Austin voters refuse opportunity to vote on Convention Center expansion with rejection of Prop B

The Austin skyline with the city's convention center included.
A proposed expansion of the Austin Convention Center (bottom right) sparked initial support behind Proposition B.

A proposed expansion of the Austin Convention Center (bottom right) sparked initial support behind Proposition B.

Austin’s Proposition B, which asked voters whether they want the right to vote on convention center expansions costing more than $20 million and proposed the city recalculate how it spends its hotel tax revenue, was rejected by Austin voters 54.4% to 45.6%, according to voting results from the Travis and Williamson counties clerks.

Approximately 91,939 votes were tallied for Proposition B between early voting and Election Day results. Early voting was open between Oct. 21 to Nov. 1, during which just over 34,000 Austinites cast votes on Proposition B. Election day totals continued to trickle in throughout the evening; however, results are not final until they are canvassed. Although it failed, Austinites living in Williamson County approved of the proposition 52.5% to 47.5%, but they only contributed 3,752 total votes to the tally.

Proposition B was sparked after City Council showed overwhelming support for a $1.3 billion expansion of the Austin Convention Center. A political action committee called Unconventional Austin soon formed and circulated a petition, which asked people whether they would want the right to vote on future expansions that cost more than $20 million. It also proposed the city recalculate how it spends its hotel tax revenue, 70% of which is currently spent on convention center operations and debt from previous expansions.

Proposition B was one of two citizen-initiated petitions that made it on this year's ballot. Proposition A was the other, which asked voters whether they wanted to vote before the city sells or leases any city-owned land for private entertainment and sports uses. Citizen-initiated petitions are a tool offered by the state constitution that allows citizens to draft laws, petition for support and force City Council to either pass the law or put it to a citywide vote.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he was encouraged by what he referred to as the electorate's resolve.

"There are significant unintended consequences that would have damaged the city if Propositions A and B were to pass," Adler said. "I'm reminded once again just how proud I am of the electorate in this city and their ability to wade through the fog and confusion of these propositions."

The lead up to this year's election was filled with debate over the merits of citizen-initiated petitions. In Austin, there was much discussion over whether the signature threshold petitions needed to eclipse to get a petition on the ballot was too low. Right now, that threshold stands at 20,000 signatures, or 3% of the electorate, which is the lowest of any major Texas city. Adler said the city needs to look toward a change. Adler urged Austinites to get informed and weigh all pros and cons of a petition before signing.

"I think it's something the city ought to consider taking a look at changing so we can make sure these petition drives happen on big issues, issues where there is a real critical mass of people who want to make that kind of change," Adler said.

Community Impact Newspaper reached out to Proposition B supporters John Riedie, Fred Lewis and Unconventional Austin, but they did not return calls for comment.
By Christopher Neely
Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, USA Today and several other local outlets along the east coast.


Gov. Greg Abbott on July 27 issued an executive order extending the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election. (Screenshot of Sept. 17 press conference)
Lawsuit takes aim at start date for early voting as some Texas Republicans challenge Gov. Greg Abbott's order

A group of prominent Texas Republicans has embarked on a legal effort to undo the governor's executive order that extended the early voting period for the Nov. 3 election.

A photo of Elong Musk
After filing Travis County site plans, Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks to new gigafactory’s place in the company

Tesla has filed the intial site plans for a massive manufacturing plant in southeastern Travis County.

Straying from traditionals like cheese and pepperoni, Tony C's serves specialty pies such as eggplant, prosciutto and goat cheese, and the Truffle Shuffle. (Courtesy Tony C's Pizza & Beer Garden)
Restaurant Tony C's to open Sept. 24 in Round Rock and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from Central Texas.

(Graphic illustration by Rachal Russel/Community Impact Newspaper)
From New Braunfels to Cedar Park, Central Texas outdoor recreation shops scrambling to keep inventory

When combined with temporary state restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many local shop owners are speculating a perfect storm of low supply and high demand is the main reason for changes in an industry that has of late been turned on its head.

Austin ISD teachers have been able to teach virtually from their classrooms to start the school year. Some students will return to the classroom Oct. 5. (Courtesy Austin ISD)
Austin ISD teachers adjust to virtual learning as in-person demands approach

Austin ISD teachers and principals discuss the first few weeks of virtual learning.

Early voting runs from Oct. 13-30. Election Day is Nov. 3. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Find a polling location where you can vote early in Travis County

Voters can cast their ballots at any of the 37 early voting locations from Oct. 13-30.

Mercury Hall will close in 2021. (Courtesy Mercury Hall)
Mercury Hall property cleared for 5-story apartment development

Mercury Hall will close after 2021, and a dense multifamily development is set to arrive in its wake.

Buddy's Burger is open in Northeast Austin off of Cameron Road. (Courtesy Buddy's Burger)
Now open in Austin: Party Barn is back, drive-in movies downtown, burgers in North Austin and more

Blue Starlite began showing drive-in movies downtown in September. Buddy's Burger is open off Cameron Road and planning to expand to more locations, and new bar High Noon is open on the east side.

City Post is located at 113 E. Eighth St., Georgetown. (Courtesy City Post)
Georgetown to get steakhouse, speakeasy plus more Central Texas news

Read the latest Central Texas business and community news.

Easy Tiger announced Sept. 18 it had closed its downtown Austin location on Sixth Street. (Courtesy Easy Tiger)
Easy Tiger announces permanent closure of original Sixth Street location

The local bakery and restaurant remains open at the Linc and still plans to open in South Austin.

A photo of a "sold" sign
Central Austin August housing market numbers show high dollar-volume sales

While housing inventory remains low, home prices continue to rise.

Pflugerville's testing location is operated from 8 a.m.-noon Monday through Saturday where a maximum of 300 people can be tested each day at the site. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Coronavirus testing site in Pflugerville to move and more Central Texas news

Read the latest Central Texas business and community news.