Austin’s Prop A rejected in resounding fashion; would have boosted APD staffing, budget

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A majority of Austin voters rejected Proposition A, which would have increased funding to the Austin Police Department.

With 100% of precincts reporting late Tuesday night, 68% of Austin voters voted against Prop. A, while approximately 32% voted for the initiative. This follows similar early voting results released at 7 p.m., where two-thirds of voters who cast their ballots before Election Day also voted against the proposition.

Travis County records reflect more than 849,000 residents are registered voters, while just over 101,000 ballots had been cast during early voting. This translates to 11.92% voter turnout during early voting.

More than 183,000 votes in total had been cast in Travis County, with a collective county voter turnout thus far of 21.56%. Those results come from all 140 voting centers reporting.

In a tweet Tuesday night, the Travis County Clerk’s Office reported nearly 82,000 people voted on Election Day.

On Tuesday evening, Austin Mayor Steve Adler told KXAN that the city’s “culture and values” were on the November ballot. He agreed with wanting to expand upon the city’s public safety efforts, but said there needs to be a more comprehensive solution.

“Our numbers are going up like cities across the country. We have to do better, but public safety is more than just policing,” Adler said.

In a live interview Wednesday morning on KXAN News Today, Adler said it’s clear the community “wants a comprehensive approach to public safety which includes, certainly, but is more than just police.”

At a Save Austin Now watch party Tuesday evening, SAN cofounder Matt Mackowiak said the political action committee will still continue its efforts to impact policy initiatives within the city.

“I believe in my heart we can do it. We didn’t do it tonight, but folks, I promise you we can,” he said. “And so this is going to start from here tonight with us talking to other Austinites. It’s going to start with us continuing to hold this mayor and this city council accountable for the decisions they make, for the consequences of the policies they put forward.”

Next year, Mackowiak said the PAC will fight “harder” and “smarter” and begin preparations to run for political seats — starting with Austin City Council Member Greg Casar’s seat as he explores a potential congressional run.

He teased to a potential ballot item coming in the May 2022 election, as well as working to align candidates for next year’s city council and mayoral races.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” he said. “… This has been about preparing us for next year. In fact, this result tonight raises the stakes for next year.”

If approved by voters, Proposition A would increase police staffing to a minimum of two officers per 1,000 residents. The proposition would also double the required training for officers, expand on minority hiring and mandate a minimum of 35% of officers’ shifts be spent on community policing.

Estimates from the city’s chief financial officer anticipate the proposition would cost between $271.5 million and $598.8 million over the next five years if approved. That translates to a cost between $54.3 million and $119.8 million per year.

The proposition was brought forth by the political action committee Save Austin Now. The PAC collected more than 25,600 signatures in July and has criticized the city’s current response to Austin crime levels. Several organizations, including the Austin Police Association and the Texas Police Association, have issued support for Prop A.

“Austin has never been less safe than it is today, and the police staffing crisis continues to worsen,” said SAN cofounders Mackowiak and Cleo Petricek in July.

Critics of Prop A have argued the measure would allocate funds away from other core city services if approved, with specific concerns surrounding public libraries, mental health services and other public safety budgets. No Way Prop. A, a coalition of more than 80 community groups, referred to the initiative as “fiscally irresponsible.” The coalition has received support from several labor unions, including the Austin Firefighters Association and the Austin EMS Association.

During an Election Day town hall with KXAN, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the funding would inevitably come from the city’s public safety budget. Public safety — which includes police, fire and emergency medical services — comprises the majority of the city’s budget.

“Public safety is 70% of our budget. Some of it is going to have to come out of that,” Adler said.

Austin City Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, also during KXAN’s Election Day town hall, said any suggestion that public safety funding would be impacted by Prop A is “absurd.”

“I would say that it would be the will of the council to decide if that was where to go,” she said, “but it would be absurd to me if we would actually cut additional public safety funding.”

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