UPDATE: Boston Mayor Wu rejects City Council budget cuts to Boston Police, Veterans departments

The Boston Herald has the details. 

The City Council has scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday, June 21, at noon to discuss the mayor’s budget rejection. The body would need a two-thirds majority, or eight votes, to override any of the mayor’s vetoes. A vote will not be taken on a final budget until the following Wednesday, June 28th.

Original Post:

On Wednesday, Boston City Councilors narrowly approved a $4.2 billion operating budget with $31 million in cuts to the Boston Police Department which is causing a bit of controversy with its cuts. Here’s the lowdown.

According to the Boston Herald, there was a 7-5 vote to approve the budget.  Councilors who voted against it were Ed Flynn, Michael Flaherty, Frank Baker, Erin Murphy and Gabriela Coletta.  The yes votes were from councilors Ricardo Arroyo, Tania Fernandes Anderson, Kendra Lara, Ruthzee Louijeune, Julia Mejia, and Brian Worrell.

The budget has been submitted to Mayor Michelle Wu, who can either veto or accept the amendments the Council made to her initial budget. The Council approved roughly $52.9 million in amendments. Still, the two that drew the most opposition were those that would reduce the Boston Police Department by $30.91 million and Veterans Office budgets by  $900,000.

The Boston Globe is reporting that the Wu administration has some concerns. “We’ll be reviewing the Council’s amended budget in the next couple of days, but have concerns about the scale and scope of cuts proposed to departments delivering key City services.”

At Wednesday’s hearing Flaherty said, “We’ve got the best police department in the country. And we’ve got the best community policing model in the country. We are the envy of cities our size and bigger across this country and we’re all seeing it daily as to what’s happening to cities that are defunding the police.” Flaherty also added, “This cut of $30 million would be decimating to our Boston Police Department.”

According to the Boston Globe, Fernandes Anderson pushed back on the notion that more police were needed, “You made us violent, you created a jungle, you made us into an animal,” she said. “We’re surviving the very system that this city built and here we are saying ‘Invest in us.’”

Other City departments that would see decreases in their budgets include the Boston Transportation Department, the Public Works Department, Boston Fire Department, the Inspectional Services Department, the Boston Public Library, the Boston Centers for Youth & Families, the Office of Veterans Services, and the Boston Police Department.

Plans that would receive funding in the budget include mental health response; signage for a Black Heritage Trail; vouchers for public school students, programs that would expand the city’s tree canopy; and measures that would help child care, workforce development, English-as-second-language classes, street and sidewalk repairs, graffiti removal, and many other line items.

You can read more details about this here. 

Statement from City Council President Ed Flynn:

“As Boston City Councilors, one of the most important responsibilities that we have is to review, amend, and approve a fiscally responsible budget that delivers services, provides resources, and makes critical investments that move our city forward. This means that we need to ensure city departments that keep our city safe, healthy, and running have the budget they need to operate and serve our constituents.

The amended operating budget today included deep and painful cuts to city departments that provide critical services to our residents, including to the Boston Police Department, Boston Fire Department, Boston Transportation Department, Inspectional Services Department, Public Works Department, Veterans Services, and many others. These are the departments that provide direct services to our neighbors, their employees and resources that are integral to the functioning of our city. I could not vote for a budget that included these significant budget cuts for many city departments.    

I look forward to continuing working with Mayor Wu and my colleagues on this budget process.”

Statement from City Councilor Erin Murphy:

It is unconscionable to cut even one dollar from our already modest Office of Veterans
Services, but to cut 14% of the $6.2 million budget is beyond the pale, and is why I voted
NO today.

The Chair’s feeble excuse that some City funds disbursed to indigent veterans for daily
needs like groceries and heating may be reimbursed by the State is nothing but a shell
game. Any money received under Ch 115 Section 6 simply replenishes the account so it
can be used in the next year to help our veterans meet their most basic needs with at least
some dignity.

Veterans are at higher risk for PTSD, homelessness, poverty, addiction, and suicide.

To turn our backs on them in this moment, when our City’s operating budget is higher than
it’s ever been in history; to use the relatively small set-aside of funding that is put to urgent
use for our veterans every day as a piggy bank to pay for some councilors’ politically self-
interested pet projects is an insult I won’t forget and I won’t stand for.

The 7 councilors who voted yes today to more than decimate the Veterans budget made a
cruel choice. I hope they wake up tomorrow and regret their irresponsible decision.

Councilor Erin Murphy
Chair of Veterans, Military Families and Military Affairs

This post will be updated if other councilor release statements and send to Caught in Southie.

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