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Your minute is up, new recall group says

Thursday, September 17, 2020 by Jo Clifton

A new political action committee is aimed at recalling Mayor Steve Adler and Council members Pio Renteria, Ann Kitchen and Paige Ellis. Anyone who has participated in or watched City Council meetings will recognize the group’s name: Your Minute Is Up. That’s something Adler frequently tells speakers who go beyond their allotted 60 seconds.

The founder of the PAC, Becky McMillian, told the Austin Monitor Wednesday that she is not targeting those Council members who are on the November ballot – Greg Casar, Jimmy Flannigan, Leslie Pool, and Alison Alter – because the group is hoping voters will not reelect them. As for Council members Natasha Harper-Madison and Kathie Tovo, she said there were not enough volunteers in those two districts to collect the necessary number of signatures to put an item on the ballot next May.

Like its predecessor PAC, Our Town Austin, Your Minute Is Up is angry about the repeal of Austin’s ban on camping in public places. Our Town Austin founder Sharon Blythe filed a notice of dissolution for her committee on Sept. 4. McMillian filed designation of campaign treasurer for her PAC on Sept. 8. Our Town Austin failed to collect sufficient signatures, at least in part because of people sequestering themselves at home to avoid Covid-19. Your Minute Is Up is urging people registered to vote in Austin to go to its website, download the appropriate form and fill it out in ink. It must be printed out and notarized and returned to Your Minute Is Up for eventual delivery to the city clerk.

McMillian’s press release states, “The reasons for a recall are numerous: for mismanagement of public policies and resources that have eroded the Austin brand and decreased affordability for all citizens, for catering to special interest which is reducing the quality of life for residents and visitors, and for endangering the … health, safety and welfare of Austin citizens and local businesses.”

The news release claims that “the homeless camping situation … has led to an uptick in violent crime. The homeless are now migrating into neighborhoods and endangering the lives of citizens and themselves.”

McMillian complains she personally has “been chased down for money while walking with my child to the car, subject to the sight of a man masturbating behind an office building next to a dumpster, and had my driver’s side window beaten and spat upon while at a red light because I did not give him any spare change. This is not a city I want to raise my family in.”

According to APD Homicide Lt. Jeff Greenwalt, the number of homicides has indeed increased this year, from 27 in 2019 to 35 so far. However, he said homeless people are no more likely to be involved in homicides, either as perpetrators or victims, than in the past. Before the law was changed, he pointed out, people arrested for violating the camping ban were released from jail within a few hours.

Just as in the past, murders are more prevalent in economically disadvantaged areas in Northeast, East and Southeast Austin, he said. But there has been one change in how people arrested for violent crimes are treated. He noted that Council had a discussion with Municipal Court judges, urging them to lower bonds to get people out of jail more quickly. In line with a nationwide trend, “serial offenders and violent offenders are being released from jail too soon,” Greenwalt said. Part of the reason is to prevent further spread of Covid-19. Greenwalt hopes that once the pandemic is over, there will be more discussion about keeping serial violent offenders in jail longer.

McMillian and her volunteers are upset about more than repeal of the homeless camping ban. They also oppose Project Connect. In her press release, she says Council is “asking taxpayers for billions of dollars for Project Connect, a rail system to run through Austin, raising property taxes by an estimated 25 percent.” Her complaint, in addition to the cost, is that the rail and bus system “only helps a select percentage of transportation issues. They sure do know how to spend a lot of money without accomplishing much besides helping special interest groups making their pockets deeper.”

But supporters of Project Connect believe that investment in transit is vital to Austin’s long-term health. According to a Capital Metro editorial in the Austin Business Journal, “We need to prepare not just for after the pandemic recedes, but for what Austin will look like in 2040. An investment in Project Connect supports the long-term, exponential growth the region has seen and will continue to see. And it enables that growth to be accomplished sustainably. Our infrastructure can’t handle the 2 million people who live and work here now. How are we supposed to accommodate the 2 million more expected to call the Austin area home by 2040?”

The transit agency adds that one “important component of Project Connect’s economic engine is its ability to deliver those benefits to the entire community. Investing in transit is investing in affordability. Transit, because it serves everyone, is a strong tool to correct historical inequities, connecting people to health care, education and job opportunities in a more efficient and fair manner. This recent crisis has shined a light on the value of collective effort, of pulling together toward a common purpose.”

The Austin Monitor’s work is made possible by donations from the community. Though our reporting covers donors from time to time, we are careful to keep business and editorial efforts separate while maintaining transparency. A complete list of donors is available here, and our code of ethics is explained here.

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