Policing, protest, pandemic... let's get into it #atxd6. Farah Muscadin from ATX Police Oversight joins the show this week with Frank Fuentes of the Hispanic Contractors Assoc and Frederico7 performs.
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[sigh] Hey, Austin. Hey, District 6. It's hard to find the words - what we're dealing with right now, what we're going through as a community. I even feel need to apologize for the Intro music. I had thought well, maybe I would do something different that spoke to the moment, but frankly, I spent the last, what feels like 18, 19 hours in Council meetings hearing public testimony hearing from the public. We're just gonna move forward. We've got some pretty spectacular folks joining the show today, and as we often do, we have two guests to talk about issues and one from the music community and I'm excited to have Frederico7 joining us on the Music side. We're gonna dig in to this today. I don't know how long the show will will go. I'm gonna to keep it to 35 minutes like I normally do. Sorry for starting late because we were the Council meeting, and that obviously takes precedence. I'm gonna start talking a little bit about the pandemic. We've started with pandemic in prior episodes and I'm gonna bring up some of the charts. I can share my screen. Normally. I have a lot more stuff prepared and ready to go but– Yeah, you get it. Here's the, I put my screen up: So here's the dashboard, and we've seen this in prior episodes. Hospitalizations being our key metric, and you can see that they are going up. I'm gonna show you the second dashboard - credit to our city staff. We talked about this in the last episode about how we would use data to drive decisions about pandemic response. The staff the 7-day average on Hospital admissions, and so now we have a separate dashboard. You can find both of these on the city website. AustinTexas.Gov/COVID19 If you scroll down you will see two dashboards, the first one, this one which has also been evolving, and then the second one is this, and it breaks right in the centre of the screen what hospitalisations - the 7-day moving averages show hospitalization - that will determine the stage that we are in. And if you go back here in click on this see if I click on this so does what I want it to do - kind of little, maybe. Here's the Chart. So we're in Stage 3, you can see the line is in Stage 3. We're trending up, and the thing about this 7-day Moving average of new hospital admissions, is that it's a - I the phrase is a trailing indicator? I've heard of leading indicators, but maybe a trailing indicator. This number reflects policy and made 3 weeks prior to where the Dot shows up. So. There's gonna be a lot of pointing about who's doing what policies, what role the governor playing in his reopening of the Texas economy. There's gonna be fingers pointed at protests and protesters. But look, the numbers going up, and the number is going up since it's low point roughly, the 24th of May. It's dangerous. If we cross 20, That's the point where the epidemiologists and the medical professionals have said that we we have to return to a stricter lockdown environment. It is not clear if we're going to be able to do that, because the governor's orders have removed power from local government. I find that folks who contact my office, and many folks do - and I encourage folks to contact my office. You can email [email protected] AustinTexas.Gov Because the City Council is the closest level of government to you, we are often more accessible, kind of by practicality, but there is dense network of jurisdictions that govern what it is that we can and cannot do. Faced with some very hard decisions in community about what it means when we're approaching catastrophic condition in our hospitals, but our state leadership may not be with us on making those decisions at the right right time. And we got presentations I've shown on the show that show a delay in making that decision - let's say instead of 20, we said it was 30 because of the trailing indicator piece of this, that we might find ourselves having made these decisions too late. And none of us want to do that. [sigh] This is a tough week - Not just the city, the entire country is in crisis. I often say that our choices are to laugh or cry. I make jokes and do so in a way that - you try to break the tension, or try to bring some levity, and I Remarked to one friend of mine that I think Dante may have wrong about the number of circles of hell. Because it seems that we finding new things, and if you follow social media, I keep seeing Murder Hornets meme, and then yesterday, people were talking about Super Volcanoes. We will get through this stuff, but man, we have got to take these things more seriously and have to be willing to do bigger things to get through it. I'm gonna take the charts down because I think we've seen enough of that. I'm gonna bring up my first guest. One of the things that we have talked about on this show is the disparity in hospitalizations in the Hispanic community, and it's been pretty traumatic. It's on the dashboard. You can see that disparity. There's been conversation in the public about why it is that that is the case. Some folks have talked, I have talked about the extent that construction plays a role in that, and it has been a really I fruitful and robust conversation, and so on the show today,
I'm bringing on a friend of mine, someone with whom I get to work And straddles the line between representing Hispanic community and representing business community with US Hispanic Contractors Association, Frank Fuentes. Hi, Frank. Hello, Jimmy. Are you there? I am! There you are. I am listening profoundly to what you're saying. I always look forward to because it always gives a little bit of joy, because you add humor to it, but I understand today might be a hard time that. It is, it almost seems Jimmy, that our country is tearing itself at the seams. Every morning I wake up, I'm like, wow, it's almost surreal. But I understand your position that in the decisions that you guys have to make if it has to be a tremendous weight on your shoulders. It is the job I signed up for in conditions no one expected, and I have At times made comments to my City Hall staff, Well, if we just get through this one thing, then, you know, we'll have at least a few months where we can just kinda do that machinery of government thing and just kinda check some boxes and do a little… Nope! I should never say that because invariably some big crazy nonsense thing shows up again, and we have to focus all of our our attention to it. Well, you know Jimmy, as a friend to you, I would encourage you to continue to bring what you bring to the table and that is that wisdom and that humor combined because sometimes we all can't just - we need that lifting of spirit and and have that gift, my friend. I've often told you, you're a natural at this, this particular show, so just continue to do what you're doing. It's okay for people to disagree with you. You and I have disagreed before; it's okay, but you always keep that, keep that sense of humor, because we need we need that, especially now I think. Well, thank you, Frank. Let's talk a little about the Hispanic Contractors Association. What it is that they do, and what you've been been the community related pandemic. And I'll be quick about it, in terms of describing who we are. We've been around since the 1980s. We began our Organization as an Organization to look for opportunity for our construction community in public works. There was a time where we just couldn't get our foot in the door, If you will, into government contracting. And it's been a long struggle, but we've been successful to some extent. We've evolved into than just an advocacy group. We've evolved more into an Organization that deals with construction policy, safety procedures. What can we do to better our industry? I'm so proud our industry, Jimmy. This is an industry that builds homes, for example. The industry that builds roads or you you know where people drive to work or for fun. The building that you're in right now, the City Hall was built by our industry. We're very proud of our industry and I think that because the majority of the people that actually do the work in our industry are Hispanic. Our organization has found a real niche, if you will. So when the pandemic happened, we were right smack in the middle of it. We were advocating not only to make sure that our people were safe. But to move forward in safe way, and we found some amazing partners in the Home Builders Association, The Associated General Contractors, the ABC. Often times, sometimes we're at odds with other, but we found common cause, and we quickly came out with safety protocols. It's been difficult when I hear often times, I don't mean this is an insult to you, Jimmy, cuz you know how I feel about you. In Episode 29, and by the way, I watched your episodes. In Episode 29, you were talking about the Latino condition the statistics and you said, "We've been told - we've been told it's because of the construction industry." So, I texted you quickly saying "Hey, I heard Latino,I heard Hispanic. I heard construction. Who better to have a conversation than with your friendly, Hispanic contractor, Frank Fuentes, right? I think we need to we need to step back. And from the very beginning of how this kind of rolled out. I think it was the 24th, Mayor Adler and Judge Sarah Eckhardt closed construction, but it wasn't all construction, Council Member. They only closed down residential and some commercial projects. They kept all the City of Austin. They kept some essential, like electrical, plumbing. They keep those open, but when you hear people ask them, why is that Hispanic numbers so high, they quickly go back. Well, we shut down construction, and the governor opened it up, and we're dealing with with it. But that's so disingenuous, I believe. In the sense that's not what happened. What happened is five days later, governor opened it up, and and we quickly, the organizations quickly formed this safety rules, for lack of a better word, protocols, and we were one of the industries that was was set to go from the beginning. We knew what we needed to do. Our Association was tasked in translating most of these rules rules into Spanish. In fact, we worked for the County Fire Marshal. We translated all these documents into Spanish, and we even created a film. Univision's been Playing it as a PSA, but as PSA's they're for free, and they're gonna plug them in, not necessarily in Prime time TV. What we're really looking for right now- What we're really working for is to get our videos plugged in on Prime time. We've been struggling; we just don't have the resources that, for example, a City of Austin would have a State of Texas would have, and so we've been behind in that regard, but, the spike in the in the the statistics for COVID-19, specifically, the hospitalization didn't start happening til three to five weeks ago so that - 60 days or a a little over 60 days from the day that the governor declared to be essential. You can't really just can't square that circle. You can't just blame the industry. The industry is not the enemy. The enemy is the virus, and I wanna work with the City so desperately. It's been difficult, Council member. We can reach you guys, but it's very difficult to reach staff. I suspect they're going a thousand miles an hour, they're hearing from everybody, and so if a Frank Fuentes calls, I'm gonna be put behind the line somewhere, and so we decided not to wait. We figured out a long time ago, we're clearly on our own. We need to move on our own. We quickly had gotten masks, we quickly got Sanitizers We quickly got the PPE that we needed to get, what ever could get it, We rounded it up for our folks, but clearly we need to find a way to better with city staff. Council Member, you guys, the Mayor Returns my call all the time even if he knows it's gonna be an uncomfortable phone call, and you know me already, Sometimes it can be uncomfortable. He returns my calls. You return our calls. you're so good at that. It's the the city of Austin staff that we just can't to. And we need to work work with them. Hispanic Contractors, We represent the actual subcontractors that are on the ground, working. These guys are not union contractors. These are self-employed. I mean, these are the guys that we represent. I was telling the story day, I went by my Catholic Parish, picked up my priest, and said, Come on, you Gotta get some air. Let's go visit a job site. I'm handing out masks. When we got there, They all rushed us, because they saw the priest. They wanted to get a blessing. The day before, I had heard that the Austin Public Health had gone out there to get people tested, They had run away from them, and I was thinking to myself, well in the world world did they approach them? Did they even know that going Folks are not just gonna start giving blood or get tested, with people they don't know. Or why. I'm just not sure who's giving them advice. I'm sure it's well intended. I think at this point it's a pandemic. People are paniced. That's why it's called a pandemic. I think they need broaden their bandwidth, If you will, and talk to the the folks that are on the ground. I hope that all that I'm saying doesn't sound like I'm whining. I'm not trying to do that. I hope it makes sense to you. No it absolutely makes sense, Frank, and you know the two or three questions that I had for you, you covered all of them in in what you were saying. And so I'm really glad you and I have often been on the same page on things and it's good to hear that is still true. You know, I often say that the city staff challenge is that the Council will give them a hundred jobs and then money for 10. Not just during pandemic, but at all times, they are running around trying to accomplish far more than dollars have been allocated and I'm that you continue a voice in all these conversations, continue with both other business organizations, and the labor organizations You never know which organization's gonna catch a staff member in the right moment, and keeping everybody on the same page, especially in this type of issue where there's gonna be broad agreement about how-do-you-do testing, how-do-you-do contact tracing and how do you engage a population who is very concerned about their income and they have families support and there are there are trust issues with government. You have to be very savvy in how you navigate that and unfortunately, when we have to move quickly, sometimes we don't move carefully. And that's a challenge, and I'm glad that you're there to have that voice, Frank, and again thanks for reaching out after the show two episodes ago. I'm so glad that you came on to the show today. Tell me as cuz I wanna get to our next our guests. Tell how to get involved with the Hispanic Contractors Association and what you all have been doing to kinda provide aid and help in the community. We've actually contracted with a Medi type of a clinic that will go to our sites and test our folks. If we feel there's there's problem. We've tested maybe about a hundred folks. It's difficult cuz it's expensive And we have to pay for it. We have also provided PPE protective equipment. We've right now we are we've got another- We just just received 5,000 masks. We're gonna send it out. We're starting our campaign. We Wanna play our videos on Primetime on Univision and Telemundo and on radio stations, the ones that have high ratings. So we're starting to raise dollars that way. If any of your folks out looking at show, if they could donate funds - They don't have to give it to us but they can give it the right to Univision Or to those stations that we could quickly run our ads. I would appreciate. We're starting also an ad campaign where we have flyers in Spanish and in English. I'll be happy to share them with you. I'm thinking maybe by tomorrow, we should be our samples, our mailing samples, and then we're gonna go Plaster them all over the place. We need business, the economy to open, but we need to open in a safe way. We've been fierce advocates for that. There's an old Spanish saying, Jimmy, "Movimiento es vivir." You see a lot of migration from the Southern borders. Movimiento es vivir means To Move Is To Live. Whenever you're in danger, You gotta move, and so, we feel that we can't just cocoon in our home, Council member. It's unsustainable. We need to find a way to open up, step out, but do it in a safe way. So that's what we believe. that's what we've been advocating for. We've been very very blessed we've been in the task force at the state level. We've been on the task force of not only this County in this city, but also other counties and other cities on how to open up our businesses in a safe way. We're working hard and we appreciate your leadership Council member. I know that we're about sign off, so all I can tell you is don't lose your sense of humor, my friend. Bring it! We need it now more than ever, every day is a sad day. Every day seems to just groom upon us right? So just keep bringing it, keep talking to us. be that light out there. Jimmy. Thank you so much, Frank. Thanks for all the work you're doing in the advocacy both for your own community and for the Community you represent through the Contractors Association. Thanks for joining the show. You're the best, brother, take care. It's one of of those cool things about being a Council member is you you do have the benefit of working with a lot of different people on a lot of different issues, and Frank's been one of those great partners trying to address the needs of a community that faces pretty severe systemic inequities, but also do it in a way that folks - because they still want jobs and they still wanna go to work, and you gotta figure out a way how to do that.
Our musical guest today, I'm excited we've got another unbelievably talented musician to the show, Frederico7. How you doing, Frederico? I am doing, you know, one day at time here, one day at a time. I shouldn't've asked that! We're all conditioned to ask that at the beginning of a conversation, and you just gotta go. "I don't know huh?" Right now, exactly no-I and as most people watching your show - First of all, Thank you for having me and most- we're in in this whole roller coaster of emotions when sometimes I'm telling people that I love in my community, there is concentric circles of care. Care for yourself, and care for those around you, and then once you can do that, then you can care for the values that you care for. I'm seeing so many people stepping up to care for their values in our city. It's really you know on that level, I'm hopeful to see that people have values and are stepping up to live according to their values. Well, I couldn't agree more, Frederico. Tell me how are you holding up, pandemic-wise and how is your family doing/ What has your experience been? Yes. So I, as a musician, you know, most folks know we, throughout many years, the music business, our income streams have been getting diminished and diminished and diminished. No longer are the days – gone are the days when you're selling many records out, and so forth, with the streaming. So musicians have already been on the front lines of having to reinvent themselves for the last few years. The Pandemic now is just like: Wow! Code Red alarm! We went from already doing that, but for most folks watching the - Just so you know if you have friends who are, know that the people that are, Now they have to be their own venues. You know, first, we had to be our own manager, then our own publicist. We had to be our own distributor. We have everybody can record from your House, so you have to be engineer, and now we have to be our own venues, because of the streaming and everything. So, it's a lot, and I am holding okay, because I have certain privileges. I am able to work from home. In past I always strive to live a 100% from my music. I make about 30-35% of my living from my music, and the other part, I actually do work with youth. I work with the Mexican- American Cultural Center working with teenagers, so I'm lucky that now that my gigs and my music stream, that's the 30-35% is gone, at least I have something else that is meaningful to me that live by. But I also understand that a lot of my friends are not as lucky as I have been. Yeah, I understand we're coworkers, because you do work for the Mexican-American Cultural Center, which is a city facility. I'm glad that there are actually a lot of musicians that use their - I mean a lot of musicians generally work in order to support their music. There are not a shortage of them working at the City of Austin that do that, and I'm glad to have you on Team City of Austin. But tell me about your work at the MACC and then we'll get back to the music. Yeah! You Do some music program there? And then I think you developed the program at the Griffin School as well? Yeah. So my history here Austin, I'll even diverge a little bit: I was born and raised in Brazil. I lived in Mexico City for several years, and then I came to Central Texas to study. I got a scholarship, and I found myself here, and I fell in with Austin and I ended up being here. One of the the biggest I stayed here was that I was just flabbergasted by so many amazing musicians. So thank you, Austin musicians for keeping me here over the years. And I realized that wow! I like working teenagers and I like working in the arts. So the last 20 years of my life, I've been doing work. I work at the Griffin School, which is nonprofit school here in town and developed a music program there. And that is still thriving. And then for the last 5 years - I really really wanted work with the disadvantaged communities, so I developed another program called Caminos. The Caminos Teen Leadership Program, that is one-year internship where teens that are interested in about Latin American Arts, they work at the MACC for a whole year, and they serve the MACC and they serve themselves to professional development. So, that's pretty much on the educational side of what I've been doing for the last 20 years, and I have worked with other organizations as well, but I've been able to stay afloat as a musician, through my passion of youth and having teenagers understand, you know, when you get the tools they need become artists eventually. That's amazing work and really powerful work. I've had the pleasure of talking to a few other musicians that have dedicated a lot of their careers to music and education, and the way that it can help transform lives and in some cases even set kids on a better path, then they were on before. That's it's really important work, and I'm glad that you're doing it, Frederico. Thank you For that. No, no, it's a pleasure. Yeah. So let's talk about your music, and I think you're gonna perform something for us today? Tell us about Frederico7 and your new record. Yes. So the record is called Exotico Americano - an exotic American - is a play of Words. For a while, just looking in my experience as a like I mentioned, growing throughout this beautiful continent that is America - pronounced so many ways. So my music has an Austin feel but has roots in rhythms that are from Brazil and also from other parts of Latin America. So what I do is, I, like most people, I love rock & roll. I love funk and soul. I love jazz. And so it's right in hand with what's happening now of us looking the contributions of black Americans in our continent. So that music I love, and then I also grew up with a lot of pop music. So putting that together and honoring the that I grew up in Brazil, It comes very eclectic mix. So if you like funk, soul, rock & roll and world music, then you're probably gonna like the record. It's just been a great journey to share the music with with our community here in Central Texas. That's awesome. Why don't why don't you take it away! Yes. So I am going to play a song for you guys today that I wrote very recently. And this song is dedicated today to the parents - to the parents of the victims of police brutality and systemic racism that cannot be with the children today, who are missing their children today. To the parents of Mike Ramos. George Floyd. Mister Ayala. Mister Howell. Sandra Bland. Eric Gardner. To the children in the care of the immigration officers right now, to all them, to the parents victims of parental alienation. This song is for you. It's called, Missing My Children. 0hhh, Oh! Holding the space, an avalanche of feelings. Slowly I'm sinking yet I know I ain't crazy! Not bad for a recovering… people pleaser, Living one's life under another's shadow. No measures for the fear that we've endured since the beginning, No margins for the love that we saw pass without forgiving, Don't know if there is healing for this pain that I am feeling, Pushing this love so hard ain't for the faint of heart. No no. I see you! Black Lives Matter! I see you! Black Lives Matter! Holding this space, an avalanche of feelings. Slowly I'm sinking, yet I know I ain't crazy! Not bad for a recovering… people pleaser, Living one's life under another's shadow. No measures for the fear that we've endured since the beginning, No margins for the love that we saw pass without forgiving, Don't know if there is healing for this pain that I am feeling… Pushing this love so hard Ain't for the faint of heart. That's why I'm thankful for another day. Oh Lord! Oh yes, I'm missing my children. I'm thankful for another day. Oh Lord. Oh yes, I'm missing my children. I'm thankful for another day. Oh,Lord. Oh yes, I'm missing my children, I'm thankful for another day. Oh lord. Oh Lord, I'm missing my children. I'm missing. I'm missing. I'm missing my children. Oh! I'm missing. I'm missing. Oh oh! Holding this space! An avalanche of feelings! Slowly I'm sinking. Yes, I know I am crazy! Not bad for a recovering… people pleaser, Living one's life under another's shadow. No margins for this. No Pain. I know that You are feeling, Austin, Texas. I know and I see you. Oh! I see your soul, baby and that's why I have to sing for you now. That's why I'm thankful for Another day, oh lord! Oh yes, I'm missing my children I am thankful for another day, oh Lord! Oh yes, I'm missing my children. Thank you that was amazing. Thank you so much, guys! I always say that I wish I had like a sound board or something to like play applause or something at the end of that. What really blows me away: watching you build the song in real time. I've never seen that. That was unbelievable, man. That was so cool. Oh, thank you! So just so everybody knows, I have a beautiful band with musicians that are Grammy winners. My musicians are better instrumentalists than than I am. But since we are in the pandemic, I have to count on this loop pedal, and do the best I can, but hopefully in the future, you'll be able to come out and see the whole experience. For now, I'm here in my garage, and send you guys lots of love. I appreciate you guys. Thank you for your music. I appreciate you, council member for having me. Oh yes. my name is Frederico and the number 7. So Frederico7. F R E D E R I C O 7 dot com or any media. That's my handle for Frederico7 @Frederico7music and you can find it on Spotify, and now all of those people. All the things. Oh yeah. You guys can find me. I appreciate you so much. And I know, I know that it's a difficult moment for all of us. Through authenticity and hard work, I think we can see it through, and the power of listening to our stories. So whatever I can do to right now in this moment really to raise voices of black artists And voices to hear them. That's my two cents, but thank you so much councilman. Thank you so much. Federico thanks for coming on the show. You're welcome. That's pretty awesome to see him use the loop pedal to like build the the music, and what a powerful song.
My last guest on the show, we're gonna, we're gonna get into it, y'all. My stomach is knots because I know I've been talking about the protests I mean I've been talking about policing for a long long time. I made the motion to deny the police contract back prior to 2018 and helped lead the effort to build up a better police contract, which you you know no negotiation is going to be perfect, but we went from a unanimous to unanimous yes on that negotiation. I was very involved in that work, and then with Council member Harper Madison, leading a lot efforts that we did at the end of 2019 have been underway, some pretty dramatic work. And a huge partner in that effort is someone who I had the pleasure of getting to know in my office and who has been the first head of the Office of Oversight. Farah Muscadine. Hi Farrah. Hi. How are you? I am? I am still here. Yeah. I'm still here. Before we get too deep into it. I find that a lot a folks don't know own quick history at the city. You had a pretty big career prior to coming to Austin, but when you first first here, your first role was with me. It was. I literally picked up and moved and I didn't anybody. I didn't have any friends. The last time I'd been to Austin was maybe 20 years ago when South By was just on 6th Street like you got dropped off like 2 blocks away and then you walked, and then kinda walked in and out of all the bars and the music going. So when I moved, and it was like this two week thing, I was like, Oh my God. This is totally different. So yeah, I was just ready for a change, and so. I met Marti, and she was amazing. And you know, I was like well, I'm not doing anything. If you guys need some help, I can volunteer. And so yeah the rest is history. Well, I was really, it was really fortunate to get to know you so well in that brief period where you were interning in my office, working on transportation issues, helping a new Council member wrap their heads around some very complicated topics. And your shining star was quickly spotted by city staff and moved into the Office of Innovation. And now leading the Office of Police Oversight First, tell folks what the Office of police oversight is and what it does. Yeah, so the Office of Oversight provides oversight over the Austin Police Department. So we have 3 main pillars, one is providing impartial oversight, increased transparency, and building sustainable partnerships with the community. And so what we - We take a holistic approach to oversight, so it's not just really looking at complaints of misconduct, which is a huge part of what we do, but we also look at policies and practices, and we make recommendations on policy. And so we've developed a new way for people to come forward positive and negative experiences with APD. We have a website that's very easy to manage We really took community feedback, and the complaint form and also Thank you that's filled out. We're really more focused on - we're focusing on complaints. We're focused on research data, and then also building those long-term community partnerships. It's really great work. I know that some of your office was essentially created during the police contract negotiations, at least some of the things that you get to do where things that had to be negotiated while we worked with Pay and benefits for officers, And anonymous complaints being a big part part of that. You and I were both in the Council meeting this morning, and I'm sure were watching it yesterday. Yes. You've had a lot of complaints. A lot. You've had a lot of complaints. I know that the problem the public has with kind of what is their Council member - What is their Council member or Council members saying? I've made multiple statements over the last 24 hours, but people are only seeing you in the moment they see you. How do we even wrap our heads Around what's going on right now? What are you experiencing, Farah? I am heartbroken and angry about the experience you must have to deal with as an individual and as the Office of Police Oversight. Yes. it's - I'm really exhausted in every capacity cuz obviously I'm a black woman first. I have lived experience and friends that have negative experiences with law enforcement, but then I'm also in this position. I think that this is a moment, and as exhausted as I am, I'm motivated by this moment because we clearly know we need change and how communities are policed. And we know we need to have further conversations about how systemic racism has impacted our community and our systems and institutions. So it's difficult a time. I mean this is not easy for me at all but I'm here, and I'm ready to put in the work. Because there's just no way I'm missing this opportunity in this moment to move forward and make positive changes. There's just no way I'm missing this moment. I completely agree and of course, as a Council member, you know I don't get to have this job forever, and I have always believed that I'm going to do what is right by this community, by the city for whatever brief moments, I'm graced to have this role. I wanna pull up some of the photos from protests, and I want folks to know that what I'm about to do, in case they don't wanna have to see these photos. I thankfully - the photographer is Jana Bertram, who who often does photography for the Chronicle, and is not only a friend Of mine, but I have also paid her for the right to use these photos, because it her professional work, and I think it's important for folks to know that too. Just looking at these photos for me, this one really spoke out me. The use of pepper spray in this instance, you know people who are unarmed; they're armed only with their phones and their cameras. That is what they're looking at in those moments. When is this more than just about the policies? Cuz you do a lot of policy work, and my job as a council member is policy work. This feels bigger than policy. No. This is about culture. This really about culture, and it's it's about the way police officers see community and the way community sees police officers. There is, I think, a bigger disconnect than we probably even imagined or probably thought existed in Austin. It is why I stayed up that Friday night till 2 o'clock in the morning, monitoring the protests, and why I've been watching it nonstop since they started - like literally nonstop. It's what I do. And so I think that we've got to talk more about approach. I think that the militarization of policing is something that we really have to talk about, because I think that there's a strong argument that it incites people, and it's inciting a crowd that's protesting police brutality. I'm looking for compassion for the people who are so negatively impacted by I mean, we're talking about lifelong experiences that are passed down through generations. Do I condone throwing you know, empty water bottles and rocks at police officers? Of course not. No. I do think that to the extent that people have contacted my office, and what they experienced - peaceful protesters - It's very concerning. It's very concerning, and the one thing about the complaints that we're getting is that they are consistent, and they have video, they have proof. "We were just standing there." "They sprayed us with Mace." "We were just standing." "We got hit." It's it's that repeated story after story, and I think we have to just take a step back and say: Is this what we're expecting? I wanna just really kinda double down on something you just said. This conversation with the public is a challenging one. And I have seen attempts to use the actions of looting or destruction as evidence that the entire protest is without merit. Even from the same who claimed there are outside provocateurs. And then that isn't evidence for them that there's still a valid protest somehow. That's Not what this is about. This isn't about being OK with trying to - burning down buildings or throwing rocks and water bottles. That's not what this is about. There's something so much bigger and so deeper. I'm I'm tired of nibbling at the edges of policy. This community is gonna do bigger, and I think Austin is one of places with with capacity to do something bigger, to do something more innovative. I'm really glad that you spent time in the Office of Innovation before you joined the Office of Police Oversight, because I don't believe - and please share your thoughts on this: I don't believe that there is a city we can look to that has got this figured out. No not at all, and I just have to tell you I'm somebody who came here with no job and I landed my Dream job that I didn't even know existed and part of it being my Dream job is because that this is the place that we can make the change needs to be change, in of policing to be a model across across the country. I'm from Chicago, They 13,000 officers, and you know that culture and what they're going through is, I mean it's harder to implement change on that level. There are also issues with their oversight office that have transformed - there's been like eight different interactions of it. I'm here in Austin, This is the place where we can do this, and that is what I really have to hold on to in this fight because you know my work is not easy. I mean there's not a police officer out that's gonna truthfully tell you that they oversight. Not A- one. I mean they say it because they have to but we need it. We need it, and so I I'm motivated because this is the place where change can occur. There's a stuff that has to change and you know I encourage folks who are watching this show to also go back and watch the Council meeting. It's there's a lot of hours of testimony. There are are fewer of Council members speaking and you can you jump to those moments faster to hear what your elected leaders are saying. And I think it's really important for folks to hear what their elected leaders are saying. Are there both to change the leadership in the Department There are calls to defund the Department. and I said moments ago in the Council meeting that delayed this show, that the amount of trust required to do policing and the way we have been told you have to do community policing, that level of trust is broken to the point that the community needs to see new leadership. Not gonna ask you to comment on this, Farah. You are still a city staffer, and I really appreciate the difficult position that have; you are a change agent from the inside, and that is a hard place to be. I think that if Chief Manley and other folks in leadership are really truly interested in transformational change that they might be more effective at it from outside as partners. I think that is becoming a necessary step. The defund question I think is also important because I think some folks are getting tripped up on the words. I did a ride along with APD and I encourage folks who feel safe enough to do that, to do that. And I know you've done a lot of them. Mmm hmm, I have. I saw [dog barks] officers doing work that officers shouldn't have to do. It's alright. It's okay, Farah. I'm sorry. my dogs are barking. It's fine. You know the the shift that I was on, [dog barks] we spent hours waiting around the central booking facility - I remember when I had dogs and they would just not be quiet because they knew that you wanted them to be quiet. Just for folks who are watching, I did a ride-along. It was eye opening experience. There was honestly very little police work in the way that you imagine classic police work. work. A lot of it was mental health work. A lot of it was transportation. There are parts of state law that mean that only an armed, badged officer can transport a person from a point A to point B, if they're in a certain condition. We had to go to a hospital and pick up a woman who had to be wheelchaired out to the officer's car and physically carried into the vehicle. And then drove her to to another where they had more mental health facilities and and other things. And we spent hours making that transportation occur, and the reason why we had to do because state law in this case requires that it be an officer to do it. What a waste of resources that is. And then, in another case, we person who was at least visibly intoxicated. Their car had stopped, they were in a position where they clearly have been driving it, and by the time we navigated the whole process of bringing this person into custody, we spent four hours at the Central booking facility surrounded by Travis County folks. It was in Travis County where the officer couldn't go out and do any anything else. Yeah. When we talk about - when I hear folks talk about defunding policing, there are so many elements to that, that are getting lost in the terminology. Mmm hmm. It's a $400 some-odd million-dollar budget, and I would imagine that a majority of that money is going to stuff not even the officers want to do. In your research that you've done - a lot of research across the country in other cities: My assumption has always been that every city in the country's Police Department is the largest line item in their budget by a wide margin. Oh, absolutely, yeah. Do you know of other cities that have embarked on a process to change that dynamic? Well, I think there are many cities that have looked to reallocate, and I think that's what this is about: Reallocating and reconfiguring budgets, as opposed defunding it. I had the same experience you did on the ride along. We spent two or three three hours at the Travis County lock-up just sitting there. Literally, just sitting there. And again, I'm from Chicago. There's stations can take arrestees literally in every neighborhood, and so they drive a mile or two, and then they drop off, and then they move on. They're back on the street. And so I do think, and I think this Council Member you're gonna be key, cuz I think this feeds on your strength of looking at how the money is spent and figuring out a more efficient way to do it, which will absolutely lead to savings. That's what this is about not saying, Okay. Okay. We're gonna cut the budget by 50%, but saying like okay, Well, this is your pie. How do we reconfigure the pieces of the pie. That's where I see the conversation from a policy level going and I do think that has a lot of police departments have looked at overtime. I know Chicago has -reevaluating overtime, which has led to significant savings, and so I think that's really kind of this broader conversation is, in the saving, in utilizing those savings to increase budgets like in public health that can combat safety issues in a different way. I think that has to potential to be not only transformational, it has the potential to reevaluate assumptions that have been made for a long time. It also has the ability to actually be better at public safety. And when I talk to my constituents in District 6, you know, folks are- They ask for more policing, but what they're asking for is neighborhood watch. What they're asking for is education. What they're asking for is presence, sometimes, but it's not fully articulated what they think that presence is going to accomplish. Even traffic enforcement: I had a conversation with our district representatives, and there are 3 APD DRs. That's what they're called, that cover most of district because there was a conversation about neighborhood speeding and they wanted to see more traffic enforcement. Even the officer said, look, we could be out there every single day, and it would require it, because it used to be that you could put an officer out and get speeders, and it would last for like 30- or 60- days people would slow down. It's like the next day. Yeah, we have to do things differently because things have changed. And on the transportation side, it's as much about infrastructure design, and I'm not gonna ask you about infrastructure design, cuz that's a whole different Department, But that's kind of the point. It's a whole different department. Maybe we should be investing some of that In transportation to address some of these issues, because we couldn't fund enough officers to do it, even if we wanted to. No, and the other thing is that we're at a moment that we have to look policing different. I mean we should not policing people the same way we did 50 years ago. And to a certain extent, we kind of are. What does say about our culture and what we want in our community? And so policing does need to evolve And maybe it might evolve faster than some people may want. But that's what I feel like the protesters across the country, and actually really across the world, because we've seen protests in Paris, London, and in Spain - that we really have to reimagine how we want policing done in our communities. Well and thank you so much for for coming on the show. I'm way over the amount of wanted to spend and we could probably go another hour on this topic. I am excited to lead on this work with you. As you know, it is already it was already posted to the agenda for this coming Thursday. We're gonna convert the Judicial Committee into a Public Safety Committee if the Council votes to do that. I am the chair of the Judicial Committee. We've done some pretty spectacular reform work around the municipal court over the last couple of years and I'm excited and I'm honored in the trust that my colleagues place in me To lead work in the new public Safety Committee and have you a partner in it. Yes, and I'm happy to be a partner, and I mean, you already know. I'm so committed to this that when you call, I'm going to answer. So I'm with you. Thank you so much, Farah. I know you've got a lot of work to do today, and I may see you out at some of the marches this weekend. Alright. Thank you so much. Thanks, Farah. Well, this is the longest show we've ever done, but I think these are the most difficult topics we've ever discussed. Like I said on the Council meeting on the 11th, there will be multiple items on the agenda. One of them that I am the sponsor on, converts the Judicial Committee to the Public Safety Committee. And as chair of that Committee, it will it be my responsibility with my colleagues to lead on these reform efforts, and that means District 6 and Northwest Austin leads on these efforts. There will be other items sponsored by some of my other colleagues that I am co-sponsoring: budget, talking about policy, talking about oversight metrics data. But I wanna end with just a couple of quick thoughts. One: I have made many public statements over the last 48 hours, longer. Please go back and revisit those, because they are still true. I am committed to big transformational change because that is what the community is for, and I want to ask District 6 to step up. We have a moment to show that a corner of the city that no one would assume is going to be invested in reform is not going to- not just be invested, but lead, because that's what this moment calls for. I am truly honored be your Council Member and to have the trust of the community to do this very important, necessary immediate work, but also to stick through it and make sure that it gets done and that it sticks. We're gonna get through all of this, Austin; we're gonna get all of this. And I promise to you that we will do it together if you are willing. If you want to be us in this fight, we will do it. And we're gonna do what's right, and we're gonna do it now. With that I'm gonna end the show. In the last few shows, I've said that I want folks to stay home if you can, but today, I'm going to say something different. I want you to take care of yourselves. If are older, if you are immuno-compromised, please think very carefully about leaving your homes. But I don't think is telling you that a pandemic is a reason to end your First Amendment rights. I will be out. I will be out today, and instead of staying home. I'm gonna end the show with this: Black lives matter.
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