Community Investment Budget

In collaboration with thirty organizations, Equity Action joined in a Community Investment Budget that asks Austin City Council to commit to prioritizing increased wages for our lowest wage city workers and EMS, emergency rental assistance to prevent evictions of those seeing untenable rent increases, social services for those already unhoused, increased park staffing, and much more. Totaling about $74 million, this proposal represents a set of priorities for about 6% of general revenue and presents a vision for how the city should move forward in 2022.

See the full proposal here. See the press release from the launch here.

Ballot Initiative Strengthens Austin’s Civilian Oversight of Police and Increases Transparency

We believe that police brutality and misconduct are wrong and that police officers found to have done so should be suspended or fired from their job, even if it’s not a crime. We know that police brutality and misconduct continue to be serious problems in the City of Austin, in part because too often police in Austin aren’t held accountable.

For instance, despite paying out over $13 million in settlements to victims of police brutality during the 2020 protests, the City of Austin has not suspended or fired a single officer for their conduct during those protests.

We believe that if officers knew that they’d face discipline for brutality and misconduct, they’d do it less. We believe that if officers knew that facts about police brutality and misconduct would always be made public, they would do it less.

We believe police shouldn’t police themselves and Austin police require strong external oversight to ensure accountability. We believe more records about police brutality and misconduct should become publicly accessible and records should no longer be permanently sealed.

We know that a big reason police aren’t held accountable and more records aren’t made publicly accessible is that the police contract creates barriers to oversight and mandates that facts about brutality and misconduct be kept secret. Last year, the police union used terms in the contract to try to undermine the oversight system, and succeeded!

On December 28, 2021, in a decision that we believe was wrong on the facts and the law, an arbitrator overturned some of the most important powers of Austin’s Office of Police Oversight. Over the course of several months in 2021, the police union filed dozens of grievances against the Office and finally took one to arbitration. The arbitrator’s decision undid many of the gains made in 2017 and 2018, the historic period when City Council voted down a bad police contract and forced a better one.

Under the current system of police contract negotiations, police oversight and transparency are bargaining chips for police to get higher pay, and reforms are full of loopholes.

We’re tired of trading weak reforms for more money. That’s why we created the Austin Police Oversight Act. It mandates that any police contract in Austin have strong oversight and transparency – improving accountability, deterring police brutality and misconduct, and not requiring taxpayers to pay more money to get accountability that should just be part of the job.

We all bear a responsibility to stop the brutality and misconduct they commit. Please do your part and help us get the Austin Police Oversight Act on the ballot! Thank you!

Full text of the proposal here