Austin City Council's decision last month to cut the police budget by 5% continues to rankle.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a pledge on Thursday opposing police budget cuts and invited candidates in the upcoming election to join him in doing so.
"[Law enforcement officers] preserve calm amidst chaos," Abbot said at a press conference, citing the 19th anniversary of 9/11, which is tomorrow. "So it is particularly offensive that some cities are disrespecting and even defunding our law enforcement agencies in communities across the state."
Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday applauded the pledge effort. "I think it is brilliant, and it shows your weak leadership and your weak personalities if you do not sign this," he said.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Austin Mayor Steve Adler called the pledge effort "political theatre intended to scare and distract us from important public safety conversations" about the pandemic response and police reform. He also added that "Austin is the safest big city in Texas and among the few safest in the country."
Full statement here: https://t.co/bPBGpco3Qc https://t.co/U0LOCTKJra— Mayor Adler | 😷wear a mask. (@Mayor Adler | 😷wear a mask.) 1599768711.0
Chris Harris, director of criminal justice programs at Texas Appleseed and a member of the city's public safety commission, tweeted on Thursday that police unions "are the last folks to trust about what's safe" given their opposition to reform.
Police unions now claiming a minor police budget cut (that hasn't happened yet) makes Austin unsafe saw nothing wro… https://t.co/dlhrBcA4m1— Chris Harris (@Chris Harris) 1599763455.0
Abbott also announced a legislative proposal that would remove a city's annexation powers if it defunds its police department. "It should leave Austin with no choice to restore the cuts that they have already made to law enforcement," he said.
This is the second such legislative proposal that Abbott has supported. Earlier this month, he tweeted that he was considering a bill that would place the Austin Police Department under state control.
Austin City Council voted unanimously last month to immediately cut approximately $20 million—or about 5%—of the Austin Police Department budget, including eliminating funding from three planned police cadet classes. The APA decried the decision, writing in an Aug. 14 Facebook post that the upcoming—and now canceled—cadet class would have been the first majority-minority in APD's history.
The police academy has come under fire in recent years—prior to the more recent movement to defund police—for its "fear-based" and "paramilitary" approach to training, discriminatory recruiting practices and attrition rates.
Council members also put an additional $130 million into two transitional funds that will allow several of APD's traditional duties to continue while officials work out which responsibilities to move out from under police oversight.
"The recent deaths of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer and our own officer-involved shooting death of Mr. Michael Rmaos have amplified the call for justice in our community in ways we cannot ignore," City Manager Spencer Cronk wrote in the proposed FY 2020-21 budget.
Even with the approved cuts, the city of Austin allocates nearly 40% of its general funds to police, more than double what it spends on its next largest expense.
Austin spends more of its general fund on police than anything else.(Austin Finance Online)
Last year, Austin spent more per resident on the police than any of the four largest cities in Texas, according to the Texas Tribune. Between 2008 and 2018, its violent crime rate fell 25%. This year through July, there were 29 homicides, compared with 19 during the same period last year.
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Despite a 2-0 deficit, there was a pot of gold for Austin FC after all as it celebrated its annual Pride Night with rainbows and a 2-2 comeback draw to FC Dallas Saturday night.
After three FC Dallas losses last season, the Dallas derby draw marks the first time Austin FC has tied against its Copa Texas rival. Austin continues to edge over FC Dallas as it sits at 3rd in the MLS West.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the match:
A somber start
Decked out in colorful hues for LBGTQ+ Pride, Verde fans started the match on a somber note as they held up banners to take a stand against gun violence before the match.
As the national anthem began, fans held up banners with the names of each child that was killed in the Uvalde school shooting and a plea to "end gun violence."
The supporters' section was also dotted with Pride flags and a "Bans off Our Bodies" banner in protest of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
FC Dallas earns a 2-0 lead
That sober tone continued onto the pitch. With midfielder Daniel Pereira's absence due to a red card, the Verde and Black lost two goals to FC Dallas by the 70th minute of play.
FC Dallas played it sneaky for the first half of the match, giving Austin FC plenty of room to hold possession as it waited to strike on a Verde error. That mentality proved dangerous for Austin as Dallas' Paul Arriola took advantage of Brad Stuver's deflection to score the first goal of the night in the 57th minute of play.
Dallas struck once more as Brandon Servant pushed past the Verde line to score the second goal of the match.
Austin FC strikes back
But energy quickly returned to Austin's favor thanks to Designated Player Sebastian Driussi, who scooted past several FC Dallas defenders alongside Moussa Djitte to snag an unlikely first goal for Austin.
A full Verde comeback
Austin's subs proved deadly as momentum returned to the home team toward the end of the match. A well-placed cross from Nick Lima—and a diving header from a fresh-legged Danny Hoesen—helped the team secure the draw with a second Verde goal in the 84th minute of play.
Hoesen, who was Austin's first starting striker last season, has now scored two goals with the team after a yearlong injury stuck him on the bench.
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Hours following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion, on Friday, about 1,000 people gathered in Republic Square with signs calling for change.
The rally, organized by the group Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights Texas, started at the federal courthouse on Republic Square on Friday at 5 p.m. before the crowd marched to the Texas Capitol. More protests are expected to ensue over the weekend.
People showed up with all types of signs like Mindy Moffa holding up, "Keep your filthy laws off my silky drawers."
Austin joined cities across the country that saw protests for a women's right to an abortion after the ruling.
According to a recent UT poll, 78% of Texas voters support abortion access in most cases.
Sabrina Talghade and Sofia Pellegrini held up signs directed at Texas laws. A Texas trigger law will ban all abortions from the moment of fertilization, starting 30 days after the ruling. When state legislators passed the trigger law last summer, it also passed laws for more protection of firearms, including the right to open carry without a permit.
Lili Enthal of Austin yells as around 1,000 Texans marched to the Texas Capitol.
From the Texas Capitol, Zoe Webb lets her voice be heard against the Supreme Court ruling.
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