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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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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