Texas Gov. Greg Abbott today opened a new front in the battle for Austin’s streets. Austin, the deeply blue capital of red Texas, implemented a policy change on July 1 allowing the homeless to camp out nearly anywhere they want around the city. I’ve previously written about the policy here, here, here, and here.
Since July 1, tent- and even shanty-camps have sprung up all over town, under overpasses and even in the median of Interstate 35. I-35 bisects Austin and is its busiest and second-most annoying major artery (with the title going to the Mopac Expressway most days). I frequently drive past one of these camps, which usually has from four to six full-size tents on both ends of the overpass. Other parts of town and downtown have it even worse, with reports of fecal matter, urine, used needles, public nudity, and even violent attacks increasing daily.
Mayor Steve Adler, a Democrat and author of the deeply misguided policy, and the Democrat-dominated city council have taken the issue up in recent council meetings — but left without actually doing anything. They did consider a policy that would have stopped camping on the University of Texas campus and on South Congress though, where it’s most visible to tourists. That policy would still have left most of the city grappling with the camping and all of its awful consequences.
Gov. Greg Abbott has evidently seen enough. Today he issued a stern letter to the Mayor of the Adlervilles, warning him that if the city fails to clean up its own mess, the State of Texas will no longer tolerate being messed with.
Today I sent a letter to @MayorAdler about the growing crisis arising from the Austin Homeless policy.
Feces & used needles are piling up & residents are endangered.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) October 2, 2019
Reaction across Austin has been swift and extremely positive:
The Austin Police Association praised the governor’s move on Facebook.
The Austin Police Association, Chief of Police, DAA, several citizen groups and the Greater Austin Crime Commission warned the Mayor about changing the city ordinances. Now, the weight of the State of Texas is coming down on our city.
It’s not all bad news for the Austin Mayor Steve Adler though. The City of Austin did a good job of cleaning up trash today in the Ben White area. We wish ACL would come to town more often so the rest of the city can be cleaned up properly.
Heh. But seriously, no one really wishes ACL would happen more often. Don’t even joke about that.
Other elected officials also voiced support.