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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

San Diego City Council Passes $4.6 Billion Budget For Fiscal Year 2022

Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego city council yesterday voted unanimously to pass mayor Todd Gloria's $4.6 billion budget for the next fiscal year. The final amount is roughly a 13% increase over last year's spending plan. Thanks in part to federal COVID really funds mayor Gloria identified affordable housing, homelessness and pandemic recovery. As the key issues he hopes to tackle with this new budget, but the city council meeting to approve the budget hit a snag council members disagreed about a proposed amendment to slash police funding. Joining me with more is KPBS Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, Andrew. Welcome. Hi Claire. Thank you. So to start, what were some of the major funding initiatives that were approved in yesterday's meeting? Speaker 2: 00:50 As far as new programs that were proposed by a mayor, Todd, Gloria, that didn't exist last year, there is $10 million for what he calls his sexy streets initiative. This is new funding for road repair and redesign with more safety measures in disadvantaged communities. There's another 10 million in non-profit and small business loans, another 10 million for homeless outreach. And then every year there's always a small pot of money that the city council earmarks from the day S so, uh, among those things, there's more funding for code enforcement officers. There's funding for a feasibility study of forming a public electrical utility. This is coming off the tails of course, have the vote to approve another longterm agreement with SDG and E. And, uh, there's also money for the design of two new libraries or redesigned libraries and a new park in Barrio Logan. How Speaker 1: 01:42 Much did San Diego rely on federal aid to keep the budget balanced? Speaker 2: 01:47 San Diego got more than $300 million from the American rescue plan. That's the COVID relief bill that was proposed by president Biden and ultimately approved by Congress on a party line vote. And that money was actually meant to replace lost revenue from the pandemic, recognizing that many cities and states are seeing lower tax, uh, revenue in sales tax and hotel tax, things like that. So the city is pretty flexible on how this money is spent in stark contrast to the cares act, which passed in 2020. A lot of that money, um, had to be spent on a city's, uh, direct pandemic response. So the city is using about half of this total funding, uh, about $150 million from the American rescue plan. I'm just basically filling the deficit that it was going to experience because of lost revenue. And they're saving the other half for the next two fiscal years. And that's strategic because the impacts of COVID-19 on tourism on a large conventions, which are an important part of the San Diego economy are likely to last several more years beyond when the pandemic is officially over, uh, medically speaking. Speaker 1: 02:56 And I remember last year's budget meeting was pretty contentious. It ended around midnight after hundreds of people called in to support cutting the police budget. So what was this year's meeting like? Speaker 2: 03:08 Well, it was much Tamer and more orderly. I can say that, um, and shorter, it wrapped up in the early afternoon. Um, the budget vote last year happened only three weeks after the murder of George Floyd. So this was really at the peak of the protest movement for racial justice and against police brutality. And last year, as you say, collar after collar, after collar, um, called into the meeting and said, defund the police department put that money towards parks, libraries, mental health services, affordable housing, public transit, other things that, um, that are, you know, make a community rich and more healthy. Uh, the phone system last year at the time couldn't even handle the call volume. So the system kept on crashing and that was one reason why the meeting lasted so long this year, the technical glitches were sorted. There was no real, uh, snafoos there. Um, and, uh, however, the movement to shift funding from police, uh, to other public safety priorities and, um, community health priorities is still around and there were still plenty of people calling into support that idea. There were also, uh, pro-police, um, callers who have gotten more organized, several people calling in saying, don't cut the police budget. And I think that's, you know, just a reflection of, of where our society is. There is still a substantial portion of San Diegans who, uh, see nothing really seriously wrong with the status quo with regards to police. Speaker 1: 04:31 Now, I know there was, uh, an interesting moment where council member Monica Montgomery step put forward a last minute effort to reallocate $6 million from the police overtime budget. So what happened to her proposal? Speaker 2: 04:44 Council member Montgomery step has been talking a lot lately about re-imagining public safety. And this is basically just understanding that crime is often a response to economic hardship and disenfranchisement or social exclusion. It's not always, uh, you know, crime is not a result necessarily of simply not having enough police around or not enough police presence in a community. And what I think that she was trying to do with this proposal to cut $6 million from the police overtime budget. And I'll explain, you know, where she would reallocate that she was just trying to force the council to debate the budget and the police budget in particular, on those terms about re-imagining public safety. So she had a breakdown where she'd like to re-invest those $6 million, um, youth diversion programming, more homelessness, outreach funding, graffiti, and weed abatement, new streetlights, um, all things related to public safety and quality of life. It was unlikely to win a majority, I'll say. Um, but council member Montgomery step tried to use this parliamentary procedure to force a debate and a vote on her proposal. Um, that was not allowed by the council president, Jen Campbell, who runs the meeting. Uh, the council member then tried to make it as an amendment to the, that was already on the floor, but that wasn't accepted either. So ultimately it just never got a vote or a real discussion Speaker 1: 06:02 Exciting times at the city council meeting. I know there were also, um, lingering concerns over cuts, mayor Gloria initially proposed to services in underserved neighborhoods. And what happened to those cuts in yesterday's meeting? Speaker 2: 06:16 Well, thinking back just two months ago, mayor Todd Gloria's original proposed budget would have slashed library. Funding libraries would have been closed on Sundays and Mondays more than 150 employees would have been laid off. And he said at the time, this is what's necessary to end our chronic budget deficits that San Diego saw even when the economy was growing. Uh, but there was a big outcry from underserved communities, you know, saying basically a family and Logan Heights are in Canto, relies much more on a public library than a family and LA Jolla or point Loma. So for a mayor who talks so much about equity, that proposal just didn't sit well. Um, ultimately the mayor just reserved, uh, reversed course and, and funded libraries open seven days a week. And that was a big win for equity proponents. This Speaker 1: 07:02 Was mayor Todd Gloria's first budget since his election last November. What does it mean for him that this budget was approved unanimously? Speaker 2: 07:10 Yeah, almost immediately after the vote, Todd Gloria's office send out a press release, basically am taking a victory lap saying he got unanimous approval and it was going to be a tough budget year, you know, uh, we weren't sure about federal aid coming through. Um, we were definitely not sure about, uh, disagreements over the police budget, but ultimately, uh, he forged a wide coalition and got all nine votes to say yes to his budget. Speaker 1: 07:36 Well, I've been speaking with KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, Andrew. Thanks for joining us. Thank you, Claire.

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The San Diego City Council unanimously voted Monday to pass Mayor Todd Gloria's roughly $4.6 billion proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2022, an increase of more than $537 million — or 13.4% — over last year's spending plan.
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