Collective voices that comprise 14 activist groups of the People Budget Conference rallied outside Long Beach City Hall last week, demanding equitable engagement for residents and voters to decide how their taxpayer dollars are spent.
The People’s Budget Conference continues to press for community inclusion in this year’s $3.2 billion budget decision-making in Long Beach, and revamping the process by divesting from the police department to prioritize human rights services.
Sheila Bates of Black Lives Matter Long Beach described the city budget as a moral document, that comes from the community’s tax dollars and is supposed to serve the community’s needs.
“It is a literal prioritization with dollar signs attached, and 41% of the budget going to the police is a complete and utter failure,” she said at the conference.
Bates said politicians were big on promises two years ago in declaring racism a public health crisis, and the People’s Budget is the outcome of those concerns. In 2020, she said many people first heard the term defund the police.
“But we’ve been saying this for years, it is not a snappy slogan. It is a policy demand that saves Black lives,” she said.
Dawn Modkins of the Black Agency said that investment in the incarceration process heavily outweighs community investment in cities nationally, with police departments always pulling a huge portion of the General Fund.
Meanwhile, she stressed many people are being priced out of housing, and even average income earners are pushed out of state.
“There’s a lot of developer money and police officer association money attempting to rule our electoral processes that are buying our elections so the people’s voices are being pushed out,” said Modkins, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Long Beach.
Justice groups have pushed for more resources through budget allocations for years, which created some inroads, but she said it’s not enough. The health department has finally provided two health response teams for some lower-level non-emergency calls, such as homelessness, and mental health crisis, but more community response teams are needed to provide de-escalation support.
“We are saying divest from a carceral approach and responding with folks who are trained to kill, rather shift some of these resources to invest in our health departments and other means to respond to these non-emergency and lower level needs,” she said.
The People’s Budget is also calling for reparations for Black Americans.
In July, Rep. Jackson Lee, D-Texas ( HR-40) called on President Joe Biden to issue an Executive Order creating the HR-40 Commission to produce and recommend remedies to the negative impact of the nation’s past discriminatory institutions.
“This is about freedom and a formal acknowledgment of historic wrongs, and recognition of continuing injury against the descendants of the women and men who built this country. The creation of the HR-40 Commission would be reparative and restorative, and it’s long overdue,” said Rep. Jackson Lee on the National African American Reparations Commission website.
Modkins and others also began meeting with Black community members starting two years ago to push a local reparations fund.
“We’ve included that in the People’s Budget. I think we have to hold our electeds accountable,” she said.
The city budget is set to be voted on in September.
Local organizations part of the People’s Budget Long Beach Coalition include lead organization Black Lives Matter Long Beach, along with Black Agency, Long Beach Forward, Housing Justice Coalition, Long Beach Residents Empowered. Also, the Long Beach Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Language Justice Coalition, the Invest in Youth Coalition, Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, Long Beach Gray Panthers, LA Voice, Democratic Socialists of America, Sunrise Movement Long Beach, and Showing Up for Racial Justice – Long Beach.
The coalition specifically calls to reinvest police funds and additional resources into ten areas, according to the People’s Budget press release, including $197 million into Long Beach Black Reparations Fund and Black-Led Community Agency, $3 million into Tenant Right to Counsel -Housing Element Program 6.5, and $3.6 million into the Rental Housing Division – Housing Element Program 7.2. They are also calling for $5 million to support the Community Land Trust.
They want $10 million to support Ongoing Rental Assistance for Very Low & Low Income Households – Housing Element Program 3.1, $1 million for Older Adult Housing, $3 million toward Multi-Service Center Satellite Office to Serve Unhoused Community – Housing Element Program 4.1, $2.8 million for Language Justice and $1 million for the Long Beach Justice Fund, and $88 million for Climate Justice.
Coalition groups are challenging the city’s $3.2 billion proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget, and that a large portion of the nearly $136 million the city received from the American Rescue Plan Act went to support police instead of the community.
In the City of Long Beach proposed FY 2023 budget, a few of the target areas include addressing homelessness with Measure A funds for $2.1 million with a two-year outreach and clean-up initiative along local riverbeds. Community Safety includes $980,000 for the Community Crisis Response Program where an unarmed, first responder team can respond to mental health, substance abuse and quality of life-related 9-1-1 calls.
The City also proposes Equity, Inclusion, Health and Quality of Life Support will make additional investments with increasing structural funding by $20,000 for increased interpretation and translation services through the City’s Language Access Program, and a one-time utilization of Measure US funds of $511,620 for Community Based Grants and Incentives around Youth Development.
“The proposed budget will accelerate our recovery from the pandemic and establishes a strong framework for our city’s long-term growth by investing in infrastructure, public safety, homeless services and a new Office of Climate Action,” said Mayor Robert Garcia in a release.
To see the proposed People’s Budget,
To see the Proposed city budget,
For the National African American Reparations Commission, see https://reparationscomm.org/