Austin’s Proposition A was crushed Tuesday, as voters overwhelmingly rejected a plan to hire hundreds of police officers at a cost city officials say they could not afford without making significant budget cuts elsewhere.
A total of more than 155,000 votes were submitted. Of them, 68% voted against Prop A and 31% voted for Prop A.
The margin was a bit of a shock, as those close to the race came into the night expecting a tighter result following months of strong campaigning on both sides.
The vote was prompted by signed petitions gathered by Save Austin Now — the same political action committee behind the vote to reinstate the homeless camping ban in May.
Co-founder Matt Mackowiak told the American-Statesman in October he would consider leaving Austin if Prop A failed. But following Tuesday’s defeat, Mackowiak made it sound like he’s here to stay and will continue working to change local politics.
Mackowiak is the chair of the Travis County Republican party.
In a tweet, Mackowiak said: “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.”
Save Austin Now raised $1.7 million through Oct. 23. But the PAC failed to gain traction with community groups, drawing opposition from the labor unions for Austin firefighters and EMS, as both groups expressed concern that they’d have to sacrifice jobs if Prop A passed so the police department could get more officers.
Ten of the 11 Austin City Council members opposed the measure. The only one who supported it was Mackenzie Kelly, Mackowiak’s on-and-off-again friend, and the only Republican on the council.
If Prop A had passed, the city would have been required to employ two officers per 1,000 residents — but likely more than that in order to comply with another provision that requires 35% of an officers’ time be spent on activities other than responding to calls. Austin currently has about 1.8 officers per 1,000 residents.
The results of early voting, released at 7 p.m., sealed Prop A’s fate. Of more than 88,000 early voters in Travis, Williamson and Hays counties, 66% voted against Prop A, with 34% voting yes.
Around that time, Mayor Steve Adler sent out a celebratory statement.
“Austin’s culture and values were on the ballot tonight,” Adler said. “This election reaffirms our community’s belief that public safety for all requires a comprehensive system that includes properly staffing our police, but also our fire, EMS and mental health responses as well. At our core, we are an innovative, caring and creative community. We see that yet again in this election and that makes me proud to live in this magical place.”
The plan to add more officers was in response to Austin setting records for homicides at a time when officers are leaving the department in droves, many of them out of frustration over budget cuts the Austin City Council approved in 2020.
The Austin Police Department is budgeted for 1,809 sworn officers, but, because the council canceled three cadet training classes, has been unable to fill vacancies and currently employs about 1,600 officers.
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