AUSTIN, Texas — Funding and staffing for the Austin Police Department continue to be hot-button issues in Austin. Last week, political action committee Save Austin Now announced that the City of Austin has certified its petition to put an initiative on the November ballot related to police staffing.
If passed, the proposed ordinance would require a minimum of two police officers per 1,000 population and it would require an additional 40 hours of post-cadet class training hours per year.
But not everyone is on Save Austin Now's side, including Austin Mayor Steve Adler. During an interview on KVUE Daybreak Monday morning, the mayor discussed why he's against the PAC's initiative and responded to a comment Save Austin Now's co-founder Matt Mackowiak made about him during an interview with KVUE.
You can find a transcript of that portion of Adler's interview with KVUE's Yvonne Nava below:
Yvonne Nava: "While that initial [City budget] proposal also included more funding for the Austin Police Department, ultimately Austin's voters could decide to make their own changes to the department through Save Austin Now's certified petition. It aims to boost police staffing, set up training for officers, among other things. So, you're against this measure. Can you explain to us why?
Austin Mayor Steve Adler: "Well, because our police chief is against it. He has said – the main issue in this petition is adopting a permanent staffing plan for police that our police chief does not support. It's really out of date, if it was ever appropriate. It would require a budget increase of $150 to $300 million over a five-year period of time. And with a 3.5% cap on our budgets now, this part of our budget would grow faster than the overall budget.
There's no way to accomplish it without either raising taxes or cutting programs like fire, EMS, or libraries or parks. It's just a standard that I'm not sure there's anybody that supports it other than the police union and the folks that tried to gather the signatures for the petition."
Nava: And staying with that subject: Last week, we spoke with Save Austin Now's co-founder Matt Mackowiak about this petition, the reason behind it. And Mr. Mackowiak said Austin has never been less safe as it is today and that he mentioned you particularly. So, if you could take a listen to this and then I'd like to get your comment afterwards. But let's take a listen.
[Clip with Mackowiak plays. Mackowiak says, "Keep in mind, our mayor has said he believes he wants to get to a day where we have no police at all. He said that publicly. That is a ridiculous statement. We have to ensure we have adequate police staffing and adequate training for our police department to ensure that our communities are safe."]
Nava: How do you respond to that?
Adler: "Well, like so much of this stuff I think that this chair of the Republican Party is saying now, that's absolutely not true. I've never said that. Police play a really important function in our city, and we need to support our police. And I, and I do. That's not what this petition is about. This petition is about a staffing level for police that goes beyond anything that – that almost everybody thinks is in any way reasonable.
It's really important to our community, which is one of the safest big cities in the country – I know this looking at the data. Cities across the country are trying to reach the kind of numbers that we have in Austin. Crime is going up to Austin, it's going up in cities across the country. And our policies are not responsible for the increases across the country. We think there's something that's related to the pandemic. But we have work to do there. But it is not a question of having a permanent staffing level that would break our budget."
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