Pflugerville City Council criminal justice agenda item 'tabled indefinitely' after public concern

Pflugerville City Council effectively killed a resolution Thursday that would have encouraged courts to levy maximum sentences on drug-related and violent crime offenses.

Pflugerville City Council effectively killed a resolution Thursday that would have encouraged courts to levy maximum sentences on drug-related and violent crime offenses.

Pflugerville City Council effectively killed a resolution on its agenda Thursday night that drew criticism from the public and council members themselves.

After a nearly hour-long round of comments from the public and council members, Resolution 0508 was "tabled indefinitely" with a stated intent from Pflugerville councilmember Doug Weiss to kill the bill.

The resolution itself called on council to approve "encouraging the courts to sentence criminals convicted of drugs or violent acts to the maximum punishment allowable by law".

Council members Mike Heath, Rudy Metayer and Jeff Marsh were listed as co-sponsors on the bill. Throughout the discussion, Heath stated that the resolution was supposed to be combined with an earlier resolution "extending appreciation to First Responders in Central Texas related to the bombing suspect case" and introduced as a draft. Heath ultimately apologized for entering the resolution on the council's agenda.

Metayer commented that he opposed the resolution and co-sponsored the bill as a means to open the resolution to public discussion.

“I wanted to have this conversation to be had in the public, on the dais," Metayer said. Metayer read a prepared statement on the matter, stating that he believed the council did not hold the authority to vote on matters relegated to the judicial branch. Metayer is a registered member of the state bar of Texas.

"We have to be very, very careful when we talk about issues regarding the judiciary," Metayer said. "Honestly it feels like we’re tilting the scale."

The resolution garnered a noticeable turnout and response from the public, including some Travis County public figures.

Vincent Harding, chairman of the Travis County Democratic Party, spoke on the record against the matter, as did Meme Styles, founder and president of MEASURE, a criminal justice reform nonprofit. MEASURE last month presented the Pflugerville Police Department with an award for its transparency policies.

"This was an embarrassment to see," Styles said.

Pflugerville Mayor Victor Gonzales and City Council member Omar Pena both used similarly harsh language when describing their reactions to the agenda item. Gonzales commented that he was "taken aback" when he saw the item on the agenda. Pena and Weiss appeared to physically rip up the piece of paper on which the resolution was written.

"I was appalled we would even suggest... that crime was on the rise, things were out of hand and we had no control over law enforcement," Gonzales said. "I think we need to bow to the judiciary and process that’s available."

In his prepared statement, Metayer expressed concern that the Austin bomber investigation had spurred an unjustified concern about violent crime in the city of Pflugerville.

"One of the things we need to understand is that correlation does not mean causation," Metayer said.

Violent crime—including homicide, rape, robbery, assault, vehicular theft and burglary—has dropped more than 7 percent overall in the past year, according to statistics from the city of Pflugerville.
By Iain Oldman
Iain Oldman joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2017 after spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he covered Pittsburgh City Council. His byline has appeared in PublicSource, WESA-FM and Scranton-Times Tribune. Iain worked as the reporter for Community Impact Newspaper's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition and is now working as the editor for the Northwest Austin edition.


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