Every Texan deserves to feel and be safe. But for too long, fear-mongering politics have hijacked and overshadowed conversations about what communities actually want and need to build real safety. Luckily, in every corner of our state, people are ready to move beyond the rhetoric to actualize concrete solutions. This election, we are seeing cities like Austin and San Antonio taking that task to the ballot box by putting real safety initiatives up for vote.
In Austin, Prop A will modify an existing city ordinance to strengthen oversight of the Austin Police Department and empower accountability for police misconduct. By giving the Office of Police Oversight more power, the ordinance would ensure the public release of information about police misconduct in an effort to encourage transparency, hold officers accountable, and ultimately, reduce police brutality and misconduct.
In San Antonio, the Justice Charter would amend the current city charter to include a comprehensive justice policy, which would – among other things – decriminalize abortion, keep people out of jail for simple marijuana possession, and ban dangerous “no knock” warrants and chokehold police tactics.
So why does it matter that there are different measures in different cities doing different things? Because they are all a part of the same conversation about what it takes to build true safety for our communities.
Real safety is when people have a place to live, a dignified job that provides economic security and access to opportunities, and the resources they need to care for themselves and their loved ones. Real safety is being able to get from your home to work safely on our roads and free from harassment or violence, especially from armed officers who can operate with impunity. Real safety is having the ability to make decisions about your body and your future without fear of prosecution. Real safety is having the right response at the right time so that people who are experiencing homelessness or having a mental health crisis are met with the compassion, resources, and trained professionals they need.
By realizing all these things together, we can build structures and communities where we are safe and have everything we need to thrive.
The measures on the ballot in Austin and San Antonio were brought forward from tens of thousands of community members. It’s worth noting that ballot measures are unique in our political system because they are nonpartisan in nature. Voters have the opportunity to vote for or against an issue that is an accurate reflection of what communities truly want and need. Unfortunately in both cities, those who stand to lose the most from community-led initiatives are heavily funded and use fear mongering in an attempt to sway voters. We don’t need corporate influence, law enforcement associations, and misinformation influencing these local decisions.
These ballot measures are a call to action by everyday Texans who know that the best way to build real safety is by investing resources in people. We have everything we need to make this happen right now and these measures dare our political will to keep pace with our public will.
Vanessa Fuentes is a Austin City Councilmember and Jalen McKee-Rodriguez is a San Antonio City Councilmember. Both represent District 2 in their cities and are members of Local Progress.