You’ve surely heard the noise coming from some mouths lately, that Boston should cut its Police Department budget in order to fund increased social services. In response, Mayor Walsh has presented a $ 12,000,000 slash in the City’s Police overtime account in order to fund these:
- $3 million for the BPHC to begin implementing the eight strategies that Walsh outlined in his declaration
- $1 million to support trauma teams and counseling services at the BPHC
- $2 million in new funding for community-based programs, such as violence intervention grants, youth programming, language and food access, Immigrant Advancement, the Age Strong Commission and the Human Rights Commission
- $2 million for additional public mental health services through a partnership between the Boston Police Department and Boston Medical Center Emergency Services Program or BEST
- $2 million to support economic development initiatives to support minority and women owned businesses
- $2 million to provide additional housing supports and youth homelessness programs
We have no objection to these initiatives. A City ought, from time to time, to fund new initiatives, or increase current ones, as needs arise, as in dynamic cities they usually do. We don’t even mind a proposal made by (according to boston.com) “Activists (who) are pushing for a 10% cut to the police budget to be put toward housing, food access, COVID-19 relief and other programs to aid communities of color…Several advocates at Monday’s hearing also called for councilors to pass the current budget to secure funding for immigration, housing, food and park programs.”
The COVID-19 crisis has seriously impacted the City’s more vulnerable residents, disproportionately people of color as well as nearly everyone who earns low income. City government would be derelict not to address these emergency conditions that have occurred through nobody’s fault.
Where we object is that the Boston Police Budget is not the correct account to cut. Walsh has recommended adoption of a Boston Public Schools budget of $1.26 billion, representing an $80 million or 7% increase over last year’s budget, marking the largest proposed BPS budget in the city’s history.
I’ve written about the City’s vastly bloated schools account many times. It represents FORTY PERCENT of the entire City Budget, and its sub-accounts are stuffed with unnecessary appropriations — starting with the $ 106,000,000 to be spent busing kids all over the City obedient to a Federal Court order now 46 years old and which bears zero relevance to the City as it is today. Imagine how many social services Boston could pay for if that $ 106 million were not wasted on an historical re-enactment.
Add to this another $ 16,000,000 or so of maintenance costs to keep the City’s aged, environmentally archaeological school buildings, which should have been upgraded 25 years ago; or the several million the Schools Department had to pay to the IRS in fines for mishandling its tax reports (to say nothing of misappropriations); or the money wasted by former Superintendent Tommy Chang on an internal reforms study, by consultants, that never went anywhere.
Boston’s Schools Department continues to maintain 92,000 seats even though only about 55,000 students attend. The utilities costs resulting from such unused capacity contribute another $ 5,000,000 or so in funds that could be used to fund The Council’s social services desires.
To recap : Public education spending remains over 40% of the City budget. Education spending is up over $440 million on an annual basis since FY14 and per-pupil spending at BPS will approach $22,000, more than a 30% increase over the past six years.
Is it not time to rein in BPS’s financial gluttony rather than cut Police funding simply because the cry of the moment on cable news, and among activists with an agenda you wouldn’t like if you knew what it actually is, is that the Police are all potential Derek Chauvins ?
Give me a break.
Boston’s Police are, if anything, under-funded, the Department understaffed. We need at least an additional; 500 line officers. The Department’s inadequacy was made painfully clear by its being outmanned (and outgunned) during the night of looting we endured two weeks ago. But this is an issue for another, saner, more realistic day. Right now, we would do well to boost the presence of social services on the streets of Boston. just don’t do it by cutting the wrong City account.,
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere