At the beginning of the February 8, 2021 Culver City Council meeting, there was a Proclamation offered to commemorate and celebrate February as Black History Month. This was not intended to be ironic, but the actions of the council through the evening showed that there is currently no intention of shifting away from the status quo.
An item on the Consent Calendar, C- 9, was approved along unique lines. All three white council members voted for it; both minority council members voted against. As the Culver City City Council has never before had two African Americans sitting on council, this vote was one of the first opportunities for such a clear and specific split.
The item, a revision to the Master Memorandum of Understanding between the city and the police department, is to remain valid through June 30, 2022, “The City Manager and Chief Financial Officer are hereby authorized to adjust the budget and the records of employees necessary to pay the salaries and costs related to the terms of the approved revised Master Memorandum of Understanding.”
Proposed revisions were to “assist with recruitment efforts” and “cashing out excess holiday accruals” according to Assistant City Manager Serena Wright.
Mark Lipman of the Committee on Homelessness spoke to the meeting, saying “You know what’s worse than someone who denies science? Someone who denies math…for every police officer we hire, we can have ten people in permanent supportive housing.” Noting that with salary, overtime and benefits, “We spend $250,000 per year for every police officer.” Focusing on the crucial housing shortage, he concluded, “Not only is it the morally right thing to do, it is the financially responsible thing to do. “
Culver City resident Disa Lindgren, speaking from the virtual podium, noted that “This is not the time for bonuses to be paid…We need to spend less money on policing and more on community services… Actions speak louder than words. Saying Black Lives Matter is meaningless unless it is backed up with deeds.”
The stress of the municipal budget under the pandemic has caused concern that other departments may suffer if the police do not work towards cutting their budget. The motion that passed gives more money to the department.
Mayor Alex Fisch stated that “This is a minor issue … that we made as result of the MOU. We have to manage our staff, and I think we have to stick to this deal.” Fisch felt that not following through would look as if the city were bargaining in “bad faith” with the police department.
Council voted three to two, and the item was passed.
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