On Tuesday, the Austin city clerk announced that the group Save Austin Now submitted enough valid signatures to qualify its initiative for the ballot.
The initiative would:
- establish a minimum police department staffing requirement based on the population of the city, which would require the city to hire additional police officers;
- state that the police chief should seek demographic representation in hiring police officers;
- add additional required training time for police officers; and
- add new requirements for serving on the city’s Public Safety Commission.
In Austin, initiative petitioners must gather 20,000 signatures to qualify an initiative for the ballot. The requirement is based on 5% of the qualified voters in the city but is capped at 20,000. If petitioners collect enough signatures, their initiative is sent to the city council, which must either approve the initiative or put it on the ballot for the next allowable election date.
On July 19, Save Austin Now submitted 27,778 signatures for the initiative. On Aug. 3, the clerk’s office announced that a sampling of a quarter of the submitted signatures projected 25,786 valid signatures, 5,786 more than the minimum requirement. The city council has ten days to approve the ordinance itself or to put the initiative on the ballot. The deadline for the city council to put the initiative on the Nov. 2, 2021, ballot is Aug. 16.
Matt Mackowiak, chair of the Travis County Republican Party and co-founder of Save Austin Now, said, “Steve Adler, Greg Casar, Equity PAC and associated extreme groups will attempt to smear this effort for the next three months. They do not care about public safety and want to watch Austin burn. We will not let them. We will educate citizens about how our police budget was defunded, how police staffing has become a crisis, and about how a violent crime wave has resulted. We can fix this mess created by a unanimous vote of the City Council in August 2020. Austin must rise up and demand a safe city for every neighborhood.”
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said, “Directing the City Council to hire additional police officers at this time could result in layoffs in other departments. We also need more public health professionals, firefighters, park rangers, and EMS to keep our community safe.”
Austin City Council Member Greg Casar said, “George Floyd was killed one year ago, and instead of working on police reform, this group is fear-mongering and trying to avoid police accountability. Their petition drive is about writing a blank check of taxpayer funds to their own department, while cutting off funds for all our other public employees and critical public safety needs. This petition goes directly against what the Black Lives Matter movement is all about.”
Save Austin Now also sponsored Proposition B (May 2021), which made it a criminal offense for anyone to sit, lie down, or camp in public areas and prohibited solicitation of money or other things of value at specific hours and locations. Austin voters approved Proposition B 57.7% to 42.3% at the election on May 1.
In 2021, Ballotpedia is covering a selection of local police-related measures concerning police oversight, the powers and structure of oversight commissions, police practices, law enforcement department structure and administration, law enforcement budgets, law enforcement training requirements, law enforcement staffing requirements, and body and dashboard camera footage. Ballotpedia has tracked eight other measures related to police policies that were on the ballot earlier in 2021 or are on the Nov. 2 ballot.