Save Austin Now sues city over camping ban petition

Talk 1370 Newsroom
November 20, 2020 - 2:54 pm
Austin homeless

Jay Janner/American-Statesman via USA TODAY NETWORK


AUSTIN ( -- A group aiming to reinstate Austin's camping ban has sued the city, claiming it threw out hundreds of petition signatures inappropriately.

Matt Mackowiak and Cleo Petricek, co-founders of Save Austin Now, filed the lawsuit in Travis County District Court Friday morning.

According to a release from the group, Save Austin Now collected more than 24,500 signed petitions over 148 days and turned them into the city on July 20. Following an analysis of the submitted petition, including a random sample, the City Clerk's office said the effort fell short by approximately 900 signatures.

Save Austin Now says its lawsuit is based on a large public information request, which the group says shows several ways that the right to petition was "inappropriately infringed by the City Clerk's office."

"We are absolutely convinced that over 148 days, with more than 80 volunteers, we collected more than the required 20,000 signed petitions, in the middle of shelter-at-home during a global pandemic, and that the City of Austin, the City Clerk’s office, and the City Council colluded to prevent this ordinance from appearing on the November ballot," Mackowiak said in a statement. "We are fighting for the rights of every Austinite that signed our petition. All we want is for this to appear on the ballot at the next opportunity, which would be May 2021. We believe as many as five justifications used to throw out signatures were inappropriate. The threshold for infringing on the right to petition your government should be very high. We will relentlessly fight this battle in the courts, and we believe we will prevail."

The petition called for an ordinance that would have reinstated the ban on homeless camping citywide, restored the sit/lie ordinance to the downtown area and extended it to the University of Texas campus and surrounding area, and banned panhandling at night citywide from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. daily.

"Our nearly 25,000 petition signers simply want their voices to be heard," Petricek said in a statement. "As a lifelong Democrat who has sheltered homeless individuals in my home, this issue is personal to me. Every Austinite should demand a safe city. We know that Austin is less safe today than it was a year ago. We submitted more than enough signatures and we believe the courts will come to the same conclusion. The city of Austin is arrogant. They do not want to hear from residents. We demand the right to be heard and look forward to making our case."


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