Tell Austin City Council: Defund the Police by $100 million

Austinites: Were you aware that 40% of the City of Austin budget for fiscal year 2020 was devoted to the Austin Police Department, while less than 8% was devoted to public health? Do you agree with these budget priorities? If not, here’s your chance to give your two cents on budget priorities for 2021.

Please use this tool BEFORE JULY 1 to provide the city with information about what you think is important. And don’t be afraid to dream big about how much of the money saved by defunding APD can then be added to community priorities like housing, public health, libraries, and parks!

Austin FY2020 Police Budget

Source of chart: Austin Chronicle

While you’re at it, contact Mayor Adler and your City Council Representative TODAY to ask that they support Items 95 and 96 at tonight’s Council meeting!

  • Item 95 is a resolution on police use of force that would prohibit the use of tear gas and impact munitions against protestors, restrict use of deadly force, prohibit chokeholds, reduce military-grade equipment, and restrict no-knock warrants (like the one the police who killed Breonna Taylor had).
  • Item 96 is a resolution that would restrict additional APD funding and reallocate funds for community needs.

Consider also voicing your support for calls from the Austin Justice Coalition and some council members to defund APD to the tune of $100 million (from a total of $400 million). City Council members Greg Casar and Jimmy Flannigan and Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza have already expressed their support for cuts to APD funding, as well as a package of reforms that includes immediate steps to prevent the kind of police brutality that happened at recent protests.

“No more chokeholds. No more shooting at people fleeing. No more using tear gas at First Amendment demonstrations. I would hope and expect that it should be policy today and that if we vote on it Thursday, that it should be practiced Thursday,” said Casar.”

The reform package also includes measures to attack systemic discrimination by APD: “Zero racial disparities in traffic stops. Zero racial disparities in arrests and tickets from traffic stops. Zero use of force incidents and zero officer involved deaths,” said Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza.

Finally, join many Austinites in calling for the resignation or firing of Chief Manley over his department’s gross overreaction to largely peaceful protests, an overreaction that left at least two young men hospitalized, one with a cracked skull and permanent brain damage.

Contacts from the following districts are especially needed:

  • District 3: Pio Renteria (512-978-2103)
  • District 8: Paige Ellis (512-978-2108)
  • District 7: Leslie Pool (512-978-2107)
  • District 5: Ann Kitchen (512-978-2105)
  • District 9: Kathie Tovo (512-978-2109)
  • District 10: Alison Alter (512-978-2110)

Find your City Council district by entering your address here or by looking at the map here.

Let’s do our part to change this broken system!

How to support Austin #BlackLivesMatter protesters

Not everyone can put their bodies on the line—especially during a pandemic. Below is a list of ways you can show your support from home. Many of these links were pulled from this list, which also covers other Texas cities. We’ll update as frequently as possible.

GoFundMe for Mike Ramos

The mother of Mike Ramos, who was shot to death by APD in April, is asking for donations. Read the letter sent to the City Manager after Ramos’s killing. 

GoFundMe for Saraneka “Nemo” Martin

Nemo was shot with projectiles by APD in her abdomen and in her back while pregnant.

GoFundMe for Brad Levi Ayala

APD shot Brad Levi Ayala in the head at an Austin protest on May 30,2020. Read: Levi Ayala Went to an Austin Protest to Watch History and Instead Became a Tragic Part of It (Texas Monthly)

GoFundMe for Justin Howell

Justin Howell was critically injured by Austin Police during protests Sunday, May 31st. Read: Opinion: His name is Justin Howell (The Batt)

GoFundMe for Anthony Evans

Supports medical costs for Anthony Evans was shot in the face with a “bean bag” bullet by APD while protesting

GoFundMe for Supplies, Gear and Support for Street Medics 

Austin Emergency Legal Fund

Support Black-owned businesses (List on KVUE website)

Austin City Council Contact Information

More TX protest resources, donations, & actions

Black Austin Rally & March For Black Lives #JusticeForThemAll

Black Austin Rally and March

This Sunday, June 7 2020 we are joining as allies in the support of Black Austin, Black Lives Matter, and JUSTICE!

All are invited to a peaceful protest that will center this moment around Black voices, Black stories, and most importantly Black solutions.

Event Details

WHAT: Black Austin Rally & March For Black Lives #JusticeForThemAll

WHEN: Sunday, June 7 from 1 to 5 p.m.

WHERE: Huston Tillotson University, 900 Chicon St, Austin, Texas 78702

Stay up-to-date by following this Facebook event.

 


Tips for protesting safely during COVID-19

Protesting Safely

Source: AOC

Read more on CNET: “How to protect yourself while protesting during the coronavirus pandemic


NOTE: Please stay on the lookout for new Indivisible Austin a resource guide on how we can organize effectively to sustain the momentum of this historic moment—while centering black leadership and showing up for oppressed people in Central Texas.

 

 

Three things Texans can do to fight COVID-19 disinformation and political hackery

A few weeks ago the White House had a plan to confront COVID-19. They abandoned it in favor of a political disinformation campaign. Similarly, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a plan to gradually reopen the Texas economy… and then swiftly ignored his own advice.

We are witnessing a propaganda campaign that follows the same playbook as climate denialism: Blame the problem on effete nerds who, with their pesky “data,” want to enact socialism and deny Trump’s reelection chances.

Our elected leaders—John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, and our House GOP reps—are trying to cowboy their way through a pandemic. They blame China. They cast doubt on the numbers. But the virus doesn’t care. The virus doesn’t care about party affiliation. It doesn’t care about state or party lines. The virus just wants a host. And because it’s an animal virus unaccustomed to human carriers, it is reckless in who it kills.

America’s massively disproportionate body count was completely preventable. But prevention would have required leadership. We don’t have leaders anymore. We have lapdogs and pundits. They all need to be replaced in November, but in the meantime we have to slow the bleeding. We can do this in three ways.

1. Pressure Gov. Abbott to ignore Trump and follow the science on COVID-19

Abbott and Trump at White House

After initially appearing to take the coronavirus seriously, Gov. Abbott met with Trump and then immediately decided to reopen Texas despite mountains of evidence demonstrating that this will put many more people at risk. Along with Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, Abbott has decided to wage a culture war instead of dealing with the pandemic. A Dallas salon owner—who was jailed for contempt of court, not for reopening her business—has become the latest symbol in the “but mah liberty!” disinformation campaign. The virus does not care about our culture wars.

Reopening the Texas economy is important. But people won’t stop dying preventable deaths just because politicians are impatient and in denial. Gov. Abbott should look for guidance from other countries and states that have successfully mitigated the coronavirus’s economic impact.

Germany, which is roughly the same square mileage as Texas and with three times the population succeeded through a combination of good health care and mass testing—including from the private sector.

Taiwan, which has almost the population of Texas, succeeded in flattening the curve by acting early and applying rigorous contact tracing. They did so without massive lockdowns.

Had Gov. Abbott confronted the coronavirus head-on, rather than stumbling and staggering in the political winds, Texas could be reopened and thriving by now. It’s not too late to start doing the right thing. The model varies country to country, but the basics are:

  • Lots of testing
  • Isolating those who test positive
  • Contact tracing

And, of course, quality health care. (Expanding Medicaid should be a no-brainer for the governor.)

Write Greg Abbott a letter telling that mass casualties is not a plan

2. Pressure Cruz and Cornyn to pass meaningful COVID-19 legislation

Ted Cruz and John Cornyn

Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have gone all-in on the culture war, choosing to stir up partisan division at the expense of lives and livelihoods. Cruz went so far as to get his hair cut by the Dallas salon owner who opened her business in defiance of state law. Cornyn is seeking protections for business owners who might be sued by their employees for being forced back to work and getting sick or dying as a result. And of course, both senators deflect from their venality by blaming China for everything. (Sure, investigate China—after we contain the pandemic in the US.)

Once again, for the senators in the back: The virus does not care about our culture wars. The virus does not care if you are in a red state or a blue state. It is here to kill—and it’s disproportionately killing and sickening workers in “essential” roles—workers who more often than not are black or brown. Rather than defend one white business owner against the “tyranny” of public health, the senators should focus on the majority of their constituents, including workers, the elderly, and people with pre-existing conditions.

Write your reps in Congress to demand relief for working people 

3. Fight disinformation by sharing the facts on COVID-19 with friends and family

Disinformation is the next battleground. Trump, Abbott, Cornyn, and Cruz—along with Reps. Mike McCaul, Chip Roy, Roger Williams, and John Carter—have given up on solutions to the pandemic and are retreating to their comfort zone: lying.

The Trump/Abbott plan appears to be human sacrifice. It is  mass casualties to “own the libs.” The US has more than 1.3 million coronavirus cases. We’re approaching 80,000 deaths. Compare these numbers to their favorite bogeyman, China, which has a much larger population and fewer than 5,000 deaths.

Because our leaders believe only in preservation of their own power—not in representation or good governance—their “plan” is to lie to us until they are reelected. They have massive support in the form of the White House bully pulpit, propaganda outlets like Fox News and OAN, social media bot armies, and an immovable base of supporters who will believe absolutely anything that comes out of their mouths.

What can we do? Remember that the virus is nonpartisan. While some populations are more at risk than others, Trumpies do not have herd immunity. The virus is indiscriminate; we are in this together. We can share facts compassionately. We can counter false claims. We can shine a light on the truth. Despite what our electeds say, most Americans, including Texans, are more concerned with opening the economy too quickly than too slowly.

Below are links to credible sources of information. As always, do your own research and be skeptical of miracle cures and statistical outliers. Follow the facts, follow the science, and do your part counter disinformation by sharing the truth with your friends and family.

Resources

Austin and Travis County

COVID-19 Information (City of Austin)

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information (Travis County)

City of Austin Utility Bill Relief

Texas

Coronavirus in Texas: How many cases, deaths and tests (Texas Tribune)

COVID-19 Trends tracker by Christopher Tackett

https://www.texastribune.org/2020/04/29/black-texas-coronavirus-health-care-disparities/

United States

Early Herd Immunity against COVID-19: A Dangerous Misconception (Johns Hopkins)

COVID-19 Map – Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center (Johns Hopkins)

The US Still Has No Plan to Ramp Up COVID-19 Testing (Atlantic)

Thresholds States Must Meet To Control Coronavirus Spread and Safely Reopen (Center for American Progress)

I’m an Investigative Journalist. These Are the Questions I Asked About the Viral “Plandemic” Video. (ProPublica)

Why It’s Important To Push Back On ‘Plandemic’—And How To Do It (Forbes)

Recommendations for Election Polling Locations Interim guidance to prevent spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) (Centers for Disease Control)

Statement on Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Public Charge Rule

The board of Indivisible Austin joins with those fighting for the rights of immigrants in condemning the administration’s decision to make it harder for immigrants to become citizens. The final version of the public charge rule, which will go into effect in 60 days, was announced on the heels of the horrific act of domestic terrorism in El Paso perpetrated on the Latino community. The rule is part of the administration’s calculated plans to make America less diverse and less welcoming to those seeking to build a better life. In Texas, where more than one in four of our children live with immigrant parents, the impact can’t be overstated. President Trump doesn’t stand alone in attempting to push this racist vision on our country. Our Republican elected officials who are silent in the face of his anti-immigrant policies — or who directly support him — aid him in doing so. They bear responsibility for the ongoing affliction of these harms on the immigrants we call our neighbors and friends. It is up to all Texans who support the promise of the United States to ensure those elected officials feel the impact of these decisions at the ballot box.

Let the People Vote! Texans Want to Vote to Expand Medicaid

Texas Rally for Medicaid Expansion on March 4 at the Texas State Capitol

Please join us at Let The People Vote! Texas Rally for Medicaid Expansion on Monday, March 4 at 10 a.m. at the Texas Capitol!


Need a free ride from Houston, Katy, Dallas or San Antonio? Sign up here!

Sign up to volunteer at the rally here.


On Monday we’ll deliver a message that Texans are DONE waiting on state leaders who have refused for SIX YEARS to expand Medicaid.

It’s time for state leaders to get out of the way and give Texans the chance to vote on expanding Medicaid.

Why is this important?

  • Texas has the highest number and rate of uninsured people of any state in the country
  • Nearly 11% of Texas children are uninsured
  • We’re one of only 14 states that hasn’t accepted Medicaid expansion
  • Medicaid expansion could help 1 million uninsured Texans get health coverage
  • Two-thirds of Texans want the state to expand Medicaid

We face crises in maternal and infant health, access to mental health treatment, the opioid epidemic, rural hospital closures, and families’ skyrocketing medical bills. We want our vote!

We hope to see you on Monday at the Capitol:

LET THE PEOPLE VOTE!

TEXAS RALLY FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION

MONDAY, MARCH 4TH, 2019 AT 10 AM

SOUTH STEPS OF THE TEXAS CAPITOL

AUSTIN, TEXAS

Take Action at #txlege: Week of Feb. 25

Bills are being referred to committees, and hearings are getting underway, especially in the House. Here are some bills and hearings of interest this week. Be sure to jump down for our weekly feature on Public Education bills, too.

There are also many lobby days and rallies over the next several weeks. You can view our full list of rallies and lobby days (updated as we learn about new ones) here.

HOUSE

COMMITTEE: International Relations & Economic Development

TIME & DATE: 10:00 AM, Monday, February 25, 2019

PLACE: E2.014

Several bills on protecting workers from wage theft and wage discrimination, as well as a bill on raising the minimum wage in Texas to $15 from $7.25.

 

COMMITTEE: Criminal Jurisprudence

TIME & DATE: 2:00 PM, Monday, February 25, 2019

PLACE: E2.012

Includes HB 595, which increases the penalty on individuals who make false reports to law enforcement because of bias or prejudice.

 

COMMITTEE: Human Services

TIME & DATE: 8:00 AM, Tuesday, February 26, 2019

PLACE: E2.030

HB 285 is an attempt to add even more stringent “work requirements” on SNAP benefits for working adults without children in the home. Texas already has stronger work requirements than required by federal law, and the proposed bill would prevent the state from being able to waive time limits, even in emergencies like hurricanes, or for former foster children.

 

COMMITTEE: Homeland Security & Public Safety

TIME & DATE 8:00 AM, Wednesday, February 27, 2019

PLACE: E2.016

Includes HB 238, which would prevent law enforcement from enforcing any federal gun law that is stricter than state gun laws.

 

COMMITTEE: Redistricting

TIME & DATE: 10:30 AM or upon final adjourn./recess, Thursday, February 28, 2019

PLACE: JHR 140

The committee will hold an organizational hearing on the topic “2021 Redistricting: Data and Tools” with invited testimony* from the following entities:

Texas Legislative Council

U.S. Census Bureau

*invited testimony only

 

SENATE

COMMITTEE: Finance

TIME & DATE: 10:00 AM, Monday, February 25, 2019

PLACE: E1.036 (Finance Room)

SB 3, Relating to additional funding to school districts for classroom teacher salaries.

See the hearing notice for details on giving testimony

________________________

Contributed by Felicia Miyakawa, Special Education Advocate

Tuesday, Feb. 26, will be another long day for the Texas House Public Education Committee. 21 bills are on the schedule! (See the full list here.) They are set to begin at 10:30 AM or whenever the House adjourns.

From my perspective as a Special Education Advocate, two bills bear mention this week:

HB 239 will allow social workers to serve students in schools, which is a step forward towards wrap-around services, making sure that there’s a network of care for all students who need help in and out of school.

HB 455 mandates that every school district

  1. develop a policy about the a minimum number of unstructured playtime (recess) minutes per week AND whether or not removal from recess can be used as a punishment; and
  2. review these policies at least every five years to be consistent with local school health advisory councils.

Why this matters: Despite consistent data showing that kids learn more and retain more when they have sufficient unstructured play time during their day, schools have moved towards restricting free play time into order to focus more on academics.

Similarly, we have years of data and research showing that kids with certain neurotypes–such as ADHD–need more movement in order to focus. Yet schools still resort to punishing kids for excess movement, talking, fidgeting, lack of focus, not finishing work, etc., by taking away recess. Even though both federal and state law make clear that positive behavior supports should be in place, taking away recess as punishment is still happening at many schools.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  1. If any of these issues are important to you personally, consider going to the capitol to give testimony. If you can get to the Capitol but don’t want to give testimony, please know that you can still weigh in. There are computer kiosks located close to the hearing rooms where you can register and indicate whether or not you support a bill and whether or not you want to testify. You can hang out and watch the hearing or leave. This is a great option for folks who don’t enjoy public speaking.
  2. For everyone else, please call or email YOUR representative to discuss your stance on these bills. This is especially helpful if your representative is on the Public Education committee (Dan Huberty, Diego Bernal, Alma Allen, Steve Allison, Trent Ashby, Keith Bell, Harold Dutton, Mary González, Ken King, Morgan Meyer, Scott Sanford, James Talarico, and Gary VanDeaver).

*****Please tell your representatives: Schools should never take away recess, especially from struggling learners!

Remember: you can watch a live stream of committee hearings. Bookmark these links:
House committee hearings

Senate committee hearings

Indivisible Austin Joins Call to Block David Whitley’s Nomination

Say NO to David Whitley, say NO to voter suppression

Today Indivisible Austin joined more than 30 groups in calling for the Texas Senate Democrats to block Secretary of State nominee David Whitley’s confirmation.

“We, the undersigned Texas organizations, call on you to affirmatively block the confirmation of David Whitley for Texas Secretary of State. In the two months since Governor Greg Abbott appointed Mr. Whitley to serve on December 17, 2018, it has become exceedingly clear that Mr. Whitley is unfit to serve in that office.”

Read the full letter with signatories

Ask your State Senator to block Whitley’s nomination

Take Action at #txlege: Week of Feb. 18

Contributed by Felicia Miyakawa, Special Education Advocate

On Tuesday, Feb. 19, The House Public Education Committee will hear meet for the first time to discuss proposed bills hear public testimony about those bills. The hearing will start around 11:30 (or whenever the house adjourns) and it’s going to be LONG: there are 12 bills on the schedule! These bills cover a variety of topics: bonds, trustee elections, teacher training, sex trafficking prevention, class size limits, notification about physical fitness assessments, etc. You can find the livestream here.

As a Special Education advocate parent of two young people who receive Special Education services, I will be watching a few of these bills closely. (If you are also watching these bills and have different takes on the meaning of the bills, I’d love to hear your thoughts!)

1. HB 65 is about mandatory reporting of out-of-school suspensions. This bill would require schools to report certain demographic information about students who are suspended, as well as reasons for which the student was suspended.

Why this matters: Students of color and students with disabilities are suspended and otherwise punished with disciplinary actions at rates that are hugely disproportionate, and for issues that have little or nothing to do with the student code of conduct.

2. HB 116 is about teacher training and preparation. This bill would mandate that all K-12 educators-in-training receive instruction in how to help students of ALL abilities access the curriculum.

Why this matters: a vast majority of students who receive Special Education services do so in the General Education environment for at least part of their day. (It’s very important to understand that Special Education is a service, not a place.) Currently, there is no mandated training for general education teachers to learn the specialized approaches that Special Education teachers are supposed to learn. Yet in many cases, those teachers serve the same students. Federal law requires that we educate kids in Special Education with their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible, but when General Education teachers don’t have this training, they are unprepared to include our students.

3. HB 165 is about amending the Education Code to allow students who receive Special Education services to receive endorsements in high school, and provides ways for these endorsements to be determined.

Why this matters: an increasing number of kids in special education are college-bound. (More and more colleges and universities are offering tailored programs for students with disabilities to meet the growing demand.) Currently, however, students who need modifications to their curriculum or who struggle to pass standardized tests like STAAR cannot earn endorsements on their transcripts. Allowing these students to earn endorsements helps them with entrance into college.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  1. If any of these issues are important to you personally, consider going to the capitol to give testimony. If you can get to the Capitol but don’t want to give testimony, please know that you can still weigh in. There are computer kiosks located close to the hearing rooms where you can register and indicate whether or not you support a bill and whether or not you want to testify. You can hang out and watch the hearing or leave. This is a great option for folks who don’t enjoy public speaking.
  2. If you would like to submit written testimony and can’t get to the capitol, let me know and I can try to connect you with someone who can help you.
  3. For everyone else, please call or email YOUR representative to discuss your stance on these bills. As a reminder, James Talarico is on the Public Education committee. If you live in HD 52, he will really want to hear from you!

Remember: you can watch a live stream of committee hearings. Bookmark these links:
House committee hearings

Senate committee hearings

Take Action at #txlege: Week of Feb. 11

Contributed by Felicia Miyakawa, Special Education Advocate

For those of you trying to keep up with #txlege, here are some action items regarding special education and medically fragile kids/adults.

This week there will be several hearings about funding and appropriations. For those of you who have less familiarity with these issues, please know that we need you to amplify our voices.

1. The Senate Finance Committee will be meeting about education matters in SB 1 on Monday morning at 10. SB 1 is the Senate’s budget bill. You can watch the hearing here once it’s live.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: the current bill does not provide for the $50 million identified as necessary to fix the Special Education plan TEA has already laid out (aka, the Corrective Action Plan), an action that is required because of a Federal Department of Education investigation. Public testimony is allowed at this hearing for a maximum of 3 minutes. Written testimony will be accepted. Please see the hearing notice for details.

2. House Appropriations Article II subcommittee will meet Monday morning at 8 to discuss Health and Human Services. You should be able to watch the hearing here once it’s live.

KEY ISSUES HERE: currently there is a 10+ year waitlist for kids with disabilities who need state resources. We need HHS to fund the “waivers” so we can get these kids off waitlists and get them the support they need. Public testimony will be allowed at this hearing for a maximum of 3 minutes. The hearing notice does not specify anything regarding written testimony.

3. House Appropriations will meet again on Thursday at 8, and one of the topics that day is Early Childhood Intervention. Over the past few sessions we’ve had HUGE cuts to these programs, and many rural providers have stopped providing services. We have huge gaps in service now, to say the least. Public testimony will be heard at this hearing, too. Please see the hearing notice for details. Watch here.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
1. If any of these issues are important to you personally, consider going to the capitol to give testimony.
2. If you would like to submit written testimony and can’t get to the Capitol, let me know and I can try to connect you with someone who can help you.
3. For everyone else, please call members of the above committees to support these funding needs.

House Appropriations Article II Subcommittee members

Senate Finance Committee members (includes Watson and Campbell from Central Texas districts)