Two weeks ago, Breonna’s Law barely resembled the ban on no-knock search warrants that all 26 members of the Louisville Metro Council unanimously sponsored and passed last Thursday evening (6/11) and is now reverberating around the country. The version that passed Public Safety Committee on June 3 merely limited the use of no-knock warrants; it did not account for so-called “quick-knock” executions; and it carried no penalty for violating the regulations, among other weak spots. That’s because the original sponsors knew that in the legislative process negotiation and compromise traditionally rule the day. Given the council’s broad historical support and deference to the police on matters of public policy, they expected that restricting no-knock warrants was the best we could do. Happily, they underestimated the political moment we are living in America and our city. A change is here now.
So, I hope the Metro Council and Mayor Greg Fischer are taking the issue of “defunding the police” seriously – despite the misnomer – because I am. I think reasonable people can stipulate that police officers have been wrongly tasked with handling homelessness, mental illness, addiction and other needs that are beyond the scope of their tools and training. Therefore, transfer of some workload, responsibilities and funds from police officers to public health and social workers makes perfect sense. Moreover, we admit the current strategy is not working. See, e.g., external top-to-bottom review, search for a new chief, etc. Now is not the time to double down.
Mayor Fischer has been quick to point out that Louisville is not the only city where protests have filled the streets, saying it “speaks to the core challenge facing us all: Addressing the racism and inequity built into the foundation of the American system,” and that involves transformation “in our economy, schools, courts, health services, law enforcement and government.”
He is right. That’s why other cities are revising their budgets to let the transformation begin. Boston is reallocating $3 million (4.93%) of the police department's overtime budget to public health. Los Angeles is cutting $150 million (8.65%) from the LAPD budget. New York is cutting $1 billion (16.67%) from NYPD. Minneapolis is dismantling the police department altogether.
What should Louisville do? I think the Reverend Jesse Jackson got it right – not on his recent visit but when he ran for president in the 1980s. Jackson’s platform included cutting the defense budget by 15% over the course of his administration. To analogize, that would give Mayor Fischer three more years to cut $26,827,575 from LMPD, including $8,942,525 beginning July 1. He could eliminate the next three classes of police recruits in FY21, which he was prepared to do last year, if necessary ($7.5 million), reallocate the cost savings from cancelling Kentucky Derby Festival events ($1,098,444.16) and divest completely from military-style equipment, weapons and ammunition to cover the balance.
That is enough funding to increase community health and social service staffing by 50 ($5 million), double the general fund appropriation for the Office for Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods ($1,153,000), reinstate and double the Small Business Development team ($1 million), earmark $1 million for participatory budgeting to reinvest in black communities, support predevelopment of the Louisville Community Grocery ($500,000) and fully fund seasonal pool operations ($223,000) with leftover change ($66,525).
As to reallocating the balance of $17,885,050 from uniform headcount and overtime to upstream of the criminal justice system for FY22-FY23, the possibilities are endless. How about doubling the Office of Resilience and Community Services ($10,621,300), KentuckianaWorks ($2,553,200), the Center for Health Equity ($1,821,100), Air Pollution Control District ($1,184,700) and Human Relations Commission ($861,900) budgets and tripling Arts, Cultural Assets, and Parks External Agencies funding ($722,000)?
Now, before half of you go all Greg from Twitter on me – “Shocking that the tree hugging, police hating councilman Coan is the first to rob @LMPD of funds. Remember councilman, any crime being committed on you or your family, call a crackhead” – allow me to provide some context. The step decrease I am proposing still exceeds LMPD’s budget and approximates the filled personnel of 5-7 years ago. (I understand costs have increased but our population remains substantially the same and the data points are illustrative.) Additionally, LMPD advises that it “actively monitors changes in technology, procedures and law and… with these factors in mind we review positions to determine if they are best filled by sworn versus non-sworn employees and… to see if we are having sworn members complete tasks that can be replaced using technology, such as online reporting tools.” It is also important to understand that there are 17 other police departments in Jefferson County (who, as an aside, poach our talent and must be stopped from doing so), including the Sheriff’s Office which has an authorized strength of 240 paid deputies, 102 reserve deputies, and 60 civilian support personnel, making it the fourth largest law enforcement agency in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
I am in no way suggesting to under resource the city’s public safety system; I’m saying to demilitarize, diversify and reskill it. I am saying, too, to adequately compensate those workers who stay and those who come after, which is not the case now. Transforming the systems that Mayor Fischer mentioned above means investing in people, which is not a cheap fix. Nor should it be.
The fact of the matter is that policing in America and Louisville is changing. LMPD’s leadership, union contract, independent oversight, standards, practices and more are already in flux. We owe it to ourselves – and to police officers – to adjust our demands, expectations and budgets, accordingly.
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The Budget Committee (of which I am not a member) will most likely pass an amendment to the mayor’s recommended city budget early next week, prior to the whole council’s debate and vote on June 25. The council amends the mayor’s budget each year but it generally amounts to just a slight revision. Even my considerable FY21 proposal above would constitute just a 1.44% deviation from the mayor’s general fund plan. I will comment on the Approved Budget in two weeks. In the meantime, I can go ahead and share our new District 8 Neighborhood Development (NDF) and Capital Infrastructure (CIF) budgets with you because I’m reasonably certain they won’t change.
We are done spending for FY20. You can view all D8 expenditures dating back to FY12 here. We have $24,486.27 NDF and $22,383.99 CIF cash on hand, respectively. The new city budget will boost the totals to $89,486.27 and $72,383.99. Outgoing council members are required to leave at least half of the year's NDF appropriation (i.e. $32,500 in FY21) behind for incoming council members. It has been my policy to bank 10% of all NDF appropriated over the course of my term ($28,000 for FY18-FY21), as well, so our next council member will arrive to at least $60,500 NDF to make it through June 2021. You can see the only four neighborhood development expenditures I intend to make over the next six months here. Due to COVID-19, I am not planning to support any large public gatherings. There is no Metro Council rule about saving CIF for successors in office but I have similarly set aside $35,000 from FY18-FY21 (10%) for that purpose. The only new capital investment I am planning is to convert 107 Bardstown Road streetlights to LED as phase one of a lighting safety plan. I expect to share the results of a study detailing the need for enhanced lighting phase two next time but it will be up to someone else to write the check next year.
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The window to request an absentee ballot for the primary is closed (check your status here) but the polls are open and in-person voting is available now! Here is what you need to know.
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Finally, significant COVID-19 contact tracing began last week (6/12). If a tracer calls to let you know you may have been exposed to a close contact who has tested positive for COVID, “LOU-HEALTH” will display on caller ID. Tracers don’t ask you for your social security number or any credit card information. They call to ask how you are feeling, give you instructions on how to quarantine, get you help if you need it and ask about people you have been in close contact with. They don’t give your contacts your name without your permission and they don’t share your information with law enforcement or immigration officials.
COVID-19 testing opportunities in Louisville are expanding, too. A full list of testing sites can be found here.
For the latest news, resources and government response to the coronavirus crisis, please visit these local, state and federal websites.
For breaking news and information, please follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you have a question or comment, please call me at: (502) 574-1108 or email: [email protected] (and copy [email protected]). If you have a service request, please call Metro 311 or visit Metro 311 online. Visit the District 8 Strategic Plan page here.