Subject: Important Budget Update

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Dear Neighbors,

This week I voted in favor of the city budget. As your representative, I want to explain our efforts in detail, especially our new initiatives in public safety and public health, and the actual choices we made with respect to the Austin Police Department. The budget process was incredibly complex and many news headlines and social media posts do not capture the full picture of our actions. I know you have a lot of questions.

First, I am proud to report that during our city’s worst health crisis, my colleagues and I have used the budget to improve health responses for our entire community. We adopted my amendment to add two ambulances and hire 46 EMS medics, dispatch, and support staff to improve our medical response during COVID-19 and beyond.
On my initiative, we increased community access to physician services by adding clinical capacity to the Office of the Medical Director, led by Dr. Mark Escott, and by transitioning to a Chief Medical Officer model which will improve coordination of healthcare and mental health services across city departments. These changes will enhance our ability to provide direct and telehealth physician and physician assistant services to the City of Austin and Travis County community, and help us leverage new reimbursement models for healthcare provided by EMS.

These actions will save lives, which is my highest priority. They also will save taxpayer money over the long run.

In this budget we also expanded our mental health first response activities through increases to our Integral Care - Emergency Mobile Crisis Outreach Team (EMCOT) contract for clinical staff and telehealth services and other investments. In total we added 14 Community Health Paramedics to respond to calls for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. These paramedics will also respond to dispatch calls for people experiencing homelessness and others who have no other place to turn for medical care. This combined approach will more efficiently connect people with the mental and physical health resources they need and reduce wait times for help. 

In addition to the $62.9 million earmarked for medical and public health needs in the City’s COVID-19 spending framework (detailed in previous newsletters), we added to Austin Public Health’s epidemiological capacity to respond to the pandemic and other health challenges.

On Thursday, following our recently completed homelessness response plan (“Investing for Results: Priorities and Recommendations for a Systems Approach to End Homelessness”), we added $6.5 million for permanent supportive housing and services, $2 million to operate a family violence shelter, and $153,000 to expand the Workforce First initiative which employs the homeless to assist with community-wide clean ups. These steps are in addition to the $60.9 million of city and federal funding appropriated in the City Manager’s base budget for ending homelessness in Austin, focused on housing displacement prevention, crisis mitigation, and permanent supportive housing. This funding allows us to enact the steps needed to end homelessness in Austin.

We also advanced other important initiatives – investing in wildfire mitigation, early childhood development, our recreation centers and our trails, litter abatement, workforce development, and food access.

Austin Police Department Changes and Reimagining Public Safety

I know the budget cuts to the Austin Police Department have received a lot of attention. I want to explain clearly what I voted on. The adopted budget does the following: 
  • Reduces the Austin Police Department proposed budget by approximately $20 million or less than 5% to make the immediate other investments in public safety that I outlined above - additional ambulances, medics, mental and public health response, homelessness response, and permanent supportive housing and services. Council also used the reallocated funds for other public safety initiatives that will directly benefit our community, such as additional resources for the Victim Services division and the creation of the Office of Violence Prevention, two amendments I led on, as well as funding for substance use services and harm reduction measures.
  • Moves the forensics lab, the 9-1-1 call center and dispatch communications, and other functions, out from the police department allowing for better oversight and possible cost savings. Over the course of the next fiscal year, we directed the city manager to separate and restructure certain civilian operations and to explore the feasibility of civilianizing units such as Internal Affairs, Special Investigations, and Special Events. Council will receive periodic reports on the progress of these efforts and the City Manager’s work will be led by the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force and subsequent public process. The total value of the functions budgeted as within the “decouple fund” is nearly $80 million. Contrary to some reports, these divisions are not being eliminated. We are adjusting the reporting structures and where these functions are housed. 
  • Creates a community process to determine whether and how we might civilianize, right-size, or re-assign the work of units such as the Explorers Program, Nuisance Abatement, Training and Recruitment, Traffic Enforcement and Park Police, without diminishing public safety. The total amount of money set aside in the Reimagine Safety Fund is about $50 million, and the decision making process will require months of engagement and conversation between the city and the community.

Cadet Classes

I recognize that cadet classes present a real opportunity to reform police training, create and spread change agents, and to improve racial diversity and culture at APD. That is why I joined Mayor Adler and Council Members Tovo and Harper-Madison in amending the base budget motion to allow for one or two cadet classes to move forward this year, pending successful completion of a much needed revised curriculum, implementation of an appropriate recruitment program, and subsequent budget votes by Council. I encourage you to read the outside evaluations of our current training practices and review the identified shortcomings here, here, and here.

In the budget, I also added language to develop reputable leadership training for officers in the field, as well as a review of promotion processes to ensure promoted officers exemplify community skills and values beyond those prioritized by the current written assessment and scoring matrix.

This budget cuts no currently employed sworn officers, nor does it cut their pay; our officers’ pay and benefit levels continue to be the highest in the state. We need police officers for very specific public safety functions, and we must value them for those contributions. We also know our police have been asked to do an ever growing list of tasks, and we must recognize that relying exclusively, or even predominantly, on police and on punitive measures for our public safety needs comes with staggering costs, both fiscally and morally.

Restructuring our public safety does not mean we are spending less on public safety. It means we are re-examining how services are delivered and assigning responsibilities to the professionals who are best suited to carry them out. Through this process, we can reduce the burden on officers, and we can expect that we will need fewer sworn officers. Our ultimate goal is a safer Austin for everyone.

I am committed to ensuring our neighborhoods are safe and secure, and I will continue working to deliver on that commitment. That is my priority. As we explore ways to transform our public safety system, I will focus on how we can change the culture and practice of policing. I know these changes create uncertainty and concern for many. I will continue to address your concerns through my work to improve public health and safety in Austin, and I hope you will engage with me on this.


Alison Alter
Council Member, District 10

P.S. If you would like more details on what we funded in the budget, here are a few documents you might find of interest:
Table of Contents
  • New COVID-19 Orders: Extension to December 15
  • Now Available: Austin Creative Worker Relief Grant
  • Parks and Recreation Limited Reopening 
  • Austin Public Library Curbside Service
  • Austin Energy Bill Relief
  • Drive A Senior Food Pantry
  • West Nile Virus Found in Travis County
  • Residents Asked to Help Clear Right of Way
New COVID-19 Orders: Extension to December 15

City of Austin and Travis County are taking steps to prevent further spread of COVID-19 by extending the Stay Home, Mask and Otherwise Be Safe Order through December 15.
Austin’s new Order extends existing requirements for face coverings, social distancing and limiting gatherings. It also extends development application deadlines to March 15, 2021 and changes nursing home standards to comply with new state guidelines allowing for some visitation. Lastly, the Austin order stipulates that each school that offers instruction to students in one or more grades, pre-kindergarten through grade 12, must follow the phased-in approach in Exhibit E (image below) unless it will result in a loss of funding from the Texas Education Agency.
Both the Austin and Travis County Orders be found on the Austin-Travis County COVID-19 Orders and Rules page. For more information and updates about COVID-19, visit
Now Available: Austin Creative Worker Relief Grant

The City of Austin Economic Development Department announces a new grant for local creative sector workers that have been financially impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Austin City Council approved Resolution No. 20200604-040 on June 4, 2020 to designate $3.5 million for the Austin Creative Worker Relief Grant. Austin’s individual creatives and industry support staff that have experienced an economic hardship due to COVID-19 may apply for a $2,000 grant to offset expenses like rent, bills, and groceries.

The grant program is designed to provide immediate and equitably-focused grants to individual creatives and industry support staff in Austin. For purposes of the Austin Creative Worker Relief Grant, “creative worker” will be defined as an individual whose current or primary occupation is or has been within arts, music, film, fashion, museums, preservation, and more. This includes both practicing artists and associated personnel within the creative industries. 
For technical support and application status, contact Austin Better Business Bureau by email or by phone 512-318-2683. 

For eligibility questions and assistance completing an application, contact Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts by email or by phone 512-588-9971. 

Visit to view guidelines, eligibility requirements, and preview the application. 

Parks and Recreation Limited Reopening

Beginning on Saturday, August 15, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) will reopen limited park amenities and outdoor facilities. It's been determined that these re-openings may proceed safely during Stage 4 COVID-19: Risk-Based Guidelines. These changes were made in consultation with Austin Public Health and City leadership.

The following park amenities will be available:
  • Boat Launches
  • Boat Docks
Additionally, the following outdoor PARD facilities* will reopen:
  • Tennis Centers
  • Golf Courses
  • Boating Concessions
  • Clay Shooting Concessions
  • Food Concessions
*Each facility will operate under reduced capacity and COVID-19 Modified Operating Procedures specific to each facility, such as social distancing, cleaning protocols, temperature checks, etc. 

The Department continues to evaluate its system-wide operations on a daily basis. As risk stages decrease, further consideration will be given to additional PARD openings. It is also possible that if conditions deteriorate, the Department will again close amenities/facilities.

Park patrons are reminded to continue practicing social distancing, hand sanitation, and wearing masks. 
Austin Public Library Curbside Service

The Library will provide curbside service at select locations, beginning with Central, Carver, Hampton Branch at Oak Hill, Manchaca, Milwood, North Village, Old Quarry, Ruiz, Spicewood Springs, University Hills and Windsor Park. Locations will be added as health and safety precautions allow.

  • Book drops at most Library locations are now open. (except Southeast, Little Walnut Creek, Terrazas, Yarborough and Pleasant Hill)
  • Please go to the library’s Curbside Hold Pickup location (Monday – Friday, 10 AM – 6 PM).
  • RETURNED ITEMS WILL BE QUARANTINED and may remain on your account for UP TO 10 DAYS before they are checked in. Items will not be charged fines while in quarantine. Thank you for your patience.
  • Visit the Curbside Hold Pickup Service page for details

At this time, APL is not issuing new or replacement Library Cards. Customers needing to renew their Library Card can do so by clicking the Renew Library Card link. Adults who do not already have a Library Card can apply for an eCard here to gain access to the Virtual Library.

Austin Energy Bill Relief

Austin Energy continues to offer its Utility Bill Relief program to assist customers who have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes financial hardships based on illness, caring for a family member, shelter in place orders and the resulting closure of non-essential businesses, as well as school closures. To learn more about the program and apply, click the photo above or go to

Please share amongst your networks to ensure everyone who needs help can get it.
Drive a Senior Food Pantry: Call for Help

Drive a Senior-West Austin is asking neighbors to help them stock their food pantry. Please email to learn what items they need. 
West Nile Virus Found in Travis County

Austin Public Health (APH) has identified the year’s first probable human case of West Nile Virus in an adult resident of northern Travis County. Previously, APH announced it found this year's first positive pool of mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus in the 78756 ZIP code.

West Nile Virus is the most common mosquito-borne disease in the United States and is typically spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. West Nile Virus is not spread through coughing or sneezing, or by touching live animals.

Most people who are infected with West Nile Virus will not have any type of illness. It is estimated that 20% of the people who become infected will develop fever with mild, flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, and body aches, occasionally with a skin rash on the trunk of the body and swollen lymph glands. Individuals over 50 years of age are at a higher risk for severe disease, which may include stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, vision loss, and paralysis. Learn more at

Residents Asked to Help Clear the Right of Way

Austin Public Works is asking residents to help keep streets and sidewalks clear of overgrown trees and vegetation. Often misunderstood, both the City and residents share the duty of upkeep in this area.

The right of way (ROW) includes roads, alleys, sidewalks, trails, and also the strip of land about ten feet from the back of the curb or road edge to the private property line. Property owners are responsible for maintaining private trees, even when they grow into the ROW. Additionally, shrubs/hedges planted in the ROW or existing on private property adjacent to the ROW must be maintained.

See §10-5-21 of the City Code for more information about these standards.

Vegetative maintenance of right of ways increases accessibility for all pedestrians and also increases visibility for drivers and bikers. This makes for a safer community for all users.

Austin Public Works is asking that residents prune trees and vegetation to the following standards:
  • Clear from the edge of the sidewalk and at least 8 feet above
  • Clear from the edge of streets/alleys and alleys at least 14 feet above
It is estimated that the percentage of functional sidewalks in Austin could be doubled if residents addressed these barriers.

Remember, you can always report overgrown vegetation and debris that are obstructing public right of ways by contacting 3-1-1. Learn more about the standards for vegetative maintenance at

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