State Court Orders Austin To Rewrite Ballot Language For Convention Center Petition

Aug 23, 2019

A state appeals court ruled Austin's ballot language for a referendum on redeveloping the convention center is misleading.

Texas' Third Court of Appeals ordered the Austin City Council to rewrite the language for the citizen-led petition initiative that could limit the city's $1.2-billion effort to expand the Austin Convention Center and its use of hotel tax revenue.

The three-judge panel ruled Thursday the city council "abused its discretion" by writing "misleading" ballot language that left out key details of the proposed ordinance – including diverting hotel tax revenue from the convention center to the arts and historic preservation.

Nelson Linder, head of the local NAACP chapter who sued last week, told KUT the city's language didn't convey the "core standard" of the petition.

"Essentially the city was wrong ... and I think [what's] more important is that, for a City of Austin official to do something like that shows a careless disdain for local voters," Linder said. "This victory has a lot of implications for us as taxpayers in Austin, Texas."

The court ordered the city council to submit its revised language for approval by noon Wednesday. The city said in a statement it believes the ballot language was appropriate, but council members would discuss the ruling in a meeting soon.

"We appreciate the Court’s quick attention to this matter," the city said. "While we believe the Council appropriately fulfilled its obligation to set the ballot language, we will post a meeting shortly for the Council to discuss the Court’s ruling."