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San Diego City Council approves budget, adds Office on Race & Equity

Protesters rally outside mayor's home after vote
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Posted at 3:17 PM, Jun 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-09 13:28:02-04

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) -- The San Diego City Council late Monday evening voted 8-1 to adopt the proposed budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which includes an approved amendment to create a city Office on Race & Equity to tackle racial equity issues.

The vote followed more than 10 hours of public comments from callers, many of whom called for a reduction in police department funding. The majority of callers asked money to be shifted from the police department to programs for homeless outreach, mental health services, racial equity commissions, rent assistance and other programs.

For several hours, the number of callers waiting to speak to the council exceeded the phone lines' capacity, with many having to wait before they could even call in to wait in a queue to speak. At 1 p.m., the city's phone system crashed and the council took a break to get it running again.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer's proposed budget would increase the police budget to $566 million for 2020-21 fiscal year constituting about one-third of the city's general fund budget. The previous year's budget for the SDPD was $539 million and 2019's was $480 million.

Nearly an hour after the vote, dozens of protesters gathered outside of Faulconer's home and rallied for about 45 minutes.

During the demonstration, the group yelled "shame on you" towards the mayor's house.

Police arrived to help break up the gathering, and as the group left, they honked at officers. One of the protesters was seen holding a sign out of a car window that read "defund the police."

After the vote, Faulconer released this statement:

"Not only must we help our community recover from the COVID crisis in this moment, we must help our nation acknowledge and act on the systemic racism that has held far too many Americans back from their true potential.

This budget document is shaped by the historic time we are living in and prioritizes the real and immediate needs of our community. It focuses on the essential neighborhood services that San Diegans are relying on now more than ever, directs millions in childcare for essential workers, funds programs to shelter and house homeless San Diegans, invests in Internet access for low-income residents at a time when online connections are practically essential, and provides relief for renters and small businesses.

While the COVID-19 crisis has stretched our budget, we cannot afford to let this moment pass without laying the foundation for the systemic changes our communities are calling for. I’ve spent the last week working with some of our City Council leadership and I fully support their budget modifications, including the creation of a new Office of Race and Equity, as we work together toward a more equitable future.

San Diegans of tomorrow will benefit from the financial decisions we’re making today to responsibly close the budget gap prompted by the pandemic – the largest in city history – and I look forward to working with my City Council colleagues to put them into action.”

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — City Council leaders listened to hundreds of public comments Monday, largely calling for leaders to defund the San Diego Police or disband the department entirely.

The calls came as leaders considered whether to approve the city's fiscal year 2021 budget.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer's proposal is calling for $566 million to SDPD, an increase of $27 million over the last fiscal year.

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Proponents say that money should be redirected to community services such as mental health, homelessness, education.

"I ask you to reject Mayor Faulconer's proposed budget, disband, disarm and defund the police," one caller said.

Jack Schaeffer, who heads the San Diego Police Officers Association, said some ideas for reform are good - such as increased resources to homeless social services. But he says other ideas would put the public at risk.

"We always have to be trying to get better," he said. "That happens when you have real dialogue that's a little bit less emotionally driven and more mentally driven."

The council must adopt a budget by June 15. Once adopted, Faulconer has the authority to veto any specific line items. The council then has the option to override any of Faulconer's vetoes. The budget must then be finalized by June 30.

Calls for more scrutiny of police department budgets come on the heels of nationwide demonstrations calling for racial justice and police reform.

Last Tuesday, the City Council's meeting lasted for more than 11 hours for public comment on the city's budget.