Come tomorrow to respectfully deliver this message to the Austin City Council to Let the People Vote!
Join us on Thursday, May 24, starting at 11 am or come at noon. Item 37 on the agenda tomorrow is the next step in the process to secure your right to vote on CodeNEXT.
Item 37 is sponsored by Mayor Pro-tem Kathie Tovo and Council members Ora Houston, Leslie Pool and Allison Alter. Ora Houston has asked the Mayor to bring Item 37 up at noon.
Should Council Member Kitchen Recuse Herself from CodeNEXT Votes?
We respectfully suggest that Councilmember Kitchen recuse herself from voting on CodeNEXT or fully disclose. We hope she clarifies fully her financial ties to Opticos Design and how much she or her husband have been paid. Opticos was given the original award to draft CodeNEXT to the tune of $2 million. Opticos has the city on the hook now for $8.2 million. (If you missed our last piece, be sure to read it here.)
We just received this information. Kitchen’s company is listed as a subconsultant in the 2013, $2 million award to Opticos Design for CodeNEXT. (See bottom of the second page.)
In Ms. Kitchen’s 2013 and 2014 statements of financial disclosure she filed with the city as a candidate, she does disclose that Opticos paid her company. But there is no information that clarifies just how how much. To be fair, she is not legally required to do so. She is allowed to lump four agreements together in her financial disclosure statements.
Also to be fair, Ms. Kitchen has never denied that her husband was a paid consultant on CodeNEXT before she won her counsel seat. He is also mentioned on this page at the Opticos website. Our problem is that she has taken many votes on CodeNEXT. We cannot recall her ever even mentioning her involvement. We also don’t believe that she has ever disclosed how much money her company and/or her husband may have benefited financially from CodeNEXT.
If you know something we don’t or we need to be corrected, please do. We have sent this article to Council Member Kitchen as well.
Is Ann Kitchen Legally Required to Recuse?
We refer you to Section 2-7-63 of the City’s Ethics Ordinance sections below. (Go here for the entire ordinance.)
- 2-7-63 PROHIBITION ON CONFLICT OF INTEREST.
(A) A City official or employee may not participate in a vote or decision on a matter affecting a natural person, entity, or property in which the official or employee has a substantial interest; provided, however, that this provision shall not prohibit any member of the city council from participating in a discussion relating to a petition certified to the to the city council by the city clerk which petition seeks the recall of said member of the city council.
*Note: Councilmember Kitchen was the subject of an attempted recall two years ago related to the Uber controversy. We did not support the attempted recall, and she is not the subject of a recall today. She is up for reelection in November, however.
Miss Ora has a clue…hint, hint to Jimmy Flannigan, Let the People Vote!
At yesterday’s Work Session, Council Member Jimmy Flannigan (District 6) said, “I have some amendments…but since this [Item 37] is going to fail, I won’t waste members time explaining them…”
Ora Houston replied – “Call me a Pollyanna, but I think it’s going to pass.”
So, Flannigan has already concluded that Council will not pass Item 37 tomorrow. Item 37 will direct the City Manager “to prepare draft language for all necessary ordinances, actions and approvals to place the CodeNext petition-sponsored ordinance on the ballot.”
To his credit, the Mayor was trying yesterday to build consensus by suggesting that any Council amendments to CodeNEXT receive an 8 to 3 super-majority vote.
Flannigan promptly rejected the Mayor’s olive branch to either side of his divided Council. And the City Staff came up with this incredible proposal. Staff wanted permission to make “minor corrections” in the final CodeNEXT product without a Council vote!
When will the Council vote on CodeNEXT? Council watchers say September, October or after the November election.
Note: Though Flannigan is not up for reelection in November, he has been in office long enough to be the subject of a petition to recall.
Petition Interference Can Payoff…then YOU pay.
In 1997, then City Clerk Eldon Aldridge invalidated 14,000 of 28,000 signatures on minor issues such as nicknames. This was a clear violation of state law. Federal Judge Sam Sparks issued an angry ruling ordering the city to place the measure on the ballot at the next opportunity. But, aha, here’s the real point. The measure missed the November ballot, helping then first time candidate and not well-known Kirk Watson in his bid for Mayor. One of Kirk Watson’s two opponents in that race was the popular local music folk hero and environmentalist, longtime former Council Member, Max Nofziger. Max ran for Mayor carrying the Little Less Corruption petition message as his torch. Max lost his torch and the momentum to overcome Watson’s fundraising advantage.
Lesson: ”A Little Less Corruption” campaign finance measure passed in the next election with a 72% margin.
Relax and Remember on Memorial Day
We still send our men and women into wars for democracy. Just remember that our democracy guarantees a thing called separation of powers. For those on the Council who will say tomorrow that the petition is “illegal”, please know that this is for court of law to decide. They apparently don’t understand this or don’t wish to understand. It’s really a no-brainer to understand that the question of legality is only ripe until something becomes law. To do otherwise is to remove the power of the people their right to petition government in the first place.
Let the people vote, y’all! Pay it forward.