On Tuesday, Sacramento City Council voted against a proposal to remove $15 million from the police and fire budget sections of Measure U funds for usage in other community projects.
The Measure U budget is accumulated through a sales tax first implemented in 2013 that generates approximately $47 million per year in funding for various projects.
In 2018, it was voted that a Measure U Advisory Committee would be established that would create recommendations for projects on which to spend the Measure U tax money.
Earlier this summer, following the initial wave of protests in response to the killing of George Floyd, a letter signed by various local activist leaders was sent to the office of the mayor calling for $20 million in Measure U tax money set for the police budget to be returned to the Measure U Advisory Committee where an alternative use would be decided on.
One month later, the Measure U Advisory Committee created a list of recommendations that included the reallocation of $15 million from the part of the fund currently set for police and fire department budgets to community projects agreed upon by residents as part of what the document refers to as ‘participatory budgeting’ process.
“Participatory budgeting is a democratic process that gives ordinary people direct control over a portion of a public budget resulting in binding recommendations for funding,” reads the report. “It empowers residents to engage in processes that lead to finding solutions and knits communities together.”
The discussion also follows shortly after a new wave of protests near Sacramento City Hall in response to the killing of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin as part of a larger series of protests calling for the defunding of police.
Despite these calls, the Sacramento City Police Department has seen an increase in funding since the June protests, with $157 million [page 48] approved for the police budget for 2020-2021 over $147 million from last year.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg has advocated against taking money from the police budget. During discussions regarding the proposal to reallocate $15 million from the Measure U fund rejected the figure as too high, arguing instead for a $5 million figure that would be taken from other city vacancies rather than the police budget and fire budgets.
The Sacramento Police Officers Association, which provided a joint letter of opposition to the proposition alongside the Sacramento Area Fire Fighters Local 522, has recently come to attention alongside other local law enforcement unions for donating over $300,000 to city councilmembers over the past decade, for which Measure U Advisory Committee Chair Flojaune Cofer recently criticized city council.
“I’m sorry that the people don’t have a well-paid union that’s contributing to people’s campaigns and making stuff happen,” she said to the mayor during a Measure U Advisory Committee meeting in June. “I’m sorry that we didn’t negotiate a contract where we got raises even where we cut up. I’m sorry about that, but that’s the reality and it’s our job to protect against that and what I see here is us rolling over and playing dead at a time when we should be standing up and fighting.”