Boulder’s Budget Proposal for 2016: Public Speaks Against Funding for Additional Police Officers
Scott Rowland • October 9, 2015 • Progression •
Resource allocation is a top priority in Boulder, CO, where a flourishing economy means initiating proposals that will increase spending by 2.5 percent, relative to the 2015 budget, reaching a total of $327 million in expenditures for 2016.
On Oct. 5, 2015, the Boulder County City Council met for a public hearing and the first reading of the 2016 city budget. The current proposal draws an additional $4.6 million from a one-time increase in capital spending set on reserve in the Utilities, Parks and Recreation and Open Space funds. Another $2.3 million will come from on-going expenditures. The net increase will be utilized as investments geared toward improving the sustainability framework of Boulder’s community.
With an increase in tax revenue collections generated from a decreasing unemployment rate (down approx. 0.5 percent in the last year), revenues are projected to remain stable over the next few years. It is a hopeful prediction that will allow the City Council to budget resources for benefitting safety and environmental sustainability while also maintaining a livable and socially thriving Boulder community. Not to mention their goals for an accessible and connected city with a good standard of governance.
While all of the approaches to implementing these ideals were up for discussion, the question to consider: Is the City Council allocating the $327 Million budget for 2016 in a manner that is effective and improves Boulder as a community?
One reoccurring topic among the active members of our community continued to surface as the open discussion unraveled. Most of the Boulder citizens who took time out of their lives to express their opinions in front of the City Council spoke against the budget’s addition of new police officers.
“The embarrassing racial disparities of arrests in Boulder, the second highest in the state, demonstrate that we have a severe problem with racial bias” says concerned citizen, Julia Daniel. “We as a society and as citizens in Boulder need to shift how we think about justice and safety moving from punitive models to ones that address the root causes of harm and the issues in our communities such as economic inequality and racism. Programs like restorative justice, when we do them correctly, can provide a space for people that were involved in any issue or harm to talk about what is going on, what happened and what lead to the issue and then to develop solutions together.”
“I want to live a life free from violence, free from fear” proclaims Ryan Pfleger. “I want to have a life that enables me to do good things. I think that more money for police does not create the conditions necessary for me to create a good life.”
The police officers are suggested as a means to uphold a safe community under the 2016 recommended budget. One could argue that growing towns need additional city officials to help maintain the status-quo, but will increasing the number of law enforcement officers benefit Boulder in particular?
“I think a lot of cities are wrestling with these issues of potential racial bias and the tradeoff between public safety and tolerance at some level” says Boulder City Council member, Suzanne Jones. “If we need more police officers to provide basic public safety, so be it. The other thing we are hearing a lot about is code enforcement. I know we have increased that, but know that the nuance issues still loom large for people.”
All of us may not agree on every point in the budget and why certain resources should be allocated in one direction or another, but that is why Boulder allows an open hearing in respect of the public’s opinion. Out of the $327 million that will be spent in 2016, the city council touched on a wide variety of concerns like the bi-monthly newsletter, upgrading the city’s infrastructure and improving cultural events, but only a fraction of the funds in the proposal were relevant to the open discussion which reinforces the necessity to allow public input.
Boulder County’s City Council should be aware of all major concerns within the community to develop a mutually beneficial societal structure. So speak out when local legislature has an adverse affect on your life! Only when local developing trends are expressed in an effective manner can the City Council work with Boulder’s citizens to create a healthy, vigorous community.
City Council meeting occurred on Oct. 6th, 2015.Recording of City Council Meeting