One of the best things about working in Austin over the past twenty years is the spirit of those who live there: an endless array of savvy freethinkers with the smarts to teach university classes, the work ethic to build businesses and the creativity to write legendary songs. Unfortunately, every last one of them is being hoodwinked by a mayor and city council who are trading their safety in order to score political points. That’s why I recently stood with Governor Abbott, Lt Gov Patrick, and several lawmakers as we announced a proposal to freeze property tax increases in cities that threaten the safety of law-abiding taxpayers by defunding the police.
While our proposal is statewide, it’s no secret that our actions were largely in response to the City of Austin, where Mayor Adler has led an effort to cut police funding by $150 million, bizarrely claiming these reductions would somehow improve policing. By the same logic, Adler would diagnose a person with an illness, then take away her oxygen, give her medicine to someone else and get her kicked out of the hospital. This mindset is utterly asinine, especially when the Wall Street Journal published a study showing that Austin had the highest percentage spike in homicides in the nation.
Describing Adler’s gleeful use of the budget machete on APD as “ironic” is an understatement, because he’s been fighting property tax reform efforts in Austin for years, citing public safety as motivation for his reckless opposition. For example, in 2016, he declared that being unable to collect an additional $15.4 million because of Senate Bill 2 was “risky” and “we should not risk, police, firefighting, EMS…” A year later, in his 2017 testimony to the Senate, he stated that SB 2 is “risky” and would “result in fewer police officers in our communities, longer response times… and fewer tools and equipment our first responders need to keep our community safe.”
He continued his pro-public safety drumbeat in a 2019 OpEd in the Austin American Statesman, saying that he opposed property tax reform legislation because “our state should not cap the ability of cities to protect public safety.” In his April 20, 2019 tweet, Adler encouraged followers to oppose SB 2, saying it would “endanger Texans by making it impossible for cities to make the cuts required in #SB2 without impacting public safety.” Then, in a May 2019 interview, Adler blamed the property tax reform bill for hindering the City of Austin’s plans to bring in more officers and fire stations.
It’s fair to say his tune has changed in just one year. After years of supporting police funding as a ploy to oppose property tax reform that would benefit Austinites, it seems he has completely sold out to the radical socialist wing of his party, taken up their chant to “defund the police,” then moved to do their bidding. I hope Mayor Adler is recovering from the severe whiplash that must accompany such an egregious about-face.
Unfortunately, the only people who truly stand to be injured by his flip-flop are the people of Austin. Fortunately, they are the same people with the power to do something about it, if they’re willing to hold accountable the people they’ve elected to city hall. As a tax-paying resident of any Texas city or town, you write elected officials’ paychecks and you fund their pet projects. You can dictate their priorities but only if you actively engage in the process.
Here is my message for the citizens of Austin: it’s time to speak up. I would tell you to show up at the next city council meeting on Thursday, August 27, but they’re limiting citizen input to that offered by phone, by folks who have signed up in advance. Don’t let that slow you down or silence you. Instead, follow the registration instructions here and dial in early to get your turn. Also, don’t forget the power of the written word – you can contact the Mayor using this information and your council member using this.
In the absence of effective citizen input, city councils like those in Austin will run roughshod over individual rights and steal money from essential public safety institutions to win the acclaim of the national media and the blue checkmark crowd on Twitter. If Austinites don’t wake up and stand up for themselves and their community, the only thing “weird” about Austin will be the fact it’ll be utterly unsafe to live or work here.