AUSTIN, Texas - Coming on the heels of a Proposition B win earlier this month, the Save Austin Now political action committee is hoping to replicate that success with a new petition.
"Today we are launching the Safe Austin Now initiative," said Matt Mackowiak, the group’s organizer.
The 'Safe Austin Now' initiative is an effort to collect 50,000 signatures to get a new ordinance on the ballot. The coalition crafted the petition as a response to the city council's vote to take away $20 million from the Austin Police Department last year and reallocate it.
"Number one, it ensures adequate staffing for our police department. It's astounding that citizens have to come together to do that," said Mackowiak.
The ordinance would require 2 cops per 1,000 people in the city, something advocates say would relieve many officers working long hours.
"Which officer do you want responding to the call when you're in need? Do you want an officer who has been a part of the community, who understands the people that they workaround, and who speaks the language or do you want an officer who is on his third overtime for the week, is stressed out?" said former councilmember Ellen Troxclair.
Additionally, the ordinance would double police training, requiring an additional 40 hours.
"Most importantly we are going to enact sensible police reforms that we feel will rebuild the trust that we need between police and our community," said Mackowiak.
Councilmember Natasha Harper-Madison is on board with police reform, and more training, but the staffing issue is where she disagrees.
"More officers doesn't mean more safety. Tarrytown isn't any safer than East Austin because that's where all the officers are. It's about community investments and access to opportunities," said Harper-Madison.
The council member welcomes the discussion and she is hoping there can be some compromise. "Let's really come at this conversation from a very factual data-driven perspective. Crime is going up in cities that raised their police budgets," she said, making a counter-argument.
"Our police need our support. my colleagues on the dais have not shown that support," said Mackenzie Kelly, Austin City Council District Six.
Mayor Steve Adler’s office said he is still reviewing the petition before making his remarks.
Councilmember Greg Casar said in a statement to Fox 7 Austin that this petition is about writing a blank check for the PAC to fund their own agenda, using taxpayer dollars. He also said it is against what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for. Here is the full statement:
"George Floyd was killed one year ago, and instead of working on police reform, this group is fear-mongering and trying to avoid police accountability. Their petition drive is about writing a blank check of taxpayer funds to their own department, while cutting off funds for all our other public employees and critical public safety needs. This petition goes directly against what the Black Lives Matter movement is all about."