Thank you so much to everyone who helped us put together the content for this write-up! We had help from our amazing interns, as well other local community advocates and activists!
First! Let's hear a budgeting recap from the Community Care First Coalition! (partner orgs listed below)
Thank you so much for taking action and making your voice heard as the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors discussed how to spend their $7.3 Billion dollar budget a few weeks ago. Dozens of community members showed up to our coalition’s press conference on Wednesday, June 8th—which can be watched here if you missed it! Over 400 letters were sent to the County uplifting our demands for a Community Care First budget, and many community members called-in to make live public comments over the phone on Thursday, June 9th.
After learning that the county spent $0 of the $5 Million allocated last year for Afghan Refugee support...
...the community uplifted NorCal Resist’s existing work supporting Afghan Refugees.
*friendly reminder from the SJPC Editor - back in September of 2021, Supervisors Kennedy and Desmond drafted a resolution promising to support the incoming refugees...you can find that text below. Super awesome example of, well, BS. Keep up the good work y'all.
The Board directed county staff to reach out to and potentially fund NorCal Resist. We have yet to see if this will materialize, but are hopeful and will continue to advocate for both funding for services and “backbone” funding so these kinds of organizations can grow and compete for future county funding opportunities.
While the County’s status-quo budget mostly stayed as-is, we do want to celebrate a few wins that would not have happened without your support.
$1 Million was added to the budget for additional scattered-site housing for our unhoused neighbors
Supervisor Nottoli ordered all phone calls in the county’s Youth Detention Facility to be made FREE for incarcerated youth and their families!
$106,000 was added to the County Board Clerk’s budget to increase staffing levels & continue ensuring the community gets a voice in public meetings!
5 new county staff positions were added for each of the 5 County District offices to help respond to the community more efficiently and effectively.
After years of community advocacy, the Public Defender’s Office got over $4 Million in budget increases, including two new attorneys for their Pre-trial Support Program, which gets people out of jail and connected to services.
We advocated for all departments to present their budgets publicly—which successfully brought the Sheriff and Probation to the second day of hearings to answer questions about their budgets. These departments would have otherwise avoided any form of public scrutiny on how they spend their hundreds of millions of public dollars.
Probation got an $11 Million budget increase
Sheriff got an $18 Million budget increase
DA got their $4.9 Million raise without a budget presentation, and the Public Defender’s Office invested heavily in post-plea collaborative courts instead of prioritizing pre-trial and pre-conviction
The board scrutinized many departments for their data/outcomes to justify their budget increases, meanwhile letting law enforcement to slide—providing no justifications whatsoever for growing their bloated budgets.
No drastic increases were made in increasing capacity for community-based mental health centers, substance use treatment centers, or long-term social/public housing.
But this fight isn’t over! Save the date for September 7th, 2022 for final FY22-23 budget deliberations. We will continue to push the Board to uphold our coalition's demands to prioritize a Community-Care First budget.
Reviewing some written public comments regarding the 6/8 County budget hearing:
After reviewing some of these written comments, it is clear that Sacramento prioritizes ‘community based services’ that look to help by preventing harm and damage before it happens, instead of responding after. When looking at issues such as homelessness, public health, pavement rehabilitation, etc. as discussed in the meeting, a proactive approach should be taken.
According to Dr. Corrine McIntosh Sako and many other public commenters, the board should have looked to fund initiatives such as the following:
1. Access to Primary, Preventive, & Behavioral Health Care, particularly investment in permanent, supportive, and deeply affordable publicly-owned housing with
units that include wrap-around services, and include options that are designated for formerly incarcerated community members.
2. Non-Law Enforcement Emergency and Crisis Response, particularly funding for 24/7 decentralized drop-in resource centers for mental health crises that can be accessed regardless of income, housing status, insurance coverage, or legal status.
3. Community Connected Care, especially sustainable funding for community based organizations, such as the Wellness & Recovery Centers, Maryhouse, and Loaves and Fishes, who serve as trusted and effective providers in helping communities receive the resources and programs they need as well as providing safety nets for marginalized communities.
4. Social Determinants of Health, including funding and providing basic necessities, such as items for personal hygiene and daily living needs, rain boots, showers, charging stations for technological devices, bathrooms, and water for unhoused residents to easily access.
5. Public Defense and Legal Support, by increasing county funding for public defense that is focused on pre-conviction/plea, increasing access to legal help for incarcerated and housing insecure people, and increasing capacity for record expungement opportunities for individuals who qualify to have their criminal record expunged.
6. Government Accountability and Transparency, by establishing annual budget priorities that place community care needs over law enforcement and economic interests to ensure county staff will allocate sufficient funding towards health services and other social determinants of health, such as housing, education, youth services, mental health care, and prevent budget decreases from these critical services.
The priorities of the Board should reflect ours, and for the most part this budget is not showing that.
Significant money allocation for community based solutions and prevention is urgent and long overdue for those most vulnerable within our community. This time around we didn't see the kind of bold action around funding decisions that we needed from our board to advance the fight for social justice.
Finally, a couple last things about homelessness and funding for law enforcement:
Homelessness: The BOS raised the issue of homeless debris - including garbage left on the streets and rivers, and abandoned shopping carts. The BOS stated that enforcement for cart removals has to be improved. These carts could pose a safety hazard, clog up water flow, or block private transport access. So naturally more money needs to be spent on "cleaning" services.
"Cleanups," especially those completed by hired out private companies (i.e. Forensiclean), can be incredibly harmful to the unhoused community. Check out a blog post we wrote on this issue last year at this link).
What we would like to say is, how? How can the board (and some of the community) say, with a straight face, that more money is needed for trash cleanup & grocery cart removal - without ALSO addressing the need for permanent affordable housing?? Obviously this would not be an issue if folx were just housed, as everyone deserves to be. It's not that environmental concerns aren't valid - they are - but "responding" to those concerns while not also aggressively pursuing safe and effective housing solutions just won't work.
There's no way out of this situation without us actually addressing the root causes of homelessness
Public commenters also stated that picking up trash won’t solve the problem of giving homeless people a place to go with adequate resources and basic necessities!
The estimated expenses are listed below along with waste tracking stats.
A spark of hope! Public comment seemed to be more focused on the well being and safety of unhoused people themselves. Folx suggested that too much money is being spent on the police department and the carceral system, and not enough on providing homeless people with vital basic resources they need to survive. The BOS agreed that it should be easier for homeless people to find assistance and come into contact with programs that can provide them with help. But, as we have seen, they know how to use the right buzz words. It's the follow-through that actually matters.
Funding priorities: The public showed overall distaste for the tremendous amount of funding allocated towards punishment policies and law enforcement. Folx were frustrated about the ease with which law enforcement can procure funding; however, when community organizations need funding they must answer a plethora of questions regarding when, why, and where the money will be used. Most of the time, organizations will answer all these questions just to get denied.
Public commenters also blamed the BOS for not allocating more funds to community based organizations, affordable housing, the health of homeless people and those incarcerated, and social justice policies.