by Daryl Slusher
A majority of the Dallas City Council last week voted to cut their city’s police budget, joining Austin on Governor Greg Abbott’s wayward City Councils list. This was a preliminary budget vote. The Dallas Council votes on the final budget September 23.
Besides for the vote not being final, there is one very large difference between the actions of the Dallas Council and the Austin Council. The proposed Dallas Police Department (DPD) cut is $7 million. It would reduce the DPD overtime budget. The Austin Council cut either $150 million or $21 million, depending on whether one uses the figure on Greg Casar’s tweet and email to supporters the day of the budget vote or Mayor Steve Adler’s attempts to clean up afterward.
What the Austin Council actually did was to cut $21 million from the Austin Police Department (APD) budget and reallocate it to social service oriented functions, aiming to reduce the utilization of police. The remaining amount, $129 million, is for functions currently in the APD budget — such as 911, forensics and the Police Monitor’s Office — that the Council will consider moving out of APD in the next several months. This money was put into “transition” funds.
Governor Greg Abbott ignored the significant financial difference between the actions of the Austin and Dallas Councils, and accused the Dallas Council of supporting a “defunding scheme.” It is a stretch of the Governor’s powers to get involved in any municipal budget issue, but it seems particularly ludicrous on a $7 million item in a large city budget. This emphasizes, however, a point made here in previous articles. While the Governor likely is genuinely concerned about public safety and the police, he also sees City Council votes to reduce police department budgets as a political opportunity on which Republican legislative and Congressional candidates can capitalize. He evidently hopes to shift the conversation from Republicans’ deadly failure on the coronavirus and their refusal to question President Donald Trump’s policies and conduct — even as the President calls soldiers, including those who died in battle, “suckers” and “losers” and is revealed on tape to have understood how deadly and contagious the coronavirus is, but publicly downplayed it, for instance predicting, “It’s going to disappear. Like a miracle it will disappear.” (Oops, I almost got off the subject there.)
Meanwhile Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson strongly criticized the Council action. The issue will be decided when the Dallas Council votes on the budget September 23.
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