Austin Mayor Steve Adler and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton are exchanging words, as Texas vs. Austin tensions continue to flare.
Adler shot back Thursday at an opinion piece by Paxton calling the city hypocritical and disdainful of the rule of law.
“The city of Austin recently declared itself a ‘freedom city’ — meaning that it will make every effort to thwart enforcement of the immigration and drug laws duly enacted by representatives of the people, based on trumped-up claims of racism among its own police officers — while seeking to deny its residents the freedom to use a disposable bag at the grocery store, take an Uber to the airport, call your ailing mother while driving to the airport or have a compost bin in the backyard,” Paxton wrote in the op-ed commentary, printed in the American-Statesman last week.
He added: “The people of Texas will not allow the rule of law to be subordinated to the political ambitions of city officials eager to score a few points with their base.”
Adler posted an open letter response to Paxton on his website saying the attorney general, as a resident of the city and constituent, has a right to complain, but is flat wrong.
“We get it. You don’t like the way we do things in Austin,” the mayor wrote. “I don’t want to get into a back-and-forth with you. Suffice it to say that Austin follows the law and does not thwart its enforcement, and we point out racial disparities only where they exist – and they do.
“Besides, if I refute your every single claim, point by point, it would come off like an indictment, and that wouldn’t do anything for our relationship.”
The problem with their relationship, Adler said, isn’t Austin breaking laws, it’s Texas passing new laws to overturn and undermine city ordinances.
He cited state moves that have overturned the city’s plastic bag ban, threatened its new ordinance mandating paid sick leave, limited tools to enforce housing affordability and, recently, sued the city for the composition of its Planning Commission.
Adler, who has been known in the past for his humor in open letter responses to critics, ended the letter with a cheery recitation of Austin’s good qualities.
“I must apologize to you,” he wrote. “You became a full-time Austin resident the same time I got elected Mayor, and I never welcomed you. This is my fault and maybe why you constantly target Austin. Please let me make it up to you by telling you some things about this great city that I hope you come to think of fondly as home.”
He said the city is more prosperous than the state as a whole and “ready to share advice about how to expand the Austin economic miracle to the rest of Texas.”
It is the safest city in the state, he said, throwing shade at Paxton for falsely telling Fox News that an explosion at Goodwill during March’s bombings spree was connected to the others. It turned out to be an artillery simulator, not a real bomb. During the bombings, everyone worked together to stop the terror “except for when a state-wide politician spread ill-informed rumors on national TV,” Adler wrote.
And, finally, Austin is welcoming.
“That’s why we don’t freak out about which toilets people choose to use,” Adler wrote. That’s true personal liberty!”
Article by Elizabeth Findell • View on Austin American-Statesman