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Gov. Abbott threatens state intervention (again) unless Austin reinstates its camping ban

Friday, October 11, 2019 by Andrew Weber, KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott doubled down on his threat to intervene over Austin’s homelessness ordinances.

Abbott sent a letter to Mayor Steve Adler on Thursday threatening to send in “state agencies and resources,” unless the city reinstates rules banning camping, sitting or lying down in public by the end of the month.

The governor’s warning comes a week after Austin Police Chief Brian Manley suggested that the city reinstate the old rules. Abbott also reiterated that Austin’s policies, which City Council scaled back in June, have led to “unsanitary and inhumane conditions.”

“Reinstating the camping ban is not a total solution, but it is an essential part of demonstrating consequential improvement in the Austin homelessness crisis and the danger it poses to public health and safety,” the governor said in his letter.

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Last week, the governor sent a similar letter to Adler, suggesting he would “unleash” state agencies if Austin didn’t change its policies by Nov. 1. That action could include deploying Department of Public Safety troopers to enforce laws against blocking state rights of way. Adler and other Council members have viewed that as a threat in some instances, but have welcomed state assistance to help meet the challenge of homelessness.

Last Friday, Manley responded to the political back-and-forth surrounding the city’s decision and said he had asked Adler to revert to the old rules while the city finalizes its path forward.

“Although I know it doesn’t necessarily meet the political will of our mayor and Council right now, as the police chief, charged with maintaining public safety, I have suggested that we put the old ordinances back in place while we work though a final solution,” he said.

Manley also rolled out new training bulletins for officers that clarified enforcement. Those guidelines allow officers to clear belongings or remove people from sidewalks after issuing a warning.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT.

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