By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – The city council on Tuesday heard the first presentation of the proposed budget. One of the big areas of concern was whether the city council was moving forward on efforts to reimagine policing. To address that issue, City Manager Mike Webb laid out a series of changes included in the budget as the result of the April 6 council meeting; however, public safety activists pointed out that under Webb’s proposals the police budget was increasing, and bottom-line the city was not moving nearly fast enough with any reimagining.
A number of public commenters addressed the issue by asking the city to divert money from the police department and reinvest it into a department of Public Safety.
As one public commenter put, “The budget as it is now, doesn’t reflect our values.” She pointed to the desire “to fund a management level position for public health and safety reporting directly to the city manager, and expand services in coordination with the county on housing and homelessness and youth diversion programs. That position is missing from the proposed budget.”
She called out this disappointment, arguing that the commitment made by council on April 6, “was not backed by any commitment [in the budget] for real funding.”
Jordan Varney (one of the student editors for the Vanguard, but calling on behalf of Yolo People Power) noted that the community is pushing for the expansion of social services rather than the continued use of law enforcement for those services, as it is in the proposed city budget.
“The community pleaded for the safety of all Davis residents especially black and indigenous people, people of color and vulnerable groups such as those experiencing homelessness, mental health issues or substance use disorder,” Varney said.
She noted that the staff report on April 6 had “a far more limited scope” than the nine recommendations from the Joint Subcommittee, which were backed by over 750 citizen signatures and over 120 public comments at a meeting back in December. “This public engagement represents an unequivocal commitment from Davis residents to make our city safe.”
She called this an unprecedented commitment from the community, and asked the council to reflect on “whether the budget in front of you represents the values and priorities that have been voiced to you over the past year.”
She called for specific and clear direction to city staff.
Francesca Wright expressed disappointment to see the proposed budget, which she believes “disregards the direction from city council, the recommendations from three commissions, and numerous pleas from the community.”
She reminded the council of three important steps they had agreed to in order to create a new vision for public safety.
These include (1) funding the management level position, (2) a qualified data analyst housing in the city manager’s office, and (3) moving the funds for all three homeless outreach positions out of the police department and into the city manager’s office.
Julea Shaw (a Vanguard Board member, but speaking on her own behalf) noted that the council “has the opportunity to actualize their vision for reimagining Davis’ public safety system.”
“Our budget is a statement of our values,” she said. “What are the values that you want to uphold and be remembered for as a councilmember in Davis.”
She noted that the council members have the chance to meaningfully improve the lives of everyone in Davis. She said that mental health challenges impact all segments of society. “Having a part of the city structure that is dedicated to helping those of us going through a hard time or dealing with our worst moments is incredibly uplifting and transformative.”
She pushed for the American Rescue Plan funding to be utilized for this budget for a Crisis Now or Mental Health Official. Since the proposed budget reports that the American Rescue Plan “will provide Davis with $19.7 million in federal funding between now and spring of 2022” there is more than enough available funding for such an added position.
She said that with their action on the budget, this community vision could be realized, but warned, “Conversely it is restrained if you are hesitant to lead.”
Morgan Poindexter (a Vanguard Board member but speaking on her own behalf) said, “At present this budget is a very distressing continuation of the status quo. It reads as if the city is not currently going through a process of reimagining public safety.”
She pointed out that despite the promise of professed changes to public safety, in actuality, “The police department budget continues to grow by almost five percent in this document.”
In fact, it represents a larger share of the city’s discretionary budget than it did at the beginning of this project, she said.
“This is antithetical to the council’s stated goals and the priorities of Davis residents,” she said adding that there is no clear commitment of city funds to mental health services.
During his presentation, City Manager MIke Webb provided an update on the re-imagining public safety discussion from April 6 to show six items that are included in the budget, while there are another four items that are not (shown in the second table below).
The six included items are:
As shown in the table, the city did include about $50,000 in the proposed budget for a professional research to undertake RIPA analysis, though Webb noted that the scope of work and the contract itself are to be determined.
There is also $30,000 in funding from April 6 on the educational reimbursement program but details of that will be worked out and determined.
There is also funding for the city manager’s office to complete a community survey including questions on community services and policing.
They also are including the cost neutral shift of homeless services from the police department to the city manager’s office.
“Those funds are shifted in the budget to the city manager’s office,” Webb said.
One of the issues that came up during public comment was the Public Safety Data Analyst.
“What in the budget is $30,000 to upgrade an existing vacant position,” he explained.
The final item that is funded would be $25,000 to upgrade the city’s Transparency Portal.
However, the biggest items mentioned by the public were in fact not funded for the current budget. Those four items are:
The first of the unfunded items is a management level position that expands the services related to housing, homelessness and youth diversion.
“That is a key element,” Webb said. The role and duties are currently under review by the Council’s Organizational Subcommittee. “Pending those subcommittee discussions would shape what this looks like… and therefore what funding level is needed.”
Webb said he is not sure at this point whether this creates a new position or recasts an existing one.
“We don’t know yet based on the conversations that are still underway,” he said. “We want to keep all those options on the table. It’s not abandoning the notion of that position by any means. We want to do it right.”
Regarding the second unfunded item, he explained that they want to review the organizational structure itself to determine whether city services currently assigned to the police department should be moved to other departments.
“It’s underway,” he said. “When it’s ripe for coming back for discussion, we certainly will do so.”
The third unfunded item is creating a professional consultant to create a plan to engage the community and marginalized communities to build trust.
“That isn’t included in the proposed budget,” he said and added that they need to figure out what the cost might be. Although he did indicate that they could put a placeholder in the budget for this position.
Finally the biggest unfunded item might be supporting the crisis now model which was presented to council last week.
“That’s under review by the council,” he said. “There are very much costs to be determined.”
He noted that there is a lot in play with this.
While formal actions were not taken. There will be a workshop next week and a final implementation for June 22.
The council did ask that city put funds in the budget for the public safety public engagement consultant contract. That would be the placeholder mentioned by the city manager.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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