Why Did Gov. Abbott Stop Austin Highway Cleanings?

December 19, 2019

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made headlines when he sent in the state” to clean up Austin’s homeless encampments along interstates and highways. One thing no one has asked, though, is why he stopped the clean-ups in the first place.

To illustrate just how cynical Texas Republican leaders are in their use of power to prolong their reign and deny others’ basic rights, I’ve requested communications between Gov. Abbott’s office and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDoT) regarding the halting (or pausing) of highway cleanups in the agency’s Austin district. I’m interested in learning why the governor ordered TxDoT to stop cleaning Austin’s highways prior to the decriminalization of homelessness.

While I don’t necessarily believe Gov. Abbott had the foresight to stop the clean-ups only to start them again after the homeless moved back into view, I do believe his touting of the (re-)initiation of the clean-ups was done intentionally to attract media attention, punish the homeless and steal their property. I expect to find in any released documents that the original halting/pausing of highway cleanings was temporary and had nothing to do with the homeless issue whatsoever until it became advantageous to Gov. Abbott spin it that way.

So far, I’ve received no alternative explanation. Instead, TxDoT and the Governor’s Office are claiming releasing such communications would create a chilling environment for the sharing of frank opinions within the executive.

Follow along:

1 DEC 2019:

Received notice that the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has forwarded my requests for all communications from the Governor’s Office regarding pausing or halting highway cleanups in the Austin area to the Attorney General’s Office for an opinion as to whether or not they are considered privileged communications not subject to public disclosure.

Nothing to hide there, I’m sure.

Letter from TxDOT:

Letter from TXDoT, page 1/2Letter from TXDoT, page 1/2

Letter from TXDoT, page 2/2Letter from TXDoT, page 2/2

UPDATE 12 DEC 2019:

The Governor’s Office filed a brief with the Attorney General agreeing with TxDOT that they don’t have to release the communications to the public:

This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: Download PDF.

UPDATE 8 FEB 2019:

I put off picking up the Attorney General’s opinion from my post office box because I assumed he’d side with Gov. Abbott and refuse the release of the information I requested.

Imagine my surprise when I read this while sitting in my car outside the post office this afternoon:

Texas AG Opinion, page 1/4Texas AG Opinion, page 1/4

Texas AG Opinion, page 2/4Texas AG Opinion, page 2/4

Texas AG Opinion, page 3/4Texas AG Opinion, page 3/4

Texas AG Opinion, page 4/4Texas AG Opinion, page 4/4