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Mayor vows no layoffs in face of possible $80-million budget shortfall; says police budget might have some line items changed

COVID-19 Media Availability 6/10/20

Mayor Walsh said this morning that tax losses due to the Covid-19 shutdown could mean a budget hole of between $65 million and $80 million for the city budget in the fiscal year that begins in just three weeks.

At a press conference at City Hall, Walsh did not specify how his administration is looking to close the gap, but said layoffs won't be part of the solution.

During his press conference, Walsh began coughing, badly and frequently enough that his health and human services chief, Marty Martinez, got him a bottle of water. "I think I have a cold," Walsh said. "I hope it's a cold."

Walsh said he is meeting with police and budget officials to discuss possible changes in the police budget to answer calls for "defunding" the department. He said he can't provide specifics now, because it's still a work in progress, but that he plans to submit a new police budget to the city council next week.

Walsh emphasized he is not looking to actually cut the department, but possibly to re-allocate some of its budget items to try to make BPD more responsive to the public.

He said that complaints in general about police and about excessive use of force in particular have declined in recent years, and that one his first and continuing goals has been to make the department better reflect a city that is now majority minority, but acknowledged protests since the death of George Floyd show there is more the city could do.

"We probably haven't gone far enough" in reform, he said.

He said the city needs a broad community conversation about reforming policing.

Walsh added that the city has been reducing the number of National Guard soldiers on the street since last Sunday's rampages, but that some will probably remain on patrol for awhile longer.

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Comments

Traffic enforcement.

The city is all about the low hanging fruit of parking tickets, but that's about as far as it goes in this area.

In East Boston alone, the number of blown stop signs I see on a weekly basis is easily worth a few grand in tickets. It's also not uncommon to see people make their own shortcuts the wrong way down a one-way street. Then there's crosswalks and speeding. Yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks was also a major problem when I worked in the South End, and Southie.

Pedestrian and bicycle safety were already concerns in the city (that get lots of lip service but little else), and I think it's a given that we're going to see increases in vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic this summer as the city starts to reopen but people also try to avoid the confined spaces of mass transit.

This would be a great way to focus policing on actual public safety, fill some of that budget gap, and maybe even drive a little change.

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While there is plenty of room to change some of the awful driving habits in the city, increasing traffic enforcement probably won't go very far in terms of the budget and may actually cost the city more in increased litigation costs. Also, traffic stops disproportionately impact people of color...

https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cpp15.pdf

https://www.aclu.org/report/driving-while-black-racial-profiling-our-nat...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/tripping/wp/2018/06/05/lawsuit-shows...

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.

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Because ramping up police enforcement efforts for the purpose of raising revenue is really reading the tea leaves of the moment right now...

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or at least putting into a much broader context.

My intent was to suggest this as a better, more impactful use of policing than what we currently have, that would actually benefit the public. And it could potentially make an impact on some of that budget gap in the process. It's not going to make up for all of it, but that money needs to come from somewhere.

In theory, it's as simple as you run a stop sign, you get a ticket. But anon above makes a good point (how rarely do we get to say that?) re: the impact on people of color, and I agree that it's actually not so simple.

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What is it exactly that we "currently have"?

While there seems to be issues in many police departments, the many articles published on this site and others lead me to believe that the BPD carries out their duties with dignity and honor.

Seems like its once a day there is a new story about BPD seizing illegal weapons or ending foot chases with armed criminals without violence, injuries, or shots fired.

The police in this country are an easy target right now, but please try to appreciate all the good that BPD does for this city, and the honorable manner in which they do it.

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On one side there is a very valid point that these infractions disproportionally hurt minorities since a $100 ticket becomes a big problem when you don't have $100. (And if being pulled over is the pretext for harassment.)

On the other side, minorities are being hurt and killed by motorists just as much as whites, although often with less reporting. Black Lives Matter when they get hit by cars too.

The solution is fines which are proportional to people's income. Only that will never happen in this country.

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civil crimes, give it to civil officers. Right now BTD handles all non moving violations while BPD (rarely) handles moving violations.

BPD already has their hands full with other stuff and rarely enforces traffic laws until there's targeted outcry. Move those powers to BTD fully and staff them to do the job right.

We should also be moving non-violent drug enforcement, and mental health issues out of the polices job description. There's a lot we could give to social workers in the civil sphere that don't require guns and escalation of physical force.

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are sort of lax in my opinion. Doesn't matter much these days but in the before-times I could rattle off half a dozen spots in the city I drove past daily where there was a double parking pandemic, and never a BTD patrol in sight. These are places that could bring thousands of dollars in a day on their own, not to mention perhaps easing the traffic a bit after months of enforcement.
Another idea better than pulling over drivers (aka attempting to get the Police dept. to do their job) would be sicking the city's Air Pollution Control Commission loose on the city to enforce things like the 5 min idling law that is pretty much broken constantly by big rigs and delivery trucks all day every day, and which might actually go toward improving air quality and reducing respiratory diseases. The fine is $100. Maybe they can fire some cops and hire twice that amount for this commission?
https://www.boston.gov/idle-free-boston#:~:text=MGL%20Chapter%2090%2C%20....

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...are a big contributor to abusive policing. Gotta be very careful not to cross this line if you increase traffic enforcement.

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honest question: why is revenue down? Are owners not paying their taxes? The city doesn't get sales/income tax - so why would the recession affect the budget so directly/quickly?

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He could also stop blocking local minorities from opening pot shops in the city and get a two for one deal. Taxes and Equity for pot licenses.

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"I think I have a cold," Walsh said. "I hope it's a cold."

If that's the case he should not have been at City Hall, let alone holding a press conference without wearing a mask while speaking.

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Currently, if I forgot to move my car one week for street sweeping the city issues me a $40 ticket and then calls in the tow company who charges me another $150+ to get my car back.

I'm not sure how much, if anything, the tow companies pay the city for the right to do the towing, but why not cut them out completely and issue a $200 ticket. Upside: City gets 100% of the money, and people still get a stiff penalty for the violation; Downside: The footprint of that car doesn't get swept until next week.

There is lots of money involved with street sweeping violations and unfortunately the city is only getting a small slice of it.

As a bonus, this helps out us citizens who one time completely forgot it was street sweeping day before they left for work: 1) The tow companies treat people's cars with absolutely no respect; 2) it is a royal pain in the you-know-what to get your car back having to schlep all over town, first to the police station then over to the tow yard, then waiting around for a tow yard employee to happen by

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