Bakersfield City Council meeting focuses on economic development, upcoming budget, and possible police reforms

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The Bakersfield City Council met at City Hall Wednesday where leaders addressed a number of hot-button issues, including possible next steps to reform to the Bakersfield Police Department.

Much of the meeting was focused on how best to bring economic development to the city over the next several years, including to underserved communities — many of which are disproportionately made up of people of color.

Councilmembers also addressed the proposed $628.2 million budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Of that, the city plans to spend $121.57 million on the police department.

While police reform was not on the agenda, the council received 1,995 Black Lives Matter-related emails, and some of the public comment portion of the meeting was dedicated to that very topic.

“It is time to try something new,” said meeting attendee Nicholas Emilio.

“I am here in support of at least partially defunding bpd, and allocating that money in education, mostly with a focus on disadvantaged neighborhoods, and other funds going into mental health, public transportation, and daycare,” Emilio, 25, continued with tears in his eyes. “Our current system is unsustainable, ineffective, and has resulted in countless killings of black and brown lives.”

Toward the end of the meeting, 2nd Ward City Councilmember Andrae Gonzales made the following referrals on police reform:

  1. Asking city staff to create a document that tells the public how bpd policies and practices have changed over the last three and half years.
  2. Requesting that the city manager and police chief to review the #8CantWait policy recommendations presented nation-wide.
  3. Calling for city staff to develop an action plan to present to the council within the next 30 days.
  4. Calling on the city manager and police chief to create a 6-month long task force made up of community members to review policy recommendations from the community.
  5. Asking the Safe Neighborhoods Committee to initiate a violence prevention strategy.

“Clearly, we can’t put on the shoulders of the Bakersfield Police Department to create a safe and vibrant community,” Gonzales said. “It’s much more than that, it requires investment. I’d like us to look at a more proactive strategy to really create safe and vibrant neighborhoods,” he concluded.

The budget will not officially be up for a vote until June 24.

Meanwhile, other council members, including Jacquie Sullivan of the 6th ward, said they want to listen in the wake of last week’s protests; “Do better and be better,” Sullivan said.

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