The Board of Supervisors’ ability to fund or expand new programs designed to support an anti-racist, pro-social justice policy stance may be limited this year, as illustrated by a report available on the county’s website this week.
Last month, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas proposed scaling up a three-person unit within the Public Defender’s Office to better track misconduct and the use-of-force by law enforcement officers countywide.
“The epidemic of police shootings of unarmed individuals is an unrelenting outrage that has rightfully provoked a much larger conversation around the twin objectives of promoting public safety and investing in community well-being,’’ Ridley-Thomas said at the time.
The board called for a report back in 30 days, a fairly tight timeline indicating an interest in moving quickly to implement change.
In response, the Public Defender’s Office produced an analysis—posted to the county website on Monday—requesting 11 new positions and roughly $2.3 million annually to expand the unit.
Despite the relatively small request, given the county’s $34.9 billion budget for fiscal year 2020-21, Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai recommended that the board first consider leveraging existing staff and technology to do the job.
Hamai—after 32 years with the county, nearly six of those as CEO—may know better than anyone how much give-and-take there is in the county’s spending plan.
She announced Monday that she will retire at the end of this month, leaving the board in the hands of Fesia Davenport—now chief operating officer and soon-to-be acting CEO—as the supervisors decide what to include and exclude as part of the Supplemental Budget this fall.
During the current board’s tenure, supervisors have had the luxury of adding new programs and services to the list of what the county hopes to accomplish as part of that final adjustment to county spending. This year, absent an unexpected increase in federal or state funding, the board will likely need to make tougher decisions, including whether it will be necessary to lay off as many as 457 employees working in the jails for the Sheriff’s Department.
Whether this one new line item proposed by Ridley-Thomas makes the cut or not may be illustrative of the board’s ability to follow through on its plans and promises given a bleak financial picture.
Hamai did not specifically recommend against the spending, but highlighted “numerous competing funding requests and priorities’’ to be evaluated in September and urged the board to consider holding off on a broad expansion of the unit.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday Sept. 1.