LOS ANGELES, CA — Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) has issued a last-minute veto of a City Council spending plan designed to reinvest $88 million dollars in cuts from the Los Angeles Police Department budget. The Mayor caught his City Council by surprise, saying the plan focused too much on everyday needs and failed to answer the “call of history”
During a summer when protests and violence plagued the city and the National Guard patrolled the streets, Black Lives Matter activists demanded Los Angeles defund the LAPD. Garcetti relented, and agreed to cut $150 million, more than 10%, from the police budget.
As protests in Los Angeles become violent, Mayor Eric Garcetti calls in National Guard to help contain the chaos. https://t.co/m1rtW1dyK8
— ABC30 Fresno (@ABC30) May 31, 2020
The spending plan was designed around analysis of census tract poverty data. The data would be used to divide the money proportionally to areas of the city with the greatest need. Council District 9, located in downtown and South LA, was to receive over $21 million. Council District 11, serving wealthier neighborhoods like Brentwood and Pacific Palisades, would receive only $2,447.
The redistribution plan was supposed to remove funds from the LAPD and redistribute the money to communities of color. After the Mayor announced the redistribution plan in July, morale in the police department plummeted and homicide rates surged.
Most of the redistributed funds in the spending plan were slated for infrastructure repairs, such as park improvements, sidewalk repairs, and alley paving. A small portion went to what advocates called “re-imagining public safety.”
The mayor says the city council's plan "elevates what should be routine over what could be revolutionary."https://t.co/6EQPrzGtiE
— LAist (@LAist) December 23, 2020
Garcetti sent a letter to the City Council on December 21 notifying them of the veto. In the letter, the Mayor wrote:
“When the people of Los Angeles flooded the streets of our city last summer, the movement for racial justice challenged us to think past the boundaries of the present day; to re-imagine public safety, take bold steps toward healing the wounds of history, and make strides against the bigotry and inequality that leads to so much misery and division.”
Mayor Garcetti said that he “wholeheartedly” supports reinvesting public safety dollars, but that the proposed spending plan focuses too much on everyday projects, such as sidewalk repairs. Garcetti said he wants to see the money focused more on community engagement programs, easing city layoffs, and an unarmed crisis response program:
“Far too many of the proposed expenditures do not meet the demands of the moment or the call to history. Angelenos wanted a voice in the decision-making — with a focus on reimaging public safety and pressing matters of racial justice, equality, and opportunity.
“Our constituents are thinking about how those values will look in our city tomorrow, and they expect a powerful demonstration of our commitment to exploring fundamental change.”
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Mayor Garcetti wrote in the letter to council that he would only sign a spending plan if it met four goals:
- Ensuring a reinforcing of community engagement.
“ … by setting aside funding to pursue pilots with local organizations and other partners to address issues of racial justice and income inequality, along with community safety, and reconciliation.”
- Protecting jobs of the most vulnerable.
“City employees faced layoffs, particularly the beneficiaries of Targeted Local Hire — overwhelmingly workers of color, who fought hard through a history of institutional and structural barriers to seize new opportunities created by this program.”
- Taking strong action to restore peace.
“Restore peace in neighborhoods that are weathering increases in violence, by accelerating and expanding intervention and prevention work.”
- Piloting new, more immediate actionable ideas.
“Re-imagine policing and public safety — beginning with the funding of a 24-hour, unarmed crisis response program to dispatch mental health workers to certain nonviolent 911 calls that is moving forward next month.”
Mayor Garcetti also wrote:
“Los Angeles should be leading America by piloting bold ideas like exploring a guaranteed basic income, confronting the stark black-white disparity among people experiencing homelessness, driving racial reconciliation, protecting jobs held by people of color with new opportunities in the city workforce and working in closer collaboration with our communities on allocation decisions.
“Instead, this plan in too many places elevates what should be routine over what could be revolutionary.”
Last night, @MayorOfLA vetoed the city council's spending plan for part of the $150 million sliced from the LAPD budget over the summer.
This veto covers the $88 million not used to stave off furloughs. Veto letter: https://t.co/isAvgMHnND
— Libby Denkmann (@libdenk) December 22, 2020
City Council President Nury Martinez said the veto surprised her:
“Residents from Black and Brown communities told us they needed more from their city, and this package is one step forward in that process. Core repairs and services sound basic to those who have always had them.
“From reentry programs for formerly incarcerated community members, to street repairs and park improvements — this spending plan would deliver the kind of basics our communities never had, and never got back to. The City Council will continue to lead and honor our commitments to our communities as we find a path forward. This is only the beginning.”
Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who represents a predominantly black district, called the Mayor’s action “gobbledygook,” and called for the council to override his veto:
“It sounds like from the letter that he is questioning the knowledge of low-income people and their representatives about what they need in the community. He’s saying he knows better.”
Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson wants to override Garcetti's veto, which the council can do with 10 votes Garcetti's veto letter, which lays out alternative uses for the LAPD money, has a lot of “progressive gobbledygook that doesn’t mean anything," Harris-Dawson said.
— Dakota Smith (@dakotacdsmith) December 23, 2020
The City Council would need a two-thirds vote, ten of the 15 members, to override the Mayor’s veto of the spending bill.
Funding cuts to the LAPD at a time when violence is on the rise have demoralized the police, according to the director of the Los Angeles Police Protective League. In June, Director Robert Harris said that officers feel “beaten” and “bruised.”
Since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, protesters and riots have flooded the streets of several major cities across the nation, decrying what they call systemic police racism and police brutality, especially against black people. Calls to defund the police have echoed through the streets, with politicians on the Left supporting the calls.
In an interview with CBS News, Harris said:
“I’m hearing officers who are probably the most phenomenal officers in the country, they are by far the most professional I’ve ever worked around, and they’re beaten. And they’re bruised. And they’re down. I had one officer tell me that he feels like a Vietnam soldier returning home to a country that hates him, and that’s not a good place to be.”
While he agrees police reform is needed, he does not agree with the defund movement or critics of the police:
“The vilification and the constant verbal battering of our profession have taken a huge toll on top of what they were expected to do with the protests and COVID, so morale is low right now.
“When you start tinkering with the budget of the LAPD, even though on the onset it looks large, even $150 million will have serious impacts. If you cut funding from us and delay recruit classes and hiring, it will create a domino effect and you’re looking at about a loss of about 800 officers over the next two years. And with the World Cup and the Olympics coming, I don’t think we can afford to do that.”
Harris called on police unions to get involved in the reform conversation, something he said has been missing:
“For too long it’s been politicians, and retired chiefs, current chiefs, think tank attorneys, who have really been trying to tackle the topic of police reform, and what’s been missing in those conversations are the rank-and-file unions who are speaking on behalf of those officers.”
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