NAACP: Austin budget doesn’t address inequality, minorities’ needs

Austin’s proposed 2018 budget does little to help minorities or address inequality in the city, representatives of the NAACP said Thursday in a news conference at City Hall calling on city officials to change that.

“We’re not addressing the disparities in Austin,” said Nelson Linder, president of NAACP Austin. “The money’s not there.”

Linder called it “puzzling” that Mayor Steve Adler has prioritized freeing up funding for homelessness via a so-called “Downtown Puzzle” plan to create a central city tourism district.

The staff-proposed budget draft, released last week, includes a $1 billion general fund and $3.9 billion in spending, including all enterprise funds. It proposes an 8 percent increase in property tax revenue that would add $118 to the annual bill of a house worth $305,510, the median for the area.

VISIT VOTETRACKER: See how your Austin City Council member voted on key issues

It would boost funding to more quickly process development permits, but otherwise makes few changes to existing expenditures — bypassing social service funding increases that some council members requested and leaving $5 million for extra council-designated programs.

“Five million out of a $3.5 billion budget is an insult,” said Gavino Fernandez, a member of LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens.

City officials should be able to find $20 million in the budget to fund the nonprofits that do community work in East Austin, Linder said. Austin leaders often talk about initiatives like the Spirit of East Austin and the mayor’s Institutional Racism Task Force, but that talk rarely translates into actual results, he said.

“When politicians create task forces, they’re creating political cover,” Linder said. “When nothing gets done, who’s blame? The task force.”

RELATED: Can an Austin task force’s hundreds of ideas fix institutional racism?

The Downtown Puzzle idea involves funding from hotel taxes, which can be used only for tourism-related expenditures, but staff members have been looking at whether any Spirit of East Austin initiatives can be included, Adler spokesman Jason Stanford said.

“The downtown proposal isn’t done … and this is certainly part of the discussion now,” he said.

He added that, while progress on some issues can seem slow, the Spirit of East Austin goals are informing city policy on housing, mobility and code rewriting.

“I don’t know that we’re doing anything now that isn’t aligned with the Spirit of East Austin,” Stanford said. “We can always do more and we want to do more and we’re frustrated we’re not making more progress.”

The NAACP isn’t the only organization disappointed by the proposed budget. The Greater Austin Crime Commission and the city Public Safety Commission expressed concern that the spending plan includes no additional police patrol positions.

“The percentage of public safety dollars has decreased for the third year in a row, despite our rapid population growth, and that is not sustainable for a community to remain safe,” said David Roche, president of the crime commission, in a statement.

The Austin Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, voiced concern that the budget contains too much spending. The chamber applauded the 51 additional proposed positions, paid for by permitting fees, to cut development permitting approval times. But the budget’s proposed tax increases run counter to affordability, it said in a news release.

“In poll after poll, an overwhelming number of Austinites believe that we have an affordability issue,” the release said. “Austin is atop many coveted lists around the nation. Being on the maximum allowable budget increase is not a list we should be on.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Politics

Austin Mayor Steve Adler to lead national mayoral anti-bigotry efforts
Austin Mayor Steve Adler to lead national mayoral anti-bigotry efforts

In response to violent white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va. last week, more than 240 American mayors will join with the Anti-Defamation League to combat extremism and bigotry, the group announced Friday. And Austin Mayor Steve Adler was tapped to head the cause. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, president of the U.S. Conference...
Zuckerberg vows to remove violent threats from Facebook 
Zuckerberg vows to remove violent threats from Facebook 

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg took to his social network Wednesday to condemn white supremacists and pledged to remove violent threats and posts celebrating hate crimes.   "The last few days have been hard to process," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday evening, days after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville...
Trump’s lack of discipline leaves new chief of staff frustrated and dismayed
Trump’s lack of discipline leaves new chief of staff frustrated and dismayed

As the new White House chief of staff, John Kelly routes all calls to and from President Donald Trump through the White House switchboard, where he can sign off on them. He stanches the flow of information reaching the president's desk. And he requires that all staff members — including Trump's relatives — go through him to reach the president...
Trump attorney jumps into racial fray
Trump attorney jumps into racial fray

President Donald Trump's lawyer on Wednesday fanned an already-incendiary racial debate by forwarding an email advocating protection of some Confederate monuments and claiming that the protest group Black Lives Matter had been infiltrated by terrorists.   Trump's lawyer John Dowd told The Washington Post he "shares a lot of things with...
Silicon Valley escalates its war on white supremacy
Silicon Valley escalates its war on white supremacy

Silicon Valley significantly escalated its war on white supremacy this week, choking off the ability of hate groups to raise money online, removing them from Internet search engines, and preventing some sites from registering at all.   The new moves go beyond censoring individual stories or posts. Tech companies such as Google, GoDaddy and...
More Stories