Gov. Abbott says Austin's mayor must deal with homeless camping downtown or the state will do it for him

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is not happy with Austin’s Democratic Mayor Steve Adler. Earlier this month, Gov. Abbott sent Adler a letter giving Mayor Adler 30 days to deal with the homeless situation in the city or else. Here’s how the Dallas Morning News reported Abbott’s letter:


Abbott sternly wrote Austin Mayor Steve Adler and admonished him for not reversing the City Council’s June rescission of prohibitions on sitting or sleeping in public and panhandling in certain parts of the city that didn’t specifically prohibit it.

Abbott cited news reports about used needles and feces littering certain locations, and the arrest early last month of a homeless man accused of assault with injury of a woman.

“As the governor of Texas, I have the responsibility to protect the health and safety of all Texans, including Austin residents,” Abbott wrote.

“Further inaction by you and the Austin City Council will leave me no choice other than to use the tools available to the state of Texas to ensure that people are protected from health and safety concerns caused by the Austin homeless policies,” the Republican governor said.

Gov. Abbott made this video expressing the sentiments in his letter:

Last week Gov. Abbott sent the mayor a second letter reinforcing the November 1 deadline. Today the governor gave an interview to KXAN’s Phil Prazan in which he described what would come next if the mayor doesn’t take action.


PRAZAN: Let’s start with just on your letter. November 1st comes. How is this going to look, because the critics at city hall question whether there’s any legal authority to actually do this?

ABBOTT: The state of Texas has a multitude of laws, whether it be health laws — the transportation department can go about cleaning up all this mess. As governor of Texas, I’m not going to stand idly by while Austin allows feces on the streets of downtown. It endangers health. It endangers safety. The laws of the state of Texas give me as governor the power to make sure I keep our citizens and residents safe. I will not allow the city of Austin to endanger the people of this state to be exposed to things like Typhus and Hepatitis A.

He added that Dallas, which has a higher numer of homeless people, doesn’t look like downtown Austin:

PRAZANTheir argument is, if you ticket people, that leads to warrants. If they can’t pay, then warrants get in the way of them getting a job or getting a home. That’s their argument for why they did it. What are your thoughts on that, because the way they frame it seems to be reasonable?

ABBOTT: It’s insane the way they phrase it. I spent three days in Dallas, Texas, the past few days. I’ve covered almost every area of downtown Dallas. There was not one person out camping. There was not one person laying on the street. No feces on the ground. They have more homeless in Dallas than they have in Austin, Texas, because they have an orderly process. They go about making sure that what’s going on in downtown Austin is not taking place in downtown Dallas…

What I’m saying is city hall, this week, better vote to restore the camping ban to stop allowing the homeless to live a life different from other people. They are empowering the homeless to say ‘You have no rules that apply to your life. Use the bathroom wherever you want.’ That’s not the way society works. What the city of Austin is doing is they are hurting the homeless. They are exposing the homeless to greater danger — the risk of greater disease by the rules they are allowing the homeless to live by.


Here’s the full interview with Gov. Abbott. This is the kind of thing you rarely see in California or Washington, where having the homeless live in tent camps and use the sidewalks as a bathroom seems to be a given for local authorities. At least Gov. Abbott is calling on Austin to expect better.

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