Austin Fire Fighters Association Says No to Proposition A: Over 50% of AFA Members Vote Against Police Staffing Initiative – News
Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks announces AFA’s opposition to Proposal A at a press conference on October 1 (Photo by Austin Sanders)
Members of Austin Firefighters Association voted against Proposal A, the citizens’ initiative supported by Register Austin Now and the Austin Police Association that, if approved by voters, the city would have to hire about 500 new police officers.
The city budget office believes that complying with Prop A’s mandate to 2 policemen per 1,000 Austinites and a minimum of 35% “time not committed“for these officers, along with other arrangements, could cost as much as $ 120 million over each of the next five years. At a press conference announcing the results of the vote, the AFA president Bob nicks stressed that the result reflected the union’s problems with the proposed initiative, and not with the police force. “We think of the Austin cops as our brothers and sisters,” Nicks told reporters. “The firefighters are very disturbed by the lack of respect shown to the men and women of the police force in recent times.” However, Nicks said, prop A is a “poorly written law that contains cost escalations,” such as the “unencumbered time” requirement, which would likely push the cost of the measure far beyond what would be. necessary to maintain staff 2.0.
Following a town hall meeting on September 20, which was attended by hundreds of firefighters virtually and in person to hear from opponents and Prop A supporters, union members were asked if they wanted the AFA Political Action Committee not to spend more than $ 15,000 to oppose the measure or to remain neutral. About 600 of the 1,100 AFA members took part in the vote, with 57% agreeing to oppose Prop A.
Nicks said the AFA PAC will produce videos and digital ads intended to convey the message that firefighters do not oppose a fully funded police department, but prop A is “bad law that will hurt the public security in general “, because it could force the budget cuts to fires and emergency medical services, as well as other city services. Nicks added that the AFA PAC would accept financial contributions from others wishing to oppose the measure, as long as the AFA board believes the contributors have been “respectful to the police.” “We hope to be a trusted source who can provide the public with true and verified information about Prop A,” he said, and “help people see through the lies and confusion” surrounding the measurement of Prop A. ballot.
President of the police union Ken casaday said the results of the vote were heartbreaking, as the APA remained neutral last May, with firefighters gaining voter approval on their own (also Proposal A) to increase their collective bargaining power with the city . With this power, the AFA can push firefighters to benefit from pay equity with police officers, which could also force other municipal departments to cut their budgets.
Selena xie, president of the Austin EMS Association, told us that despite the AFA vote, his union has so far decided to stay out of the Prop A campaign and likely will remain so. Xie acknowledged that she was concerned about the budgetary impact Prop A would have on EMS, which also struggled to fill vacancies and saw its doctors working more overtime without financial incentives. But the strong opinions of many about Prop A mean that “it has become an emotional issue,” Xie told us. “Due to our limited staff and the increasing amount of overtime that physicians are working, this is just not our top priority right now.”
A version of this article appeared in print on October 8, 2021 with the title: Firefighters say no to prop A