by Daryl Slusher

The group pushing to change Austin’s form of government from Council-Manager to Strong Mayor, Austinites for Progressive Reform (APR), has announced its public input phase. 

Those meetings will run alongside an already very busy and fraught political schedule, namely the run-up to the November 3 election with a ballot featuring: 

  • the Presidential race; a US Senate race; 
  • all Congressional seats — including three gerrymandered seats with a piece of Austin where Democrats have their best chance since the seats were drawn at the beginning of the century; 
  • the entire Texas House where Democrats are making their first serious attempt in at least a generation to win a majority; 
  • a host of County races (most decided in the primaries) including a contested County Commissioners race in a swing district; 
  • five City Council races; 
  • a light rail initiative that would raise the City portion of local property tax bills by 25%; and 
  • a separate transportation bond.

The strong mayor campaign was launched and is being run largely by consultants and former staffers of Mayor Steve Adler. The chairman of the group is Andrew Allison, co-founder of Main Street Hub which in 2018 was sold to GoDaddy for over $100 million. Allison is also a prominent backer of the Land Development Code rewrite. 

Adler is term limited, but could become eligible for a third term by waging a petition drive and getting the signatures of five percent of voters. After the Independent pointed this out earlier in the year, the Mayor said that he would not take advantage of this option and would not be a candidate for strong mayor if the initiative were to pass.

A switch to strong mayor would require a change in the City Charter, which requires a vote by the citizens of Austin. The item could make it on the ballot through either a petition drive or by a majority vote of the City Council. APR campaign staff told the Independent that they will pursue the petition option and will not seek a Council vote.

The group also proposes three other charter amendments;

  • Moving mayoral elections to presidential election years; 
  • Using “ranked choice voting,” which would eliminate low-turnout runoff elections by having voters list a second choice when they vote in the general election; and
  • Creating a “Democracy Dollars program,” a form of partial public financing of elections. 

The group’s meeting schedule and draft text of their proposed charter amendments can be found here,


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