Boston Herald

Council kills $42M police cut

Flip-flop puts them on tight deadline

- By Gayla Cawley gcawley@bostonhera­

A City Council plan to slash $42 million from the police department budget was killed, for now.

An 8-4 Council vote to send Boston’s $4.2 billion operating budget back to the mayor, with roughly $74 million in amendments, was later overturned Wednesday when two city councilors reversed course at the last minute — preventing the required majority needed to pass the spending plan.

The flip-flop puts the City Council on a tight deadline. The body has until next Wednesday to submit a new operating budget to Mayor Michelle Wu, who will then choose which amendments to approve or veto.

“This budget, if passed and went over there, no mayor in their right mind is going to cut the police department $42 million,” said City Councilor Michael Flaherty. “We know that right now. So let’s make these changes in the working sessions. Let’s be realistic. Let’s be fair. Let’s pull it together.”

Prior to the initial vote, Flaherty spoke vehemently against the proposed police cuts, which included a $10 million reduction in overtime pay, saying that they amounted to “taking a meat cleaver” to public safety.

“Here’s the headlines tomorrow: Boston City Council amends mayor’s budget, cuts Boston Police Department by $42 million,” Flaherty said. “I don’t want to be a part of that.”

The body will have an opportunit­y to override the mayor’s vetoes, which requires a two-thirds majority, but it must pass a final operating budget by June 28, the last regular Council meeting before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

If it fails to do so, the city would operate under a onetwelfth budget, a less-thanideal situation, where department spending would be “level-funded” using last year’s numbers on a monthly basis until a new budget is passed, according to Flaherty.

The initial budget approval was overturned when Councilor Gabriela Coletta changed her “yes” vote to a “no” and Councilor Brian Worrell swapped his “yes” vote for a “present” near the end of Wednesday’s meeting, making the final tally, 6-5 — one fewer vote than the seven affirmativ­e ones needed to pass the budget.

Coletta said in a Wednesday statement, that “upon deep review of today’s operating budget report from the Council, I decided to vote ‘no’ on the proposal.”

“The decision to make cuts to the city’s workforce in crucial basic service areas was a non-starter,” Coletta said. “In other instances, even the amendments filed were downsized when we look at the net loss from cuts applied disproport­ionately.

“It is my responsibi­lity to advocate for resources and support quality-of-life improvemen­ts for my district, and I could not support this proposal.”

The city clerk said the operating budget will remain in the Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson, who plans to hold a number of working sessions before next Wednesday’s vote, to tweak amendments.

Fernandes Anderson said she wasn’t surprised by how the day’s budget vote went, mentioning that some councilors who opposed the final amendments weren’t present at many of the budget hearings. Twenty-eight of these public hearings have been held, she said.

City Councilor Julia Mejia said the overturned vote seemed to be a product of “behind the scenes” political maneuvers that included input from the mayor, who wasn’t present in the Council chambers.

She said that in 2020, the city had a mandate from the community to start allocating funds to issues like public health and mental wellness.

Mejia said the initial budget amendments, including the police department cuts, were the product of a participat­ory budgeting process,” and that the Council needs to “listen to the community that put us in office.

“I always say that this is not the mayor’s budget,” Mejia said. “This is the people’s budget. These are their tax dollars that pay our salaries. Our job is to listen to the people and do right by them.”

 ?? NANCY LANE — BOSTON HERALD ?? City Councilor Michael Flaherty opposed a plan to cut $42 million from the Boston Police Department budget.
NANCY LANE — BOSTON HERALD City Councilor Michael Flaherty opposed a plan to cut $42 million from the Boston Police Department budget.

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