Prop A is bad for Austin.
Austin is a safe city. FBI crime data from the last decade consistently places Austin at the top of the list for safest large cities in America. It’s true that gun-related crimes and homicides have gone up in the last year. But this is a trend across the country, both in cities that have and have not increased their police funding. Experts aren’t sure why it’s happening, but they agree that pandemic instability is a major factor.
Decades of data have shown that there is no correlation between increasing the number of police and a reduction in homicides. That’s why even groups like the Greater Austin Crime Commission are against Prop A. Austin’s own police chief, Joe Chacon, has said that Prop A is not something he can get behind.
Prop A will devastate other city services. When Austin cut its police budget last year, the Texas lege reacted by passing HB 1900, which punishes cities that cut their police budgets and prohibits them from ever lowering existing police budgets. As a result, Austin has already returned to pre-2020 levels of funding, setting aside about $443 million for the police next year—40% of the city’s total budget. Prop A would require the city to increase that already enormous budget by up to $120 million a year. And because of HB 1900, once the police budget is increased, it can never be reduced.
But where would that money come from?
The bottom line is that the money to fund Prop A will result in cuts to everything else — public safety services like EMS, firefighters, and mental health services, as well as other essential services like housing, animal shelters, youth programs, parks, and libraries. And unlike arbitrary increases to police, funding these services—which is to say, investing in the community—does correlate to increased public safety. We’re in an odd, local, election year. In 2019, only 15% of registered Travis County voters voted. We cannot leave the future of Austin in the hands of just 15% of our population. It’s extremely important that we raise awareness of what Prop A really is and get voters out to the polls — our parks, youth programs, libraries, and our public safety are depending on us.