It’s city election season again in San Antonio starting on April 24 running through early May. Due to recent legislation combined with the current political climate, this election is sure to stir up some controversy. In fact, it already has.
Proposition A is set to be one of the most anticipated items on the ballot. Back in February, many San Antonio based interest groups gathered over 30,000 signatures of citizens hoping for change regarding the city’s marijuana and abortion policies. The plethora of signatures brought Proposition A into existence, and gave it the name “The San Antonio Justice Charter.” According to the Justice Charter’s Website, Prop A promotes “Decriminalizing abortion and marijuana, promoting reproductive autonomy and justice, and banning no-knock warrants and chokeholds.” The aim of Prop A is to mitigate mass incarceration with cite-and-release laws for minor criminal offenses. Now, if you are a responsible voter, you might have a lot of questions.
You might be alarmed by the Justice Charter’s large scope encompassing many different issues. Roping in a number of hot-button topics and confining all of them to a simple yes or no can be frustrating for voters. To break things down, here’s what a YES vote means: a city Justice director will be appointed, police will not arrest for misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses, police cannot enforce criminal abortion laws, chokeholds and no-knock warrants will be banned, and citations instead of arrests will be issued for certain misdemeanors. A NO vote means: police can continue making arrests for certain misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses, enforce criminal abortion laws, not instate a Justice director, and change policing practices.
Here’s the issue, a voter could be anti-police chokeholds, but also be pro-life. Consider a pro-choice voter who is against cite-and-release. How about a voter who believes that San Antonio needs a Justice director, but believes that marijuana should be criminalized still. Due to the nuances of opinion, if you agree with one issue on the yes side, but not the rest, you are forced to either prioritize that one issue and vote for others you disagree with. The other choice is to vote no all together and miss out on sharing your voice on the important issue. Roping in many issues does not allow citizens to rightly express their opinions. Although an anti-abortion interest group tried to split up the issues in the Justice Charter, they were ultimately denied.
Additionally, you might have wondered about the vagueness of the cite-and-release clause in Prop A. As stated before, a YES vote pushes “citations instead of arrests for certain misdemeanors.” What kinds of misdemeanors are we talking about here? The Justice Charter pushes for abolishing arrests for theft and vandalism, and they certainly aren’t broadcasting it. Prop A states that citations will be given for theft of property or service up to $750, criminal mischief damages up to $750, and vandalism up to $2,500. Again, this is in the name of reducing mass incarceration and promoting safety in the city. This is the major worry about Prop A. Although it proposes attractive reform for some voters, this sinister crime clause hides behind decriminalization of abortion and marijuana. Consider if citations over arrests will aid in San Antonio’s growing crime problem. Is a paper saying “don’t do it again” a big enough deterrent for criminals? Critics of Prop A believe that it isn’t, and that this will only harm small business owners who are victims of break ins, people waking up to smashed in car windows, or homeowners with property defaced by graffiti. Crime Grade states that a crime is committed every 6 minutes in San Antonio. Theft sits at the top of the most common criminal activity list, and it can happen to anyone. Is the Justice Charter really just if it lets San Antonio’s most widespread crime go virtually unpunished? As a voter, it is crucial to consider what a yes vote really means for our city.
Now, to be very clear, this article is not meant to persuade voters in any direction on voting day. This is a call to always read the fine print on what you are really saying yes or no to. Do your own research when it comes to picking and choosing issues that are important to you…especially when they are unfairly bundled in with many others like in Prop A. Pay attention to elements of reform that go unstated; what are their implications? What do you value? What do you think our city needs?