Santa Monica Strives Towards Justice

City Council calls on community to explore a new vision of public safety.

On June 23rd, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously passed two budgets. The City’s FY 2020–21 budget is a $613 M operational package. The second budget is a Capital Improvement Program fund that’s passed bi-annually. Those dollars are spent maintaining and improving public infrastructure like parks, buses, and walkways. Don’t worry. This is the dry update. Here’s the interesting part:

LA continues to be the site of many vocal protests following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Santa Monica— which is not controlled by the City of Los Angeles — garnered national attention when pundits pointed to looting on 3rd Street Promenade in early June as a sign of dangerous rioting. Officials were faced with a choice: would they read the flurry of activism as a cautionary tale or a call to action?

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Courtesy of CBS Los Angeles

We may have an answer. The budget’s passing included dedicated financial resources for racial justice: $200,000 from the general fund and $25,000 from the discretionary fund. This money will be given to the Black Agenda: a new program focused on creating plans for “empowerment, inclusion and equity” across a range of issues. The effort is led by the Black Agenda Steering Committee and its chairpersons Dr. Karen Gunn, Robbie Jones, and Barry Snell.

The City Council had previously created the We Are Santa Monica Fund to accept donations in the fight against coronavirus. As of a June 23rd vote, donations to the fund can now be earmarked by donors to be used specifically for the Black Agenda.

Finally, the Council is requesting proposals for a re-imagined system of public safety in Santa Monica. The Black Agenda will be providing input alongside City Council staffers. The city has also created another 15 member committee dedicated to the issue: the Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee. They’ll gather community input, review proposals in other cities, and make recommendations to the City Manager about reforming the SMPD and rethinking the City’s budget. Proposals will be submitted by September 8th.

All of these efforts must be guided by the input of Santa Monica citizens. The Black Agenda Steering Committee can be reached at SantaMonicaBlackAgenda@gmail.com. The Public Safety Reform Committee can be reached at PublicSafetyReform@smgov.net.

It seems clear that Santa Monica is working to engage with its community. By all accounts, they want to solve the persistent issues of ineffective policing and systemic inequality. These are first steps. A tremendous responsibility has been placed on these committees and the citizens of Santa Monica to conduct research, hear from affected citizens, and built thoughtful solutions. We rise to that challenge.

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