“Save Austin Now,” a local Austin PAC, has attracted public attention earlier this year for pushing the city of Austin to reinstate the city-wide camping ban as a measure to counter the homeless crisis, which eventually succeeded. As a group advocating for a safer Austin in the wake of increasing violent crime, they are campaigning for Proposition A in this upcoming November election.
The city of Austin has made some crucial moves on cutting police funding over the last two years. The most notable one, a one-third cut on the total $434 million police department budget, took place in August 2020 as the City Council’s response to the “Defund the Police” movement. Due to a shortage of police force, this has led to an 81% increase in murder rate so far compared to the entire year of 2020, and the average police response time also lags to 13 minutes compared to 6 minutes in the past, despite some data suggesting that the overall crime rate did not change dramatically. Nevertheless, studies have shown that over 80% of Austinites are feeling less safe in 2021.
Austin voters will cast their ballots in this upcoming election on November 2nd toward Prop A, an initiative that will fully fund the police department, demand to meet the standard of two police officers per 1000 residents, and require police officers for more community engagement. Motivated by the success of the camping ban reinstatement earlier, Save Austin Now PAC and supporters of this initiative hope that Prop A could help Austin return to its previous safety level. It is estimated that with hundreds of more officers hired, the city would have to spend $275 to $600 million additionally over five years.
Prop A, on the other hand, has also received strong opposition from different groups of people. One of them is from the Austin Firefighters Association who supports funding the police while also worries about a potential conflict with funds of the fire department and other services due to the initiative. Mayor Adler also has made an announcement backing up the fire department’s stances.
Labor unions and the Travis County Democratic Party etc. also formed a coalition, “No Way on Prop A,” in opposition to this initiative. They are groups of people who disagree on its practicality or are concerned that funds on other public services such as libraries and parks might be taken away.
However, among all the opponents, the biggest bombshell comes from billionaire George Soros, who has donated $500,000 to Equity PAC to make sure Prop A does not become a reality. As a result, such local affairs could soon gain some nationwide attention.
Will the future of Austin return to its previous safety level, or is it inevitable for crime to keep getting worse? We shall wait and see the results on November 2nd.