An initiative petition to allow for initiative petitions?

“We’re out to get our rights, we’re out for our town to be a good city again,” says Electra, Texas, citizen and activist Sue Howell. She has circulated petitions to amend the city charter to establish a process by which citizens can petition to put ballot initiatives before city voters and to recall elected officials when needed.

Texas: I&R in El Paso

Tue, Feb 26 2013 — Source: El Paso Times

The ongoing litigation and petitions about the demolition of City Hall and construction of the ballpark raise important questions about initiative and referendum petitions. Regardless of their viewpoints on the merits of the issues, El Pasoans should understand the initiative and referendum process.

Initiative and referendum petitions are methods to allow direct citizen participation in the legislative process at state or local levels. Despite the fundamental nature of the right to vote, the right to an initiative or referendum is not a federally guaranteed right, nor is it guaranteed under the Texas Constitution.

The powers of initiative and referendum are considered powers reserved to the people by charter.

Current and former members of the Boy Scouts of America rallied outside the organization’s Irving, Texas, national headquarters on February 4 to support the members of Boy Scout troops who have been excluded from the group for being homosexual. They brought with them 1.4 million signatures on a petition aiming to change the Boy Scout’s rules on the inclusion of homosexual members.

Jennifer Tyrrell, a former den leader, ousted because she is a lesbian, calls the Boy Scout’s policy “archaic.”

Micah Hurd, a 23-year-old college student living in Arlington, Texas, recently found himself the center of controversy.  After President Obama’s reelection in November, Hurd started a petition on the White House’s official petition website, “We the People,” proposing that the Lone Star State of Texas secede from the United States.  This normally would not cause a fuss, as many individuals in many states did the same after the President’s reelection.

After months of debate, the city’s recall election date is still on the calendar for April 14th and it could cost the city up to $1.37 million.

“Let the games begin,” Mayor John Cook said.
The opposing sides of the upcoming recall election have one thing in common.
“I’m gratified. That should have been a date established a long time ago,” Pastor Tom Brown said.
They’re both ready to get the recall election over with, but while city leaders voted to hold the election on April 14th, no one can be sure that will happen because the state hasn’t set dates for our primary elections.

Read more at News Channel 9 El Paso.


Long-time Washington State initiative activist Tim Eyman has slammed Bellingham officials for signing away the city’s right to defend its voters agains traffic camera operators.

Eyman says the mayor, the city council and the company are “colluding” together to make sure that citizens don’t get a chance to vote on red light cameras. You can listen to the audio here.

The City of Big Spring shot down imposing term limits back in January after the League of United Latin American Citizens came out against them. Now, voters may have a chance to weigh in. A concerned citizens group has been passing around a petition to put it on the ballot. NewsWest 9 was there when the Concerned Citizens of Big Spring turned in their petitions Monday afternoon. “The change is that we are limiting councilmen, councilwomen any one elected Mayor, no more than two terms in their present office. After two terms they have to sit out for two terms,” Steven Campbell said.

Read the story from News West 9

Last year Brandon Holmes and I traveled to Big Spring, TX to talk with a group of citizens whose petitions rights were violated by the city council. Now that same group is working to get a term limits measure on the city ballot after the city council rejected the issue in January:

Rejection essentially equaled an initial victory Tuesday in one grass-roots group’s ongoing fight against Amarillo City Hall. The Amarillo City Commission unanimously rejected petition demands submitted by Amarillo Citizens for Property Rights, sending the fledgling political action committee’s issues straight to voters in the May municipal election.

Read the story from the Amarillo Globe News

The battle over domestic partner benefits will not go back to the voters as of Tuesday, but that could change between now and the May 14 election. The El Paso City Council hoped to clear up confusion over the election results on the issue from last November. On Tuesday, council members were looking for a way to clarify what voters really want.

Read the story from FOX 14

“We stand today to defend the integrity of the election process in America.”

Those were the words of an attorney representing activists leading the fight against red light cameras in Houston, TX - America’s fourth largest city. Last month city voters moved 53% in favor of banning the cameras and they were turned off just over a week later. Now playing the part of sore loser, camera provider American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is suing the city, claiming that voters didn’t have the right to weigh in on the matter.

“Don’t Mess With Big Spring, Texas Citizens” should be the saying I think. As you may recall, Brandon Holmes and I traveled to Big Spring at the beginning of this year after citizen rights were violated by the city council.

It seems that the citizens of Big Spring are continuing their push for initiative and referendum rights:

Midland isn’t the only West Texas town calling for new term limits. The City Charter Committee in Big Spring will meet on Tuesday night to discuss the limits and initiative referendum. The committee will vote on recommendations for these issues. If they are approved by the city, then Big Spring voters will get the final say in next years elections.

Read the story from News West 9

Democrats were not the only losers on Election Day. Traffic cameras designed to catch red-light runners also took a ballot box beating as they were voted down in Houston and at least four other cities nationwide. More than 50 Texas communities have installed the cameras since 2003, when Garland became the state’s first city to do so. But growing opposition, buttressed by the same brand of anti-government ire that propelled the tea party this fall, has cast an uncertain future on the cameras.

Read the story from The Dallas Morning News

After blogging yesterday about traffic enforcement cameras in Ohio, a reader pointed me to this excellent breakdown of red-light and speed camera votes around the country from TheNewspaper.com. According to the article, the cameras have never survived a public vote: they usually lose by margins of two-to-one.

Among the five additional communities to ban cameras is Houston, Texas - America’s fourth largest city: