Among other reforms, Proposition A would establish a minimum staffing level for the Austin Police Department (APD) of 2 officers per 1,000. Earlier this summer, APD was floating around 1.2 officers per 1,000 residents. From current staffing levels, it’d require the hiring of roughly 500 officers.
APD is suffering not only from a dearth in approved positions compared with its staffing level two years ago, but also from rampant attrition within its ranks, averaging 15 to 20 departures per month this year.
According to the Austin American-Statesman’s Ryan Autullo, the Open Society Policy Center, one of Soros’ advocacy arms, gave $500,000 to Equity Austin which opposes Proposition A.
The proposition is on the November ballot for Austin voters and is openly opposed by Mayor Steve Adler, Councilmember Greg Casar, and the city’s numerous progressive activist groups who each pushed for the $150 million APD budget cut and redirection last year.
Soros has jumped into Austin politics before, pumping in $650,000 to José Garza’s insurgent bid for Travis County District Attorney against more traditional Democrat Margaret Moore. Garza campaigned on a platform of increased prosecution of officer misconduct and encouraging the more frequent use of personal recognizance bonds on accused offenders of most crimes.
The city council just approved interim Chief Joseph Chacon to take the mantle on a permanent basis, and Chacon has said he is neutral on the issue. But repeated statements from Adler and the Austin Justice Coalition, one of those progressive organizations driving policy change in the city, indicate Chacon is privately opposed to the ballot proposition.
Another organization that recently came out as opposed to the proposition is the Austin Firefighters Association (AFA), which also supported Garza’s candidacy and opposed the homeless camping ban proposition back in May.
Co-founders of Save Austin Now, the group behind the ballot proposition, Matt Mackowiak and Cleo Petricek, said in a statement to The Texan, “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.”
“We are now going to fight twice as hard and we hope all our supporters will as well.”
After Save Austin Now published an open letter to Austin firefighters disputing the association’s claims that Proposition A’s passage would affect other services, something the mayor has also claimed, AFA President Bob Nicks accused Mackowiak of trying to “manipulate” their members.
Soros’ entry is a financial boon to the opponents of Proposition A and it is sure not to be the only outside money flowing in.
With a month remaining until the election, those invested in the outcome are ramping up their operations and courting support. Along with it comes the rhetorical fight that accompanies most votes.
If passed, it’d be the second rebuke of Austin’s hard-left policy in a half-year.
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.