Zimmerman sues city over Proposition 1

Councilman Don Zimmerman suing city of Austin over Proposition 1 ballot language.

AUSTIN - The seemingly never-ending saga of the ride-sharing Proposition 1 was revived Thursday when Austin City Councilman Don Zimmerman sued the city over the failure of Prop 1.

The 21-page lawsuit said the ballot measure “misled the votes and omitted chief features of the amendment, distorting the true essence of the amendment.” 

"My primary issue is that ballot language should not be crafted behind closed doors in executive session," said Zimmerman. "The ballot language was deliberately crafted to get people to vote against the measure."

The ballot language read:

"Shall the City Code be amended to repeal City Ordinance No. 20151217-075 relating to Transportation Network Companies; and replace with an ordinance that would repeal and prohibit required fingerprinting, repeal the requirement to identify the vehicle with a distinctive emblem, repeal the prohibition against loading and unloading passengers in a travel lane, and require other regulations for Transportation Network Companies?"

Confusing as it may be, the majority of the city council approved it during a council meeting. Zimmerman voted against it.

The lawsuit is the second against the city over the failure of Proposition 1, which was heavily backed by ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft. Both companies voluntarily left the city when Proposition 1 failed. After the election, Austin attorney Martin Harry filed a lawsuit aiming to overturn it.

So many are wondering, why would council's most fiscally conservative member file an additional lawsuit, potentially costing the city more money?

"The council imposed this cost on the taxpayers," Zimmerman said. "I've tried to work with the city council, they've made their views known, now we want to go to the court and get the judges to look at it."

The courts will likely merge Zimmerman and Harry's lawsuits.

If they win, the city will have to call another election. City staff estimates the May election could cost taxpayers about $550,000. Still Zimmerman says this is about more than Prop 1. He says it is about transparency.

"My goal for the lawsuit is to fix this process and not have ballot language crafted behind closed doors," he said.

Because the ordinance requiring fingerprint background checks was already in effect before the election, the lawsuit will not affect the ordinance unless the courts order a new election and the voters vote differently.

City of Austin staff says the city attorney will defend the city, but could not comment further because it is pending litigation.

KVUE News also reached out to Mayor Steve Adler and Council Member Ann Kitchen, who wrote the language, but neither were available for comment.


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