On Tuesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti vetoed a city spending plan on how to spend the $150 million that had been cut from the LAPD budget earlier this year.
Earlier this year, the COVID-19 pandemic caused economic downturn had put all Los Angeles Departments on notice for possibly being downsized. The LAPD had been among the few actually looking at a possible budget increase. However, the protests and riots that occurred after the death of George Floyd in May caused the City Council to call into question the LAPD’s spending. After two months, they finally decided in July to cut $150 million from the LAPD. This had a huge effect on the police department, who subsequently announced a reduction in total officers and the shrinkage of crime units.
However, the cut also left an open question for the council on how to spend the cut money. Council members went to their communities and asked what was needed. The council also decided to split where the money went based on which districts were more in need of more community funds. Another fiscal emergency in September only emphasized which areas were in need and what citizens needed the most.
The Council ultimately decided not to push for a massive leap in social programs, as Mayor Garcetti had expected, but to put the money towards what the residents wanted. $10 million went to a summer youth program for kids in poorer neighborhoods of the city. Another $50 million would go to helping the city’s budget shortfall by stopping some worker furloughs, especially local hires from poorer districts who couldn’t afford to be furloughed.
While some of the money did go to some social programs, such as eviction defense, job help for prisoners released early, and a local hire focus, the majority of the money went into infrastructure, with residents wanting things such as park improvements, sidewalk repair, the addition of speed bumps, and alley resurfacing. City services and beautification alone would have gotten more than most social programs proposed in the $150 million spending plan.
“We listened to our Black and Brown communities as they asked for more resources – the same resources they see in affluent communities and are easy to take for granted unless you’ve had to push a stroller through dirt in the dark, unless you live in a garage and your kids rely on parks as their only play space,” said Council President Nury Martinez on the $150 million proposal. “We all need to look at our City through their eyes. 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 re-entry 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.”
Disappointment over Garcetti’s veto
However, Mayor Garcetti vetoed the plan, noting in a letter that most of the plan didn’t cover racial justice or equality, more mental health programs, or other social programs that are designed to help those in need.
“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,” Mayor Garcetti said in his letter.
“Instead, this plan in too many places elevates what should be routine over what could be revolutionary. Far too many of the proposed expenditures do not meet the demands of the moment or the call of history. I believe it’s a good start but we can and we must do better.”
Garcetti added that he would only approve a plan that included pilot program funding for community safety, racial justice, and income inequality issues, layoff protection for vulnerable city employees, a large public safety reorganization that focuses on non-police crisis and mental health help, and intervention and prevention plans for poorer neighborhoods with high levels of violence.
Many Angelinos reacted negatively to Garcetti’s veto on Tuesday and Wednesday, saying that he was ignoring the wishes of the people and that he didn’t understand that community improvement happens from the bottom up.
“I shocked by the mayor’s veto on a package of long overdue community driven investments for disenfranchised neighborhoods that came after months of discussions with city leaders and community members,” said City Council President Martinez in reaction to the Mayor’s veto.
Community members were also upset at the veto.
“We do want better racial equality in the city. That is very true,” Los Angeles social activist group leader Felipe Diaz told the Globe. “But it works from the bottom up. Look at how areas like Brentwood and Hollywood have good roads and even sidewalks. Then come down to Boyle Heights or another Latino neighborhood. It’s crap. It makes it hard to drive or walk in some places.”
“That money would have evened things out. We would have had better streets. A lot of drivers also drive over the speed limit here, where in rich neighborhoods they have speed bumps to prevent that. We were so close to getting them.”
“It’s not direct social change but it is slow burning change. We get as good sidewalks and streets as anywhere else, and soon we can move on to other improvements, like schools. Garcetti just wants it all solved at once, but it never is that easy. Social change, even when needed badly, does take time. The Council knows this. That’s why they consulted with the actual residents. Garcetti obviously didn’t.”
“He says he cares about the people, but he’s not listening to the people. All he cares about is his legacy.”
The Mayor has responded to the growing criticism, noting that he is hoping for more lasting change rather than infrastructure repair.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s critically important to someone’s quality of life, but I don’t think people hit the streets for us to fix the sidewalks,” Garcetti said in an LA Times interview. “They hit the streets for us to get out there and make some lasting change.”
Garcetti’s veto, which was made on the final possible day to do so, has now opened up a second proposal for the $150 million. The new proposal will likely be submitted in soon by the Council.