Updated: Jan 19, 2022
Thank you for the awesome note-taking from Mason Taylor that made this post possible! Read on for a quick summary of the ARPA consent item at the 12/7 City Council meeting.
After spending 22 minutes recognizing Police Chief Hahn on his retirement, Mayor Steinberg moved City Council to vote on a package of funding proposals buried in the meeting’s consent items. Unless a Councilmember asks a question on a particular item, the consent items are decided in one single vote, typically with little discussion. Item 6 in that bundle would add 11 new full-time, permanent positions to the Police force using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds meant for pandemic recovery and repair.
Councilmember Valenzuela asked for consent item 6 to be called for a separate vote.
Valenzuela made this statement to the council
I just think 11 new positions for the police department after two years of large budget increases feels excessive… that’s a lot of permanent positions added, so I just wanted the opportunity to vote ‘no’ separately from the consent calendar.
Ultimately, only Councilmembers Valenzuela and Vang voted “no” on this.
The rest of the council members are actively deciding to spend funds that are meant for COVID recovery and repair for communities, small businesses, and families on more payouts to the police. American Rescue Plan Act funds can be used to boost city services back to pre-pandemic levels, but as Councilmember Valenzuela pointed out, the police budget has only continued to rise for the last two years (at least).
Instead of being buried in a consent calendar that’s designed to be voted on all as a packaged deal, COVID recovery efforts should be listed intentionally as transparent agenda items. This would allow for the city council to plan in advance, get community feedback on the items, revise based on that feedback, and fund programs that will truly help the community heal.