AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a rare move for Austin City Hall politics, all 11 of Austin’s city council members have expressed unanimous support for five items up for a vote on Thursday’s council agenda related to police reform and racial justice.
While council members have been discussing many of these topics prior to Tuesday, their efforts coalesced late last week around a set of policies referred to on the council message board as “institutional reform.”
“I think it’s a very strong signal from our council that we’re approaching handling our resolutions this week differently,” Council Member Kathie Tovo noted, to which Council Member Jimmy Flannigan responded, “this is not a common practice, but we are not in a common moment.”
Council Member Greg Casar brought forward Item No. 95 which would implement changes to Austin Police policies and tactics. This resolution would strictly prohibit police from using chokeholds or strangleholds, require de-escalation tactics in all circumstances, ban officers from shooting at moving vehicles, ban the use of tear gas and impact munitions on people exercising their First Amendment rights, limit no-knock warrants, limits the use of facial recognition technology by police, and delay the July APD cadet class until the training curriculum is overhauled, according to prior council direction.
Council Member Harper-Madison brought forward Item No. 94 — which would require developers who apply for or receive city funds to give fair housing considerations to those with eviction or conviction history — and Item No. 96.
Item number 96 provides direction for Austin’s upcoming budget that no additional sworn police staff positions should be added and that sworn positions the department cannot reasonably fill in FY 2020-2021 should be eliminated, redirecting those unused funds to other public health and safety efforts.
As KXAN previously reported, Item 96 reflects a shift from recent fiscal year budgets, which added new officers following the directives of a city-funded report by the Matrix Consulting Group. The group recommended hiring dozens of officers to keep up with Austin’s growth and allow for more community engagement.
Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza brought forward Item 50 which sets a goal of zero racial disparity and sets metrics for achieving goals including zero racial disparity in traffic stops and use-of-force incidents by Austin police officers.
Council Member Flannigan brought forward Item 93, converting the council’s Judicial Committee into a Public Safety Committee within the council — which he will chair.
Unified council action
Austin Mayor Steve Adler, Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, Council Member Pio Renteria, Council Member Greg Casar, Council Member Anne Kitchen,Council Member Alison Alter, Council Member Leslie Pool, Council Member Kathie Tovo, Council Member Paige Ellis and Council Member Jimmy Flannigan all signed on as co-sponsors to each of the five items they were not already sponsoring.
Typically, four or five council members will sign on as co-sponsors for a resolution and the rest express whether they support the item, but this effort by council suggests that all 11 council members are aligned in wanting to pass each of these five items.
“It’s an important moment for us to re-look at things and re-evaluate things and to be courageous and to have these difficult discussions,” said Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza. “And there’s going to be a lot more hard conversations for us to have.”
“I feel we are moving in the right direction,” Garza said. “But for many of us, we feel like we have been shouting from the rooftops. But I am glad that we’re here and I look forward to the continued work. “
“Ultimately I want to save this for Thursday,” said Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, “but I am just so thankful that the eleven of us are all in it and I truly believe we are all in this together and I’m really excited about it.”