Group members weighed on town supervisor’s preliminary finances proposal Thursday earlier than a principally in-person Metropolis Council – the primary in-person assembly because the starting of the pandemic. A overwhelming majority of audio system criticized the proposed police spending, arguing that a rise within the Austin Police Division’s allocation goes towards town’s dedication to reimagine public security.
Metropolis Supervisor Spencer Cronk’s Fiscal 12 months 2021-22 budget proposal totals $4.5 billion, a rise of three.5 p.c from final yr. Highlights from the proposal embrace $65.2 million in homelessness spending – the very best quantity ever – and cash shifted again to APD that Council had decoupled from the division, plus an $8.5 million improve over 2019 ranges. The reversal on police spending is available in response to Texas House Bill 1900, which penalizes cities that minimize their police finances.
Audio system representing varied social justice teams – Austin Justice Coalition, Undoing White Supremacy Austin, Communities of Coloration United, amongst others – urged Council to place solely the minimal sum of money required by HB 1900 towards policing, which is successfully equal to the prior yr’s police finances.
“I perceive that the Legislature has made this finances cycle significantly troublesome, however the police finances ought to solely meet the naked necessities and never a penny extra,” mentioned Amelia Casas, a coverage analyst on the Texas Truthful Protection Challenge.
Joao Paulo Connolly with the Austin Justice Coalition argued that HB 1900 makes it particularly essential to not improve police spending. “We have to actually, actually watch out once we speak about … including extra money to the police finances,” Connolly mentioned. “Any quantities added to this finances are everlasting.”
Advocates supported different makes use of for the APD cash above what HB 1900 requires. “Shift the extra $8.5 million within the finances for policing over 2019 ranges to neighborhood initiatives,” mentioned Sabina Ibarrola with Undoing White Supremacy Austin. “Fund public well being staff and neighborhood hubs, a common primary earnings pilot and fairness spending assessment course of.” Trauma restoration facilities and initiatives to finish meals deserts have been among the many different concepts floated.
Lots of the pro-defunding audio system urged Council to observe the Reimagining Public Security Activity Power’s recommendations, which on the entire would transform policing within the metropolis. Although town supervisor proposed $1.9 million towards a few of these suggestions, many audio system thought of that quantity paltry.
“With solely $1.9 million allotted to the suggestions and a document excessive for the APD finances, the proposed finances actually exhibits an entire departure from that path that we embarked upon,” mentioned Cate Graziani, who labored on the duty drive.
A number of audio system – all of whom have been from the Larger Austin Crime Fee – did assist the police finances. Cary Roberts, the group’s govt director, mentioned amidst “difficult occasions” with greater crime charges and decrease response occasions because of an understaffed division, “persevering with cadet lessons is crucial factor we will do now to deal with the alarming attrition and staffing disaster.”
Earlier than Council can weigh in on the finances proposal, one other spherical of public remark is about for subsequent Thursday. Council will talk about and undertake the finances Aug. 11-13.
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