Save Austin Now PAC looking at potential lawsuit over new petition

Save Austin Now PAC says that the city of Austin faces a potential lawsuit if it delays putting the PAC's #MakeAustinSafe petition on the November ballot.

Save Austin Now PAC and its #MakeAustinSafe coalition leaders said last week, they submitted almost 26,000 signed petitions to address staffing concerns at the Austin Police Department

However, the petitions have yet to be validated. In accordance with the City of Austin Charter and state law, the number of signatures required for a sufficient initiative petition is 5% of the qualified voters of the city or 20,000, whichever number is the smaller.

The petition is seeking to place an ordinance on the November 2 ballot to do the following:

  • Ensure adequate police staffing by requiring a minimum of two officers per 1,000 citizens and a minimum of 35% community response time or uncommitted time
  • Doubles police training by requiring an additional 40 hours of post-cadet class training hours per year
  • Enacts police reforms by including provisions to boost minority hiring through foreign language proficiency, ensure racially diverse community policing, and provides retention bonuses for officers without police complaints

According to the PAC, the City of Austin is allegedly seeking a legal opinion from the City Law Department on whether they can delay putting the ordinance on the November 2021 ballot until after redistricting, which should occur this fall and would not take effect until November 2022. 

The law department is expected to provide an opinion in an executive session on Thursday, July 29.

Recently, Austin City Manager Spencer Cronk unveiled his proposed city budget, with $442 million, one of the largest amounts in the budget, going to APD, after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that would financially penalize cities if they cut their police budgets, which Austin did last year.

This year's proposal meets the threshold necessary to avoid that by reinstating certain departments back into APD's budget, including the forensic lab and the 911 call center. It also funds APD's cadet classes going forward.

Editor's note: A previously published version of this article contained an unedited press release from Save Austin Now. The article has since been updated to provide context.

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