Questions About the County Budget

RECEIVED Tue., Sept. 18, 2007

Dear Editor:
    Congratulations regarding your recent leadership in raising questions about the city’s budget and accountability [“Beside the Point,” News, Sept. 14]. Readers apparently have extended the Chronicle’s questions to include Travis County’s budget, as well [“Postmarks,” Sept. 14].
    The following recent news coverage lends credence for citizen concern with regard to the Travis County budget:
    1) Austin Chronicle, “County Workers Approved for More Pay” by Patricia J. Ruland [News, Sept. 14];
    2) KXAN, “Travis County Budget Allows Sheriff to Hire 17 Deputies,” Sept. 7;
    3) Austin American-Statesman, “Travis County Budget Plan Boosts Taxes, Spending,” Sept. 17.
    Discussion of higher taxes, more revenue for law enforcement, and cuts in other departments have conjured citizen concern for how their money will be spent and why the increase.
    Only a week ago, citizens questioned whether there would be any hearing for public input regarding the TC budget at all. Perhaps the Chronicle’s perseverance has paid off in the form of two hearings that are now scheduled for this week (Tuesday and Friday, Sept. 21).
    Interestingly, these budget hearings coincide in the same week that the Department of Justice begins its federal investigation into APD’s questionable use of force (including deadly force). Questions regarding the practices of Travis County Sheriff’s Department also have been raised recently. Nonetheless, in a time where other departments suffer significant cuts, both CoA and Travis County have expanded their budgetary allocations for law enforcement.
    Questions still loom with regard to the ongoing saga for northeastern Travis County residents and the expanding BFI dump.
    Therefore, if commissioners intend to raise our taxes, shouldn’t neighborhood concerns and questions also be adequately addressed?
    If Travis County intends to emulate CoA’s approach toward law enforcement, will bankrolling “the arm of the law” (whether Austin Police Department or sheriff) serve to control crime, or to enforce arbitrary/capricious “official decisions” made/carried out by bureaucrats serving “special interests” vs. the public interest?
Cordially,
Allissa Chambers
Austinites Lobbying for Municipal Accountability
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