Mayor Brand Cuts Advance Peace, $1.3M from Fresno Budget
A handful of community service officers for the Fresno Police Department and a controversial anti-gang initiative are among $1.3 million sliced from city’s next budget by Mayor Lee Brand.
Brand laid out seven line-item veto cuts as he announced approval Monday of the city’s 2019-20 fiscal year budget. The vetoes amount to 0.1% of the budget approved by the city council last month.
Amount Cut by Each Veto
$346,800: Five Fresno Police Department community services officers.
$200,000: For seed money that, combined with private funds, could launch an anti-gang initiative called Advance Peace. Under the program, community members talk to gang members about changing their behavior and seeking gainful employment. The program connects those willing to change to therapy, education, and workforce training. Opponents of the initiative zeroed in on one component: monthly stipends of $300 to $1,000 to participants.
Related Story: Advance Peace Isn't About Paying Gang Members Not to Shoot People$300,000: One-time funding for an Immigration Affairs Committee.
$250,000: Reduction in funding in the City Attorney’s Office for salaries in the Neighborhood Services Department, more commonly known as code enforcement. Direct oversight of Neighborhood Services is shifting from the mayor and city manager to the city attorney.
Related Story: Got a Beef With Code Enforcement? A New 'Sheriff' Is in Charge.$82,000: Reduction of two budgeted paralegals to one.
$43,000: One fire inspector for the Fresno Fire Department. The inspector was scheduled to come on board midway through the 2020 fiscal year.
$40,000: One-time funding for the Fresno Historical Society.
Councilmembers React to Vetoes
Councilman Miguel Arias took a broader view of Brand’s actions, saying the council made numerous changes to the proposed budget the mayor introduced at the beginning of the year.
“The mayor made a budget. The council made 56 changes to that proposed budget, and he accepted all of the changes except for seven,” said Arias, who represents southwest Fresno’s District 3. He said funding for park maintenance, street improvements, and an affordable housing trust fund remained intact. “That’s a significant win for the council,” Arias said.
Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria also chose to focus on the things that were still in the budget for west-central Fresno’s District 1, such as sidewalks, streetlights, and funding to build a dedicated senior center — something Fresno currently doesn’t have.
“These are significant wins that shouldn’t be overshadowed by a few line-item vetoes the mayor has made,” Soria said.
Both council members left open the possibility of challenging the vetoes, along with revisiting items on the cutting-room floor if city revenues exceed expectations.
Fresno Still Working on Anti-Gang Effort
Arias also pointed out that the idea of an anti-gang initiative isn’t dead, even if Advance Peace might be. At a June meeting, council members gave Police Chief Jerry Dyer and Advance Peace founder Aaron Foster 90 days to come up with a version of the program that could be effective in Fresno.
In a statement, Brand said the first $250,000 in sales tax collected by the city in August will go directly toward balancing the 2019-20 budget, which is required by city statute.
“Just like any family does when they are faced with difficult decisions on where to spend their limited budget, the city of Fresno has to do the same,” Brand said. “In the end, we funded as many priorities as we had available money to fund.”
Brand, who will not seek a second term in 2020, acknowledged that management of the city’s finances is a fluid process.
“We will continue these discussions and reevaluate if and when we have additional money available to spend,” he said.
Watch: Advance Peace Founder Explains Program