x
Breaking News
More () »

PAC, local businesses owners suing over enforcement of Prop B

The Save Austin Now PAC is claiming the City of Austin has failed to fully enforce the reinstatement of the City's public camping ban.

AUSTIN, Texas — The political action committee behind Proposition B launched yet another battle with the City of Austin on Wednesday, filing a lawsuit with the Travis County District Court claiming that the City has failed to fully enforce the proposition.

Prop B, which reinstated the public camping ban across the city, passed on May 1 by a 58-42% margin. 

The Save Austin Now PAC was joined by four small business owners in its latest suit. Co-founders Matt Mackowiak and Cleo Petricek were also joined by their lead counsel, Russ Horton of George Brothers Kincaid and Horton LLP.

Meanwhile, lead counsel Michael Lovins will be representing the four business owners:

  • Laura North, owner of Headspace Salon and Co-op in South Austin, 
  • Stuart Dupuy, owner of Balance Dance Studios in South Austin, 
  • Robert Mayfield, owner of Dairy Queen franchises on Lamar Boulevard in North Austin and on Manor Road in northeast Austin
  • Bob Woody, owner of Buckshot Bar on East Sixth Street downtown

"We have been immensely patient with the City of Austin on full enforcement of Prop B," said Mackowiak. "Their four phase, 90-day enforcement plan entered the final phase on August 8 and it is undeniable that Prop B is not being fully enforced. The city is choosing not to respect the will of the voters, when nearly 91,000 of them clearly expressed their desire to see the city reinstate the public camping ban and advance actual, effective solutions for our homeless. Their regulated camping site effort has manifestly failed. The HEAL initiative has only helped around 100 people, while at least 2,000 await any workable plan from the city after more than two years and at least $161 million spent."

"Austin business owners, families, children, commuters, and visitors remain threatened by this failed policy. Unregulated public camping has been illegal in Austin since Prop B passed," Mackowiak continued. "It is time for the City of Austin to respect the will of the voters and put public safety first. We will take this fight as far as it needs to go to make our city safe again – for both the residents and the homeless."

"From our first press conference in February 2020, I have been raising the issue of noncompliance. The city has no plan for the noncompliant," added Petricek. "Recently, in a video released by Save Austin Now, Mayor Steve Adler admitted he ‘doesn’t know the answer’ for noncompliant homeless individuals. I asked him the same question in the fall of 2019 privately in his conference room at City Hall. This is not a new issue. In fact, the camping ban and the issue of noncompliant homeless individuals in our city is the pivotal issue for us. With the HEAL initiative encampments being cleared, some of the homeless continue to show that they will refuse shelter when beds were available. Many cleared areas return to be illegal unregulated encampments in a matter of days. Why are noncompliant individuals not being arrested? Why are they allowed to continue public camping which is illegal throughout the City of Austin?"

Austin City Councilmember Greg Casar released the following statement Wednesday afternoon: 

“In August alone, the City Council is voting to open up 200 more homes for people sleeping on the streets,” said Austin City Council Member Greg Casar. “The local Republican Party, on the other hand, has spent their time opposing housing and services for the homeless. They’re not working on getting anyone housed, all they care about is getting people arrested.”

Casar added that, in the last month, the City has purchased and partnered with nonprofits on multiple supportive housing projects at Espero at Rutland, Candlewood, Texas Bungalows and through Foundation Communities. This is in addition to new shelters at Northbridge and Southbridge.

A spokesperson for the City of Austin released the following response:

“We have received this lawsuit and entirely reject its premise. Since May, APD officers have visited hundreds of people experiencing homelessness at encampments and other areas across Austin, connecting many with social support services. During that time officers have issued hundreds of written warnings and multiple citations. APD and City partners will continue to take a responsible and humane approach to enforcing this law and working with the people who are impacted.”

To read statements from the business owners, see below:

“Before I signed the lease in 2019 on my salon and took out a significant construction loan to create my business, I was repeatedly lied to by city council and management on their intentions and plans for managing the increasing homeless population in the area,” said North. “What took place after the camping ban was lifted was wildly dangerous, irresponsible, and reckless on City Council’s part. They did nothing to protect the welfare and safety of the small businesses, children, homes, or people experiencing homelessness in the areas they allowed large encampments to form. After years of break-ins, vandalism, hostile encounters, countless 911 calls, keeping our doors locked during business hours, and thousands and thousands of dollars’ worth of damage I thought we were finally going to see some relief in the stress this situation has created. Instead, months after Prop B was passed, we are still facing the same daily atrocities and it’s time to hold those responsible for creating this environment accountable.”

"I am tired of playing defense and spending tens of thousands of dollars on repairs and security upgrades to protect children at my dance studio from drug dealers and junkies who are ‘camping’ on City of Austin Water Quality land adjacent to my property,” said Dupuy. “I am extremely disappointed that the City of Austin is refusing to enforce the public camping ban and allows this terrible situation to continue, to the detriment of everyone involved including the homeless."

“At two Dairy Queen locations that I own and operate in Austin, we have had many problems with the homeless population,” said Mayfield. “We hired a security company, but the homeless did not respect them, so we had to hire off-duty police officers, which was more expensive and costs us $72,000 per restaurant each year. The problem is bad with the homeless coming in only to use the restroom, hanging in our parking lots bothering customers, asking for money, and making our locations not a desirable place to visit. Without off-duty police, I firmly believe we would have difficulty staying in business. These security costs cut into manager bonuses and profitability. We were thrilled to see the camping ban passed on May 1, but since then nothing has changed. We thought the city was supposed to clean up. The police also tell us that they no longer have the resources to properly police this problem, which is why we pray that Prop A passes on Nov. 2.”

“I employ more than 450 staff members across my small businesses in Austin,” said Woody, owner of Buckshot Bar on E. 6th Street. “I bought my first business in 1982, the old Pecan St. Café, which stayed in business for more than 40 years but closed recently due to aggressive behavior by many homeless individuals. The homeless problem downtown has gotten much worse, probably ten times worse since the camping ban was lifted. Our city is putting our residents, our tourists, our convention attendees and our police officers at risk. This homeless disaster is ruining property values and it is making it nearly impossible for hotels and downtown businesses to operate. My bar on East 6th Street, Buckshot, has been burglarized 12 times, and we are less than one block from the ARCH. We are calling the police multiple times every single day now for three years. Drug deals go unnoticed. This image is what we portray to anyone visiting Austin Texas. It is idiotic, does not help the homeless, and allows people to think that being unlawful is acceptable. The people of Austin if spoken, and again council and mayor are not listening, they have lost the recent election, and they think because they hold these political positions if they are not required to follow through. Full enforcement and going back to where we used to be is the only acceptable solution.”

PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING:

Austin police officer dies of COVID-19, the first in APD since start of pandemic

Texas District Court judge rules 'entire' smokable hemp ban unconstitutional

Austin Police Department using drones to improve public safety