The Los Angeles Budget and Finance Committee Thursday heard the last round of public comment on the mayor’s proposed budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year, and many people called in to oppose a 3% increase to the police department’s budget and call for additional funding for wildlife and the effort to phase out oil and gas extraction in the city.
Several callers — some speaking on behalf of the organizations People’s City Council, Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles and the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition — called for the Los Angeles Police Department to be defunded and resources reallocated as investments into communities.
The Los Angeles Police Department is slated to receive the most funding in the proposed budget, with $1.76 billion, a 3% increase from when the Los Angeles City Council cut $150 million from the department’s budget last July.
“The solution is disband, defund the police and take the money that you have pilfered from all other services and put them in housing, supportive services, trauma-informed care, harm reduction and all the things that we need to meet where the unhoused person is. There is no worthy or unworthy unhoused,” said Theo Henderson, who identified himself as an unhoused L.A. resident.
The mayor’s proposed budget also includes an historic investment to combat the homelessness crisis, with $791 million in this budget and $164 million rolling over from the current fiscal year’s budget for a total of more than $950 million.
A woman who called on behalf of the Sierra Club also called for the Los Angeles Police Department to be divested, and she called for the city to fund a phasing out of oil and gas drilling.
“I’m really calling to ask the city to commit money now to make sure we have $3.4 million for an amortization study and staffing to draft the nonconforming land use ordinance to ensure that when the City Council votes to look into phasing out oil and gas drilling, we have the money to support that,” she said.
The committee also received calls from members of the Sunrise Movement L.A. and Physicians for Social Responsibility L.A. with the same request for $3.4 million toward the phasing out of oil and gas extraction.
Maro Kakoussian, who spoke no behalf of Physicians for Social Responsibility L.A., said, the funding “symbolizes answers to the cries of medical professionals and communities about the health impacts of oil drilling … this is a necessary step to phase out oil drilling and protect public health and front line communities.”
Reverend Louis Chase of the Holman United Methodist Church in West Adams, told committee members: “Our church is less than half a mile from an active drill site that represents a real threat to the health and wellbeing of our congregates and neighbors. The stories of impacted residents with cancer, asthma, or miscarriages, are ones the Council has heard from our coalition many times. Oil drilling does not belong in our neighborhood or any neighborhood.”
According to a report from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, oil and gas wells emit toxic air emissions, including the human carcinogen benzene.
The committee also heard calls from conservation advocates, who were organized by the Center for Biological Diversity, with calls to fund four staff positions — an environmental specialist, city planner and two planning associates — to finalize the wildlife corridor ordinance.
“Failure to adequately fund these positions will effectively kill the wildlife corridor ordinance before it is even implemented,” the Center for Biological Diversity said in a letter urging supporters to call in to the meeting.
The ordinance, which was unanimously requested by City Council in a motion introduced by Councilman Paul Koretz, would maintain and protect existing wildlife and ecosystems between the 405 and 101 freeways in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains. It’d also include buffers and setbacks from biological resources, including waterways, and create standards for fencing, landscaping, trash enclosures, lighting and windows in the area, according to the City Planning Department, which released a draft of the ordinance on Tuesday.
“There is much work to be done if we’re going to bring this ordinance to fruition. The timing is critical and we cannot postpone funding until next year for those other positions,” a resident of Council District 5 told committee members.
Callers also requested the committee add more funding for the Department of Recreation and Parks. Councilwoman Nithya Raman also requested additional funding for that department in a letter submitted to the committee on Wednesday.
Raman noted in her letter that the current proposal will not allow the department to refill 140 positions that were lost during the pandemic.
“Maintaining vibrant and healthy parks are a critical piece of ensuring that we build a better Los Angeles as we emerge from this crisis. Now is not a time to cut back on the resources that will enable us to preserve equitable access to outdoor space throughout our city,” she said.
Dina Cruz, who serves as chair of Hollenbeck Park Advisory Board in Boyle Heights and member of Friends of Hollenbeck Park, called in Thursday to seek additional funding for the department.
“We need more maintenance and funding for parks because clean, safe parks allow patrons to be physically active and find peace and wellness. Now more than ever, parks are needed and need more funding, not cuts. Cut other departments that have disappointed us, for example the police,” she said.
The Los Angeles Budget and Finance Committee will continue its review of the proposed budget at 1 p.m. on May 14, which is the last of its eight meetings.
During previous meetings, the committee heard from general managers, executive directors and senior staff members of all city departments regarding the proposed budget, how it would impact their services and the department’s previous budgets. Committee members requested more than 200 reports back for a more in depth analysis on aspects of the budget and made recommendations to the Chief Legislative Analyst. The CLA will then create a report including the recommendations for the City Council to review and create a final version of a budget for Mayor Eric Garcetti to approve or veto.