Chesa Boudin and José Garza share the rare handle of “progressive prosecutor”—Boudin in San Francisco and Garza in Austin.
Former public defender Boudin was voted out by nearly 60% of voters on Tuesday, after being elected by a slim margin in 2019 with a platform of police reform, criminal justice reform and addressing racial inequality. His opponents argue his policies threaten public safety.
As Travis County District Attorney Garza remains in office, halfway through his four-year term, he is so far silent on Boudin’s landslide defeat. Repeated calls to the D.A. by Austonia for his comment were not returned as of publication.
Boudin’s stances closely reflect fellow progressive Garza’s platform
Garza and Boudin have a similar track record: Both have received endorsements from progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT; serve progressive cities; believe in holding law enforcement accountable and have been criticized for not being tough enough on criminals.
During his tenure, Boudin eliminated cash bail, reduced the prison population and brought nine criminal conduct cases against officers for misconduct.
Likewise, Garza obtained indictments of five Austin police officers, two sheriff’s deputies, an assistant county attorney and a sheriff on charges including tampering with evidence and murder. Distrust between Garza and Austin police is at a high level.
But there are key differences
San Francisco is facing three major types of crime: Murders, burglaries and motor vehicle thefts have increased significantly since 2019. While a report by KXAN last October showed Austin shared a “sizable jump” in homicides in the past 18-24 months, the homicide rate remains at 7.69 per 100,000, which is lower than both Dallas and San Antonio.
San Francisco’s housing crisis doesn’t seem to be improving and neither does public perception of the expanding homeless population, but since Austin reinstated the camping ban in May 2021, the housing crisis has leveled off locally.Plus, while Boudin narrowly scooted by in his election, Garza topped opponent Margaret Moore by 3%, followed by 68% in the runoffs and 70% of the votes in the general election in 2020.
What the opposition is saying
The Austin Police Association took notice of the San Francisco election, and the similarities that Boudin and Garza have shared. APA president Ken Casaday told Austonia the results were not surprising to him.
“San Francisco citizens became tired of the lack of prosecution of cases,” Casaday said. “The APA plans on allowing the citizens of Austin to make the decision on how to handle our D.A. After all, he was voted in by the citizens just like D.A. Boudin was two years ago.”
Casaday continued, “D.A. Garza is no different than Mr. Boudin. They were funded by the same people to do what they’ve done. In fact, Mr. Garza has never prosecuted a case in his life which makes it tough to understand the complexities of prosecuting cases.”
Austonia reached out to the office of congressional candidate Greg Casar and Judge Andy Brown, as well as organizations that have endorsed Garza, including Austin DSA, Black Austin Democrats and the Austin Justice Coalition but was not able to hear back for comment at the time of publication.
- 19-year-old 6th Street shooter indicted on first degree murder ... ›
- Charges dropped against 17-year-old involved in 6th Street ... ›
- Travis County District Attorney addressing rise in gun violence with 4 ... ›
- Delia Garza is the new Travis County attorney - austonia ›
- Jose Garza to take Ambler and Ramos cases to grand jury - austonia ›
Pet grooming salons and dog supply stores have seen a rash of at least seven burglaries over the last month, bringing store owners together to try and put an end to the repeated crime.
The break-ins started in late June and have continued every few days at different locations around the city, according to the Austin Police Department and Austin/CentralTexasGroomers Facebook group.
Victims have started sharing their security videos via Facebook, with a nearly identical story each time: A gloved man uses a rock to break through a glass door or window in the early morning hours, takes the cash drawer and splits.
Barkin’ Creek Dog Kitchen & Bath co-owner and CEO Jeff Springer has had two of his four locations hit. Springer said he’s not only out a few thousand in stolen cash but also keys and checks from inside the drawers, plus several thousand dollars in repairs.
“There's a sense of anger and helplessness combined—anger because you've been victimized and helplessness because there's nothing that you can do that could have stopped this,” Springer told Austonia.
The stores that were hit:
- June 27: Mod Mutt Salon
- July 2: Rainbow Paws Pet Salon
- July 4: As the Fur Flies
- July 11: Sniff Grooming Studio
- July 23: Hair O’ the Dog Pet Salon
- July 26: Barkin’ Creek Dog Kitchen & Bath Zilker location
- July 29: Barkin’ Creek Dog Kitchen & Bath South Lamar location
Springer said his first burglary occurred around 2 a.m. at the Zilker location—the perpetrator smashed through the door, ripped out the cash drawer, unlocked the unbroken door and calmly walked out. The scene was found by an employee a few hours later.
Springer said they spent the morning rescheduling grooming appointments and cleaning up the glass. Barkin’ Creek’s South Lamar location was hit three days later in the exact same way, by who he believes to be the same person Springer said, and the robbery was discovered around 6 a.m.
“He left the computers—he left some very expensive items that are on our sales floor right there,” Springer said. “I think he wanted to expedite the theft and get in and out as quickly as possible.”
While Springer has reached out to police, he said he’s been repeatedly told they are understaffed and are trying to prioritize reports as they come in. He had to fill out the police reports online, as opposed to having an officer dispatched to him, due to staffing issues.
After reaching out to District Five Council Member Ann Kitchen, he was able to get in touch with a district sergeant who helped him upload evidence on Friday.
“That was frustrating because you expect the police to show up when you're burglarized,” Springer said. “I wanted to make sure that the police were aware that we had a serial burglar on the loose who is targeting dog stores. This is low-hanging fruit given all the evidence that all these stores have collectively together on the guy.”
A report from KXAN said several other store owners have complained about little to no police response—Nancy Rich with As the Fur Flies said police haven’t come to take fingerprints on objects the perpetrator touched or evidence.
Springer said in the meantime, they have updated lighting in their parking lots, are converting to a cashless system and looking into stronger glass, but he fears that after the repairs are done, the robber will strike again.
“(Upgrading) the glass is another heavy cost,” Springer said. “We're a small, family-owned business. We don't have a lot of money to pay somebody to be a full time security guard at each one of our stores. It's just not feasible.”
By Willow Higgins
In the summer of 2020, in the heart of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dove Springs community members began to wonder how they could better use a section of the local greenbelt that had become neglected. The unmarked trail, which is overgrown and enclosed by a 10-foot flood wall, was once actively maintained and a go-to river access point for residents in the mood for a stroll or a swim. Last week, project partners presented their proposal for a revamp of a section of the East Williamson Creek Greenbelt–which they’ve named Donde Corre el Agua (Where the Water Runs)–to the Parks and Recreation Board.
The project team has been working tirelessly over the past year to figure out how to transform the space. Dove Springs residents Blanca Ortíz, Elena Rodríguez and Enedina Sánchez, who initiated the project, teamed up with Frances Acuña of Go Austin/Vamos Austin and Bjørn Sletto, a UT architecture professor, and his class to pull together a 100-plus-page book that spells out how the project should be approached.
“The residents and students have been working every single weekend for a little bit more than a year so they could get the language that was needed to be included in this book so we could have a model for how to transform something that looks like (this) into something beautiful and doing it the right way by including the residents and including the neighbors,” Acuña said in her presentation to the parks board.
While some enjoy hiking the trail in its current wild state, steep drop-offs to the creek and eroded riverbanks have prevented neighbors from enjoying it the way they used to. The parcel used to be lined with houses that backed up to the creek, but after the area was hit by a flood, the houses were bought out and removed. Nonetheless, the area has a rich history and holds memories, especially for older residents, that the team worked to honor.
What they have in mind is a beautiful, well-maintained trail with flower gardens, a community garden, rest stops, picnic areas and a play area including swings and volleyball and basketball courts. The trail will also be adorned with murals that tell stories about the community.
“We prioritized culture preservation and conservation, making sure that the culture wasn’t lost in our community,” Acuña said. “We have been losing (our culture) little by little because of gentrification and displacement, but at least in this space, we were able to come together and see what the residents, between the youth and the older adults, highlighted that they wanted to see.”
Now that the community-activated project proposal is complete, the partners will move on to complete the Neighborhood Partnering Program application, which will include an estimate of the budget and zoning and permitting logistics. Then they’ll identify and begin to implement the project’s priorities. If they don’t secure the funding to complete the project in one sweep, they’ll steward their plan over time.
“This means a lot to the neighborhood because we have taken so much of our minds and our souls into this project,” Acuña said. “Dove Springs is an area that has been neglected and all the work the residents took and the students took to make this happen is something that is admirable for it to become a reality.”