BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The City Council approved a $628 million budget Wednesday, but not without concerns and demands from community members that the city divest from the Bakersfield Police Department.
Before the meeting started, demonstrators gathered outside City Hall to send a message to council members to vote against the proposed budget.
Of the $528 million budget, $119.9 million will go toward BPD, a 10 percent increase from last year because of new funding from Measure N. With the council’s approval, the department is expected to add 44 positions over the next year, including an additional 29 sworn officers and 15 civilian workers.
Roughly two dozen people at the meeting voiced opposition.
“We are asking you to defund bpd and adopt the budget that we’ve created that reflects what people in bakersfield actually want,” said Black Lives Matter local activist Faheemah Saluhud Din Floyd.
Tannyah Hood, a local community organizer, explained where the money allocated for BPD should go.
“We need affordable housing. We need more access to mental health services,” she said. “We need substance abuse services. We need better education systems. We are here — in case you never heard this before — to tell you defund the police, and help our communities,” she continued.
“I’m tired solutions of homelessness be increased police, tired of solutions to mental health be increased police,” another man said “We need to start putting money in other places.”
“We have what feels like a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a change. If you don’t want to do your job and listen to the people, I’m going to politely ask resign,” said another woman.
While the majority of the speakers called on the council to divest from the police, a select few offered the opposite approach.
“Businesses want to be protected by their city,” stated a man who identified himself only as Nicholas. “Defunding is not the solution. Policing it and protecting our community and our businesses — which fund us, need to be protected.”
City manager Christain Clegg said he and city staff reviewed proposals from the People’s Budget Bako calling for the city to divest from police and invest in underserved communities, but Clegg maintained many of those demands are met by the budget, noting $25 million from Measure N is allocated for homelessness, housing, and economic development. Another $14.5 million will go toward local parks.
“Our budget in many areas is actually very well-aligned with the reccomendations being made,” Clegg said.
“Measure N funding is going toward law enforcement to have the staff to have more community engagement and community policing to be able to have more quality assurance programs and so forth,” he continued, stating the city is projected to run a budget surplus.
Roughly four hours into the meeting, the council unanimously approved the budget.
Despite legal concerns from local attorney Theresa Goldner, the council approved city staff’s plan to hold a Ward 1 special election to coincide with the general election, and agreed Councilmember Willie Rivera will not need to step down until a successor is voted in.