Austin's petitions on stadium deals, convention center expansion officially placed on Nov. 5 ballot

The question of an expansion of the Austin Convention Center has been debated for years.

The question of an expansion of the Austin Convention Center has been debated for years.

Should voters have a say whether the city gives away public land for sports or entertainment venues? Should voters have the power to approve or deny a convention center expansion that costs more than $20 million? Should the city fundamentally change how it spends hotel occupancy tax revenue?

Austin voters will get to answer these questions Nov. 5 after a pair of citizen petitions forced City Council on Aug. 8 to call a referendum and place the issues on this fall’s ballot.

The referendums mark the third and fourth citizen-initiated ordinances to make it on the local ballots in the last two elections. Last year’s versions asked voters whether they should have the power to approve comprehensive revisions to the land development code—a consequence of the divisive CodeNEXT project—and whether the city should hire a third-party firm to conduct a forensic audit of city expenses.

Voters rejected both measures. As Community Impact Newspaper previously reported, Austin has the weakest threshold for citizen-initiated ordinances to force a vote of any major Texas city. State law mandates citizens have the right to initiate an ordinance by petition. In Austin, petitioners only need 20,000 signatures or 3% of the current electorate to get a proposal in front of City Council.

City Council has the option to adopt the proposal as written in the petition, or call a referendum to let the voters decide. With the mayor and a number of council members coming out against the 2019 petitions, they chose to leave both questions to an election.

The question of giving public land away for the use of sports or entertainment uses followed the saga of Austin City Council’s hotly contested decision to give up the city-owned McKalla Place tract for the construction of the 20,000-seat Austin FC Major League Soccer stadium—the city’s first major professional sports arena.

The group Friends of McKalla Place submitted a petition with roughly 28,000 signatures to the city clerk Jan. 3. City Clerk Jannette Goodall validated the petition that met the signature threshold Feb. 11.

The questions around the Austin Convention Center expansion and hotel tax revenue allocation came in the wake of Austin City Council’s decision to explore a $1.3 billion expansion process, financed mainly through hotel tax revenue. Aside from voters having a say on expansions that exceed $20 million, the proposal asks voters whether Austin should spend fewer hotel tax revenue dollars on the convention center and more on marketing tourism throughout Austin.

The petition, drafted by the political action committee Unconventional Austin, received validation from Goodall’s office July 26. Goodall’s office estimated the petition held more than 24,000 signatures.
SHARE THIS STORY


MOST RECENT

Community members examine updated zoning maps at land development code town hall in October.
Land development code rewrite heads to City Council for final approval, marking home stretch of nearly 7-year process

Austin's long-awaited land development code rewrite is heading to City Council for final approval.

Crews work on updating a section of I-35 in Central Texas (Courtesy TxDOT)
Central Texas transportation agencies investing millions in I-35 for new lanes, intersection improvements aimed at aiding mobility

About 20 miles of I-35 through Central Texas will see an infusion of $400 million in state and federal funding to add one to two additional lanes in an effort to improve mobility.

Sage Blossom Massage's new Oak Hill location features a salt room. Courtesy Sage Blossom Massage
Sage Blossom Massage now open in Oak Hill

Sage Blossom Massage's new Oak Hill location at 6705 W. Hwy. 290, Austin, opened in early October. Sage …

A photo of the Dripping Springs City Council.
Dripping Springs City Council opts for partial refund to Mark Black in wedding venue fee dispute

Dripping Springs City Council voted Nov. 12 to refund $2,121 of Mark Black's $12,800 request.

Delia Garza speaks to her constituents at a town hall meeting in 2017.
Austin Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza says she will not seek re-election as Travis County attorney rumors heat up

Austin's mayor pro tem will not seek reelection to her Southeast Austin district seat in 2020.

Deece Eckstein at the Nov. 12 Travis County Commissioners Court meeting
Travis County intergovernmental relations officer announces retirement, triggers "aggressive" hiring schedule

Deece Eckstein, Travis County's inaugural intergovernmental relations officer, will retire at the end of the year.

Austin City Council members answer questions at a town hall on homelessness
Austin no longer pursuing homeless shelter off Ben White with pivot to hotel purchase

Austin will no longer pursue the controversial purchase of a South Austin tract to use for a new homeless shelter.

Austin City Council will consider purchasing and renovating a motel property along I-35 in South Austin to provide shelter for the city's homeless individuals. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
City may buy Rodeway Inn in South Austin, renovate property to house homeless

The city is considering adding $8 million to its fiscal year 2019-20 budget to accommodate the purchase.

A photo of a stretch of East Slaughter Lane with yellow delineators.
Austin Transportation Department installs safety upgrades to 500 block of East Slaughter Lane

The Austin Transportation Department closed the median break between 515 and 516 E. Slaughter Lane.

Cooper's Sandwiches now open in Southwest Austin

Cooper's Sandwiches has opened on Southwest Parkway.

Four-story office building added as construction begins on Plano’s Mustang Square mixed-use project

A new four-story office building will headline a major mixed-use development in Plano, developers announced Oct. 2 as crews began work on the Mustang Square project.

The ATX Helps coalition launched with a press conference on Nov. 7.
A $14 million campaign and 300-bed shelter: Austin’s private sector leads new coalition to address homelessness

A coaltiion of private sector, non-profit and faith-based groups has formed to address Austin's homelessness crisis.

Back to top