'This moment in history demands it': Sweeping changes to budget, policy proposed for Austin police after protests
The Austin City Council is poised to order sweeping changes to police work, responsibilities and spending as early as this week, members said on Monday, a day after thousands marched peacefully to protest police brutality.
A package of resolutions addressing everything from the budget for the Austin Police Department to its staffing, from its use of force during arrests and protests to the very types of calls police should address, is up for a vote at the regular Austin City Council meeting Thursday.
"Our black and brown communities deserve it, our city needs it, and this moment in history demands it," said Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, a member of the council's judicial committee, which sponsored the proposals.
Some of those measures, like bans on the use of tear gas in protests and limits on no-knock warrants, can go into effect right away, said Council Member Greg Casar, another committee member.
Others, including proposed staffing reductions and budget cuts at the Austin Police Department, won't be officially addressed until budget season later this year.
"These are not problems that can be fixed overnight, but the backlog is so big we can kick this journey off with a flurry of activities," said Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, who is also on the committee.
Several protesters were seriously injured during clashes with officers during the first week of demonstrations over the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May and Michael Ramos in Austin in April.
Resolutions appearing on the agenda for Thursday's regular City Council meeting propose changes including police use-of-force reforms, an audit of Austin police disciplinary procedures, a rewrite of the department's general orders, capping police staff at current levels and redirecting those budget dollars to community-based prevention strategies. They also address housing for former inmates and other community issues.
The resolutions appear to have broad support of the council and Mayor Steve Adler. The press conference on Monday only included the four sponsors, and Adler, as open meetings laws prohibit a quorum of council members from meeting without public notice.
Garza and Casar, another member of the judicial committee, have both suggested that Austin Police Chief Brian Manley step down as an act of good faith and the first step toward systemic change in the department.
They and two others, including Judicial Committee Chairman Jimmy Flannigan, last week expressed criticism over Manley's handling of recent police protests—as well as heading up a department that they said is generally slow to respond to council directives. Manley joined the force in 1990 and became chief in 2018.
Asked Monday if they would be taking that further, members did not repeat their call for Manley to resign and noted that City Manager Spencer Cronk alone has the authority to decide whether Manley stays.
Cronk last week issued a statement in support of Manley and city officials told Austonia on Friday there is no movement afoot to replace him.
But one of the resolutions does include a statement of no confidence in department leadership.
"We can express our opinion, as many of us have, but we are prohibited in interfering in personnel decisions," Casar said.
Said Harper-Madison: "We're basically asking our manager to heed the concerns and recommendations of the community and our constituents regarding Chief Manley's future with the Austin Police Department."
The resolutions, which include Items 50, 93, 95, 96 and 97 on the agenda, can be found here. Changes will be addressed formally in the regular meeting of the Austin City Council on Thursday.
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An Austin-based program manager for Apple Maps and one of two leaders for the #AppleToo activist movement said she has been fired after a suspension.
According to the New York Times, Janneke Parrish said she was put on suspension for several days while the company investigated her activities before she was fired by a human resources employee via phone call on Thursday.
Parrish was under investigation for allegedly leaking a recording of an Apple staff meeting to the media, which she said she didn't do.
The report said the company told Parrish, who is 30, that she was being fired for having deleted files off her company-issued phone and computer before handing them in for examination. Parrish said the files she deleted contained her personal and financial information.
Among the files she deleted were the Robinhood app, which she said was to keep Apple from seeing "how much money I lost investing in GameStop," the Pokemon Go app and screenshots of programming bugs she was fixing.
Parrish said she believes Apple was retaliating against her efforts in organizing #AppleToo, a group of employees working to expose the company's "culture of secrecy" that has been "faced disproportionately by our Black, Indigenous, and other colleagues from minoritized racial, gender and historically marginalized groups of people."
Parrish had been publishing weekly accounts of workplace problems that had been shared anonymously with her from other employees, though she did not verify employment on all of them. The accounts she received were in the hundreds, so Parrish said she was hopeful her termination would lead to some justice within the company.
Employees at tech giants have been more outspoken than usual in recent months—with former Facebook data scientist Frances Haugen speaking out against her former employer—and Parrish said the company's desire to keep under wraps has eroded trust by discouraging employees to come forward with issues like harassment or wage disparity.
Apple spokesman Josh Rosenstock commented on the matter: "We are and have always been deeply committed to creating and maintaining a positive and inclusive workplace. We take all concerns seriously and we thoroughly investigate whenever a concern is raised and, out of respect for the privacy of any individuals involved, we do not discuss specific employee matters."
Additionally, the email detailing her termination, which was obtained by the New York Times, said Apple had determined that Parrish "engaged in conduct in violation of Apple policies including, but not limited to, interfering with an investigation by deleting files on your company provided equipment after being specifically instructed not to do so."
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Republic Square Park has turned into a Ford-themed fiesta for its Built to Connect pop-up experience, complete with test drives, off-roading and an inside look at the Tesla-rivaling electric vehicles that the motor vehicle company is planning to integrate over the next decade.
The outdoor driving event is free, open to the public and will stay in the park from now until Oct. 24, offering rides on Bronco Mountain, a 0-40 mph zip in the 2022 all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning and a chance to win an original Ford Bronco.
The event kicked off with a panel of speakers, including Austin Director of Transportation Rob Spillar, Ford General Manager Darren Palmer and engineering specialists discussing Ford's goals to make it so that 50% of the vehicles on the road are electric by 2030.
As an eco-conscious city, Spillar said that around 4,000 vehicles, or 22% of the Texas electric vehicle market, as well as over 15,000 plugins lie in Austin, meaning driving electric just got accessible.
"Austin, as you know, is a fast-growing modern city that is committed to protecting the long term health and viability of our communities and strategies that reduce greenhouse gases, mitigate the effects of climate change and improve the drone quality of life here in Central Texas for all of our residents," Spillar said.
And Ford's electric vehicles are putting up some steep competition for newly-Austin-based company Tesla. The new electric Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lighting offer amenities that used to be exclusive to Musk's brand, such as the BlueCruise self-driving network. The cars also boast a 300-mile range on a single charge, assisted reverse technology and access to the biggest charging network outside of the home.
Plus, Ford's got affordability on its side. The F-150 Lightning starts at $39,974 and the Mustang Mach-E starts at $42,895, while the cheapest Tesla model, the Model 3, starts at $41,990 and averages 262 miles on a single charge.
Speaking of price, the numbers on the electric vehicles may look like a little more than you'd like to pay for your transport, but Palmer promises it will pay off. In addition to a $7,500 tax credit you can earn for your sustainability, you'll never have to buy a pricey tank of gas again.
"Personally, I have not found one customer ever, who would go back to gas so that says something," Palmer said. "I realized, at $51,000, that car outruns every childhood hero car I ever had."
Texas buyers: take note. The Ford Lightning can power your house for three to 10 days, just in case the statewide power grid fails. You can take it glamping with you, so you don't have to leave the comfort of modern life behind, and in a pinch, Palmer said he's even seen a wedding party powered by the truck.
Ford is investing $30 billion into the U.S. market to meet demand by 2025 and the new electric truck already has over 150,000 reservations.
"I think they're going to take off much faster than you expect—they're going to be extremely, extremely popular next year," Palmer said. "With the incentives that are available today, this is starting to become more mainstream and viable for more and more families. We couldn't have done that before, we didn't have the technology, or the technology at that price."
The event is ongoing through next weekend from 12-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.- 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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