Abortion ordinance likely to be on November ballot

A proposed ordinance that would outlaw abortion in Odessa appears headed for a special citywide election on Nov. 2.

The city council is scheduled to discuss the proposal during their 3 p.m. work session Tuesday.

Councilman Tom Sprawls confirmed on Monday that he plans to join Mayor Javier Joven and council members Denise Swanner and Mark Matta in voting in favor of placing the issue on the Nov. 2 ballot.

A majority vote by the seven-member council is needed to place the issue on the ballot. Council will only discuss the proposal Tuesday, and likely take an official vote during their Aug. 10 meeting.

“I said all along that I would support putting the issue on the ballot,” Sprawls said. “I’m not a right-to-lifer, but I will support giving voters the opportunity to make that decision.”

Sprawls previously said he would not support a council vote declaring Odessa a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” Sprawls said he personally still has strong reservations about the issue.

Sprawls said voter approval of the ordinance will likely cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation costs and to pay for the special election. He also noted abortions haven’t legally been performed in Odessa for decades.

“This is an issue that could potentially cost the city a lot of money and it’s not even something that’s happening here,” Sprawls said.

Joven, who requested that the proposed ordinance be placed on Tuesday’s work session agenda, could not be reached for comment.

Council Steve Thompson on Monday said he still opposes a citywide vote and a council vote on the issue.

“It’s a waste of taxpayer money for a designation that means absolutely nothing,” Thompson said. “We already have Roe v. Wade. The State of Texas just passed a new law that takes effect Sept. 1.

“I think it’s ironic that the mayor says he’s opposed to taxpayer debt on some issues. But he’s OK with wasting taxpayer dollars on his own personal causes.”

Thompson added: “This is all about the mayor pushing his own agenda. He’s doing nothing to address the real issues facing that city; and I don’t appreciate that.”

Council members Swanner and Matta said they support a citywide vote to determine whether Odessa is designated a sanctuary city.

“I do believe this the fairest way for the voters to have their say,” Swanner said.

Joven has previously stated that making Odessa a sanctuary city is his top priority as mayor. During his first meeting as mayor in January, Joven pushed for council to pass the sanctuary city ordinance.

His proposal was quickly shot down by Thompson, Sprawls and councilwomen Detra White and Mari Willis.

“This is not a city issue; we have other priorities,” Willis told Joven during that first January work session. “We have infrastructure problems and a waste water problem that needs to be addressed.

“Voters elected us to represent them, not so that we could push our personal agendas.”

White and Willis could not be reached for comment on Monday.

According to the agenda, council is expected to vote on whether to approve using certificates of obligation to pay for the $95 million rehabilitation of the city’s water treatment plant.

On Friday, the Ector County Election’s Office threw out a petition submitted by Ector County GOP Chairwoman Tisha Crow to force a citywide vote on whether to pass a $95 million bond, instead of allowing council to alone make the decision to use certificates of obligation.

The elections office ruled that Crow’s group failed to submit enough valid signatures. Only 2,155 out of 3,245 signatures submitted by the local group were found to be valid.

A minimum of 2,923 signatures were needed to place the bond issue on the November ballot.

A council budget workshop to discuss the city’s draft 2021-22 budget will at held at 8:30 a.m., Tuesday at Sherwood Park Community Center. The meeting is open to the public.