Austin voters reject Proposition A, which would have pumped up police budgets
@OurRevolution via Twitter

AUSTIN, Texas—On Tuesday, voters in Austin overwhelmingly rejected Proposition A, a measure that would have exploded police budgets and cost the city up to $120 million per year. The victory sends a clear message of continued support for police reform, which was initiated in the city following several life-threatening injuries of citizens by police that occurred during the protests following the murder of George Floyd.

The 69% “no” vote against the proposition was decried by the right-wing media as having been the direct result of funding from liberal sources, such as George Soros and “out-of-state unions.” However, they failed to mention that the group behind Prop. A, Save Austin Now, had actually received over twice the funding as the opposition—to the tune of $3,045,000 compared to the $1,185,000 for the no side.

Empowered partly by their victory earlier in the year in which Save Austin Now had successfully led a campaign to criminalize the presence of homeless people in certain areas of the city and at certain times of day, the group moved to further their influence in the city by inflating the budget and role of the police. The previous proposition led by Save Austin Now included measures against sitting, lying down, camping and solicitation—essentially making homelessness illegal in certain areas and hours.

Had Prop. A passed, it would have had a significant impact on funding for parks, libraries, and programs for mental health that have the effect of decreasing crime in the city. The measure aimed to put two police officers on the street for every 1,000 residents and increase police time spent on non-patrolling activities and so-called “community engagement” activities designed to heighten police visibility in non-crime-related settings.

The diversion of funding from other activities to pay for this beefed-up police presence had Austin Mayor Steve Adler expressing concerns that Prop. A could even result in layoffs in other departments, such as the fire department and EMS.

While the right wing claims there is a crime spree currently underway in Austin and that its streets are no longer safe for tourists, the fact is the violent crime rate fell by 40% between 2019 and 2020.

The victory against Prop. A comes at a time when Austin has seen increased activity by neo-Nazi groups in the city. Days before ballots were cast, Austin saw anti-Semitic banners hung over freeways and a suspected arson at a historic synagogue in the city. Later this month, the right plans a MAGA rally in neighboring Williamson County, in which Austin partly lies.

The victory against Prop. A is being celebrated for affirming Austin’s culture and values, according to Mayor Adler. In a statement following the election, Adler said, “Safety for all requires a comprehensive system that includes properly staffing our police, but also our fire, EMS, and mental health responses as well.”

Save Austin Now co-founder and chair of the Travis County Republican Party Matt Mackowiak took a dimmer view. He tweeted, “Tonight was a setback. But we are not defeated. We will triple our commitment to making Austin a great place to live, work, and raise a family. We haven’t saved Austin yet. But we will.” Mackowiak indicated his group’s continued future presence on the political scene in Austin.

Prop. A’s defeat shows the importance of mass democratic involvement in the electoral process and signals the strength of the progressive identity of the city. It also demonstrates that the opposition to democracy is mounting in anticipation of important races ahead, such as the midterm and Texas gubernatorial elections next year and the 2024 general election. The outcome in Austin shows that mobilization against the right-wing forces who want to subvert democracy can win.


Fighting Proposition A, the right-wing’s plan to explode Austin police budgets


Dan Wright
Dan Wright

Dan Wright is an activist from Austin, Texas, who writes on topics of social justice, religion, disability, and education issues.