AUSTIN, Texas — It's once again election season in Central Texas. Austin's Nov. 2 election is here.
One of the biggest items on the Nov. 2 ballot is Proposition A, which aims to increase staffing for the Austin Police Department. If passed, it would require two sworn officers for every 1,000 residents.
The proposition, which was put forth by the local political action committee (PAC) Save Austin Now, has been met with both support and opposition.
Let's take a closer look at Prop A.
What is Proposition A?
Prop A aims to address the staffing shortages the Austin Police Department is currently experiencing. If passed, it would require a minimum of two police officers per 1,000 population and an additional 40 hours of post-cadet class training hours per year. Front-line officers would also focus 35% of their time on community engagement.
Proposition A's journey to the Austin November ballot
In May 2021, Save Austin Now – the same PAC behind the proposition that led to the reinstatement of Austin's public camping ban – filed a petition against the City of Austin's ordinance to cut funds from APD's budget. Save Austin Now hoped to receive enough signatures on the petition to put a measure on the November ballot that would require a minimum of two sworn officers for every 1,000 residents, among other things.
In July, Save Austin Now submitted more than 25,600 "self-validated signatures" in its so-called #MakeAustinSafe initiative. A few days later, the PAC threatened legal action if their petition wasn't certified or if their measure wasn't placed on the November ballot.
In early August, the City of Austin certified the PAC's petition, officially placing its initiative on the ballot.
Save Austin Now Co-founder Cleo Petricek has said that APD's officer shortage is putting the community in harm's way, including a rise in homicides and delayed response times. Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association and a supporter of Prop A, has also stated on numerous occasions that the staffing shortage is affecting response times.
On Oct. 5, Save Austin Now announced Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly and three former Austin mayors – Lee Leffingwell, Lee Cooke and Ron Mullen – endorsed Prop A.
However, the initiative has faced opposition from local leaders, including Austin Mayor Steve Adler. During an interview with KVUE Daybreak on Aug. 9, Adler said:
"[The initiative is] really out of date, if it was ever appropriate. It would require a budget increase of $150 to $300 million over a five-year period of time. And with a 3.5% cap on our budgets now, this part of our budget would grow faster than the overall budget. There's no way to accomplish it without either raising taxes or cutting programs like fire, EMS, or libraries or parks. It's just a standard that I'm not sure there's anybody that supports it other than the police union and the folks that tried to gather the signatures for the petition."
The City's Financial Services Department estimated in August that the #MakeAustinSafe initiative could potentially take nearly $120 million per year out of the City’s budget.
In early September, an opposition campaign called "No Way on Prop A" gathered to protest the proposition. Local leaders in support of the campaign include Austin City Council members Vanessa Fuentes (District 2) and Alison Alter (District 10).
On Oct. 1, the Austin Firefighters Association announced that it has voted to oppose Prop A and to dedicate funds to fight the measure. Opponents of the proposition say it would force cuts to the Austin Fire Department, Austin-Travis County EMS, 911 call takers and more in order to increase police staffing.
Austin Proposition A ballot language
According to the Travis County Clerk, the ballot language for Prop A will be:
"Shall a petitioned ordinance be approved to enhance public safety and police oversight, transparency and accountability by adding new chapter 2-16 to establish minimum standards for the police department to ensure effective public safety and protect residents and visitors to Austin, and prescribing minimal requirements for achieving the same, at an estimated cost of $271.5 million - $598.8 million over five years?
When can you vote on Prop A?
In-person early voting for the Nov. 2 election ended on Friday, Oct. 29. The last day to apply for a mail-in ballot was Friday, Oct. 22. Mail-in ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Nov. 2 or 5 p.m. on Nov. 3 if the envelope was postmarked by 7 p.m. on Election Day.
On Election Day, polling locations are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you get in line by 7 p.m., you will be able to cast your ballot.
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