Forget using tax dollars on roads and public infrastructure. Instead, Democrat-run Austin City Hall is funneling your hard-earned money to their preferred political activists.

Back in March, city hall’s Chief Equity Officer Brion Oaks sent an email to local anti-police organization Grassroots Leadership, discussing a plan to purchase Visa gift cards with public funds and offer them to citizens specifically selected by the organization.

The cards would be a cash incentive to get their preferred people to testify at an upcoming virtual public meeting on police “reimagining.”

“Grassroots Leadership proposes to provide stipends in the form of gift cards for participation of community members in the [city-appointed Reimagining Public Safety] Task Force Community Listening Session to be held Saturday, April 10,” read a memo to the city.

In order to do this, Grassroots will collect a list of people providing input, as well as work in collaboration with the RPS Task Force membership to develop eligibility criteria and follow-up questions to ensure the feedback gathered is centered in and supporting those most impacted by police violence.

Grassroots Leadership has stated immediate goals of defunding the Austin Police Department by 50 percent this year, a “robust 5-year plan for defunding, divestment, and disbandment of the APD,” and a “10-year plan to defund policing across Austin and Travis County.”

City officials obliged the gift card plan, ordering 400 $50 Visa gift cards—using taxpayer money—and giving a special provision to Grassroots Leadership as a preferred vendor with the city.

Officials also paid the organization a $2,000 “administrative cost” to distribute the gift cards to people who met that “eligibility criteria.”

Citizens took to social media in response.

“It seems that not a single day goes by without something new coming out about the corruption going on in Austin under the banner of ‘reimagining the police,’” wrote citizen Rick Shirley. “I am attaching a copy of a memo requesting [public] funding to pay people with gift cards to come forward to the Taskforce and testify about why the Police Department should be defunded.”

“Grassroots Leadership was awarded a $23,180 contract from the [City of Austin] to provide gift cards to participants in APD bashing sessions. That’s called buying the answers that you want to hear,” one citizen tweeted.

“I think they had a set group of people they wanted to pay to show up to testify on the police issues,” said Ken Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association. “Why do you need to pay people to go to a Zoom meeting …”

“Many people attended [Zoom] sessions. What was the determining factor of a gift card?” wrote another. “[Grassroots Leadership] hates police & has set a goal to dismantle APD. Is that reimagining? ATX ‘leaders’ paying the mob.”

“This is what they do. They only survey people who will give them the answers they want and pay them to do it. Then they say ‘the community overwhelmingly …’” an individual tweeted.

“We’ve seen paid protestors, paid voters, now paid panels of police bashers,” one citizen commented.

“Were the gift cards in violation of TX constitution?” another asked.

“Ignoring the gift card scam in the first place, 15% goes to admin and processing costs? … Scam on top of scam,” said one individual.

The gift card plan also comes in wake of the Democrat-run Austin City Council defunding the police by a whopping one-third ($150 million) last year. Homicides have already surged to record numbers in 2021.

Concerned citizens may contact the Austin City Council.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.


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