On Monday, June 15, Black Lives Matter - Los Angeles Co-Founder Melina Abdullah presented the People’s Budget LA to the Los Angeles City Council. While Mayor of L.A. Eric Garcetti announced that he will seek up to $150 million in budget cuts from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), Alberto Retana, president and CEO of Community Coalition, said Angelenos want even more funding reallocated to other city services.
“The $150 million that the Mayor proposed and the council proposed is a good start, but it’s nowhere near where we need to be. It’s too small,” Retana said. “The budget is still over 50 percent of the general fund, and if we consider our budgets to be moral documents, and we're talking about the current consciousness of the country, then we really need to redirect our moral compass and reinvest a lot more of those resources to where we know it needs to go.”
Independent research found that the total cost of police in Mayor Garcetti’s 2020-2021 proposed budget is $3,152,584,739, which is 29.93 percent of the city’s general fund, not over 50 percent. In the 2019-2020 budget, police accounted for 16.19 percent of the city’s spending.
People’s Budget LA surveyed more than 25,000 Angelenos to design its own budget, which gives 45.61 percent to universal aid and crisis management, 27.61 percent to built environment, 25.06 percent to reimagined community safety, and 1.64 percent to law enforcement and policing.
The People’s Budget was established by Black Lives Matter - L.A. during the pandemic. After the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, Retana said the group decided to move forward with the demand to defund the police.
Angelenos who were surveyed by People’s Budget LA said they want the city’s money allocated toward “care not cops,” which means mental health resources, social workers, community-based organizations, and homes for the unhoused.
“This is the kind of reinvestment we’re talking about, and the community is calling for it,” he said.
Citizens are protesting in the streets to challenge the political will of those in office.
“I think what we’re seeing now is a door that has been cracked wide open that has never been cracked before because of the hundreds of thousands of people on the streets. The PPL, which is the police union, is not in a position to bargain against the amount of people on the streets calling for change,” he said. “The polling around the need to move money out of law enforcement for nonviolent issues is so high. The national context has shifted.”
Retana wants to see $1 billion invested into Black communities.
“After the 1992 unrest, Rebuild LA made a $600 million investment to rebuild Los Angeles. That $600 million is $1 billion in today's dollars, so anything short of a billion dollars at the end of the day to direct towards Black communities is probably short of justice because we didn't see that investment from Rebuild actually ever getting into the neighborhoods,” he said. “What's different today than 27 years ago is the movement that we’re seeing, the civic infrastructure that’s in place, the number of organizations ready to do the work to ensure that our communities get those resources they deserve to ultimately build the kind of city we all deserve.”
Retana wonders if L.A. is ready to put its energy and resources into the defense of Black lives.
“We want a city where our Black children... have the same kind of access to parks, same kind of access to healthcare, same kind of access to jobs, same kind of access to schools as our white community has on the wealthy Westside of Los Angeles,” he said.
Angelenos are calling for “bold, courageous, radical leadership.”
“We’ve been trying the political way, we’ve been trying the wealthy way, we’ve been trying the middle class way. It hasn’t worked,” Retana said. “We have to do something new, and that is what the country is calling for.”
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