Public Notice: Whose Streets?
Imagine if you can ... no police, no cars ...
From the moment City Manager Spencer Cronk released the fiscal year 2020-21 proposed budget Monday, with an $11 million cut to police spending, the reactions poured in from various corners, ranging from the Austin Justice Coalition's "$11 million? We have a long way to go ..." to the Greater Austin Crime Commission's "Smart policing reform is possible without jeopardizing the safety of our businesses, churches, neighborhoods and schools. Taxpayer-funded studies have repeatedly shown the Austin Police Department is understaffed for a rapidly growing city." (This delivered in a press release sent by Elizabeth Christian Public Relations.)
Expect that tug-of-war to continue, as it has for the last half-century – though perhaps never with as much momentum on the "defund" side as there is at the moment. If local governments, including ours, are serious about police reform – about reimagining public safety as more than just enforcement – it'll be a bigger and more expensive job than most anyone is willing to admit.
City Council starts to dig into that in the FY 21 budget deliberations that began this week. Lots more on that on pages 10 and 12, and in next week's issue.
And continuing the theme ...
The Austin Transportation Department will install three more Healthy Streets in the next few weeks – with barriers closing them to all but local and emergency traffic, thus reserving them for humans and their ilk – in Hyde Park, Windsor Park, and South Austin. Work will start within two weeks on:
• Avenue G, from 38th to 56th streets
• Belfast Drive, from Broadmoor to Cameron Road
• Whispering Oaks, Seminary Ridge, Marsh, Leo, and Curlew Drive, from Slaughter Lane to William Cannon Drive
That's in addition to five closures already implemented – on Bouldin and South Third; Comal Street; Wickersham Lane and Oltorf; Pleasant Valley (across Longhorn Dam); and Riverside Drive from Lamar to South First – plus the conversion of two lanes of Congress Avenue to protected bike lanes, from the Capitol all the way down to Riverside. Regarding those, Council also directed staff to "consider how to transition this temporary measure to a more permanent installation," and who knows, maybe that radical idea will spread to Healthy Streets as well. As it is, those are "expected to remain in place as long as resources allow and physical distancing requirements are recommended, based on COVID-19 risk-based guidelines."
Learn more at www.austintexas.gov/healthystreets, where you can also see a map and give feedback on existing routes and those being considered for a third batch, to be announced in coming weeks.
Austin City Council districts will be remapped following this year's census, and the city auditor is trying to set up the process for selecting the 14 commissioners who'll do that. Hear more in a Facebook Live session, Wed., July 22, 6pm at www.fb.com/austinauditor.