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The debate over Prop A--the Justice Charter Amendment

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An anti-Prop A yard sign.
David Martin Davies
Texas Public Radio
An anti-Prop A yard sign.

Proposition A on San Antonio municipal ballots may or may not be able to accomplish all of its purported objectives, but it is certainly the most far-reaching and wide-ranging change to the city’s charter to be voted on in the modern era.

If passed on the city’s May 6 election, then Proposition A, also called “The Justice Charter,” would decriminalize abortion and low-level marijuana possession, ban no-knock warrants and chokeholds by law enforcement, create a “justice director” job at City Hall and require police to issue citations for certain low-level, nonviolent offenses instead of making arrests.

The omnibus approach to stuffing so many issues into one proposition has been criticized by the prop’s opponents. Clearly there are voters who are enthusiastic to vote in favor of decriminalizing abortion, even if this is just a symbolic gesture since a municipality doesn’t have the authority to overturn the state government’s anti-abortion fervor. Yet that same voter may not feel comfortable with voting to confine police to cite and release for “low level” property crime like shoplifting or vandalism of less than $750.

Conservative opponents to Prop A have been quick to jump on and exploit this internal divide in the progressive community over the grab bag that is Prop A.

Leading Republicans in San Antonio and the San Antonio Police Officers Association have been claiming that passage of Prop A will turn the city into San Francisco which they say is “lawless” and where shoplifting has become a major organized criminal activity that operated out in the open without fear of serious consequences.

But the opponents to Prop A simultaneously say the ballot measure is at best unenforceable, meaningless and will accomplish nothing given that Republican Governor Greg Abbott has limited, and continues to limit, municipal self-rule.

Nonetheless supporters of the measures say it will combat unnecessary arrests and mitigate racial bias. And it could be an opportunity to oppose at the ballot box the radical right that dominates state politics.

A coalition of groups, led by Act 4 SA, gathered more than 35,000 petition signatures to get Prop A onto the city’s May 6 ballot. After the city clerk verified the signatures, the petition drive had exceeded the 20,000 valid signatures required, and the San Antonio City Council voted Feb. 16 to put it on the ballot. To avoid voting in favor of the ballot initiative the three North Side councilmen walked off the dais during the vote.


SAPOA President Danny Diaz - opposed to Proposition A

Ananda Tomas ACT4SA - in favor of Propostion A

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*This interview will be recorded on Monday, April 24.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi