HomeBudget & Tax NewsOutside Money Swung Election Against Police Funding in Austin, Texas

Outside Money Swung Election Against Police Funding in Austin, Texas

(The Center Square) – Austin voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposition A, which would have required the city to hire more police officers after the Austin City Council defunded the police department by $150 million and crime increased to historic proportions.

The measure might have passed if outsiders hadn’t flooded the state capital with misinformation about the measure, the citizens group Save Austin Now, which helped get the proposition on the ballot, argues.

Through September, the city recorded 61 homicides, the most in its history, according to records dating to 1960. In response to increased crime, the APD announced it was no longer able to respond to non-life threatening 911 calls. It also said the situation was dire due to the cancellation of three police cadet training academies and increased numbers of officers retiring and resigning.

The measure failed 68% to 31%, with 21.5% of Travis County registered voters casting ballots.

Among several reforms, the proposition would have required the city to implement the nationally recognized “Safe City Standard”: hire two officers for every 1,000 citizens.

“We are now at 1,540 available police officers, down from 1,959 authorized strength and 1,800 available just two years ago,” Matt Mackowiak, Save Austin Now co-founder, said in a statement. “We will be at 1998 police staffing levels by the end of the year, when our city was 25 percent as large as we are today.”

The Texas Legislature passed a bill, which Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law this year, tying state funding and penalties to local governments that defund their police departments, among other measures.

And while the city partially refunded the APD’s budget for next year to avoid penalties by the state after the law went into effect, the damage was already done, Save Austin Now said, arguing the city’s response was “wholly inaccurate.”

But the bigger problem, critics argue, is the misinformation campaign that was used to defeat the measure and money pouring in from billionaire George Soros and activist groups from New York City and Washington, D.C.

Last month, Mackowiak warned, “National left wing interests are trying to destroy public safety in Austin. Help us ensure adequate police staffing, increase community policing, double police training and enact sensible police reforms.”

Ryan Autllo with the Austin American Statesman reported, “Billionaire George Soros is involved in Austin’s Prop A police staffing initiative. On Monday, Soros’ Open Society Policy Center transferred $500k to Equity Austin to defeat Prop A.”

He also pointed out that Soros wasn’t new to Austin politics. “He pumped big money into DAs race in 2020 to support Jose Garza.”

Soros donated $500,000 to Equity PAC, a leftist organization dedicated to defeating the proposition. And Washington, D.C.-based The Fairness Project and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees poured money into the campaign against Proposition A.

The Fairness Project spent $200,000 to kill the measure; the largest trade union of government employees in the nation gave $25,000 to defeat it.

But local unions and news organizations also opposed the measure, including The Austin Chronicle, The Austin American Statesman, the Austin Firefighters Association 975 and Austin EMS Association. Democratic Mayor Steven Adler said more than 115 organizations and 39 elected officials were against Prop A, calling it a “dangerous measure.”

Their efforts contributed to signs and pamphlets, deemed misleading by Save Austin Now, suggesting that funding for other services would be cut if the measure passed.

One sign read, “Protect Austin Parks & Libraries! Vote Against Prop A.”

One mailer reads, “Proposition A will cut firefighters, putting you and your family’s safety at risk,” accompanied by an image of a home engulfed in flames.

Other pamphlets threatened that voting for the measure would result in parks and libraries closing.

“Massive out-of-state funding for our opponents show two things: That Austin donors won’t fund the anti-Prop A campaign and that the stakes in this effort to restore public safety to Austin could not be higher,” Mackowiak and SAN cofounder Cleo Petricek said in a statement, according to FOX News.

“We thought a majority of the people in this city were going to demand that we have an adequately staffed police department,” he added. “We thought they would demand more training, more community policing, and significant reforms. In the end, they were convinced by the other side that this is something the city cannot afford, that this is something that the city doesn’t need, and that everything’s fine.”

After the loss, Mackowiak said the group suffered a setback, but were “not defeated.” He vowed to “triple our commitment to making Austin a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

After the vote, the Austin Police Association said, “The steps moving forward are up to the Mayor and City Council to get much needed cadet academy classes going and start the rebuilding for the future of the Austin Police Department.

“We kept hearing Mayor [Steve Adler] and council members say the budget already exists to hire 300 more officers, so let’s get to work and get the process moving forward.”

Adler said, “This election reaffirms our community’s belief that public safety for all requires a comprehensive system that includes properly staffing our police, but also our fire, EMS, and mental health responses as well.”

No Way on Prop A, the group opposing the measure, said the outcome was a victory for democracy. In a news release, its campaign manager said, “the safest cities have more resources, not more police,” and Proposition A was “irresponsible.”

Originally published by The Center Square. Republished with permission.

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