City of Austin hit with second lawsuit over ballot language


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Just a week after the Texas Third Court of Appeals ordered the City of Austin to rewrite ballot language for one citizen-led proposition, the city is being hit with another lawsuit related to ballot language.

This time, a group in favor of Proposition A — which initially aimed to challenge Austin’s Major League Soccer deal — are also suing the city over its ballot language.

The lawsuit alleges that Austin City Council altered the ballot language of Proposition A by removing any reference to sports stadiums. The lawsuit says this was an attempt to confuse voters into voting to approve a deal to fund a possible team and/or stadium.

Within the past two years, controversy has surrounded bringing an MLS team to Austin and building a stadium for its home base. Austin FC announced in January it is coming to Austin and is working to build a stadium at McKalla Place in north Austin.

According to the lawsuit, the filer, realtor Sharon F. Blythe and 26,440 others signed a petition that would require:

  • voter approval and city council approval for the sale, lease, conveyance and mortgage of city-owned land for a sports stadium or facility
  • any such sports facility would have to post payment and performance bonds, and pay taxes [equal to the amount thereof]
  • any such sale or lease must be publicly known

The effort is largely funded by Bobby Epstein of Circuit of the Americas, who recently started his own soccer team and stadium, Austin Bold FC.

While it did not file the lawsuit, Friends of McKalla, a community of Travis County residents that says it advocates for good public policy and responsible use of public land, recently said it supports the lawsuit.

Earlier this year, Friends of McKalla presented 29,000 signatures to the city in support of an ordinance that aimed to challenge bringing an MLS team to Austin.

MORE: Austin FC will break ground on stadium in September

Member Francoise Luca said, in part:

 “I’m so disappointed with this abuse of the ballot language, and I applaud Ms. Blythe for her courage and conviction to bring this lawsuit forward. When I signed the stadium petition, I had the expectation that we would vote on this specific ordinance as did thousands of other voters. I hope that Proposition A receives the same judicial scrutiny as Prop B and that the City will be held accountable for this deceptive behavior.”

The lawsuit alleges that Austin City Council added the terms “youth” and “recreational” sports and entertainment facilities as a “poison pill” to kill the proposed ordinance.

Last week, the City of Austin was ordered to re-write the ballot language for Proposition B, which the Third Court of Appeals ruled was misleading. Proposition B is an ordinance that calls for an election when it comes to expansions of the Austin Convention Center, but some said the ballot language failed to inform voters how a portion of funds will be put toward cultural arts.

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