My Testimony to the Austin City Council


Thank you Mayor. Thank you, council.

I am here today on behalf of Save Austin Now and the 31 thousand people who have signed our petition to rescind the homeless ordinance changes that you all, that nine of you, saw fit to put in place.

This policy has been a disaster. It has been an absolute disaster for our city, and I say that more in sadness than anything else. I don’t doubt your intentions. I said this the last time I was here, the intention to try and decrease homelessness in our city was a noble one.

Unfortunately, you have made our city less safe. And today you are admitting it.

You are admitting it because you are deciding to identify six streets in our city where people cannot camp if they are homeless. On the basis that it is bad for public safety and bad for public health.

So for people who live and work on those streets, they are apparently worth more than everyone else who lives in Austin.

The problem is, the people who are camping on those streets are going to move to other streets. And every other street in our city, every other neighborhood in our city is going to become less safe because you have cherry-picked six streets and decided to make them safe from homeless camping.

What’s the solution? I want to end homelessness. Absolutely.

When you can identify those that have drug and alcohol problems, get them treatment and off the streets. People who have mental health problems, get them treatment, get them off the streets. Everyone else needs to be on a path to work and self sufficiency.

The challenge here is you all have sequenced this in the entirely wrong way. In June, the Downtown Austin Alliance, the Greater Austin Crime Commission, the Austin Police Association, and a number of other organizations begged you to wait, and to be thoughtful about this.

You did it in June, you go on vacation for five weeks and leave the police department, the fire department, and the residents to deal with the mess you created.

Nine of you went ahead, I will note that two of you were against it at the time.

But it moved forward, and it has been an absolute mess for our city. And now you are admitting it. You are basically admitting that, and may not say it, but you’re admitting that and trying to change this ordinance today.

So, to be honest with you, I’m actually not clear on whether I prefer these changes or not.

Because the preference that I have, as someone who is speaking on behalf of 31 thousand people who have signed our petition, is to go back to where we were.

Not the best solution, not that that will fix this. But that you made the problem worse in the interim.

If $30 million didn’t solve our homeless problem year after year, how is $62 million going to solve it?

I will also, lastly, say that part of why people are homeless is that it is expensive to live in Austin. And you all are making that worse. If the property tax this year increases 8% how many homeless people is that going to create?

I will just wrap up by saying you have an opportunity, today, to stop this insanity, go back to where we were before, put a real plan together, and spend money wisely.

Thank you.

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