Austin city special election results announced: Proposition B passes, criminalizes anyones that sits, lies down or camps in public areas downtown or near campus

Lauren Abel

The city of Austin announced the results of the May 1, 2021 special municipal election Saturday evening. All eight propositions on the city of Austin ballot would amend the city charter if they received the required majority vote. 

According to the Travis County Clerk’s Office, approximately 14% of the 759,000 registered voters in the county voted early. Out of the 19 early voting locations, the Ben Hur Shrine Center received the most voter engagement, with approximately 11,700 residents voting at this location. As of Saturday evening, 171,243 total ballots were counted for the election.

Proposition B

Austin voters passed Proposition B, according to the Travis County Clerk’s Office on Saturday night. This proposition will make it a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500, for anyone to sit, lie down or camp in public areas downtown or near the University. It will also create a criminal offense and penalty for solicitation between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. or for solicitation in a public area that is “deemed aggressive,” according to the city of Austin ballot proposition language document.

“I just cast my vote in Austin for YES on Prop B to reinstate the public camping ban,” said Gov. Greg Abbott in a tweet April 20. “Voting YES on Prop B will ensure greater health & safety for everybody in the entire Austin area.”

The Black Leaders Collective, a coalition that serves to advocate for the Black community in Central Texas, said they advocated for a “no” vote on Proposition B because they wanted to find other solutions for the people experiencing homelessness in Austin.

“While we fully recognize the need for better solutions and more resources made available to shelter the unhoused, punishing people for being poor is not the solution,” the Black Leaders Collective said in a statement April 22. “A small but financially equipped group of people want to give police the green light to jail someone because they don’t have a place to live.”

The Austin City Council revised city ordinances to prohibit camping in public areas in October 2019 after they legalized public camping June of that year. The amended ordinance allowed camping in public areas except when it unreasonably obstructed or blocked public property, or when it endangered public health and safety. 

Since Austin first lifted the camping ban in 2019, some Austin residents have voiced their opposition, including the political action committee Save Austin Now, a group focused on ending homeless camping in Austin. This organization campaigned to reinstate Proposition B, according to their website, as they believe “deregulated camping is unsafe, unsanitary, and inhumane.” 

Proposition B was put on the ballot after the City Clerk’s Office certified a Save Austin Now petition that acquired 26,000 signatures. But some UT students say they were misled into signing the petition to create an item on the ballot to reinstate the camping ban by Save Austin Now, according to previous coverage by The Daily Texan.

 

Additional Propositions:

For additional information on the propositions included on the ballot, refer to this article from April 27.

Proposition A: Passed

  • Proposition A would require the city to allow the Austin Firefighters Association to use an arbitrator in disputes if the city and the Association cannot reach an agreement.
  • 81.17% in favor
  • 18.83% against

Proposition C: Passed

  • Proposition C would give the Austin City Council authority to appoint or remove the director of police oversight.
  • 63.35% in favor
  • 36.65% against

Proposition D: Passed

  • Proposition D would change mayoral election years to coincide with presidential election years.
  • 66.91% in favor
  • 33.09% against

Proposition E: Passed

  • Proposition E would allow for the use of ranked choice voting in city elections.
  • 58.55% in favor
  • 41.45% against

Proposition F: Not passed

  • Proposition F would alter the structure of Austin City Council by consolidating the city manager position with mayoral duties and would give the mayor veto power over council decisions.
  • 14.09% in favor
  • 85.91% against

Proposition G: Not passed

  • Proposition G would provide an 11th council district to the city of Austin based on the results of the 2020 census. 
  • 43.42% in favor
  • 56.58% against

Proposition H: Not passed

  • Proposition H would create a public campaign finance program where the city clerk would provide two $25 vouchers to every registered voter to contribute to city office candidates. 
  • 43.44% in favor
  • 56.56% against