ODA staffing battle intensifies: with early voting underway, campaigns for and against Proposition A intensify – News

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Pro Mayor Tem Natasha Harper-Madison speaks at a “No Way on Prop A” event on the first day of early voting, Monday, October 18 (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Early voting is underway in the November 2 election and campaigns for and against Proposition A have intensified. Here are some of the news from this marquee race on the local ballot.

EMS Union says “No”

The Austin EMS Association the political action committee voted against proposal A. The PAC joins the Austin Firefighters Association PAC and AFSCME Local 1624 opposing the measure, which means that union groups representing almost all of the city’s employees (other than the police, who represent more than 10% of the city’s 13,500 employees) have spoken out against the measure.

Previously, the president of AEMSA Selena xie told us his union intended to stay out of the Prop A fight, but voted to weigh in after considering how the initiative backed by the Austin Police Association and the GOP-affiliate Register Austin Now The PAC would have an impact on other city services. (In particular, the EMS and the police unions are both members of the Combined Texas Law Enforcement Associations, the statewide coalition that has been fighting police reform in the Legislature for decades.) In a statement, Xie highlighted two recent actions by the Texas Legislature – those of 2019 Senate Bill 2, which reduced by how much property tax revenues cities could bring without voter approval of the tax rate, and this spring House bill 1900, preventing cities from “Define” the budgets of the police services without the prior approval of the governor’s office.

“Due to the combined effects of these two state bills,” Xie wrote, “we are concerned that prop A will create an irreversible escalation in policing costs that will cannibalize Austin’s SMU and others. municipal services for many years to come “. Xie noted that the Austin Police Department’s budget is at an all-time high, $ 442 million for fiscal year 2022. Meanwhile, “Austin’s doctors have struggled to get one to five. million more dollars to improve EMS services, despite the fact that there are still many of us. ambulances below the city’s needs, more understaffed than the rest of Austin’s public safety departments, and underpaid compared to our fellow Austin public safety staff. “

Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon (Photo by John Anderson)

Speaking of price tags

The cost of Prop A was estimated by Austin Chief Financial Officer Ed Van Eenoo in a note of August 10 which informed much of the subsequent campaign and was added to the wording of the ballot with the blessing of the Texas Supreme Court. This range of $ 54 million to $ 120 million every year for five years, takes into account seven different cost factors, including the city’s forecast for annual population growth and wages and the construction of new police stations and training facilities. Due to HB 1900’s prohibitions on “defining the policy” some of these costs would become permanent.

Prop A supporters are protesting that Van Eenoo’s projections are too dire, although they have failed to convince the courts to strike them out of the language of the ballot. (Save Austin Now declined to explain how they arrived at their own cost estimate, so we declined to report until the group showed their work.) But what if the opposite is true. is right ? It is the affirmation of Julio González Altamirano, a respected political scholar who regularly analyzes issues facing City Hall. In a new blog post, Gonzalez takes a hard look at Van Eenoo’s assumptions.

Proposal A, if adopted, would require ODA “at any time” to employ 2.0 agents per 1,000 inhabitants, and that these agents have 35% of their working hours available for “community engagement time. “Van Eenoo estimates that meeting these two requirements would actually require a minimum staffing ratio of 2.13 officers per 1,000 residents at its lower end, up to 2.35 per 1,000 at its upper end; he foresees the need to hire between 316 and 680 However, Van Eenoo assumes a vacancy rate of 6.3% among the sworn staff of the DPA; currently it is around 12%, and the chairman of the DPA APA Ken casaday suggested that at the current attrition rate it could reach 18% by the end of 2021.

If the ODA vacancy rate hovers around 10%, and to allow for a 35% engagement time, writes Gonzalez, the city should immediately hire between 645 and 1,009 agents, in a tightening labor market, and after nearly two years of ODA crises which included the closure and then “reinvent“his police academy. To do this, the Council could agree to raise the salaries of new officers or lower its recruiting standards below those where” reimagine “would set them. Van Eenoo predicted salary growth of 1% or 2% for agents over the five years, which Gonzalez also points to as overly optimistic.

Chacon: Pro or Not?

Campaigns for and against Prop A both said Austin police chief Joseph Chacon is aligned with their cause. In a statement, the leader told us: “I took no position on Proposal A and that was always my response when asked if I supported or opposed the measure. I think that it’s up to the voters to decide. ” This corresponds to his political and legal responsibilities as leader.

What Chacon said, comforting both sides, is that staff attrition is the biggest challenge he and APD face, but that a “static” and “arbitrary” staffing ratio – like “2 , 0 per 1000 “- is not the best way to go. . Asked directly to the board during its confirmation hearing on September 30, Chacon said these models are “based on older methodologies” which are now obsolete, and that ministries should instead look at calls for service, geographic distribution and others “evidence-based”. , “data-driven” factors. “Going forward, the important thing is that we determine what services our community wants, and then use models that we develop to determine exactly how many agents it will take to get that,” Chacon told the council. “I just think it’s a smarter way to do business.”


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