AUSTIN — Amid a wildfire of public contention, heightened safety risks, and a worsening affordability crisis, citizens in Texas’ capital city are now organizing a new response to these issues: trying to remove the mayor and five city council members from office.
On Monday, a new political action committee called “Our Town Austin” was formed solely to try to oust Mayor Steve Adler and council members Natasha Harper-Madison, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, Ann Kitchen, Paige Ellis, and Kathie Tovo. The PAC filed paperwork with the city to begin a petition process to recall the officials who account for over half of the council. The remaining members were not targeted because they are up for re-election soon.
“Voters from all districts are frustrated by the lack of transparency and honest public engagement between council members and constituents on numerous issues like the homeless crisis, the new land-development code, rising property taxes, massive corporate tax incentives, and declining affordability,” the PAC said in a statement.
The PAC’s treasurer, Sharon Blythe, told a radio show Tuesday morning that their effort is the result of a long buildup of council irresponsibility.
“I have witnessed the city council, over a number of years, not paying attention to the taxpayers of Austin, not having transparency in their decisions, and not listening to the citizens,” she said. “We are a citywide organization that [is] fed up with the city council and the way they are voting.”
Blythe explained that the council pushed citizens over the edge with their recent homeless camping law, which allowed vagrants to camp, sit, and lie down in public spaces across the city. The council’s June decision sparked months of intense community backlash and public safety risk.
“[That issue] has really blown up the whole city as far as dissension from the citizens … and continues to plague every district in this town,” she said.
Blythe also mentioned how the city council has continually raised taxes, making affordability extremely difficult for working citizens. Over just the past 11 years, the Austin City Council has taken 100 percent more cash from the median homeowner, and they also spend roughly double per capita compared to cities such as Dallas or Houston.
“I’m on a fixed income, and I can’t afford to live here anymore if they continue to spend this way,” Blythe said.
Regarding the PAC’s goal: To recall the mayor, they’ll have to gather signatures from at least 10 percent of the entire city’s registered voters—around 66,000 signatures. To remove each council member, they’ll need at least 10 percent from the member’s district.
If the PAC is successful in gathering enough signatures and the petition is certified by the city, the mayor and council members would have five days to resign. If they did not resign within that time frame, the council must order a recall election.
“It’s going to be a big effort, but we feel like we are well going to be able to achieve those goals,” Blythe said. “I think the time has come where people need to stand up and say enough is enough with the city council.”