State politics dominates much of the news lately, but tensions this October over local politics are brewing. A majority of Power Poll members say they will vote in the Nov. 2 election against a proposition to increase the number of Austin police officers, and they predict most voters will do the same to defeat Prop A.
Austinites also believe the University of Texas will skip out on its contract with the Big 12 to join the Southeastern Conference, but not soon enough to watch them play in their new conference next year.
Here are the exact questions we asked in this month’s Power Poll:
This survey was sent via email to 647 Power Poll members in the Austin area, where 110 responded for a response rate of 17%. The Power Poll is not a scientific poll but is instead a glimpse into the minds of those making things happen in our community, including elected officials, CEOs, small business owners, community activists, restaurant masterminds and others. Power Poll is decidedly non-partisan.
Power Poll surveys people who hold power and influence in approximately 25 cities across the U.S. Power Poll members share their opinions about pressing issues in their cities, giving the broader public a picture of what the people who run our cities are truly thinking. Power Poll aspires to take similar surveys in the top 300 cities in the country.
With high-profile legal fights over state abortion laws and Texas lawmakers redrawing Congressional and legislative maps, attention on Prop A has been buried in the mix. The proposition is the second of its kind from Save Austin Now, a well-funded political action committee formed to reinstate a ban on homeless camping. Co-founded by the chair of the Travis County Republican Party and a Democratic activist, pushing that polarizing issue worked for Save Austin Now. In the May election, 57 percent of voters wanted to reinstate the camping ban. Now, with murders at an all-time high and the support of three former mayors, Save Austin Now is imploring voters to side with them again in another divisive proposal it says will improve safety.
Here is the full question on the Nov. 2 ballot. “Shall a petitioned ordinance be approved to enhance public safety and police oversight, transparency and accountability by adding new chapter 2-16 to establish minimum standards for the police department to ensure effective public safety and protect residents and visitors to Austin, and prescribing minimal requirements for achieving the same, at an estimated cost of $271.5 million -$598.8 million over five years?”
Successful passage would require the city staff two officers per 1,000 residents, up from 1.6 officers now, increase training, and require officers spent more time doing community engagement.
Opposite of Save Austin Now is Equity PAC, an organization pushing a “No Way on Prop A” campaign which received $500,000 in help from New York-based Democratic activist George Soros. The group argues the ballot measure is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” forcing an unfunded mandate that could lead to tax increases or cuts at the fire department or of other city services.
Some members of the Power Poll live beyond city limits, in places like Round Rock and Buda that shape the Austin area but can't vote in the city's elections. Likely for that reason, nearly 13.6% percent of members will not vote on Proposition A. Of those who remain, 61% of Power Poll members will vote against the Proposition, and 39% will vote in favor.
In nearly identical numbers, they predict voters will defeat Proposition A. However, at least a handful of Power Poll members voting for or against the measure predicted they would fall on the losing side.
What does this say about Austin? In a city considered reliably liberal, Austin has its fault lines. Save Austin Now found the camping ban was one of them. Now they're betting policing is one, too. The Power Poll community believes those fault lines aren’t as big as Save Austin Now thinks they are. Election day is Nov. 2. Early voting runs from Oct. 18 to Oct. 29.
In sports, the University of Texas has made it clear it is time to move on from the Big 12 and shift to the Southeastern Conference. But the question is when. While the move is official, it is unclear exactly whether UT would duck out of its contract with the Big 12 to get SEC action early. A majority of Power Poll members think they will cut out early, but predict that won't happen in time for next season.