Things We’re Paying Attention To

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

One of the purposes of “The Frame Up” is to share our thoughts and provide information going on in the current news cycle, in and around Austin and Texas. So every couple of weeks, we want to hit you with three things we are paying attention to and a dash of our perspective on why it is important. However, with the 24/7 news cycle, COVID, the snowpocalypse aftermath, the Texas Legislative session among many other competing interests – in our first edition – we are going to mention more than 3 things, because well, there is a lot going on: 

Another Election? So Soon: Austin’s 8 Propositions  

Things are beginning to heat up for the Austin special election in May where the community will be voting on 8 propositions:

  1. Proposition A: Firefighters union charter amendment
  2. Proposition B: Homelessness ordinances
  3. Proposition C: Changes to the Director of the Office of Police Oversight position 
  4. Proposition D: Date change of mayoral elections to match presidential elections
  5. Proposition E: Ranked-choice voting (explanation from fairvote: here)
  6. Proposition F: Strong-mayor form of government, which eliminates the position of the City Manager
  7. Proposition G: Add an 11th City Council district
  8. Proposition H: Alternative campaign finance system

We hope that you take the time to research to know where you stand on each of these items. But two of the propositions are making a bit of noise , Prop B and Prop F. But the buzz around Prop B has made its way up to the Texas State Legislature which is what were paying attention to it at the moment. There is potential to nullify the city’s vote on Prop B if Rep. Capriglione and Senators Buckingham, Bettencourt and Schwertner have their way. Currently, House Bill 1925 is set to be discussed in committee on March 25th ( streaming link/Agenda). The Senate Bill  (SB 987) has been referred and likely will be discussed in the Local Government committee in the coming days, weeks. If these bills make it out of committee, pass the House and Senate, and are signed by the Governor – the results of a NO vote in a city-wide election on Prop B would be superseded by this new State law.

Who knows exactly why the Legislature wants to step in instead of letting the Austin voters decide for themselves what kind of City they want to live in. We understand the legislators are in town for their Legislative Session and want to give any blow to the city of Austin whenever they can but to me it is an overstep. We all know that criminalizing homelessness does not fix homelessness, instead makes being poor a criminal. More importantly,  the Save Austin Now (SAN)  campaign got the ballot initiative on the election, why not let the people of Austin decide for themselves. Is it really about safety? Or is it about vanity? The efforts of Homes Not Handcuffs the opposing campaign to SAN is ramping up, and making a strong case about the lack of humanity in criminalizing homelessness. The City of Austin does need to proactively find and implement solutions to reduce homelessness in the State’s Capital, but we’re not sure if that’s what this is really about. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, the political posturing by the State officials….we could do without. 

The George Floyd Act

Based on George Floyd’s tragic death, the Texas Black Caucus introduced the George Floyd act in the Fall of 2020. The Texas House Bill 88, led by Rep. Senfronia Thompson will be discussed on March 25th at the Homeland Security & Public Safety committee (streaming link/agenda).  The corresponding SB 1224 by Senator West has been referred to the Jurisprudence committee and should be discussed in coming days, weeks. The question is whether this bill will make it out of their respective committees and to their legislative bodies for a vote. 10 non-profit and advocacy groups are hosting a rally in support of the Act.

Stay tuned.

This bill is good policy making to prevent or provide recourse for citizens who would be in the same position as George Floyd. We want Police officers to be able to do their job well – and that includes creating laws that doesn’t allow bad actors to engage in behavior that disproportionately affects men and women of color. This bill aims to fix these actions.

Redistrict, Redistrict, Redistrict 

2021 is a redistricting year. With the delays from the 2020 census due to Covid, a special session is most likely going to be called in order to pass the redistricting map. (Although some data will be released in April, all of the data needed to conduct redistricting is not available until the fall.) There is an informative website about redistricting in Texas that details the process and what is currently happening. The links to this year’s Senate meetings can be found on the website as well. We will be keeping our eyes on this in the coming months as it is so important to election integrity.

Vaccine Inequities 

As communities struggle to be vaccinated, the disparities continue to rise. In the beginning, there was some vaccine hesitancy from communities of color, but based on the reporting by the Texas Tribune, there seems to be real barriers based on the system that has been set up. How do we close the gap, and increase vaccinations in these marginalized communities?

Special Education Woes at AISD

On March 11th, KUT released a story about the 800 student evaluations for special education that were on a backlog due to staffing shortages. The District discussed this issue that night in their March 11th Board of Trustees meeting. Due to turnover and lack of hiring in what sounds like a tense unit in the district – the leaders indicated that they are working hard to fix the gap. The recording from the meeting has not been uploaded just yet, but will be available at this link. (We will add the time stamp when it comes available). We will be on the lookout for any update on a small, but pressing issue for the district. The reason we are paying attention to this issue, because like many of the issues across the district, it is a resource issue. 

The Tip of the Iceberg

One of those over said sayings, “ You can’t be everything to everybody”. I have to remind myself that due to the competing interests that exist in the world and my desire to make an impact on all of them, I am reminded to make an impact where I can. But we hope if any of these issues matter to you, be sure to engage with the topic or share with your friends. 

Until next time,

Fran