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Austin Voters Overwhelmingly Reject Prop F, Saying No To A 'Strong Mayor' City

Opponents of Prop F set up an inflatable cat meant to represent the mayor in a strong mayor style of government outside Austin City Hall in February.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Opponents of Prop F set up an inflatable cat meant to represent the mayor in a strong mayor style of government, outside Austin City Hall in February.

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The makeup and vested powers of Austin’s local government will, for the time being, not change.

On Saturday, voters came out, well, strong against a "strong mayor" form of government. The initiative, also known as Proposition F, was on a ballot of eight propositions having to do with local elections, homelessness and government in Austin.

Nearly 86% of voters cast a ballot against Prop F.

“We are pleased with the outcome,” Ellen Wood, treasurer of Restore Leadership ATX, said in an emailed statement. The political action committee collected more than $90,000 in a campaign against Prop F.

“A broad and diverse coalition of Austinites overwhelmingly recognized that while advertised as transformative, progressive, and more democratic, Proposition F was anything but. We believe that the significant issues Austin faces will be best addressed by effective leadership and more thoughtful policy, not by concentrating power into one person.”

If Prop F had passed it would have changed Austin from its current "council-manager" system of government to a "mayor-council" one. In that case the position of city manager, who oversees most of Austin’s municipal departments, would have been cut. That job would have been given to the mayor, who would have been stripped of a voting role on the City Council and given veto power over Council decisions.

But, of course, none of this will happen now that the proposition has failed.

Those who opposed Prop F said they were concerned about concentrating more power within the mayor’s office and giving one representative the power to nix votes taken by the Council. (The Council would have had the ability to override a veto from the mayor, but doing so would have required a vote in favor from two-thirds of the Council members.)

Austinites for Progressive Reform, the group that led the petition effort to get Prop F on the ballot, campaigned on the idea that the person who directs most city departments, including the hiring and firing of department heads, should be accountable to the voters and thereby elected. (The city manager, who holds this position, is appointed by the Council.)

A representative for Austinites for Progressive Reform told KUT on Saturday night that voters they talked to were generally opposed to giving someone in the mayor’s role veto power.

“In forums and discussions that we had over the last several months, many people acknowledged that the current system could be improved on,” Andrew Allison, chair of the political action committee, said. “But this proposal is one they did not favor.”

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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