Saturday, September 18, 2010

Spelman: Austin police soak up too much of local budget

Thanks to Austin City Councilmember Bill Spelman for making a point that our capital city media have been loathe to acknowledge over the last decade, as reported in the Austin Chronicle:
"Over the last 10 years, public safety spending per person, in real terms, has gone up by nearly 50 percent since the year 2000," a 45% increase from $365 to $529. "Spending on everything else in the General Fund, has gone up by 2 percent since 2000," from a little over $175 to $178.

"We've taken all the new money we've gotten from property taxes, sales taxes, and what have you, and put it all into public safety. And none of it into parks, libraries, health and human services, development services, and so on. It's all gone to public safety. That kind of big decision is not the sort of decision we ever have the chance to make on budget day. That sort of decision is basically made by the city manager and staff and department heads, way in advance of when we get to pass the budget. And that decision is so big, involving so many millions of dollars, that we simply don't have the opportunity to move that stuff around. So council and the public need to get involved in these big budget decisions well in advance of Sept. 13."
The police union in Austin basically manipulates the Mayor and the majority of city council members like marionettes, which is why Austin has pitiful public transit, can't afford upkeep on parks, relies on criminal laws instead of housing and case management to deal with the homeless, reduced General Fund revenues for HIV treatment last year despite rising incidence rates, has never completed land purchases for the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan, but has the highest paid police officers in the state and arguably (when compared to the cost of living) the nation.

The Austin City Council included 48 new police officer positions in the 2010-11 budget, bringing the total to 1,669 sworn positions compared to 1,215 in the 2000-01 budget (source). That's an increase of 37.4% during a period when Austin's population increased by just 19.7%. Over the same period, crime nationwide has declined, but Austin keeps larding on more and more police officers at ridiculously high wages.

This one-sided irrational exuberance must cease. That means putting police salaries back into the budget process instead of negotiating them separately so that the biggest part of the budget is set in stone every year before it's even drafted. It also means remembering that police represent just one aspect of public safety, and that other programs and services may actually make us all a lot safer at a much lower cost. Finally, voters must begin to hold City Council accountable for ill-considered budget decisions at election time instead of rewarding perennially misplaced priorities.


Anonymous said...

it's true....look at Pheonix...they have soaked the county so much that they are now dry! The CP is ripping of the county with others. STOP the illegal benefits and retirements by state officils.

Anonymous said...

Are ex-TYC people running this game? A disaster....Harris and his wanna- bes are behind this. Take them all to the killoteeen.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah! FINALLY the topic of over inflated LE, and misplaced priorites, enters the public arena. Maybe Austin can save Texas afterall. Dare I hope the tide is turning in Texas?

Prison Doc said...

As a conservative I am absolutely no fan of any union, police or otherwise, but it seems that in Austin there is plenty of blame to spread around over the past thirty years, not just to dump it at the feet of the police union.

How's that for a poorly written sentence?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

We're talking about the last 10 years, Prison Doc, and I didn't just blame the police union. I also blamed the politicians who pander to them and for that matter the voters who allowed themselves to get suckered. The police union, though, is the reason cops got all the new money generated by taxes in the last decade.

Anonymous said...

checking to see if my rants are availble to be seen here becasue for some reason I can't post a comment about the municipal jail blog

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Huh. I haven't vetted any comments, so I don't know what the problem is.

Unless, of course, you were promoting Air Jordan shoes. I did delete some comment spam this morning, though I think it was all on older posts.

Anonymous said...

But, but... Austin is such a "progressive" city...


Anonymous said...

"I also blamed the politicians who pander to them and for that matter the voters who allowed themselves to get suckered."

Ditto Grits. We forget what politicians say they were going to do. So do politicians. According to Will Rogers, every politician owes his longevity to the short memory of the American people.

Anonymous said...

Job Description


Job description:

The City of Austin, TX is seeking the candidates to consider for the role of Police Monitor. The position will report to the City Manager and provide civilian oversight of the Austin Police Department.

This high-visibility position is characterized by an ability to provide fair and objective oversight of the police complaint process, build credibility among diverse audiences, and instill public confidence in the complaint system. The responsibilities of the Police Monitor are broad in scope and require the highest degree of professionalism, independent judgment, personal integrity and accountability.

Job Requirements


Education, training, experience:

•A doctorate in jurisprudence degree

•Four years experience in public sector labor/employment law and in mediation

•In the past five years, have had no full-time employment with or other representation of the Austin Police Department

•Five years experience as a practicing lawyer preferred

Anonymous said...

"But, but... Austin is such a "progressive" city..."

No, Austin is a "Liberal" city, and who panders to unions more than Liberals?

Anonymous said...

Could it be that the liberals demand the most police protection from themselves?

Anonymous said...

The basis behind alot of the expansion of police, and law enforcement in general is the Dept. of Homeland Security. They have "pumped up" with money and message that the police now have to "protect america" and should be better equiped, trained and staffed. Look at the Border Patrol expansion. It is needless and unfounded and based on fear mongering.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

6:35, among big cities in Texas Austin and El Paso - the two liberal bastions - have by far the lowest crime rates. So no, there's no justification for this spending based on the need for greater "protection." The problem is our local politicians pandering to special interests, not a legitimate need for extra security.

@2:00, the Austin Police Monitor's job is a sad joke, unfortunately.

Anonymous said...

That's kind of what I thought too Grits. I like what the chief did this past week in Dallas in firing officers who allegedly beat a black motorcyclist.

Hopefully this will be a trend we will see in the police policing the police.