Petitioners filed suit yesterday seeking a Writ of Mandamus.
Representing us all, petitioners filed suit seeking a court to order the City of Austin to put the petition for your right to vote on CodeNEXT on the November ballot. This request for a Writ of Mandamus is very clear. It reiterates what we have told you all along. That is that the Council is obligated to put the measure on the ballot, without judgement.
Pay attention to these two words — “ministerial duty,” defined in Webster’s Legal Dictionary as:
A ministerial act or duty is a function performed without the use of judgment by the person performing the act or duty.
Now, IF the Council were to use their judgement on placing the petition on the ballot, they could have done so on their first vote. But the majority chose not to. And, at today’s final hearing on CodeNEXT, the Council members who are really listening can plainly see what’s going on. Austinites are very divided on CodeNEXT and likely mostly opposed to it. Is this why the majority has a listening problem?
Here is the list of speakers at today’s hearing. See the line up?
Total Citizens: 231
You can watch it here LIVE or if you miss it, go to the Archives.
Petitioners filed suit yesterday seeking an expedited case in Travis County District Court. And the petition signers Nelson Linder, Susana Almanza, Jane Rivera, Gilbert Rivera, Michael Hebert, Jeff Jack, Mary Ingle, and D. Lauren Ross, Ph.D., put their names forward to represent us all. This most importantly includes the nearly 26,000 verified voters who signed as certified by the Austin City Clerk on April 23.
We all owe many thanks to attorneys Fred Lewis and Bill Bunch (of Save Our Springs Alliance) for their efforts. Moreover, we appreciate how fast y’all moved!
Petitioners filed suit to defend democracy that we wrote here about last week.
Please volunteer with us by filling this out or just call us at 512.535.0989. Thank you all!
Fancy Words Mayor — See ya in court!
Yesterday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler used fancy words to twist the Council’s duty to defend democracy into a “disgusting display of duplicity.” Those were the words sent to us by one angry Austinite who watched yesterday’s proceedings.
Duplicity is a fancy word for dishonesty. It’s a good match for the fancy words used by the Mayor to force petitioners to go to court for your right to vote.
We’ll take it Mayor and we’ll see you in court!
The Mayor claims it took courage for the slim pusillanimous majority (Kitchen, Renteria, Casar, Garza and Flannigan) to deny your right to vote in favor of the rich and powerful pushing CodeNEXT. Pusillanimous is a fancy word for cowardly. No Mayor, it takes both courage and heart to stand up for democracy.
Ora Houston, Not a Lawyer
Councilmember Ora Houston, nailed this very point in today’s Statesman stating,
“I have personally been in situations where the law has disenfranchised me of that right,” and “I never want to be in that position (to vote for something) that legally might be the right thing to do, but morally it is the wrong thing to do.”
Many thanks to the forthright four — Councilmembers Houston, Tovo, Alter and Pool — and a bunch of other folks who spoke to the City Council yesterday. Y’all can watch the proceedings here. (Scroll down to Item 37.)
On Memorial Day you might revisit these words spoken by the father of our country. He knew how to use fancy words FOR democracy. Maybe that’s because our George refused to be king:
“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
Farewell Address, 1797
Sign up to volunteer. We’ve got work to do to save democracy in Austin.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler and the City Council are going to vote again on CodeNEXT petition placement on the ballot. This is only about your right to vote on CodeNEXT, not where you stand on CodeNEXT itself. This is what nearly 26,000 registered Austin voters signed the petition for. The City Council voted no by 6 out of 20 members in the wee hours on April 26 — read our report about this here. Read our Klep Blog from the top of the page down for updated information. And, please consider signing up for our email alerts too.
Meanwhile, please reach your council member and the Mayor here. Urge them to do the right thing on May 24 to follow the law and to let the people vote!
Click on the picture to read our CodeNEXT page, including the petition. You will see that it’s just about your right to vote on it once the Council votes on it. A Council vote has yet to be scheduled on CodeNEXT itself. IF we get the measure on the ballot and IF voters pass it, it will reserve the voters’ rights to vote on the CodeNEXT final product that is passed first by the Council.
Do you think you should have the right to ratify or reject the Council’s decision on the land development code affecting decades to come of Austin’s future? If the answer is yes, reach the Mayor and Council and plan to be at the May 24 meeting. Be sure to sign up for our email alerts so we can keep you updated.
Remember there’s free parking underground on Council meeting days.
Let the People Vote!
Come tomorrow to respectfully deliver this message to the Austin City Council to Let the People Vote!
Join us on Thursday, May 24, starting at 11 am or come at noon. Item 37 on their agenda tomorrow is the next step in the process to secure your right to vote on CodeNEXT.
Email the Mayor and Council HERE and, if you cannot attend, watch the live webcast HERE.
Item 37 is sponsored by Mayor Pro-tem Kathie Tovo and Council members Ora Houston, Leslie Pool and Allison Alter. Ora Houston has asked the Mayor to bring Item 37 up at noon.
Should Council Member Kitchen Recuse Herself from CodeNEXT Votes?
We respectfully suggest that Councilmember Kitchen recuse herself from voting on CodeNEXT or fully disclose. We hope she clarifies fully her financial ties to Opticos Design and how much she or her husband have been paid. Opticos was given the original award to draft CodeNEXT to the tune of $2 million. Opticos has the city on the hook now for $8.2 million. (If you missed our last piece, be sure to read it here.)
We just received this information. Kitchen’s company is listed as a subconsultant in the 2013, $2 million award to Opticos Design for CodeNEXT. (See bottom of the second page.)
In Ms. Kitchen’s 2013 and 2014 statements of financial disclosure she filed with the city as a candidate, she does disclose that Opticos paid her company. But there is no information that clarifies just how how much. To be fair, she is not legally required to do so. She is allowed to lump four agreements together in her financial disclosure statements.
Also to be fair, Ms. Kitchen has never denied that her husband was a paid consultant on CodeNEXT before she won her council seat. He is also mentioned on this page at the Opticos website. Our problem is that she has taken many votes on CodeNEXT. We cannot recall her ever even mentioning her involvement. We also don’t believe that she has ever disclosed how much money her company and/or her husband may have benefited financially from CodeNEXT.
If you know something we don’t or we need to be corrected, please do. We have sent this article to Council Member Kitchen as well.
Is Ann Kitchen Legally Required to Recuse?
We refer you to Section 2-7-63 of the City’s Ethics Ordinance sections below. (Go here for the entire ordinance.)
- 2-7-63 PROHIBITION ON CONFLICT OF INTEREST.
(A) A City official or employee may not participate in a vote or decision on a matter affecting a natural person, entity, or property in which the official or employee has a substantial interest; provided, however, that this provision shall not prohibit any member of the city council from participating in a discussion relating to a petition certified to the to the city council by the city clerk which petition seeks the recall of said member of the city council.
*Note: Councilmember Kitchen was the subject of an attempted recall two years ago related to the Uber controversy. None of us at IndyAustin supported the attempted recall, and she is not the subject of a recall today. She is up for reelection in November, however.
Miss Ora has a clue…hint, hint to Jimmy Flannigan, Let the People Vote!
At yesterday’s Work Session, Council Member Jimmy Flannigan (District 6) said, “I have some amendments…but since this [Item 37] is going to fail, I won’t waste members time explaining them…”
Ora Houston replied – “Call me a Pollyanna, but I think it’s going to pass.”
So, Flannigan has already concluded that Council will not pass Item 37 tomorrow. Item 37 will direct the City Manager “to prepare draft language for all necessary ordinances, actions and approvals to place the CodeNext petition-sponsored ordinance on the ballot.”
To his credit, the Mayor was trying yesterday to build consensus by suggesting that any Council amendments to CodeNEXT receive an 8 to 3 super-majority vote.
Flannigan promptly rejected the Mayor’s olive branch to either side of his divided Council. And the City Staff came up with this incredible proposal. Staff wanted permission to make “minor corrections” in the final CodeNEXT product without a Council vote!
When will the Council vote on CodeNEXT? Council watchers say September, October or after the November election.
Note: Though Flannigan is not up for reelection in November, he has been in office long enough to be the subject of a petition for recall.
Petition Interference Can Payoff…then YOU pay.
In 1997, then City Clerk Eldon Aldridge invalidated 14,000 of 28,000 signatures on minor issues such as nicknames. This was a clear violation of state law. Federal Judge Sam Sparks issued an angry ruling ordering the city to place the measure on the ballot at the next opportunity. But, aha, here’s the real point. The measure missed the November ballot, helping then first time candidate and not well-known Kirk Watson in his bid for Mayor. One of Kirk Watson’s two opponents in that race was the popular local music folk hero and environmentalist, longtime former Council Member, Max Nofziger. Max ran for Mayor carrying the Little Less Corruption petition message as his torch. Max lost his torch and the momentum to overcome Watson’s fundraising advantage.
Lesson: ”A Little Less Corruption” campaign finance measure passed in the next election with a 72% margin.
Relax and Remember on Memorial Day
We still send our men and women into wars for democracy. Just remember that our democracy guarantees a thing called separation of powers. For those on the Council who will say tomorrow that the petition is “illegal”, please know that this question is for court of law to decide — not a legislative body (the City Council). They apparently don’t understand this or don’t really want to understand. It’s really a no-brainer to get that the question of legality is only ripe when something becomes law. To do otherwise is to remove the power of the people their right to petition government in the first place.
Let the people vote, y’all! Pay it forward.
Urgent Action Requests Before or by Thursday, May 24, 2018!
Who Is Mark Yznaga?
Please share these urgent action requests across Austin, dear Austin:
- Reach out to the Mayor and Council Members. Ask them to vote “YES” on Thursday to put the CodeNEXT petition on the November ballot. Mayor Pro Tem Tovo and Council Members Houston, Alter, and Pool have already pledged to do so. Contact the Mayor and Council Members here.
- Reach out to Cap Metro and local officials by Thursday about proposed changes not good for many who depend on bus service. Details here.
- We hope to release NEWS tomorrow. We will ask you to again share it widely.
Who is Mark Yznaga?
Mark Yznaga is a longtime Austin political consultant who was hired by San Francisco based Opticos Design Inc. to consult on CodeNEXT. The City of Austin hired Opticos to write the massive overhaul of the city’s land development code, otherwise known as CodeNEXT. The original bid was for $2 million. Now, Opticos has the city on the hook for $8.2 million. What’s more, by all accounts, the CodeNEXT draft is a mess.
Currently, two city commissions are going in two very different directions on CodeNEXT. The Zoning and Platting Commission is urging that CodeNEXT be scrapped. ZAP wants the city to focus on displacement/affordability solutions first. The Planning Commission is trying like heck to save CodeNEXT. The Planning Commission itself was saved by the Council majority vote at the last Council meeting. The Mayor and five Council Members voted to continue to allow the unethical — and possibly illegal — stacking of the commission. The tail — real estate related special interests — continues to wag the dog at City Hall, y’all.
Mark Yznaga is also married to Council Member Ann Kitchen
Attorney Ann Kitchen can be easily seen now as the legal attack dog on the City Council for Mayor Steve Adler. She has led the charge to claim that the CodeNEXT petition is “illegal.” Notice she does not use the word “allegedly.” Council member Kitchen has made herself the judge and jury. The Mayor and four other members of the Council let her get away with this at the April 26 Council meeting “In The Wee Hours At 2 am.” Last week, Kitchen also led the same members: Adler, Renteria, Casar, Flannigan, and Garza to keep the gamed Planning Commission Board in place.
The best set of details we’ve seen on the stacking of the Planning Commission is this memorandum by attorney Fred Lewis. This memo was shared with the City last year.
We hope to have more to say about these issues tomorrow. Please watch for it and share it with your friends across Austin. And we may have additional urgent action requests for you.
Meanwhile, please heed our Urgent Action Requests at the top of this message. If you can, join us on Thursday at the City Council meeting, watch for details, or send a note to us at contact@IndyAustin.org.
Longtime Austin political consultant Mark Yznaga during the hey days of the SOS initiative. (Photo by Alan Pogue for Austin Chronicle)
Note: This photo of Mark Yznaga by professional photographer Alan Pogue was was printed in the Austin Chronicle in 1992. This was just after voters passed the SOS initiative placed on the ballot via the petition process. Back then, Yznaga and Kitchen supported Austin’s right to vote on a petition that was also deemed “illegal” by the City Council. SOS won that battle in court. But the SOS vote was delayed. Is this the same game plan now? Are these Council members up for reelection — Adler , Kitchen and Renteria — seeking to benefit from keeping the CodeNEXT petition off the ballot until after the November election?
Remember, the petition is solely about your right to vote on the CodeNEXT final product IF and WHEN the Council passes it. It’s your check on the Council’s work. It’s also a right fully guaranteed to you by the Austin City Charter. Guess who will pay the legal fees for the city’s efforts to violate its own charter — Austin’s constitution? You, and your fellow Austin residents, that’s who.
Read SOS email message here for more details.
Read the CodeNEXT background and petition here.
Hot off the press from The Austin Bulldog is this article “Library Commission May Protect Petition Rights.” In other words, this is still up for debate! And one more reason we sometimes do “Urgent Action Requests.”
When will they ever learn, eh? Don’t mess with the citizens right to petition.
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