There’s a pivotal war for power unfolding in Austin.
Amid scenes of citizens forced out of their homes, iconic businesses shuttering from suffocating taxes, uncontrolled homelessness scattering across town, intensifying lawlessness spreading on the streets, and defunded police officers leaving their jobs, some citizens are now arising to take city hall back from the all-Democrat Austin City Council who helped create the current reality in Texas’ capital.
For this November’s local election, 20 candidates are running for just five available seats on the city council. All of the incumbent Democrat councilmembers trying to stay in power this year are facing challengers.
The current council has harmed and angered citizens through a variety of recent and ongoing decisions. Last year, the council allowed homeless individuals to camp in nearly all public spaces across the city, igniting a wildfire of public backlash and safety risk; last week, the council defunded the local police department by one-third, spent part of the police money on killing children, and hit already-struggling citizens with even higher tax bills.
On taxes alone, the council wants to take over $500 more cash from the median homeowner next year—despite being in a time when over 130,000 Austinites recently lost their jobs because of government shutdowns, despite already taking 100 percent more annually from the median homeowner compared to 12 years ago, and despite already spending roughly double the amount city officials Dallas and Houston pay out.
“Mismanagement by our current City Council is so flagrant that it’s impossible to ignore it any longer,” said candidate Jennifer Virden, a native Austinite running for city council’s western-located district 10 seat.
Virden said in a press release that one of the council’s proposed mammoth tax increases, a record-expensive $7 billion rail and bus plan that’s up for a public vote in November, is a “’train wreck’ that we cannot afford.’”
“This is the absolute worst time to raise taxes for old, tired transportation technology,” she said. “Austinites and local businesses alike are struggling right now – to increase city property taxes by 25% is downright irresponsible and tone-deaf.”
“Current City Council members have completely lost our trust, our faith, and our support, and for good reason,” wrote candidate Robert Thomas, an attorney also running for district 10, on his campaign website. “[The council] create[d] a financial nightmare burden on Austin families by raising property taxes.”
“It was time for me to step up instead of just ranting and raving to friends and neighbors,” said candidate for northwest district 6 seat Dee Harrison, a retired Texas Department of Criminal Justice employee. She said she’s taken issue with the council’s “bonehead” decisions on homelessness and defunding the police.
Harrison’s incumbent opponent, current Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, recently proposed demolishing the police headquarters building downtown and using the property to instead “address historic economic inequities in the black community.”
“Nothing is more symbolic of recent efforts to defund the police than this scheme to demolish Austin Police Headquarters,” said candidate Mackenzie Kelly, a native Austinite also running for the district 6 seat. “If anyone for even a second thinks that these proposals are designed to save money or increase accountability, remember that Jimmy Flannigan is now proposing swinging a wrecking ball at the very heart of law and order in our city. A majority of our city wants to preserve law and order, and we can do better than Flannigan in November.”
Indeed, violent crime in Austin has increased over the past two years, more local police officers are leaving the force now than in the past three years, and a recent Wall Street Journal report revealed Austin currently has the highest year-to-year percent increase nationwide in homicides.
Several of the city council candidates spoke on how the Austin City Council is following the same path as far-left cities such as Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco, whose similar decisions on police, homelessness, and taxes are causing nightmares of lawlessness and unattainable costs of living, forcing citizens to flee the city.
“This election is an opportunity for us to change our city’s current trajectory and move forward in the right direction,” candidate Virden added. “Let’s become the city that others aspire to be – not repeat others’ failed policies.”