Dozens of people on Tuesday night asked Minneapolis’ elected officials to cut more money from the city’s Police Department, as they readjust this year’s budget for the first major time since George Floyd was killed.
The majority of speakers who called in to the City Council’s budget committee hearing asked the city to cut $45 million from the Police Department’s $193 million budget.
“I don’t know why we would continue to fund the Police Department the way we have, as they continue to murder our Black and brown brothers and sisters,” said Hunta Williams, a member of the city’s Transgender Equity Council. Williams added later: “We’re watching. We have our eyes on you.”
Reclaim the Block and the Black Visions Collective encouraged people to advocate for the $45 million cut. Lex Horan, with Reclaim the Block, said they reviewed the department’s budget to identify areas that “are not directly linked to community safety,” such as the mounted patrol, an activities league and special operations and intelligence. They are also calling for a roughly 30% cut in the precinct and patrol budgets.
One of the only people who didn’t advocate for cuts was the leader of a downtown business organization.
“Tonight, I would urge you not to make sudden and significant changes to the mayor’s recommended and revised MPD budget until and unless concrete alternatives … have been established,” said Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council.
The public hearing Tuesday set the tone for a series of budget talks as city leaders work first to revise this year’s budget and then to approve next year’s.
Minneapolis leaders hope by the end of July to cut $156 million from this year’s $1.6 billion budget as they grapple with revenue losses because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Jacob Frey has said he hopes to save larger questions about the future of policing for the 2021 budget process, which kicks off next month.
Earlier this year, city officials approved the first phase of budget cuts, which the city estimates would save $58 million by freezing most hiring, putting a temporary hold on wage increases and making cuts from city contracts. That total includes $8.6 million in cuts from the Police Department, according to the city.
Last week, Frey offered a proposal that would plug the remaining $98 million hole by relying on cash reserves, implementing furloughs for some employees and laying off up to 40 workers.
The mayor’s proposal also relies on a series of budgetary transfers. It includes, for example, a $6 million “rollback” for some housing programs, but also seeks to add $4 million from a housing board established in the 1980s.
The mayor’s office said it is trying to keep intact programs that provide “immediate service to residents with greatest needs” and programs that allow the city to qualify for additional funding.
This second phase of cuts, as proposed by the mayor, calls for a $50,000 reduction in the Police Department, specifically from its timekeeping and employee-management system, and the system that tracks transactions in pawnshops and secondhand stores.
Many of the people who spoke Tuesday focused on that $50,000 figure as they asked for greater cuts and instead more investments in housing.
Many of them asked City Council members to fulfill a pledge nine of them made in Powderhorn Park last month, when they promised to work toward ending the Police Department.
The city’s next public hearing on the budget is July 22.