In the face of an unprecedented public health crisis and historic economic instability, LA Mayor Garcetti has proposed a $10.5 billion budget that reduces services, furloughs city workers, and cuts the budget of all city departments with one big exception: the LA Police Department. Garcetti proposes increases to the police budget, specifically $34 million dollars in overtime pay. The  LAPD already receives 54% of LA’s discretionary spending. This would increase their share.

Moreover, the Mayor has attempted to fast track this, to stop community input. He wanted the City Council to vote on this budget on May 21st, when the deadline is not until July 1 to pass the budget. We won a delay, and demand community input in this process.

Now more than ever, we need a budget centered on humanity.

We are in the middle of an economic and health crisis — we need a budget centered on humanity. As Gov. Newsom has pointed out, California is in a “pandemic-induced recession” that’s going to require actionable intervention in the short and long-term.

A budget is a moral document.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. –Martin Luther King, Jr.

For LA, a budget is a reflection of the city’s values. When deciding how to allocate resources, who and what do we value most: Investing in our children, providing shelter, food, and medical care for our most vulnerable populations? Helping our city withstand a global pandemic? Or is it investing in a police state that won’t make our communities any safer, and will actually harm those who need help the most, especially now? LA needs a budget that prioritizes services over police — a people’s budget.

We need housing, healthcare, good jobs. We need healthy food, and mental healthcare. We need free public transit, educational enrichment, and small business resources. We don’t need more police.

Over half of LA workers are now unemployed following massive job losses related to COVID-19.  Economists have estimated that 42% of pandemic-related layoffs will be permanent.

Even before the pandemic, LA needed more resources to address its housing crisis. The unhoused population was up a striking 16% last year yet the proposed increase to address homelessness in the budget is less than 1%. Prior to the job losses related to COVID-19, roughly one in three renters in LA spent more than half their income on housing.

Garcetti called the increase in homelessness “heartbreaking” and has acknowledged that “skyrocketing rents and federal disinvestment in affordable housing, combined with untreated trauma and mental illness, are pushing people into homelessness faster than they can be lifted out.”

The unhoused population desperately needs resources to protect them from COVID-19

As of April, 33 unsheltered people in LA had tested positive for COVID-19. As Supervisor Hilda Solis points out, individuals experiencing homelessness often lack a safe space to self-isolate or practice physical distancing. Many are older adults or suffer from underlying medical conditions that leave them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.”

More police doesn’t equal less crime. More spending on policing when crime is already down and dropping doesn’t make sense. Crime in LA is down 23% percent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before COVID-19, violent crime in LA was down. In January of this year, the Police Chief said it’s “one of the safest times In LA.” The proposed budget includes $47 million dollars for police overtime–overtime spending should be reserved for a time when there is a demonstrated need for more police not less. More needless spending on policing means less money for human-centered services. Money will come directly from needed investments in health, housing, and education.

In 2019, New York made the conscious decision to reduce the number of police and crime continued to go down.  More police isn’t the way to more public safety. More police can actually lead to more crime and distrust of police. Practices that over-police and target specific communities for arrest can make people less likely to report crimes in their communities. Over-policing can create the negative effect of punitive, militaristic policing, which is especially dangerous in communities of color.

More spending on policing means fewer resources available for other public safety strategies that are better for communities. A bigger policing budget means less investment in community-based drug and mental health treatment, education, and other social institutions that can make communities safer while improving life outcomes for all. Investment in violence interruption programs that are community-based have had better public safety benefits than more aggressive, arrest-driven policing initiatives.

     You can watch a forum on the Peoples Budget proposal with Melina Abdullah, Dr. Julianne Malveaux, and others here:

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