What to know about Proposition B on the May 1 ballot

Tori Duff

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 20 issue of The Daily Texan.

Austin voters will cast their ballot on eight different propositions May 1, including Proposition B, which would reinstate the camping ban for Austin’s unhoused population.

A “yes” vote on Proposition B would support three main points: 

  • Sitting, lying down or sleeping in public areas such as sidewalks near the downtown area around the UT campus, including West Campus and North Campus, would become a criminal offense. 
  • Panhandling would be criminalized between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m at certain locations.
  • Camping areas would have to be designated by the Parks and Recreation Department.

In June 2019, Austin City Council repealed a 2014 ordinance that established a camping ban in areas of Austin. The City has since purchased hotels for long-term housing and began the HEAL initiative, which partially implemented the camping ban in four high-traffic areas. 

On Thursday, a coalition of Austin activist groups called the Summit to End Unsheltered Homelessness presented a report outlining a plan to house 3,000 people. Lynn Meredith, chair of the coalition’s Core Leadership Planning Group, said that while Proposition B may make this effort more difficult, it will not discourage groups from advocating for better care.

“People are living on the street,” Meredith said. “ We have a humanitarian crisis. So what does Prop B do? It might make it harder to place some people, … but at the end of the day whether it passes or not, this is the important work our community needs to do. We have to house people who do not have a place to be that is dignified and safe.”

Groups opposing the proposition say criminalizing these actions will only make it more difficult for people attempting to make it out of homelessness. 

The UT chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America began canvassing on campus on April 15 against Proposition B by educating students on what the proposition would do to the homeless community if passed. 

“(Proposition B) would make it that much harder to escape homelessness because it would push homeless people out of the city and make it harder for them to access services,” co-chair of YDSA Bennett Burke said. “It would give so many more people criminal records that aren’t deserved, which in turn makes it even harder to get a job or housing.”

Chas Moore, founder of the Austin Justice Coalition, said the proposition defies the spirit of Austin.

“It’s saying that we know these people don’t have anywhere else to go, but we don’t want to see it,” Moore said. “It’s saying, ‘Is the tourist aesthetic of Austin more important than people’s well-being?’ and the answer is absolutely not.”

Early voting for the ballot including Proposition B runs from Monday, April 19 to Tuesday, April 27. 

There are no on-campus early voting sites. However, the Austin Recreation Center located at 1301 Shoal Creek Blvd. is the closest location to campus, open for early voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

On May 1, the Flawn Academic Center on campus will serve as a voting location from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. People can check their nearest voting location at the Travis County Clerk website.