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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Georgette Gomez Defends City Budget

 June 15, 2020 at 11:43 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Protests in San Diego and cities and towns across America. Following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis have resulted in Swift decisions on some police reforms, the police and Sheriff's department in San Diego. For example, a quickly move to ban the use of choke holds on suspects, seeding to long standing objections, but city leaders here balk last week at growing calls to defund police joining me to discuss her vote. And the contentious debate at city hall is Georgette Gomez, president of the San Diego city council, and a candidate for Congress in November. Welcome to midday edition. Speaker 2: 00:37 Thank you. Thank you for having me. Speaker 1: 00:39 Now you wrote in your op ed for the union Tribune that you heard the calls to defund police and tried to make it happen. Tell us first what you mean by defund the police. That's a phrase we're all hearing on the national front now. Speaker 2: 00:51 Yeah. And that's a really good question. I think, uh, everybody's asking what exactly does, does, does that look like, um, for, for us leading into Monday's hearing, I mean, for us, I mean, I was working really closely with council member Montgomery, um, and uh, really trying to figure out, okay, what does that look like? At least what can we make happen from the weekend to leading to Monday's hearing? And, uh, the things that we were able to propose as an amendment, such as creating the office of race and equity, um, reallocating money, one point $5 million to do a person center model of doing outreach to our unsheltered population, to also creating a community fund that is $3 million. And, uh, I don't remember what else, but all of that we were trying to see if that can be reallocated from, from money that was, um, uh, associated to the PDs budget. Speaker 2: 01:51 Um, we were able to identify other money, so that didn't happen. But for us, that was at least kind of like the immediate, see that we can, we can, we can readjust as a possibility, but at the end of the day, it really, it really comes down to having to have that conversation in terms of what does it mean for San Diego? What, how are we reinvisioning RPD department to do what they need to do to keep our community safe, but also do it in a way that it's not targeting people of color communities. Um, so it's a full conversation that we really need to do, and it's going to take some time to really get there. Uh, what we've done since is, um, I actually asked a well council member, Montgomery issue, a memo, and they've been supporting net and they actually echo the same, the same sentiment to the independent budget analyst that works for the council to really give us a deeper dive into the budget for PDs, uh, bring a conversation, craft the conversation in many conversations with what the community, including the department and including council members to really figure out what that looks like. Speaker 2: 02:59 And I think that's, that's something that we are hopeful that we'll bring forward in the, in the near future. Speaker 1: 03:06 Now amid all the calls for police reform. How did it happen that on Mondays of vote, it actually increased the San Diego police department budget by $27 million. Speaker 2: 03:16 So that increases based on the current contract that we have a current contract that we have with our, uh, police union. Uh, so that's just a reflection though, of a contract that was adopted a while back with our police officers in terms of, of racist. And he did a contract that was a step up over the years, it was going to be increasing. So that's just a reflection of that. And we couldn't backtrack on that increase just because it's a commitment that we had. And if we are to do that, then that requires re negotiations with the unions, which we weren't having a Monday. Uh, so I just want to make it clear that we didn't increase the budget intentionally. It was just based on what agreements we have that have been done in previous years. Speaker 1: 04:05 And you wrote in the, a UT op ed that rejecting the budget on Monday, would've meant deep cuts for vital resources for our community. What do you mean by that? Speaker 2: 04:14 Well, I mean the council, so we have to start by when the mayor first approach, uh, proposed his first budget for this year. Uh, there were a lot of, a lot of impacts to our neighborhood services. Our libraries were going to be shut down on Sunday, some Mondays, all of our public libraries. In fact, the mayor was proposing to, uh, shut down one of my libraries completely. Um, we were also, he was also proposing to cut down, uh, hours for the park and rec centers. Uh, we, he was proposing to cut down hours for the bulls. I think he was proposing to eliminate several staffing positions that are really vital to maintaining services in the community from road improvements. Um, maintaining the potholes from, uh, the parks cleaning or parks and everything in between. So we fought really hard and making sure that that didn't happen. Speaker 2: 05:11 Uh, so as we proceeded with the public hearings on the budget, um, we heard letting clear from the community that they wanted restoration. They wanted to ensure that we were not cutting library hours and we're not cutting parking Rick, uh, recreational programming that is essential for our youth, that we're not cutting the pool hours. In fact, in some of our communities like my community in city Heights, uh, tree trimming, it was expected if we were to cut it, uh, we were going to take, I forget how many years to get to servicing the trees. Uh, there was a time that the city was getting sued because Palm trees were falling in people's properties. We fought over the years to try to restore in this budget proposal. The original one was set to cut a lot of these things that we were progressing. Now, the council fought really hard to ensure that that wasn't occurring. Speaker 2: 06:06 Um, and then, uh, we were able to create new programming as now. We are able, we were able to add a new office of race and equity, which is going to center this conversation that is currently occurring of people wanting, um, more attention in communities of color. Uh, what does that look like for the city of San Diego? That's that's to be determined? Uh, we were able to create a pilot on addressing the digital divide because right now all of our lives are based on the are, are determined by wifi and technology. We still have a lot of community members that are, do not have access to, to, to this technology. So I was pushing hard to really create a program. Um, I've been a huge proponent of trying to do a better outreach program for our in shelter population that is based on social services and not on the police that, uh, officer offering the services, we were able to allocate one point $5 million. Speaker 2: 07:07 So this is a really good budget. Um, something that is not getting really highlighted in how critical it is and how, uh, community focused it is. And, um, I mean, the mayor made it pretty clear where, how you felt about protecting the PTs budget. And I heard him loud and clear, so we needed to make a decision. Then I think, uh, uh, the community services and everything that we've were able to push was fairly significant. And I also have to go back to the conversation of what does it mean to define it as if we were to define PT, there's an impact. And we don't know what that looks like yet. And, uh, that that really needs to, we really want to honor that process and ensure that, uh, community members are part of that discussion, ensure that public safety is part of the discussion and the council members and everything that everybody that is impacted by these decisions. So reallocating reinvisioning of what our public safety should look like and what types of services they should be doing and not doing. Speaker 1: 08:12 Yeah. It sounds like something you don't plan on doing quickly. It's a long, deeper discussion. Now, when does the SDPD contract come up again and who negotiates that? Speaker 2: 08:21 Well, we are actually, uh, we are in the, in the middle of con uh, negotiating all our union contracts, all the six unions that we have, we are in that process. Now we started that negotiations last early this year. I believe I don't remember the timing, but we're in the process of that. We were in the midst of possibly increasing salaries for all our unions to a certain percentage. Now COBIT came in that impacted the budget. So those increases were, are no longer moving forward. What we have offered in some of the unions have taken, uh, with the exception of all our public safety unions are including PD, fire, and lifeguards have not agreed on taking the offer yet. Um, is, uh, an increase of health benefits. There's no pay increase to any other unions. It's just going to be healthcare. Speaker 1: 09:24 Now, your opponent in the race for the 53rd congressional districts or Jacobs has said, we need revisions to the federal code on police misconduct, amendments to the law that allows a transference of military weaponry and other ideas. What do you think the federal government should be doing about local police practices? Speaker 2: 09:41 Yeah, well, I mean, there's, there's a distinction, right? The practices that the PD PD, uh, implement is it's really local based. Um, but there are some, some policies that the federal government can really issue. I mean, one of the, for example, um, we weren't the first, but we definitely were the first, one of the big cities that called out for the elimination of the Tocal restraint in my, you that's been the conversation that's been going on for a long time. Now I'm actually calling on the federal government to make it a mandate that, that shouldn't exist on any city, as a tool. That's something that they can actually adopt if they wish there are monies that are trickled to PD that could be tied to more accountability as well. Um, I know that we get money from the federal government, uh, that is tied to some programming that PD does. Speaker 2: 10:45 Um, I mean, right now, I believe that we're getting some resources to do a pilot on drums. Uh, what does that mean? There's a huge conversation about safety and public. Uh, the, the, the, our, our privacy, that's a conversation that we need to have, and we're discussing a possible policy at the local level, but that should also be at the federal level in terms of privacy. Um, and, uh, that's, that's something that we definitely need to be pushing harder just because it's a technology that is moving rapidly. And, uh, there's, there's a lot of concerns that citizens have on that. So there's a lot that the federal government is able to do now at the local level, we need to ensure that we're implementing that. And the problem that we have, uh, as a strong mayor, strong council, is that the council legislate, so we can create the legislation, how it gets implemented, it's up to the mayor and the chief. Um, and we're, we've been having these conversations, but it's, it's, it's just also another reality that we need to remember that we, we operate under Speaker 1: 11:51 well. I've been speaking with Georgia Gomez, president of the San Diego city council and the candidate for Congress in November. Thanks very much.

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The City Council president says it could have been much worse and highlights the restoration of many cuts in services proposed by the mayor's office in April.
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