Former Austin mayors Lee Leffingwell, Lee Cooke, and Ron Mullen said they do not approve of Mayor Steve Adler and city council members’ policy decision to cut funding and cadet classes from the police department last year.
"Cities started 5,000 years ago for one reason, safety. Protect the citizens," said Cooke.
Tuesday, the three former mayors and current Austin City Council member Mackenzie Kelly, District 6, endorsed the ballot initiative that would require the city to increase police staffing to a minimum of two officers per every thousand people.
"We have an unsafe city, we have a city that’s going to be in decline, and I think that having two officers per thousand people is something we were talking about in the 70s and we strived to fund that and I think it’s time," Cooke said.
Supporters of Prop A said the city’s recent spike in violent crime, including murders, and an increase in police response times are a direct result of Austin City Council’s decision to reduce funding for the police department in 2020.
"There’s nothing wrong with having too many police officers, but there’s a lot wrong with having too few. We’ve seen the results of that in rising crime rates, rising murder rates, etc. in our city and we’ve seen it across the nation," said Leffingwell.
"Seconds matter. An additional two minutes response to a call could literally mean life and death for these people experiencing emergencies," Kelly said.
Opponents with the "No Way on Prop A" campaign said the ordinance would be too expensive.
"Prop A is not comprehensive public safety reform, and Prop A will lead to severe budget cuts to things that folks care about, like parks, pools, and libraries, but also essential workers, like fire and EMS personnel," said Laura Hernandez Holmes, No Way on Prop A campaign manager.
"We have passed enough money through social services programs, that have no reason to be provided by the municipal government, that we have the money at the city to prioritize public safety and provide additional staffing," Kelly said.
Voters will have the final say on November 2.