Ken has a deep understanding on how to keep Austin safe and healthy through his work in Council Member Ann Kitchen's office. He was and will always be an effective advocate for public safety.
Our public safety professionals in the Fire, EMS, and Police Departments perform the difficult task of keeping the city safe - often at risk to their own lives and families. The city must fill public safety vacancies and meet new staffing needs - increased EMS, fire, APD, public health professionals to keep us safe as the city grows. One example, I worked to improve pay for 911 Call Center operators to reduce the vacancy rate which has been as high as 41% at times for this critical public safety function.
As a Council Policy Advisor for District 5, I helped lead passage of 4 person staffing for the Austin Fire Department, which ensures nationally recognized safety standards set by the NFPA and TCFP for all engines, ladder trucks, and rescue units.
I also helped advocate for the Fire/EMS Station 49 on Old San Antonio Rd (opened in 2019) and the Goodnight Ranch station - a new fire and EMS station recently funded for South Austin. I am committed to protecting every neighborhood with fire/EMS stations within a four minute travel time of every residence in Austin.
I will also support:
- Increasing the number of ladder companies for rapid response, ventilation, and rescues
- Good wages and benefits for Austin firefighters
- Supporting the Austin Firefighters Pension Defined Benefit Plan
- Supporting collective bargaining for wages and benefits subject to binding arbitration
- Cost of living wage increases as part of a negotiated pay and benefits package
- Ensure that Auto Aid agreements with communities that Austin firefighters assist include protocols to protect firefighter safety
- Treat diseases diagnosed as on the job injuries as eligible for benefits
Emergency Medical Services
Austin’s EMS medical professionals are the front line both for crisis response and transport and for helping people stay healthy. EMS is often the only medical care before crisis care and hospitalization is required. EMS operates an innovative Community Health Paramedic program designed to provide medical and mental health services to prevent reliance on 911 and trips to the emergency room.
I have advocated for funding additional community health paramedics and creation of the AustinCAREs program which places mental health professionals in the 911 Call Center. EMS leads this nationally recognized program which treats response to a mental health crisis as a health issue.
I will support EMS to enhance their work making Austin a safe and healthy community:
- Provide equipment, training, and data resources to support telemedicine
- Support continued funding for the AustinCAREs and Community Health Paramedic Programs
- Good wages and benefits sufficient to fill vacancies and comparable to other public safety professionals
- Remove the disparities between EMS pension age and service requirements and other public safety agencies
I have worked directly with APD officers and constables to address crime, responsiveness, and community trust. I respect how difficult our officers' jobs are, as well as community concerns, and believe we must facilitate more opportunities for community members, police, and city officials to interact in a cooperative manner.
We must also focus our police resources on the core public safety task. Mental health crises require a response by mental health clinicians equipped to assist a person in crisis, rather than law enforcement. When riding with officers on patrol, I’ve seen the time and resources such calls require and the strain they place on our officers.
I have advocated for the AustinCARES program over the last two years, which places mental health professionals in the 911 Call Center. This nationally recognized program responds to mental health crises as a health issue, frees up police resources, and reduces the risk of officer-involved shootings. A unique component of AustinCARES offers follow-up services by EMS and Integral Care to help prevent repeated crises and the cycle of emergency response.
Public safety improvements I will continue to work on:
- Fund more APD District Representatives - the officers who are assigned to specific neighborhoods with specific safety and crime issues
- Fill police vacancies: continue to expand cadet academies to three per year plus shortened classes for experienced officers
- Continue to update the cadet curriculum and in-service training to reflect best practices
- Build trust and accountability by supporting the Office of Police Oversight
- Ensure sufficient funding and support to fill vacancies in the 911 Call Center