On Saturday, in a vote that was nowhere near as close as had been predicted, the voters of Austin, Texas, approved Proposition B, which prohibits public camping in an effort to combat the city’s homeless problem. 57% of voters approved of the proposition while 42% opposed it.
“Save Austin Now — the political action committee behind the push to reinstate the ban — raised $1.25 million in financial donations through April 21 and leased 29 billboards. The PAC’s co-founder, Matt Mackowiak, the Travis County Republican Party chair, said the fundraising total as of Saturday was around $1.75 million,” the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Referring to the Democratic mayor of Austin and the City Council, which is comprised of 10 Democrats and a single Republican, Mackowiak stated, “Tonight is a clear message the city of Austin sent to City Hall that we’re not going to put up with insane policies that make life worse. The mayor, Greg Casar and a number of other members of the City Council decided to double down on a policy that was clearly failing.”
Just last week, Ben & Jerry’s, the leftist ice cream company that is headquartered far away in Vermont, weighed in on a Texas bill that would create a criminal offense for people who sit or lie down on a public sidewalk, sleep outdoors in or near downtown Austin, or ask for money or valuables in a public area in an aggressive way.
Ben & Jerry’s responded on Twitter, “We’ll never police our way out of the homelessness crisis, and Prop B would take Austin backwards. Vote NO!”
We’ll never police our way out of the homelessness crisis, and Prop B would take Austin backwards. Vote NO! https://t.co/UcYZiuR8S7
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) April 26, 2021
Proposition B states:
Shall an ordinance be adopted that would create a criminal offense and a penalty for sitting or lying down on a public sidewalk or sleeping outdoors in and near the downtown area around the University of Texas campus; create a criminal offense and penalty for solicitation, defined as requesting money or another thing of value, at specific hours and locations or for solicitation in a public area that is deemed aggressive in manner; create a criminal offense and penalty for camping in any public area not designated by the Parks and Recreation Department?
In 2019, Austin’s mayor and city council removed laws that banned “camping” in parks and on sidewalks, highways, and trails, thus deregulating “camping” and panhandling. Then-Austin Mayor Greg Casar stated, “I know that changing these ordinances will be unpopular with some people. I’m not trying to downplay the challenges that we’re going to face, but we can take on those challenges in a better way. We can house people. We can serve people. We can address the core issues. We can improve all of our safety, rather than perpetuating instability and insecurity.”
Save Austin Now stated on its website, “Every day, Austinites are suffering from the free-for-all associated with the City’s deregulation of all public camping and aggressive panhandling. Crime has skyrocketed 43%. We’re on track for more murders this year than in the last 3 years combined. Lawlessness is not helping the homeless and it’s not helping Austin.”
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