As defunding police gains traction in U.S., Baltimore City Council to begin budget hearings next week

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A chart compiled by Baltimore City Councilmember Ryan Dorsey (District 3) shows the amount of money allocated to various agencies under the proposed budget for fiscal year 2021. Chart courtesy of Ryan Dorsey.

As the Baltimore City Council prepares to begin budget hearings on Monday, some city council members are acknowledging community members’ calls for cuts to the Baltimore Police Department’s budget and encouraging them to contact Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young.

Demonstrators in Baltimore City have been protesting police brutality and racial injustice for seven straight days in response to the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd.

Officials in some major cities such as Minneapolis, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia are considering cuts to their police departments.

Earlier today, Councilmember Ryan Dorsey (District 3) tweeted a chart showing how the city’s funds would be allocated to various agencies under Young’s proposed budget.

BPD would receive a little over $509 million, more than three times the combined amount proposed for housing and community development, employment development, homeless services, recreation and parks, art and culture, health, and civil rights.

Dorsey later said he fully supports people advocating for budget cuts to BPD, but he reminded residents the council does not have the power to move money around in the budget; it can only make cuts.

Councilmember Kristerfer Burnett (District 8), who said he plans to vote in favor of budget cuts to BPD, encouraged people to contact his fellow council members and the mayor to express support for a charter amendment that would give the city council the ability to increase money for existing uses or add items for new purposes.

The bill is one of several charter amendments the council has introduced to reduce Baltimore’s “strong mayor” form of government, “shift the balance of power and make the Council more accountable to the citizens,” Burnett said.

Burnett added that because BPD is a state agency, Baltimoreans should also contact their state representatives to voice their support for reforming BPD or moving it under local control.

City Councilman Eric Costello (District 11), chair of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, today released the full schedule for budget hearings taking place all next week.

On Monday, the committee will hear from the Department of Finance and budget office, Baltimore City Information and Technology, the liquor board, the law department, Charm TV, Mayor’s Office of Minority and Women-Owned Business Development, and the health department.

On Tuesday, the Baltimore Development Corporation, Visit Baltimore, Mayor’s Office of Human Services, Baltimore Municipal Zoning and Appeals Board, and Department of Public Works are scheduled to testify.

On Wednesday, the departments of human resources, general services, planning, housing and community development and transportation, and the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success, are going to appear.

The Baltimore Fire Department, Office of Emergency Management, Department of Rec & Parks, Comptroller and Baltimore City Public Schools are up.

The hearings close on Friday with the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, Parking Authority of Baltimore City, Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office, Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and the Baltimore Police Department.

All the hearings will be streamed live on Charm TV (Channel 25) and on the municipal network’s website.

Residents can also access the hearings using WebEx or telephone. A full schedule and additional details about the hearings can be found on the council’s site.

Council members Leon Pinkett (District 7), Sharon Green Middleton (District 6), Bill Henry (District 4), Danielle McCray (District 2), Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer (District 5) and Shannon Sneed (District 13) are the other members of the budget committee.

The new fiscal year starts July 1.

Marcus Dieterle


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