While city governments around the nation are participating in a “seismic shift” in American policing, as recently reported in The New York Times, even the timid steps to cut Baltimore’s police budget taken by our City Council are being undermined by our lame-duck mayor (“In Baltimore budget battle, Mayor Young exerts power over City Council and Democratic nominee Scott,” June 15).
Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young appears determined to cement as half-term mayor the legacy he established as a long-time council president who wielded power primarily by way of obstruction. That Mr. Young will likely get away with turning cuts to the police into tax cuts for property owners, rather than services for the hundreds of thousands of our neediest citizens, is unfortunately in part due to the council’s astonishing failure to act more boldly on the opportunity this moment in history represents.
The cuts made by the council amount to roughly 1% of last year’s budget. Next year’s spending on police will actually be fractionally more than was spent in 2019. In short, it’s a pittance. Had the council been possessed of the imagination and courage shown by elected officials in cities like Minneapolis and Albuquerque, they would have made cuts much more in line with the 50% slash demanded by Baltimore groups like Organizing Black. Instead, they made token gestures to “efficiency” and good governance, rather than bold statements on the basis of good policy and moral authority.
What’s more, if they had made real cuts, on the order of 20% or more of the police budget, Mayor Young simply could not have let $100 million disappear from the city budget. So although Mayor Young’s method of exercising of his authority will grab headlines, the tepid output of the council’s budget session should really be the focus of our attention and the continued work of concerned citizens pressuring our elected officials to do more and do better.
Jake Carlo, Baltimore
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