AUSTIN,Texas (FOX 7 Austin) - "I think it's backfiring. I think the community is very upset and that's why the Governor has stepped in," said Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday.
Casaday is referring to a Tweet from Governor Greg Abbott.
"If Austin or any other Texas city permits camping on city streets it will be yet another local ordinance the State of Texas will override. At some point cities must start putting public safety & common sense first. There are far better solutions for the homeless & citizens," Abbott Tweeted over the weekend.
"I just have to believe that someone on his staff really didn't explain to him what it was that we did on Thursday," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.
According to Mayor Adler and his Council colleague Greg Casar, they simply decriminalized the status of being homeless. Adler says Council's decision didn't take away any tools to arrest or ticket people that are causing a public safety risk or health hazard.
"As long as you can get around and it's not creating a safety hazard, you and I can go camp right now on Congress," Casaday said.
Casaday feels like the Austin City Council has created a big problem downtown and all over the city.
"I think before the summer's out you'll see tent cities pop up all over the city," he said.
As for those who have expressed concerns about Congress Avenue in particular...
"The scenario that has us with tents up and down Congress Avenue I think is a silly prospect, it's not going to happen in our city," he said,
Adler points to a separate item that passed at last week's meeting that would direct the City Manager to come up with some places where people can and cannot camp...and setting up non-criminal ways to deal with violations.
"It would certainly make sense to me that when we're identifying areas where people can be and where they can't be that Congress Avenue is not a good place for people to be camping, there's got to be a better place, a safer place," Adler said.
Austin attorney Adam Loewy used to live downtown. But now...
"I don't like going downtown because I cannot walk a single block in the downtown core without being accosted by a homeless person," he said.
As far Abbott's tweet…just in case there are any questions about party lines on this issue:
"I welcomed it. I'm a lifelong Democrat, I'm a proud Democrat. I generally don't agree with Governor Abbott, but I was extremely happy to see that Tweet," Loewy said.
Council Member Casar sent out his own response to the Governor saying in part "We did more last week to address homelessness - from funding services to buying a new shelter to fixing laws - than Gov. Abbott did in his entire 6 months of the last legislative session."
Adler says the State could be a constructive partner.
"I hope in that year and a half we're able to establish these programs and policies in a way that works, that makes the State proud and at the next legislative session they're actually scaling up those solutions and doing it in other cities around Texas," Adler said.
"As I told a few council members, let's revisit this all in a year. And I'm 100% certain this problem will be exponentially worse," Loewy said.
According to the City of Austin, the ordinance changes will go into effect next week.
Here is Council Member Casar’s full statement:
“Last week Austin City Council decriminalized the mere status of being homeless, brought Lake Austin homes onto the tax rolls to create a funding stream to increase funding for services to the homeless, and authorized funding for a new homeless shelter. We did more last week to address homelessness- from funding services to buying a new shelter to fixing laws- than Gov. Abbott did in his entire 6 months of the last legislative session.
We know people end up in jail, emergency rooms, or on the street when they haven’t been given the support they need to succeed. Texas ranks near the very bottom on mental health access and spending, investments in public assistance, and overall healthcare coverage. Austinites are coming up with solutions to these issues, but Gov. Abbott insists on being a part of the problem.”