SAN ANTONIO — After receiving the required number of signatures, voters will decide on a Justice Charter aimed at several reforms of police, including decriminalizing marijuana, decriminalizing abortion, banning no-knock warrants and chokeholds, and a cite-and-release program for non-violent offenses.
Despite the high-profile issues on the ballot, the City Attorney has said the changes involved are inconsistent with Texas law.
Several people spoke out in support and opposition of the charter amendment during Thursday’s city council meeting. It was made clear several times by the city attorney that the vote was not on the merits of the charter amendment.
Three council members including Councilman Clayton Perry, John Courage and Manny Pelaez all walked out of the meeting and were absent when the vote took place.
"We got enough signatures to put this on the ballot. Your only job is ministerial, to say yes, it should be on the ballot and they didn't do that today," Ananda Tomas, executive director of ACT 4 SA told reporters.
Councilman Pelaez told KENS 5 there was consensus among the three northside councilmembers that they wouldn't place something on the ballot that's "empirically unenforceable and illegal."
Pelaez also believed the charter language is confusing and glossed over the amendment which would decriminalize theft of property.
Staff from Councilman John Courage's office told KENS 5 the District 9 representative also had concerns with the wording and explanation in the proposed ordinance.
"In my view and after discussions with the City Attorney, [it] does not provide the comprehensive review of all the proposals and their implications contained in the petition," Courage said.
City Attorney Andy Segovia says it was a challenge to fit all of the language from the proposed charter into one ballot.
"We have a finite amount of space we have that the county gives us for the ballot. I’s a long amendment. So, we tried as best we could to summarize it,” Segovia said.
According to city documents, the cite and release program would remove police authority to arrest for crimes such as theft of property less than $750, graffiti with damage less than $2,500, and criminal mischief with damage less than $750. The cite-and-release program would also remove arresting authority for all Class C misdemeanors.
It's an issue that has the San Antonio Police Officers Association concerned about the implications if it passes.
“When people are stealing stuff that as long as it doesn’t reach $750, that’s a lot of merchandise, that’s a lot of personal stuff. If this goes through, people are going to be affected, and then they’re going to blame [police officers]. It’s not us, it’s what this petition is wanting and what they voted in,” Danny Diaz, President of SAPOA told KENS 5.
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