Rob on the Issues
Reduce Homelessness in Austin
The Austin Police Department has identified the four main groups of the homeless community as the mentally ill, the substance dependent, individuals and families facing a financial emergency, and those choosing the lifestyle.
Mentally Ill and Substance Dependent: These two groups make up a large portion of the homeless community and it leads to the erroneous assumption that all homeless people have these issues. This group is difficult to help because some mental illnesses and severe addictions can make employment impossible. It would be great if family would care for them but, as I learned when I toured Community First! Village, loss of family is the first disaster that leads a person to homelessness. By giving a small, per-person stipend to homeless communities like Community First! Village, Texas can create a savings for taxpayers by reducing emergency room visits, property damage, and confrontations with law enforcement.
Facing Financial Disaster: There are many in the homeless community who have been unable to cope with a job loss or a large, unexpected expense. While this is terrible for these people, they are the easiest ones to help. Existing homeless shelters and, if necessary, transition to a homeless community, can help these individuals get back on their feet. They want to be productive members of society and we need to be a community that supports their efforts.
Choosing the Lifestyle: There are individuals who choose to live on the streets because it is viewed as a life without responsibility. We live in a free society and individuals have the right to make decisions with which we do not agree. However, we can choose to be a society that protects those who are active members in it and not one that enables a person to leech indefinitely off of their neighbors.
While this provides a summary, there are many in the homeless community who are members of more than one group. Additionally, the criminal element also exists in the Austin community and these individuals are exploiting members of the homeless community in various ways. We will always have homeless shelters and there should be emergency camping areas in the event of an unforeseen emergency but we cannot be a community that has homeless people camping in our parks and on our streets.
Fully Fund and Respect Law Enforcement
Many of us don’t think about emergency services until we have to dial 911 but our first responders provide a sense of security to us all. The enormous stress and difficulty of these jobs causes numerous health problems and there are many studies that have been published about a higher suicide rate among first responders. They are all sacrificing to serve our community and they deserve appreciation and respect. Lately, police officers are a favorite attack target of liberal Democrats all over the country, even in Travis County. Austin restored funding to the Austin Police Department to previously approved levels after the state forced them to with legislation in the last session but they did not fill the staffing shortages created by that lapse in funding and problems with staffing shortages in the Austin area continue.
Additionally, earlier this year, Travis County officials continued their efforts to demoralize our police with frivolous indictments. These indictments put the officers on paid administrative leave for months or years just to make a political point. This makes our city less safe as capable officers are forced to be off duty. With taxpayer funding, Austin is spending money on police officers and then spending additional money to pay attorneys to file these indictments and force the officers to sit off duty. Frustrating setbacks like these provide another reason for capable officers to leave and discourages qualified candidates from applying. Our parks, roads, and neighborhoods are less safe. We must make sure that our police force is supported and given the proper training and equipment they need to do their jobs effectively.
Property Tax Relief
Travis County residents’ property tax bills have skyrocketed in recent years due to excessive increases in property appraisals. Currently, Texas limits the growth rate of the appraisal of residence homesteads to a maximum of 10% annually. This growth rate is far too high for anyone on a fixed income. We can start providing relief by limiting the growth rate of appraisals to 2% per year. An unrestricted growth rate can cause Texans, particularly those living on a fixed income, to be taxed to the point that they are forced to sell their home.
The high growth rate of property taxes in Travis County is especially insulting because of the system of Recapture in Texas. Our schools in Travis County are sending hundreds of millions of dollars to the state that is then allocated to schools in other communities. The growth of the property tax rate is unsustainable. Sending our inflated property taxes to other areas of the state where they will not even benefit our children is insulting and this practice must end.
We should create a fair and sustainable system of taxation that will fund necessary programs and provide relief to homeowners.
Empower Parents to Prevent School Violence
The federal government has required the filtering and monitoring of the web traffic of students at K-12 schools since 2001. This monitoring is done to ensure that children are not exposed to adult-related content on a device funded by taxpayers. In practice, if a student does a search for inappropriate content, such as pornography, that student is disciplined and parents are notified. This minimal level of protection is mandated by the federal government but states have the ability to go further.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in teens in the United States. In many cases of teen suicide, the teen will search online for ways to commit suicide. Additionally, shooters who commit mass shootings at a school will also make suicide searches because the act of the school shooting is a way to commit suicide. A search for methods to commit suicide should not result in a punishment. It’s possible that the search is academic in some way. However, it is definitely a call for a closer look and for parental notification.
Technology has advanced since 2001 when the existing standard was enacted and Parent Teacher Associations should have a voice in school web filter policies. Schools in Texas should be required allow a PTA to vote to designate content that will result in parental notification. Allowing the PTA to vote to include self-harm in the school web filter policy would allow the existing school web filter to be used to increase the safety in the school without an additional cost.
We are a nation of immigrants but we are also a nation of laws. We must fix our broken immigration system. The first step is securing the border to end human trafficking and illegal smuggling. Once the border is secure, the federal government should enforce existing law, process citizenship applications, and finally solve this problem.
There are hundreds of millions of people living in poverty around the world. The solution to global poverty is not to move people to Texas, build housing for them, provide education for them, and give them healthcare and food with the hope that eventually they’ll decide to join society and pay taxes. Amnesty programs will only serve to incentivize more migrant caravans and industrious minds will focus on moving to the United States instead of on fixing their home country.
As a border state, we suffer the costs so it is our responsibility to help secure the border but the federal government must fix our broken immigration system.