TO REQUIRE OF SIGNATURES FROM MORE PEOPLE THAN, THAN PUT THE PERSON IN OFFICE IN ORDER TO HAVE A RECALL ELECTION IF THEY'VE BEEN DOING NOT A GOOD JOB.

AND I COULD GIVE YOU THOSE NUMBERS.

BUT, UM, UH, I GUESS THE OTHER POINT ABOUT THAT IS IN THAT, IN THAT RUNOFF ELECTION, THERE WAS SUPPOSEDLY A 17% TURNOUT.

NOW THE, THE, THE CITY CLERK'S OFFICE HAD A, A NUMBER OF REGISTERED VOTERS.

UH, I UNDERSTAND THOUGH THERE'S A DIFFERENT THING CALLED QUALIFIED VOTERS.

SO I'M, I, YOU KNOW, THE STATISTICS GET A LITTLE FUNNY.

BUT, UH, THE BOTTOM LINE IS USING THE NUMBERS FOR QUALIFIED VOTERS THAT WERE IN ONE OF YOUR HANDOUTS.

UM, THE ONLY, ONLY DISTRICT FIVE DID MR. ALTER GET MORE THAN 10% OF THE VOTERS IN HIS DISTRICT, UH, IN THE RUNOFF.

AND IT WASN'T A WHOLE LOT MORE THAN THAT.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU MR. ODEL.

[00:55:01]

SO WE HAD A FEW OTHER HANDS RAISED.

GOOD EVENING.

OH, MY NAME IS ED ESPINOZA.

UH, FULL DISCLOSURE, I AM A MEMBER OF THE ETHICS REVIEW COMMISSION, THOUGH I AM NOT HERE IN THAT CAPACITY TONIGHT, I ALSO APPRECIATE ALL THE WORK YOU'RE DOING AS COMMISSIONERS.

I KNOW IT'S FOR THE FAME AND GLORY.

UM, I APPRECIATE THE, THE LAPS TOO.

IT'S VERY, UH, RIGHT.

OKAY.

UH, MY NAME IS ED ESPINOZA.

I LIVE IN SOUTHWEST AUSTIN.

I'M A POLITICAL MEDIA PROFESSIONAL AND THOUGH MY WORK IS USUALLY AT THE STATE AND FEDERAL LEVEL, I CARE ABOUT LOCAL ISSUES TOO.

AND REGARDLESS OF ONE'S IDEOLOGICAL POSITIONS, THERE ARE THINGS WE SHOULD ALL BE ABLE TO AGREE ON.

IN PARTICULAR, I'M REFERRING TO THE PRINCIPLE OF ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE.

HOWEVER, AUSTIN RECALL PETITION LAWS ARE WRITTEN IN A WAY THAT UNDERMINE THAT PRINCIPLE.

THE CURRENT LAW ALLOWS ANY PERSON FROM ANY PART OF THE CITY TO FILE A RECALL PETITION AGAINST ANY AUSTIN ELECTED OFFICIAL.

AND WHILE IT SHOULD BE EXPECTED THAT ANY CITIZEN SHOULD BE ABLE TO FILE A PETITION TO RECALL THE MAYOR, THERE'S A VERY UNUSUAL TWIST THAT ALLOWS THEM TO ALSO FILE A PETITION AGAINST ANY MEMBER OF CITY COUNCIL, WHETHER THE PETITIONER LIVES IN THAT DISTRICT OR NOT.

AND IN FACT, THIS IS EXACTLY HOW THE LAST TWO RECALL ATTEMPTS HAVE GONE DOWN IN AUSTIN.

IN TWENTY NINETEEN, ONE PERSON FILED A RECALL AGAINST THE MAYOR IN FIVE COUNCIL MEMBERS IN 2020 AS SIMILAR EFFORTS SOUGHT TO RECALL THE MAYOR AND THREE COUNCIL MEMBERS.

IN BOTH INSTANCES, PETITIONERS SOUGHT TO RECALL ELECTED OFFICIALS FROM MULTIPLE DISTRICTS AROUND THE CITY.

ONE WONDERS WHY THIS AVENUE EXISTS IN THE FIRST PLACE.

IN MY OPINION, IT'S A HOLDOVER FROM WHEN AUSTIN HAD AN AT LARGE FORM OF GOVERNMENT.

BUT WE HAVE DISTRICT REPRESENTATION NOW, SO IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE TODAY.

BUT WITH THAT PROVISION IN PLACE, IT OFFERS PEOPLE UNDUE INFLUENCE IN THE MATTERS OF DISTRICTS OUTSIDE OF WHERE THEY LIVE.

WHEN AN ENTITY IS ABLE TO LAUNCH A RECALL AGAINST SOMEONE ELSE'S ELECTED REPRESENTATIVE, IT UNDERMINES THE PRINCIPLE OF ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE, AND IT IS UNDEMOCRATIC.

SO WHILE WE'RE DISCUSSING NUMBERS FOR RECALLS TONIGHT, I DO WANNA DISCUSS THE PETITION AND ACTUALLY THE, THE, THE BEGINNINGS OF THE PETITION AND HOW IT'S FILED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

SO I URGE YOU TO REVISE THE FLAWED PORTION OF THE RECALL PETITION PROCESS AND I THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME.

THANK YOU MR. ESPINOZA.

MS. PROCTOR.

HELLO AGAIN.

UM, IN RESPONSE TO THE GENTLEMAN BEFORE ME, THE HONORABLE ETHICS REVIEW COMMISSIONER, I JUST WANNA SAY THAT I AM, UM, THAT A DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVE IS NOT THE GOVERNOR OF THAT DISTRICT.

THE HOME INITIATIVE JUST WENT THROUGH THIS CITY COUNCIL PROCESS.

IT DID NOT AFFECT JUST ONE DISTRICT.

SO THE VOTES THAT ARE MADE AT, AT CITY COUNCIL LEVEL AFFECTS THE ENTIRE CITY.

THE LAWS THEY MAKE DON'T JUST CHANGE MY NEIGHBORHOOD, BUT I'D LIKE TO, UM, COMMENT.

I AM IN SUPPORT OF KEEPING THE LOWER THRESHOLD OF NUMBER OF VOTES REQUIRED FOR A RECALL PETITION.

IT WAS INTERESTING TO CONSIDER THE 7% NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO VOTED IN MAY OF 2023.

IS THAT THE RIGHT YEAR? 23.

AND THAT NEEDS TO BE FIXED AT, FIXED AT THE BALLOT BOX BECAUSE IF YOU DO HAVE ONLY 10,000 PETITION SIGNERS AND ONLY 7% OF THE PEOPLE VOTE A SMALL NUMBER TIMES TIMES A SMALL NUMBER BECOMES A VERY SMALL NUMBER.

BUT YOU COULD CHANGE IT AT THE BALLOT BOX.

YOU CHANGE THE DATE AND THEN YOU OF THE ELECTION TO LINE UP WITH BIGGER ELECTIONS.

AND THEN YOU POSSIBLY, AND THIS MAY BE A NOVEL IDEA IN DEMOCRACY, BUT MAYBE YOU SAY IT'S NOT JUST THE WINNER TAKE ALL.

MAYBE THE PERSON WHO GOT ONE MORE VOTE DOESN'T GET TO WIN.

MAYBE THERE, THAT'S WHERE THE THRESHOLD HAS TO BE CONSIDERED.

MAYBE THE, TO CHANGE A LAW REQUIRES 30% OF THE CITIZENS TO TURN OUT FOR THE VOTE OR 50% WHATEVER.

THAT'S JUST AN IDEA RIGHT NOW WITH WORLDWIDE TRENDS TOWARD AUTHORITARIANISM.

THIS JUST DOESN'T SOUND GOOD TO RAISE THE THRESHOLD FOR, OF THE NUMBER OF VOTES NEEDED FOR A RECALL PETITION.

YOU KNOW, JUST WITH A BROAD BRUSH STROKE, IT SOUNDS LIKE AN

[01:00:01]

ADVANCE OF AUTHORITARIANISM.

THE STATEMENT THAT A RECALL IS A BLUNT INSTRUMENT IS ACTUALLY USEFUL TO US WHEN WE HAVE SO LITTLE RESPONSIVENESS AT CITY HALL, WHERE WHERE THE PHONE CALLS AND THE EMAILS ARE NOT RESPONDED TO.

ALL THAT'S LEFT TO THE ACTIVISTS IS A BLUNT INSTRUMENT.

AND IF IT IS A WASTE OF COUNCIL MEMBERS' ATTENTION AND MONEY TO STAY IN POWER, THAT IS THEIR ONLY INCENTIVE TO LISTEN TO US.

WITHOUT THAT POSSIBILITY, WE MAY NEVER HAVE OUR EMAILS ANSWERED OR OUR PHONE CALLS OR OUR REQUESTS FOR APPOINTMENTS.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENTS.

MS. PROCTOR.

ARE THERE ANYONE ELSE WHO WISHES TO SPEAK ON POINTS THAT RESONATED WITH 'EM OR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION THEY'D LIKE THE COMMISSION TO CONSIDER? OKAY, HEARING NO ADDITIONAL SPEAKERS ON ISSUE NUMBER TWO, WE'RE GONNA MOVE TO OUR THIRD AND FINAL ISSUE.

UH, THE ISSUE IS SHOULD ELECTIONS FOR CITIZEN INITIATED CHARTER CHANGES AND INITIATIVES BE HELD ON THE NEXT MUNICIPAL GENERAL ELECTION DATE, WHICH WOULD BE EVERY OTHER NOVEMBER.

SO WE TALKED A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE FOUR DIFFERENT TYPES OF, UM, PETITIONS.

THIS WOULD APPLY TO BOTH CITIZEN INITIATED INITIATIVES, UM, WHICH ARE CITIZEN INITIATED CHANGES TO THE LAW AND ALSO AMENDMENTS TO THE CHARTER.

UM, THE CHARTER CURRENTLY PROVIDES THAT THE INITIATIVE PETITIONS, UM, IF THEY'RE SUBMITTED TO THE VOTERS, ARE SUBMITTED THE NEXT ALLOWABLE ELECTION DATE, WHICH COULD BE A MAY ELECTION OR IT COULD BE A NOVEMBER ELECTION.

UM, AS WE MENTIONED, THE MUNICIPAL GENERAL ELECTION DATES ARE HELD EVERY OTHER NOVEMBER.

AND HISTORICALLY THIS IS WHEN WE HAVE THE HIGHER HIGHEST VOTER TURNOUT.

UM, I AM GOING TO ENLIST COMMISSIONER ALTA MURANO ON THIS POINT.

AS I MENTIONED, WE DID, WE DIDN'T, WE'RE NOT ABLE TO SECURE A SPEAKER ON BOTH THE PRO AND CON.

AND SO HE IS GOING TO BE BOTH THE PRO AND CON WEARING TWO DIFFERENT HATS.

BUT BEFORE WE MOVE INTO THAT PHASE, IS THERE ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION THAT YOU THINK WOULD BE HELPFUL TO DISCUSS BEFORE WE GET INTO THE PROS AND CONS? NO, I THINK WE'RE READY.

WE'RE READY, .

ALRIGHT.

UM, SO PUTTING ON YOUR PRO YOUR IN FAVOR HAT, WHAT ARE THE ARGUMENTS THAT YOU HAVE HEARD IN SUPPORT OF MOVING, UM, THESE UH, CHANGES TO THE MUNICIPAL GENERAL ELECTION DATE? MADAM CHAIR, THERE'S 234,000 ARGUMENTS FOR MOVING INITIATIVES AND CHARTERS TO MUNICIPAL GENERAL ELECTIONS.

MUNICIPAL GENERAL ELECTIONS OCCUR ON WHAT MOST OF US CALL THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OR THE CONGRESSIONAL MIDTERM.

AND THE 234,000 NUMBER COMES FROM DOING THE FOLLOWING MATH.

WHAT IS THE TYPICAL AVERAGE TURNOUT DURING THE SMD ERA? FOR A MUNICIPAL GENERAL ELECTIONS, IT'S 57%.

WHAT ABOUT OUR MAY ELECTIONS? 13%.

WHAT ABOUT OUR NOVEMBER NON MUNICIPAL GENERAL ELECTIONS? IT'S ALSO LOW 15%.

SO WHEN YOU LOOK AT THAT 40% DIFFERENTIAL AND TURNOUT AND YOU MULTIPLY AT TIMES THE 585,000 QUALIFIED VOTERS,