Black Households Could Get an Additional $6000 Each in Services Under Proposed Budget

Black Households Could Get an Additional $6000 Each in Services Under Proposed Budget

COVID-19 has amplified the risks of overcrowded housing.

  • Posted on: 21 September 2020
  • By: HRASHID

Black Households Could Get an Additional $6,000 Each in Services Under Proposed Budget

Published on September, 2020 in COVID-19 Pandemic/Features by Jessica Zimmer

Last month, Mayor London Breed floated a two-year budget in which $120 million would be shifted from the San Francisco Police and Sheriff’s departments to programs intended to benefit African Americans. Under the initiative $40 million a year would be redirected from SFPD, $20 million annually from the Sheriff’s Department.

“We are listening to the African American community, which has for too long been unheard and underserved, and redirecting investments to close the disparities that we continue to see to this day,” Breed said.

The Mayor would normally submit her budget to the BoS in June, to be finalized by August. That timeline was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has triggered a $1.5 billion municipal deficit.

The proposed budget is being reviewed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee. In late-August the Committee recommended another roughly $26 million reduction from SFPD’s two-year budget, on top of Breed’s cuts. How these monies would be directed is undecided. The Board has until October 1 to send a revised plan back to Breed for her signature.

Under Breed’s proposal, $120 million would be used to address the legacy of racially disparate policies impacting health, housing, and economic outcomes. Based on priorities identified through 13 meetings with Black advocates, an online survey, and emailed recommendations, funds would be allocated to the Department of Public Health (DPH), Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OWED), and Human Rights Commission (HRC).

Sixty percent of the funds would be directed towards mental health, wellness and homelessness programs, with 35 percent focused on education, youth development, and economic opportunity. Five percent of the monies would be used to create a plan to divert non-emergency, low-priority service calls from SFPD to non-law-enforcement agencies. Separately, Breed’s budget includes funds to create a Crises Response Team pilot program to respond to behavioral issues on City streets.

Exactly how the redirected money would be spent won’t be determined until after the budget process is completed. Allocations would be made through a HRC-led process, based on Reinvestment of San Francisco Police Department Budget to Support the African American/Black Community, written by HRC Executive Director Sheryl E. Davis, published in July.

“Typically, for new grants and projects, there is a request for proposals process where an agency is selected. In the coming weeks during the budget process, as well as community engagement, more specific items might be identified,” said Davis. “The funding would then be allocated to the appropriate departments to begin the process either through an RFP or adding to an existing contract to begin the actual work.”

African Americans make up 5.6 percent of the City’s population, approximately 49,367 residents. According to the Brookings Institution, median African American household income in the San Francisco, Oakland, and Hayward metropolitan area was $59,083 in 2018. If the $120 million in proposed funds were provided as cash disbursements, each Black household would receive roughly $6,000.

In June, Breed issued a statement noting the inequities that plague people of color. “Since this pandemic began, we have seen how the type of work, schools, neighborhoods, homes, and support systems in our communities combine to put these groups at the greatest risk of suffering both disease and economic damage,” said Breed.

The View previously reported that neighborhoods with significant Latinx and Black populations have elevated rates for testing positive and dying of COVID-19. A 2017 San Francisco Foundation report indicated that in the Bay Area African Americans have among the least access to high-opportunity jobs, were among the most likely to reside in areas with few grocery stores, have high housing burdens, and are three times more likely than Whites to live in poverty.

In a statement, District 1 Supervisor and BoS Budget and Finance Chair Sandra Lee Fewer said the City incurred many new expenses in its COVID-19 response, including costs to support healthcare workers, testing and treatment, alternative housing, and Emergency Operations Center staffing.

District 10 Supervisor Shamman Walton acknowledged that African Americans have received services but believes response times and availability could be improved. According to Walton, data “…shows that we need more resources to be concentrated in our southeastern neighborhoods as well as in Districts 6 and 9 to help save lives and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our most vulnerable communities.”

Breed wants to spend a total of $12.6 billion in fiscal year 2020-2021, with $675 million allocated to SFPD and $246 million to the Sheriff’s Department. Before the public health crisis she’d proposed $11.9 billion in expenditures, $738 million directed to the police, $268 for the sheriff. Paying for the proposed budget hinges on voter approval of a business tax reform measure on the November ballot, which if passed is expected to raise between $60 to $140 million a year starting in 2022.

The budget also assumes that municipal labor unions will agree to defer scheduled wage increases until the end of fiscal year 2022, forgoing $55 million, 0.43 percent of the total budget, in FY 2020-2021 and $215 million, 1.8 percent of the budget, in FY 2021-2022. Unions representing police officers and firefighters have tentatively agreed to defer raises for two years, in return for an additional six percent pay hike over several years.

“Investing $120 million in the Black community is something to be excited about,” Walton was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Obviously, I wish it could be more. We still have an opportunity at the Board of Supervisors to see if there are other resources we can look at redirecting as well.”

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said in a Chronicle interview that the reallocation would require sacrifices, with monies principally taken from not filling vacant positions, vehicle purchases, and capital projects.

“We understand it is necessary to embrace bold and courageous change to address disparate policing toward the African American community,” said Sergeant Michael Andraychak, SFPD public information officer. “This is consistent with our Department’s commitment to reform and the progress we continue to make in our comprehensive and voluntary Collaborative Reform Initiative. We recognize it will take sacrifice on our part to fulfill the promise of the plan Mayor Breed and Supervisor Walton have proposed. We look forward to working cooperatively with them moving forward,”

In interviews with Chronicle reporters, Tony Montoya, San Francisco Police Officers Association (SFPOA) president, said the changes were fair. However, he noted that unfilled vacancies could prompt longer emergency response times, negatively impact proactive policing, and limit officers’ ability to investigate crimes.

“By not filling those vacancies, it’s going to stretch our staff even thinner,” said Montoya.

According to Montoya, SFPD has worked for years to increase the number of full-duty officers to 1,971, the minimum staffing level stipulated in the City Charter based on a 1994 ballot initiative. The department presently has 1,812 full-duty officers, excluding academy recruits, airport staff, those on medical, family, or military leaves, and individuals with disciplinary conditions. Including citywide, airport, full- and less than full-duty officers SFPD has 2,262 officers.

SFPD’s FY 2019 budget was $692.3 million. In February, the Department was expected to end the year with a $1.1 million surplus. Breed wants to cut more than six percent from the $738.5 million SFPD had requested for FY 2020. Over the past 10 years, SFPD’s annual budget has risen by an inflation-adjusted $170 million, with more than 500 officers and staff added over the period.

The $40 million for each fiscal year to be taken from SFPD’s budget is roughly double the $23 million SFPD proposed to redirect in June. The San Francisco Police Commission unanimously rejected the lower amount after advocates flooded it with calls to substantially defund law enforcement agencies.

Breed wants a roughly eight percent reduction in the Sheriff’s Department’s annual $260 million budget, which’d likely lessen the use of overtime. The reduction follows a 2019 City Controller recommendation that the Department hire more staff to dampen its reliance on expensive extra hours.

San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto said his Department is collaborating with the Mayor’s Office to “reduce our budget and redirect funds to support and address historic inequities in San Francisco’s Black community.”

According to Nancy Crowley, spokesperson for Sheriff Miyamoto, the Sheriff’s Department proposed a $21.5 million budget cut, roughly 8.5 percent. “Mayor Breed’s office will determine where they will redirect the savings they realize from our cuts. The cuts will impact overtime,” said Crowley.

“We need responsible redirection that still allows us to continue our work to interrupt the cycle of incarceration caused by the underfunding of education, youth development and economic opportunities,” Miyamoto stated.

“We are hopeful that this increased awareness and commitment will make a genuine difference and remove barriers to progress, especially for justice-involved people who seek successful reentry. We have led the nation for decades in restorative justice and rehabilitation programming that supports successful reentry, including the first high school embedded in a jail, the 2003 Five Keys, Resolve to Stop the Violence Project, which works with incarcerated males who have violence in their criminal histories, Roadmap to Peace, which connects young adults with neighborhood support programs to gain self-sufficiency and avoid violence once they are released from jail, the Survivor Restoration Program, which advocates for and supports survivors of domestic and random violence, and One Family, which supports children of incarcerated parents, offering one-on-one therapy, parenting classes and family visits,” said Crowley.

Last month, the Sheriff’s Department completed a six-week community youth employment program, Eco-Jobs, in partnership with the San Francisco Conservation Corps and Public Utilities Commission.

“Twenty-four 16- to 17-year old City youth learned basic land and vegetation management, landscaping, and habitat restoration while earning approximately $16.50 an hour. This program is in its second year. We were able to continue it during COVID-19 by implementing strict safety protocols,” said Crowley.

In July the San Francisco Police Commission voted unanimously to approve requirements to “make bias-free policing a reality,” reform use-of-force policies, and hang “Black Lives Matter” posters in police stations. SFPOA had objected to the BLM poster requirement.

Breed’s budget was influenced by information shared by African Americans residing, working in, or employed by the City, as well as Blacks with San Francisco ties. Members of other ethnic and racial groups also provided feedback. Individuals shared information through 13 online meetings held by the HRC, which began in June.

“The meetings help build consensus to identify the process and the priorities for investing in the Black community. This is part of the challenge. There is no one idea of how to solve concerns that have arisen,” said Davis.

“People are starting to understand how the entire fabric of the City has been negatively affected by systematic racism,” Walton said. “Redevelopment, redlining, out-migration of Black residents, the school lottery, and law enforcement’s disregard for Black lives are some of the primary concerns. I know people are fed up. Fortunately, as the meetings have continued, there have not been many disagreements. I know a lot of allies want to weigh in, but this needs to be a Black-led conversation.”

Meeting attendance ranged from 60 to more than 150, with breakout groups on topics such as mental health and education. Attendees were selected after notifying HRC of their interest. Some participants were invited by their district supervisor or a municipal director.

In one gathering, participants recommended cutting the budgets of other City departments to address social inequities, that the San Francisco Unified School District should hire and retain more Black teachers, that theater and the arts could be effectively deployed as curative therapy, and “alternate first responders” should be hired to replace law enforcement officers.

According to Davis later sessions went more smoothly than earlier ones. “We had issues with individuals who have disrupted early meetings and shared racist content, including material related to the Klu Klux Klan and derogatory statements. It seems they were upset that money would be redirected from SFPD. We’ve started using tools such as muting everyone at the start and closing the chat if necessary to create a safe space. We are reviewing email addresses and names that appear to be fake to make sure the conversation does not get derailed,” said Davis.

Lyslynn Lacoste, executive director of Bayview MAGIC, a family and youth-directed program funded through the Office of the Public Defender, is participating in the HRC meetings. She’d like to see more money allocated to mental health resources, as well as for youth organizations and programs, and employment for transitional-age youth, those between the ages of 18 to 24, who graduate from public systems or are at risk of unsuccessfully launching into adulthood.

“The Youth Guidance Center is in the process of being dismantled…a start. Next, the City could take the cost of probation for juvenile offenders and put it to support and uplift young people,” said Lacoste.

Another participant, Joi Jackson-Morgan, executive director of 3rd Street Youth Center and Clinic, a nonprofit adolescent medical and mental health care site with an emphasis on sexual health and contraception, said the meetings offer an opportunity to hold the City accountable.

“We’re looking at how to right the wrongs of over 400 years and moving together in a direction to protect and support the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our community. Housing is definitely a concern. There’s been a huge out-migration of Black people from the City and over 30 percent of people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco are Black. Access to food, access to transportation, and access to jobs are tied together. We need to work on many of these issues simultaneously to drive equity,” said Jackson-Morgan.

According to participant Dr. Monique LeSarre, executive director of Rafiki Coalition for Health and Wellness, a nonprofit that works to eliminate health inequities in Black and marginalized communities through education, advocacy, and health and wellness services, transitional-aged youth who don’t have secure housing are especially at risk.

“Youth who are experiencing housing insecurity are physically, emotionally, spiritually, and economically vulnerable. If someone asks them to do something that also puts them at risk, they feel they can’t say no. Funding can be used to stop the vicious cycle that marginalizes and criminalizes them. We need to offer them support and protection,” said LeSarre.

Edward Hatter, executive director of the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, a nonprofit that offers youth and young adult programs, food and meal services, and wellness classes, has offered advice to HRC and is a member of the Community Police Advisory Board for District 10. Hatter would like to see funds augment preschool and college scholarships for Blacks.

“I’d also like to see more mental health services, particularly counselors and providers who are people of color. There should be incentives for Black college students to go into therapy-related fields. There should also be cultural competence training for therapists to teach them about the City’s Black community,” said Hatter.

Hatter encouraged funding for security within public housing complexes, specifically “Block X,” the 72-unit affordable housing development at 1101 Connecticut Street. “There are residents who moved from condo walk-up-style units in Potrero Terrace and Potrero Annex into a multi-level apartment building. They aren’t familiar with how to address issues like continuous and repeated incidents of loud noise in hallways. When there are no security staff on-site, this can lead to conflicts. In addition, people in public housing are often the victims of property crimes. More access to security or even law enforcement officers who have been trained in cultural competency and have established a good relationship with community members could help ensure residents are safe,” said Hatter.

Gail Meadows, principal of Meadows-Livingstone School, a private Afrocentric elementary school founded in 1979 at 1499 Potrero Avenue, didn’t attend the HRC meetings. She’d like to require law enforcement officers to receive cultural competence training about the Black community and volunteer in schools.

“They should be community helpers, work in gardens and community centers, and use bicycles rather than cars,” said Meadows. “These officers will be invited after their cultural training and meeting with teachers. As it stands, Black children are frightened of police officers. They have a good reason to be.”

Meadows recalled when Bevan Dufty, then District 8 Supervisor, sent a SFPD “passing car” to alert people that students from her school were arriving at a park for an outing and needed a safe place to play.

“This kind of interaction builds trust. I believe that police officers’ racism comes from being afraid. If the police learn not to be afraid of Black youth, then they are more likely to see them as people, and less likely to kill or injure them,” said Meadows.

According to Davis, other people-of-color support redirecting SFPD funds to African Americans; Latinx advocates have been meeting with municipal officials to convey their concerns about resource allocations and funding.

“There is currently a lot of awareness about incidents of violence committed upon Black people by law enforcement officers. Now is the time to keep the focus on the needs of the Black community,” said Davis.

Damon Harris, vice president of community development for BRIDGE Housing, a San Francisco-headquartered nonprofit that develops affordable housing, including Block X, said Bridge defers to the perspective of the communities most impacted to establish spending priorities.

“The production of affordable housing continues to be an ongoing concern, as does the health of systems that promote housing stability. COVID-19 has amplified the risks of overcrowded housing and the tenuous nature of housing in a high cost area. Physical distancing and isolation is nearly impossible for people living in overcrowded housing. We know that renters bear a much higher burden of living in overcrowded housing. We are heartened by the City’s continued strong support for the ongoing production of affordable housing at other sites in San Francisco, such as 490 South Van Ness and 1950 Mission,” said Harris.

“We recognize the enormous challenges the City faces as it simultaneously seeks to recover from the global pandemic while better serving the needs of the public, in a time of economic devastation,” said Raymond Ridder, senior vice president of communications for the Golden State Warriors. “As a large employer, a significant contributor to the local tax base, and a vital community resource, the Warriors will be an important part of that process. Just as the team’s players and coaches are using their platforms to speak out on racial injustice, the Warriors organization will use its place in the community to advance a more just and equitable society.”

A donor-advised fund (DAF) dedicated to directing monies to programs benefiting African Americans has been established at the San Francisco Foundation. A DAF enables contributors to give an amount for which they receive an immediate tax deduction, while enabling them to recommend disbursements from the fund over time. According to Davis, contributions ranging between $250 and $10,000 have already been secured.

SOURCE:The Potrero View,1459 18th Street, Number 214,San Francisco, CA 94107,Telephone: 415.643.9578,Editorial E-Mail: editor(at)potreroview(dot)net,Advertising E-Mail: production(at)potreroviw(dot)net

Yours In Peace
Hasson Rashid
Concern Citizen