Decrease the Fiscal Year 2017 APD budget by 5% in order to fund social services that advance racial equity and promote community safety in Austin

The White Caucus of Undoing Racism Austin[i] urges that the Austin City Council take immediate and decisive action to support its promise to advance racial equity and promote community safety in its Fiscal Year 2017 budget. We urge the City Council to make a modest 5% cut in the Austin Police Department Budget and instead support community initiatives that have been proven to create safe and supported neighborhoods.

The Austin Police Department has historically controlled an outsized segment of the City’s annual budget. For example, in FY 2015-2016, the Austin Police Department controlled over 40% of the City’s General Fund[ii]. Meanwhile, One Voice Central Texas reports that Austin spends far less on social services than similar cities[iii]. This extraordinary focus on policing leaves few funds for critical programs in under-resourced communities that promote true community safety such as: health and education programs, parks, transportation and affordable housing. As a result, Austin is one of the most economically segregated cities in the country[iv] and it continues to grapple with historical and ongoing racial inequity.

We ask that for Fiscal Year 2017, The City of Austin cut the Austin Police Department’s budget by a modest 5% so the City will have more resources to:

      • Create truly accessible housing for families and individuals, particularly those who are low income, who are unable to continue to compete with Austin’s rising rents.
      • Increase the capacity of Health & Human Services and provide funds for Health Equity programs.
      • Support Parks & Recreation Department’s budget, with a particular focus on investing in under-resourced communities.
      • Build a transportation network that will allow Austin to grow and remain accessible, including viable options from the suburbs into the city center and in under-resourced communities.
      • Invest in children’s education, including after school and enrichment programs
      • Support Spanish language programs, including through GED & ESL
      • Invest in livable wage jobs to maintain and incrementally increase wages for Austin workers.
      • Fund the development and implementation of an Equity Assessment Tool, including an independent review board.

The city budget process has historically benefitted white communities at the expense of communities of color. We call on you to fully embrace your goal in creating the Office of Equity and reallocate funding from policing communities of color to supporting and strengthening them.

State-sanctioned violence against black and brown people by police forces, both here in Austin and across the country, is increasingly visible. Further, we know that the safest communities in Austin don’t have the largest police presence, they have the most wealth. As the Movement for Black Lives describes in their political platform, moving funds away from policing and incarceration and into education, healthcare and economic investment improves community safety[v]. As the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights states, “[An] emphasis continues to be placed upon policing and incarceration as the appropriate and only means towards public safety and reduced crime rates. In order for our communities to be whole and healthy, there needs to be equitable access to participation within the society and economy that shapes our realities.[vi]

We therefore urge you to cut the Austin Police Department’s budget by 5% and fund initiatives that will result in more racial equity and true safety for Austinites.

Sincerely,

The Undoing Racism Austin White Caucus

[i] The White Caucus of Undoing Racism Austin is a group of Austin residents committed to leveraging our time, energy and resources to address the ongoing impact of racism in our community.  Our purpose is to hold city representatives accountable for ensuring the safety and well-being of all communities in Austin.

[ii] City of Austin, (2016) “2016-17 Proposed Budget, Austin, TX” Austin Police Department. https://assets.austintexas.gov/budget/16-17/downloads/FY17_Proposed_Budget_Vol_1.pdf

[iii] http://ilivehereigivehere.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/November-2015-AAS-Article.pdf

[iv] The Texas Tribune; Austin is Most Economically Segregated Metro Area; February 23, 2015; https://www.texastribune.org/2015/02/23/austin-most-economically-segregated-metro-area/.

[v] Movement for Black Lives (2016) “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice.” Invest-Divest. https://policy.m4bl.org/invest-divest/

[vi] “Night Out for Safety and Liberation 2016,” p. 2, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. http://www.nosl.me/sites/default/files/%23NOSL16%20Community%20Organizing%20Toolkit.pdf

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