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June 2016: The Power of the People and Petitions

The Power of the People and Petitions ​

Austin’s recent Proposition 1 (dealing with background checks for Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft) is one of several proposed public policies generated by a citizens’ petition—rather than by elected officials. Despite its failure at the ballot box, Proposition 1 attracted more than 65,000 signatures to a petition that landed it on the ballot, nearly 90,000 who voted in the election, and millions of dollars in campaign spending for this one ballot measure. Some argued it represented democracy at its best, while others claimed corporations were using the ballot box for their benefit. 

In June, Austinites came together to discuss the way we make policy in Austin. Participants shared their thoughts on the following questions:

  • What role should such citizen-driven initiatives play in our democracy?  
  • What limits, if any, should be placed on such initiatives?  
  • When are they appropriate?
  • What other forms of participation are effective at bringing out change?  

Read more background information here

Feedback Summary

Conversations were held in locations throughout Austin. Major themes that surfaced include: the value of petitions, clarity, communication, and transparency, the use of tax dollars for special elections, the power and influence of money and corporations, and ensuring accurate representation of all voices in Austin. 

Read the Full Report 

How is feedback being used? 

The Austin City Council may choose to seek changes to the citizen initiative and referendum process, including changing the threshold for petition signatures to get an item on the ballot.

Who is reviewing the feedback? 

  • Larry Schooler - Manager of Community Engagement Division, City of Austin 
  • The Austin City Council