With voter activism expanding in every part of the community, the virtual council meeting of June 22, 2020 began at 7:08 pm and ended at 2:17 am, and the vote to approve the amended budget passed with four ayes and one nay. Council member Lee was the sole opposing vote.
No municipal budget in recent history has been more revised; the original budget meetings that happened earlier this year in February were before the pandemic. COVID-19 and all it’s attendant complications required a revision from every department to reduce any possible expenditure as the city looked at massive loss of projected revenue.
The national uprising over racism and police violence made a timely landing in Culver City, just before the final budget approval for the fiscal year. With calls from the community to cut the police budget and begin a major restructuring of expenditures, many other residents exclaimed that the police should not be targeted for reductions or reorganization.
More than 80 people spoke to the council, the majority of them deeply passionate about their position. Any notion of attempting to listen to an opposing argument or see things from another perspective was rare. Less than a dozen of those who spoke offered that change could be incremental, or that looking into details would offer benefits. The voters who wanted to see major changes put into motion sought a 50% reduction of the police department over the next three months, and the creation of a citizen’s task force to oversee the police. Others cited the police and fire departments as their reasons for residing in Culver City, and feared a wave a violent crime if staff were to be reduced.
Vice Mayor Alex Fisch had offered, prior to yesterday’s meeting “In response to our direction at the June 15 meeting, the budget contemplates cutting $400,000 from the police department budget in addition to the $2.6 million that we already planned to cut. That reduction includes the elimination of 3 unfilled sworn officer positions. It also includes restoration of a small social services partnership, and an additional $100,000 for social work services.”
Acting Police Chief Manny Cid offered the $400,000 in cuts, and it was approved of by the City Manager John Nachbar.
Council member Lee noted that he was disappointed with the budget decisions, but glad the his colleagues had committed to looking into a task force to oversee the police on behalf of the community.
Much of the agendized business for the meeting had to be held over to the next agenda. By respecting the rights of everyone to speak, the council ran the clock out on the time to attend to the agenda. Public hearings 2 ( changes to the zoning code) and Public hearing 3 (paring requirements for fitness studios) were moved to the July 13 agenda.
Calling the election of three city council seats and a local ballot initiative to rescind the interim rent control ordinance for Nov. 3, 2020 was approved.
Items on the General Plan Update and transportation studies were tabled.