Due to the recent national events of police brutality and consequent protests and rioting, the city of Imperial Beach City Council voted to implement provisions of “My Brothers’ Keeper Alliance” created by the Obama Foundation whose mission is “building safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color where they feel valued and have clear pathways to opportunity.” As part of the same item, a budget review of law enforcement spending was presented and the formation of an Ad Hoc committee was discussed to receive community input. The Ad Hoc committee headed by two councilmembers would give direction to staff as far as action needed on use of force and solutions to make the Sheriff’s department more cost effective.

City Manager Andy Hall presented the item showing slides with information on law enforcement spending. The law enforcement budget for the city of Imperial Beach is $7,594,354 in FY 19/20 or 36.4 percent of the total compared to the total municipal budget of $20,852,550. Average law enforcement cost per capita is $277 while average beach cities spend $401. The city currently has the second or third lowest crime rate in the county.

In FY 20/21 the Sheriff’s Department includes 26.5 sworn officers plus support staff and overhead while the Fire Department has 12 sworn firefighters plus support staff and overhead. Due to the pandemic, the city will have a smaller municipal revenue than projected.

It was pointed out that at times sworn officers perform duties that could be performed by others. Some of them include alcohol permit monitoring, senior center services, code enforcement, domestic violence and homeless outreach.

The cost of the Sheriff’s Department was compared to the Recreation costs. The recreation budget is $590,035, which means a 2.8 percent spending while in other cities the recreation spending is 8.5 percent. Also per capita spending in Imperial Beach is $22 compared to other beach cities of $135. Hall said that to keep law enforcement fully funded the city has cut back on recreation and the fire department spending.

During the public comment period close to 50 emails were received supporting the resolution. Councilmember Ed Spriggs and Mayor Pro-Tem Paloma Aguirre volunteered to be part of the Ad Hoc committee. “The nation is undergoing an introspection and the critical justice reform is overdue…eliminate need to use force,” she said.

Aguirre also pointed out that spending more than 1/3 of the budget to law enforcement is not sustainable. She moved to reallocate funds from the Sheriff’s Department to programs that support qualified professionals that can respond to certain calls and invest in intervention and prevention programs to reduce crime while the Sheriff’s continue to investigate crimes.

“We’re completely tied down …by the expense of the Sheriff’s Department and Sheriff’s Services. This is not to say those services have not been excellent for Imperial Beach, the question is cost effectiveness…how we can release funds to restore some services really desperately needed by our community,” said Spriggs.

“I’ve been on the record since my election that the Sheriff’s contract is bankrupting our city in so many ways,” said Councilmember Mark West. He brought up the example of Eugene, Oregon where through the Cahoots program, mental health and counselors respond to calls related to homelessness, addiction and mental health.

Councilmember Robert Patton thanked the residents who wrote the many emails received during public comment and said the residents help guide the council on decisions. He pointed out a problem the city is experiencing. “When you have a lot of kids on the street with nothing to do, you’re going to have a problem, so we need a recreation department where kids can do things in our city,” he said.

Patton also said that the budget for seniors is low and the money spent on recreation mostly goes to mowing lawns. But he warned “we have to make sure we have an Ad Hoc committee going first, before we slash the Sheriff’s…come up with some programs… what do we want done and not put the cart before the horse…If we don’t do this right, there are going to be unintended consequences,” he said.

It was discussed hiring a consultant to help with the impact of a reduction in Sheriff’s Department force and come back in 90 days with findings by the Ad Hoc committee. Findings will also be discussed at that time to restructure the Sheriff’s Department by possibly eliminating some positions and reallocating money to recreation. Hall said that the Sheriff’s Department is aware the city is looking at making changes. “They know we are looking for efficiency. They are committed to help us do that. They believe they can reduce the size of the Sheriff’s Department while maintaining safety,” he said.

A motion to approve this resolution was carried unanimously.

In other business:

A six month extension was granted to Mike Hess Brewing at Seacoast Drive and Date Street to complete construction. An update was given to the council at the June 3 meeting and Hess was asked to make a few improvements before the construction begins. West said he wants the start date to be Sept. 8 with an end date of Oct. 15.

A citizen’s initiative on additional cannabis outlets, retails lounges and more was approved to be placed on the ballot in November 2020. Instead of adopting the citizen’s initiative outright, the City Council voted on Sept. 18, 2019 to submit the initiative to the voters at the Nov. 3, 2020 election. During this meeting, the City Council approved a resolution to authorize written ballot arguments and rebuttal arguments. This resolution was carried with a 4 to 5 vote with a no by Patton.

The adoption of a resolution ratifying and consolidating previous actions by the council impacting the city general fund budget and restoring the economic uncertainty fund back to its appropriate level with the use of excess revenue over expenditures at the end of FY 19-20 was approved unanimously.

Finance Manager Joann Gitmed presented this item with a slide show. The original fund revenues for FY 19-20 was projected $ 20,852,550. Amendments accounted for $320,640. The current budget is $21,173,90 and is projected at $ 21,419,908. For FY 20-21 the original budget was projected at $21,442,515 but with the COVID adjustment, it is now projected at $20,514,078.

The next city council meeting will be held July 15 at 5 p.m. via teleconference. For more information log on www.imperialbeachca.gov.

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