June 23, 2005
The media continue to make the case for a cause and effect relationship between the call for a STATE OF EMERGENCY and the allocation of millions of dollars for police, fire recreation and libraries in the City of Richmond.
I continue to maintain that there is no news here. The allocations at the June 21, 2005, City Council meetings were simply the final act of a play that began in July of 2004 when the City Council unanimously voted to pursue a ˝% sales tax to restore services. It was not the result of a call for a STATE OF EMERGENCY.
On July 13, 2004, the City Council unanimously adopted Resolution 103-04 placing a measure on the November 4, 2004, ballot for a ˝% sales and use tax intended to help restore vital City services. The Minutes read as follows:
A proposed resolution calling and providing for a Special Election to be held on November 2, 2004, to submit to the voters of the City of Richmond an Ordinance imposing a Transaction and Use Tax to be administered by the State Board of Equalization was presented. The following individuals spoke on the matter: Corky Booze and Andres Soto. Following discussion, on motion of Vice Mayor Griffin, seconded by Councilmember Rogers adopted Resolution No. 103-04 by the unanimous vote of the Council. A proposed resolution providing for the filing
The official Voter Information Pamphlet further outlined the need for Measure Q and the anticipated allocations in the “Argument in Favor of Transaction and Use Tax Measure Q.” There was no “Argument Against Transaction and Use Tax Measure Q.”
Due to state tax grabs and a slow economy, Richmond closed fire stations and libraries and cut 25% of its police force. Parks, recreation, street cleanup and anti-blight and senior programs were cut by about ˝.
Bring back these vital services. Vote yes on Measure Q, the ˝% sales tax increase.
Like you, we don’t like paying taxes. Businesses, out of town shoppers, etc. (not average Richmond residents) pay most of it.
Like you, we don’t support taxes making government bigger. But Measure Q merely restores sme of the services lost due to state takeaways.
And the sad truth is that we really don’t have a choice. The State’s not going top return the millions it’s stolen from us. Richmond laid off about half its administrators and cut the City Council budget. Due to massive deficits, Richmond (like other California cities) has not only cut the fat, but has cut the muscle. Employees have offered to reduce their pay, and are “busting their butts” to provide services in spite of massive layoffs.
But, Richmond needs new revenue to bring back laid off employees to provide basic vital services.
You get what you pay for.
It’s your choice: pennies a day for the sales tax, or:
Our parents’ generation didn’t disrespect us by permitting closed libraries, inadequate parks/recreation programs and decimated police and fire services.
Let’s not be the generation that gave up on our kids…and ourselves.
Vote yes on measure Q.
Signed by Jim Rogers, Council member, City of Richmond; Mike Gormley, President, Richmond police Officers Association; Jim Russey, President, Richmond Firefighters and Linda Jackson-Whitmore, President, Santa Fe Neighborhood Council.
On November 4, 18,620 (69%) Richmond voters passed Measure Q.
On November 22, 2004, KPIX TV was nice enough to remind us on the 6:30 news that Richmond has the dubious distinction of being named the most dangerous city in California and the 12th most dangerous city in the United States. We were all looking forward to using the sales tax revenue, due in June 2005, to bolster police and other services to try and address the CHRONIC homicide problem in Richmond. Homicide in Richmond is not a 2005 revelation, nor is it news. For the last ten years, and for decades previously, Richmond’s homicide rate looks more like something from the TV show “Deadwood” than what one would expect in a modern suburb.
However, the current rate is lower than 2003 and only slightly higher than 2004.
Richmond Homicides Since 1994
On June 21, 2005, the Richmond City Council adopted a budget for the allocation of the first Measure Q revenues to provide increased services for law enforcement, fire, parks and recreation and the library – just as promised.
This is, however, not a problem the City can simply spend its way out of. In 2003, with 38 homicides – the highest since 1994 – the City spent more money than it ever had in the last 100 years for police, recreation programs and libraries. In fact, it spent millions more than it had available, precipitating the budget crisis that really was legitimate news. Solving the homicide problem will take more than money; it will require something far more difficult to find, a significant cultural change in a few neighborhoods that make up only about 5% of the City’s land area and maybe less than 20% of its population. It will take the creation of true “communities” made up of people who are willing to come together and trust each other, trust the police and have faith that, with help from schools, churches, community organizations and the rest of us, they can change their neighborhoods and Richmond forever.
The money is now allocated. But what we do not have is accountability in how the money will be spent and what we can expect for it. I want to see a goal of reducing the homicide rate by at least 50% during the remainder of 2005 and 2006. We did it in 1998, and we did it in 2001. We can do it now.
Richmond police get $2 million
Although it brushed aside a bid to declare a state of emergency in the city, the Richmond City Council gave its sweeping support to a public safety package that adds almost $2 million to the police department's $40 million budget.
The money comes from a half-cent increase in sales tax which voters approved as Measure Q this past November. City officials expect the hike to generate around $4 million in the coming fiscal year. The total spending plan divides the money among youth centers, the library, fire safety and police.
The police department's share will pay for 15 additional officers, interim Police Chief Terry Hudson said.
Hudson had prepared a request for extra funding that came to $1.5 million. The money would pay for eight new officers for the violence suppression unit, four officers for a new parolee-tracking unit and three school resource officers -- one each at Gompers, Kennedy and Richmond high schools.
A federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant has been paying for an officer at each of four high schools -- the above three plus DeAnza -- and a supervising sergeant. But that grant is about to run out.
Lt. Mark Gagan, the department's public information officer, said he did not know whether that grant could be tapped again, and, if not, whether the schools would lose those officers.
"I can say that the three positions in the plan are to be added to our current deployment," he said.
Council members John Marquez and Maria Viramontes, declaring a "state of emergency" in Richmond at a joint news conference last week, asked for $500,000 on top of that for a "firearm action program."
Hudson said he had prepared "a secondary budget" for that allocation that came to only $448,000. The council approved Mayor Irma Anderson's request to transfer the excess $52,000 into community centers programs.
Here's how the remainder of Hudson's budget breaks down for the action plan:
• $175,000 will pay for an attorney to handle blighted and abandoned properties, prepare warrants for searching suspected drug houses and geographic restraining orders "for individuals who we have identified who plague certain neighborhoods," Hudson said.
• $43,000 for clerical help in transcribing tips from the telephone hotline.
• $150,000 for a Silent Witness Relocation and Support Program. If federal charges ensue, "We have the support of federal agencies, who will take on the financial burden of relocation," Hudson said.
• $80,000 to track "targeted violent offenders."
Two of his missions -- relocating witnesses and tracking parolees -- mirror existing county programs. But Hudson said the district attorney's office only relocates witnesses after it's been determined that their information is germane to a case, and Hudson said the city program would enable people to make a first call "if they feel they are in harm's way of retaliation" otherwise.
Many parolees slip from the radar of parole officers, whose caseloads number in the hundreds. "Most people who return to Richmond after being incarcerated use the addresses of friends and relatives, and in reality they're not really there," he said.
Only Councilwoman Gayle McLaughlin voted against it.
"We need to reach out to our alienated youth and youth who are going to become alienated," she said, adding that the largest portion of the general fund already goes to the police department. "We can't look solely to law enforcement. What will be enough? Fifty percent of our general fund? Seventy-five percent of our general fund?"
She also advocated tapping the city's neighborhood councils for ideas on how best to spend the $500,000.
Opponents of an emergency declaration accused Viramontes and Marquez of misleading the public. From their comments, many in Tuesday's overflow crowd of roughly 600 came to the meeting believing the city had to declare a state of emergency in order to appropriate its own funds to pay for the public safety plan.
In the end, only Marquez, Viramontes and Councilman Nat Bates voted for the proposal.
Hudson said he has already established a partnership with the county sheriff and the Highway Patrol to help fight crime, neither of which requires an official state of emergency. The city has been rocked by eight homicides since the beginning of June. Police say they are unrelated and so far have made no arrests.
The Richmond City Council has approved nearly $2 million to fight crime in the city's most dangerous neighborhoods after rejecting the pleas of an emotional crowd of 600 people to declare a state of emergency in the wake of eight killings in the past two weeks.
The 7-2 vote to reject the state of emergency came early Wednesday after a three-hour public hearing that included statements from ministers and mourning families of murder victims followed by a heated debate among council members.
But the council later approved most of the anti-crime proposals that accompanied the declaration, including spending nearly $2 million from a voter- approved half-cent sales tax to hire 15 police officers over 15 months, install surveillance cameras in public areas, increase the number of drug- sniffing dogs, improve witness programs and keep track of parolees and ex- convicts.
Both sides agree that crime is a very serious problem in Richmond and that police need more resources after years of budget cuts.
But opponents argued that the "state of emergency" tag would hurt property values and local businesses while doing little to address the underlying problems. Some people suggested that a declaration of emergency could drive away shoppers and therefore generate less sales tax money for fighting crime.
"All that hype about a state of emergency was very unfortunate, and bad for our city,'' Councilman Tom Butt said Wednesday. "The homicide problem in Richmond is a chronic problem. ... The voters supported that half-cent sales tax (last year) to see more resources put into this problem. But this is not an emergency. That is manufactured crisis."
Council members John Marquez and Maria Viramontes, who introduced the measure last week to declare a state of emergency in nine neighborhoods, were the only two to vote in favor of their measure.
"We got what we wanted," Marquez said Wednesday. "This created so much attention that I think my colleagues felt the need to approve funding. The fact that the local state of emergency was not approved simply reduces our chances of getting additional state and federal funding.
"All this rhetoric about property values and loss to business probably didn't give any comfort to those people in the audience who lost loved ones.''
The measure was introduced during a series of violent crimes in recent days, including Friday's shooting death of a man in front of his 7-year-old daughter. It called for fighting crime with $1.95 million from a half-cent sales tax voters passed in November to fund city services.
The council also allocated funds to improve the witness protection program and expand efforts to track parole and probation violators. Richmond police will seek help from the California Highway Patrol and sheriff's office for traffic patrols to allow Richmond police to target drug dealers and gang rivalries.
But the resolution ignited a fierce response from several members of the nine-member council. Richmond was ranked the 12th most dangerous city in the country last year and the most dangerous in California, based on FBI crime statistics and population figures compiled by the research firm Morgan Quitno.
Richmond was the scene of some of the state's worst violence during the crack epidemic of the early '90s. A strong community policing program was implemented and helped bring down the numbers for several years.
But in the past few years, homicides have been increasing, with 38 in 2003 and 35 in 2004, the highest numbers since the mid-1990s. There have been 17 killings so far this year; there were 13 at the same time last year.