Bill Bunch Again Defends Public Participation at Austin City Hall


  • On April 4, Bill Bunch confronted Austin Mayor Kirk Watson on the dais about the city council’s policy limiting citizen communication, and Bunch took the city to court and won
  • The council passed a new public-participation ordinance in response, but it falls short of fixing City Hall’s transparency problem
  • The final version of the “H.O.M.E.” redevelopment plan has yet to be made public

During an Austin City Council meeting on April 4, Save Our Springs Alliance Executive Director Bill Bunch confronted Mayor Kirk Watson on the dais about the council policy limiting citizen communication. Bunch took the city to court and quickly won, forcing the council to pass a new ordinance addressing citizen participation at public meetings. 

That new ordinance is an affront to democracy and transparency. It continues to allow the council to keep important items on its “consent agenda,” which is supposed to contain only routine items. At council meetings, our elected representatives typically pass all items on their consent agenda at once, in a single sweeping vote—and with limited public input. In the past, if more than one person signed up to speak on a consent item, it was taken off the consent agenda and discussed. That is no more with the Watson council.

Council Member Alison Alter attempted to amend the new ordinance to fix the problem, but Watson and his allies voted her down.

On May 30, Bunch took to the council chamber’s podium and defended the public again, demanding that local residents be treated fairly:

As those who successfully fought the developer-friendly CodeNEXT plan know, City Hall’s lack of transparency is nothing new. Schemes that threaten to make Austin less affordable, displace thousands of low-income families, and forever change our local neighborhoods are planned and discussed secretly. Council meetings and other public hearings are often mere pretense, where local officials often sit mute or even leave the dais while everyday Austinites attempt to speak out.

Council Member and Watson ally Natasha Harper-Madison showed the extent of the problem in December when she admitted that she had already made her decision to pass Phase 2 of “H.O.M.E.”,  before public testimony was heard.

In typical fashion, the final version of the “H.O.M.E.” ordinance has yet to be made public. Sign up for our email alerts at the bottom of this page, and Community Not Commodity will make sure to send you a copy as soon our council members decide to make it available.

Together we can build an Austin for everyone!