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.

 

 

Roundup of statements from Central Texas reps on Trump’s incitement of violence against Rep. Ilhan Omar

In a clear incitement of racist violence, the president tweeted a video that intercuts four words spoken by Rep. Ilhan Omar with graphic footage from 9/11. Our representatives—and presidential candidates—should all condemn the president’s latest Islamophobic demagoguery.

Democratic representatives need to make clear that the Congresswoman has the party’s support. Presidential candidates should issue statements that support Rep. Omar and clearly denounce the president.

Our GOP representatives should not be let off the hook, either. Our expectations for them have sunk low, but racism and attacks by the White House on the legislative branch of government are bipartisan problems.

Here are the statements issued so far. We will update this page as new statements are made.

U.S. Congress

Sen. John Cornyn

no statement

Sen. Ted Cruz

This clip has virtually nothing to do with anything but appears to be Ted Cruz’s statement on the matter.

Rep. Michael McCaul

no statement

Rep. Bill Flores

No statement, except to retweet the president.

Rep. Chip Roy

no statement

Rep. Roger Williams

no statement

Rep. John Carter

no statement

Rep. Lloyd Doggett

Rep. Joaquin Castro

Congressional Candidates

Other Notable Statements

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

Open Letter from ADAPT of Texas to Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton

Reposted with permission from ADAPT of Texas

Dear Governor Abbott and Atty General Paxton:

ADAPT of Texas is concerned about the lawsuit you are leading that, if successful, will rule that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is unconstitutional.

The ACA has significantly improved health care in the state of Texas. These improvements include several aspects of community long term services and supports. What are some of the benefits?  Examples include:

  • Required essential benefits in health insurance plans;
  • Elimination of annual and lifetime maximum benefits cap;
  • Allowing young people to stay on parent’s insurance until age 26;
  • Protections for people with pre-existing conditions;
  • Increased Medicaid match for home & community services.

Even with these improvements Texas leads the nation with the largest number and percentage of uninsured people.  Texas has the largest number of uninsured children – 10.7% – more than twice the national average. These numbers could have been significantly reduced in the past few years; however, Texas has chosen not to avail ourselves of the Medicaid Expansion.

ADAPT of Texas wants to highlight two areas in the ACA that currently have a direct positive effect on people with disabilities of all ages.

COVERAGE FOR PEOPLE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS

All disabled people, regardless of age, have a pre-existing condition, many have more than one.  This fact is often overlooked when discussing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Pre-existing conditions are a disability issue.  The protections for people with pre-existing conditions in the ACA not only require insurance coverage, this coverage must be offered for the same price as insurance coverage for people without pre-existing conditions. In addition, the ACA provides a subsidy so people with less income can afford this important coverage.

Texas recognized the need of people with pre-existing conditions before the ACA and created a High Risk Pool.  This pool was shut down when the ACA became law. Though the coverage was not bad, it was outrageously expensive, completely unaffordable to thousands of Texans.  The result? Texans with pre-existing conditions, who were not on Medicaid and/or Medicare and were not wealthy, were often uninsured, were sicker or more disabled, and even died because of lack of coverage.

COMMUNITY LONG TERM SERVICES AND SUPPORTS

There are many sections in the ACA that do not directly impact health insurance yet have a significant effect on the health care delivery system.

The Community First Choice (CFC) Option is a section in the ACA that improves the individuals’ health by delivering long term services and supports in a community setting.  Study after study shows that people of all ages who need personal care supports prefer and benefit from services and supports in the community. Not only do these people prefer and see health benefits from community services and supports, they save the state millions of Medicaid dollars.  Texas provides CFC services to people with disabilities and, thanks to the ACA, receives a 6% Medicaid enhanced match.

If the Texas led lawsuit prevails, protections for pre-existing conditions, CFC and the 6% Medicaid enhanced match goes away.

ADAPT of Texas asks you not to target Texans with disabilities and to drop off the lawsuit and work with us to develop a health care delivery system, including community long term services and supports, that meet the needs of people with disabilities of all ages and incomes.

We ask for a meeting to discuss the above issues.  Please let me know the day, time and location that works for y’all.

For an Institution and Barrier Free Texas,

Bob Kafka, Organizer

ADAPT of Texas

bob.adapt@sbcglobal.net

Get to Know: Workers Defense Project

This is the first in a regular series of blogs spotlighting organizations tackling major issues in Central Texas.

Guest post from Workers Defense Project:

Workers Defense Project (WDP) is a membership-based organization that empowers low-income workers to achieve fair employment through education, direct services, organizing and strategic partnerships. WDP was founded in August 2002 by employees and volunteers of Casa Marianella, a local Austin shelter, to address the problem of unpaid wages for Austin’s low-wage workers.

WDP is a worker center that provides low-wage workers, concentrating on the construction industry, with legal solutions for wage theft, discrimination and injury cases, as well as ESL classes, safety classes, and the leadership development they need to improve their working and living conditions. With these important resources, WDP members are able to change the conditions that negatively impact working families. WDP provides a source of power and hope for low-wage workers and is part of a national movement of organizations that seek to achieve sustainable change for working families. The organization is one of the most established worker centers in the South and a leader in fighting for fair conditions for working people.

WDP envisions a future where all low-wage and immigrant workers are treated with dignity and respect. In the wake of the 2016 election, WDP has renewed its commitment to fighting for the rights of low-wage workers and immigrants disproportionately affected by the policies of the current administration and its impact on local and statewide governance. This push back includes winning big changes in the construction industry and beyond, including:

  • Passing an ordinance requiring paid sick leave for all employees within the City of Austin;
  • Ensuring paid rest breaks for all construction workers in Austin and Dallas;
  • Suing the State of Texas over the anti-immigrant law SB 4, and moving every major city in Texas to join the lawsuit;
  • Winning fair pay and safe working conditions for more than 16,000 construction workers through WDP’s innovative Better Builder® program; and
  • Recovering more than $1.7 million in unpaid wages for more than 1,800 workers.
There are many opportunities to get involved with WDP, but none are more valued than our volunteers. Register HERE to attend our Monthly Volunteer Orientation and Volunteer Night, the first Thursday of the month at the Austin office. The next opportunity is May 3rd, 2018, 6-8PM. Contact elizabeth@workersdefense.org to learn more about the volunteer program or sign up for volunteer updates. Sign up HERE to receive our monthly e-newsletter, and click HERE to make a donation. We encourage you to visit our website or write info@workersdefense.org to learn more. WDP is grateful for the support of the community- we couldn’t do our work without you!

One simple Twitter trick to help our vision-impaired friends

People with vision impairment sometimes use screen-reading software to help them navigate the web.  The software dictates audio based upon what’s on the screen. This works best when the information is text-based, and when it’s organized well. Unfortunately, not all webpages fit this description.

Images, especially, are hard to parse with a screen reader. It’s long been considered a best practice to add additional “meta” information to images so that they can be read by screen readers (and also by search engines, but that’s another story). Unfortunately, the meta information requires manual input, and most people posting images online either don’t do it, or do it poorly. We are guilty of this, and will strive to do better.

Twitter has a feature that makes adding image descriptions easier. By default, though, this feature is disabled—which is a real shame. Since discovering this feature, we have used it on most of our tweets that contain images. (Further down we’ll explain why we’re not 100% consistent.)

To enable Twitter image descriptions, follow these steps (full instructions are here):

  1. Click on your profile icon and select Settings and privacy from the dropdown (or press the “g” key quickly, followed by the “s” key).
  2. Click Accessibility from the list of settings.
  3. Find the Compose image descriptions checkbox.
  4. Check the box to turn the setting on or off.
  5. Click Save changes.

Once you enable the feature, you’ll have an additional option to add a description to any image you post. Take the time to do this, and don’t be lazy about it. When writing your description of the image, imagine you are describing it to someone over the phone. If you’re posting a screen-shot of text (like someone’s Facebook post, or another tweet), post that same text into the image description. Otherwise, people with vision impairment have no idea what you are posting.

This feature is not foolproof, but it’s a start. Since we enabled it, we’ve noticed a few things that can prevent you from making your images fully accessible:

  • It takes more time. If you’re in a hurry, you can be tempted to bypass the image description or to be lazy about it. Resist that temptation!
  • The mobile app applies the same description to multiple images. On iOS at least, if you post multiple images in the same tweet, you get only one description field that applies to all images in the tweet. Until Twitter changes this, you’ll have to write a description that can be applied to all images in your tweet. (Or tweet the images separately, or use Twitter from a desktop browser.)
  • Third-party apps don’t include image descriptions. If you’re using something like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to schedule tweets, there is no place to add image descriptions. This is unfortunate. We don’t schedule many tweets in advance, but when we need to, image-tweets will be missing descriptions.

Accessibility on the web is always evolving, and mistakes will always happen. Adding image descriptions is a simple way to start being a better ally to our friends in the disability community, but it’s only a start. We would love to hear how we can do better in the comments.

Example of Twitter description field

Example of a Twitter image description

A Racist Is Not Capable of Negotiating an Immigration Deal in Good Faith

On Thursday, President Trump insulted immigrants and endangered diplomatic relationships by calling African nations “shithole countries,” and demanding that Haitians and others with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) be removed from any bipartisan immigration deal.

The issue isn’t his language. This president has proven time and again to be racist and vulgar.

A racist is not capable of negotiating an immigration deal in good faith.

The issue is the dangerous position that many immigrants find themselves in today, whether they are Dreamers losing their protections on a daily basis, or people with TPS whose lives have been thrown into turmoil.

The issue is the so-called “deal,” and the vision our political leadership has for the future of immigrants who call the US home, and who will have the opportunity to come to the US in the future.

Trump made this statement during bipartisan talks on a possible legislative solution to ensure Dreamers aren’t heartlessly removed from the country they call home. Reports of these talks also indicated that members of Democratic leadership—the party that often claims to be the champion of immigrants—had already made disturbing concessions to the president before his remarks. Those concessions show that Democratic leaders are not seeking a clean DREAM Act, but instead are negotiating the future of Dreamers by blocking family-based visas for their parents, giving the president funding for “the wall,” and ending diversity visas.

The initial deal framework, as originally reported, is unacceptable. We do not ask for ceremonial statements of condemnation of the president’s remarks. We demand those who say they stand with immigrants negotiate protections for those whose status has been compromised by the revocation of DACA and TPS—with no strings attached.

Five Democrats voted against the DREAM Act in 2010 and 17 Democrats broke their promise to protect Dreamers and voted with the GOP before going home for the holidays last month.  Trump’s latest racist comments have given these incumbents a third chance to redeem themselves before this year’s primary season.

Austin-area Rep. Lloyd Doggett has long been on the side of Dreamers, and he continues to push Congress to take quick action and pass a clean DREAM Act (which he co-sponsors). More Democrats need to follow his lead.

More than 120,000 Dreamers live in Texas. Approximately 14,500 Dreamers across the country have already lost DACA status, and 122 more lose their status every day that passes without a permanent solution. If a permanent legislative solution is not passed by March, all 700,000 of our most law-abiding immigrants will lose their status. They will lose their work permits and become immediately eligible for deportation.

Dreamers are not a bargaining chip.

Dreamers are our classmates, colleagues, neighbors, and friends. Here in Texas, 2,000 of them are school teachers. We won’t accept a bad deal for those who have built a better life for their families here in America, and those who seek to.

Friday was the eighth anniversary of the earthquake that killed 160,000 Haitians. Do not let cynicism or Trump fatigue overtake you. Honor their memory and call your members of Congress and let them know you’re watching to see if they can be trusted to protect Dreamers and the American Dream itself.