Ar­cata and Eureka re­ports re­quest to de­fund the po­lice

Times Standard (Eureka) - - LOCAL NEWS - By So­nia Waraich swaraich@times-stan­dard.com So­nia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.

City coun­cils will be go­ing over their bud­gets for the next fis­cal year at their meet­ings this week and a ma­jor point of dis­cus­sion should be the topic of de­fund­ing the po­lice, which has been a ma­jor de­mand of protests sweep­ing across the coun­try since the death of Ge­orge Floyd.

Ar­cata and Eureka’s city man­agers said both cities have re­ceived re­quests to de­fund the po­lice, while For­tuna’s City Man­ager Mer­ritt Perry said no such re­quests were sent to the city of For­tuna. Eureka re­ceived more than 300 emails, mostly with the same form let­ter, “de­mand­ing that the City Coun­cil adopt a bud­get strat­egy that pri­or­i­tizes com­mu­nity well-be­ing and redi­rects fund­ing away from the po­lice in the next bud­get eval­u­a­tion ses­sion.”

“We have seen mount­ing ev­i­dence that po­lice de­part­ments are in­ef­fec­tive in­sti­tu­tions that marginal­ize mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties and put cit­i­zens at risk of in­jury and death, yet the po­lice bud­get ac­counts for 46% of our gen­eral fund,” the let­ter states. “This is wholly un­ac­cept­able.”

The let­ters ask the city coun­cil to “re­di­rect a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of the po­lice bud­get” to­ward things like af­ford­able health­care and hous­ing and de­mil­i­ta­rize the po­lice.

For­tuna was set to vote on a bud­get Mon­day night, Eureka is set to re­ceive a re­port on the bud­get and pro­vide di­rec­tion Tues­day night and Ar­cata is set to vote on a bud­get Wed­nes­day night.

About 55% of the city of For­tuna’s gen­eral fund bud­get, which ac­counts for the bulk of the city’s dis­cre­tionary spend­ing, goes to the po­lice depart­ment. Ar­cata’s pro­posed bud­get al­lo­cates 48% of its gen­eral fund bud­get to the po­lice and the Eureka Po­lice Depart­ment re­ceives 47% of the city’s gen­eral fund bud­get.

Ar­cata City Man­ager Karen Diemer said the po­lice depart­ment’s bud­get is likely to be slashed just like all other de­part­ments as a re­sult of the re­ces­sion caused by the COVID-19 pan­demic.

“All de­part­ments are re­ceiv­ing pretty sub­stan­tial bud­get re­duc­tions this year,” Diemer said.

Ar­cata’s pro­posed bud­get in­cludes a 2% cut, or $104,351, to the po­lice bud­get com­pared with the 2019-20 fis­cal year bud­get while de­part­ments like Pub­lic Works and Plan­ning and Devel­op­ment are re­spec­tively see­ing cuts of 49%, or $714,493, and 33%, or $316,977.

For­tuna’s bud­get in­cludes a small in­crease of $22,875 to the po­lice depart­ment. Eureka has not yet re­leased a pro­posed bud­get, but Tues­day’s Eureka City Coun­cil agenda in­cludes an item to pur­chase six new Ford Ex­plorer po­lice cars for a cost of $261,491.70 to re­place cur­rent cars that have suf­fered wear and tear.

Be­yond the bud­get, Ar­cata has started do­ing the work of ad­dress­ing racial in­equal­i­ties in the city, but Diemer said “there’s much more work that needs to be done” and that the po­lice depart­ment is just one sys­tem per­pet­u­at­ing racial in­equities.

“In lo­cal govern­ment, at times we have his­tor­i­cally looked at things as si­los,” Diemer said. “And now we need to take a broader and deeper look (about) how we got here and re­ally for­mu­late our steps for­ward cen­tered around the voice of our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties of color.”

SO­NIA WARAICH — THE TIMES-STAN­DARD

A graph shows lo­cal po­lice bud­gets, which some city res­i­dents have been call­ing to have re­al­lo­cated to other de­part­ments, as they re­late to cities’ to­tal gen­eral fund bud­gets, which makes up the bulk of cities’ dis­cre­tionary fund­ing for city ser­vices. Ar­cata and For­tuna’s fig­ures are based on the cities’ pro­posed 2020-2021fis­cal year bud­gets while Eureka’s fig­ures are based on the city’s 2019-2020fis­cal year bud­get.

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