Published on February 24th, 2016 | by Kate Harrington
Petition for Councilmember Recall Submitted, But What Comes Next Unclear
A petition backed by Austin political action committee Austin4All asking for the recall of Councilmember Ann Kitchen landed in the City Clerk’s office on Feb. 19. But what happens next is far from clear.
The City Clerk now has 20 days to verify the signatures, and Austin4All supporters say that once that happens, a ballot item on Kitchen’s recall could appear in the May 7 election. The petition needs to have signatures from 10 percent of active voters in Kitchen’s district, District 5, in order to be valid.
City and state officials disagree, though, saying that Feb. 19 was the cutoff day to put an item on the May 7 ballot, and that simply turning the petition in by that day doesn’t cut it. If the recall doesn’t end up on the May 7 ballot, it could go on the Nov. 8 ballot. If enough signatures are valid, Kitchen could also technically be asked to resign, although the Councilmember has made it clear she will not.
Details about the PAC behind the recall effort are slim, but its members have stated that one of the reasons they oppose Kitchen is her support for more stringent background checks for Uber and Lyft drivers. A completely different petition drive seeking to reverse the ordinance that requires fingerprinting and other regulations for transportation network companies has led to a ballot item for May 7 on that issue.
The Austin Monitor reports that if residents did vote for Kitchen’s recall, they wouldn’t be able to vote on her replacement. Since Kitchen would be forced to leave immediately if voters approved her recall, that could mean the district would have no council representation for six months.
Both Uber and Lyft have denied any involvement with Austin4All. The PAC told KUT that Kitchen “clearly does not represent the majority of Austinites’ view that open access to ridesharing improves the quality of life for all Austinites, including riders and drivers, and the overwhelming success of our petition reflects that.”
But Councilmembers and neighborhood associations have come out in support of Kitchen, saying the attempt at a recall is an attack on good governance in Austin.