A petition to ask voters whether Round Rock's city charter should change to allow electronic billboards along highways did not meet the threshold for signatures, according to city officials.

What's happening?

In recent months, political action committee Keep Round Rock Safe has canvassed area neighborhoods attempting to collect signatures for a ballot initiative to change the city charter. If approved by voters, a city ordinance would have allowed for up to a dozen electronic billboards to be placed along I-35 and SH 45 within Round Rock.

However, a large portion of the signatures submitted to the city as part of the initiative were collected from residents outside of the city limits, specifically from individuals who live in municipal utility districts.

Per state law, Texans may petition their local government to enact new policies, and to bring the measure to a vote requires the petition to be signed by either 20,000 registered city voters or 5% of the voters.

The PAC announced in late December it had submitted just under 4,200 signatures to the city. Of those, 1,392 signatures were determined invalid. Of those, 1,268 were tossed due to the signees living outside the city limits.

How we got here

The PAC’s petition to alter city policy came after unsuccessful attempts in 2022 and early 2023 by Austin-based advertising company MediaChoice to lobby City Council members to change the sign ordinances.

Council members did not make any indication they intended to reverse the city’s ban on billboards. Last summer, residents began receiving text messages from WAB Research and later the Keep Round Rock Safe PAC. In November, city officials learned of petitioners going door to door to collect the signatures.

Craig Holmes, a spokesperson for Keep Round Rock Safe, previously told Community Impact the initiative to allow billboards would benefit businesses looking to advertise. He also said a member of the PAC’s coalition would prioritize public safety messages on the electronic signage.

“Advertising is an important part of the economic ecosystem of any city,” Holmes said. "Businesses advertise; attract new customers; generate income; grow their businesses; employ more people; remit more sales tax revenue to the city, county and state. Small business is the backbone of a city’s economic vitality."

City officials pushed back, calling the effort deceptive and unrelated to local public safety needs.

"I have shared my disappointment with the techniques used by this PAC to obtain signatures, including unauthorized use of the city’s logo and several misleading statements in their marketing materials,” Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan said. “This has been an exercise in our democratic process, and at this time, the PAC’s failure to secure sufficient valid signatures has shown that adding 12 new electronic billboards to Round Rock’s landscape is not a priority for our residents.”