In late October, as the 2020 campaign was drawing to a close, Governor Greg Abbott’s political operation was busy blanketing the state with television ads warning that nefarious attempts to defund the police would make Texas cities unsafe.
He pointed, as he often does, to Austin, where the City Council had moved assertively to shift money within their police budget from outdated programs to badly needed efforts to treat mental health and addiction in the city.
Abbott and his allies frequently warned that the city was quickly slipping into lawlessness, but crime statistics didn’t back their fiction. Violent and property crime were down in the month of October as Abbott continued to spin his yarn.
Despite a worsening pandemic Abbott shows no willingness to address with common sense public health measures, the Gov is at it again, issuing the following tweet yesterday:
This latest move is the most frightening for anyone who believes in the concept of local control. Abbott has begun to take concrete steps to codify his baseless rhetoric into law, and wholesale takeover the Austin Police Department with the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Should the legislation ever make it to the floor of the Texas Lege, it would doubtless put some Republicans from larger, more urban counties in a difficult position. Texas Republicans have attacked local control on everything from property taxes and school funding to the regulation of a range of businesses. For the state to attempt to take over massive, expensive police departments in a betrayal of the will of voters and the people they elect to govern their cities would be a startling development that could have terrifying implications for any number of progressive policy accomplishments.
For decades, Texas Republicans have used gerrymandering to keep a tight grip on power at the state level, while Democrats and progressives have generally led the state’s largest cities. If Texas Republicans, emboldened by Donald Trump’s disinformation campaign in the wake of his loss to Joe Biden in November, head down the path of big government takeovers now there truly is no telling where it might end.