The Chapel Hill Town Council adopted the fiscal year 2020-2021 budget and passed a resolution to work toward racial equity and improved public safety measures during a special meeting on June 24.
Resolution to work toward racial equity
(From left) Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle and Council Members Barbara Foushee, Jacquelyn Gist and Susan Romaine listen to residents speak at a previous Town Council on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020.
The resolution commits to a few actions immediately, including:
- Prohibiting the use of chokeholds by the Chapel Hill Police Department
- Directing that police only authorize deadly force only in the case of "clear and convincing evidence of imminent threat of death or serious physical injury"
- Ending all regulatory traffic stops — "low level, non-moving violations that do not address public safety" — and focusing on "safety-driven" traffic stops, such as speeding or running red lights.
The resolution also sets in motion a process to launch a community task force that would work to restructure and revaluate public safety systems in Chapel Hill.
According to the resolution, "the task force will draft a set of recommendations for consideration by the council on specific approaches to public safety beyond policing, drawing on all available national, state, and local efforts, including the Governor’s North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice, experts and evidence-based resources and research, and community input."
Mayor Pam Hemminger began the council meeting by announcing this resolution and what it means for the Chapel Hill community.
On June 3, following the death of George Floyd, the whole Chapel Hill Town Council issued a joint statement that reaffirmed its commitment “to ensuring public safety, public health and a community where all people are free to thrive and to live their lives without fear,” Hemminger said.
In order to achieve these goals, Hemminger said, the council must do more to actively eradicate systemic racism.
“Tonight, we join together again to support a joint resolution that puts our commitment into action,” she said.
This resolution also allows for the proposed community task force to relocate resources, change the size of the police force and improving training for law enforcement, among other changes.
“Black lives matter,” council member Allen Buansi said. “If the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and countless others has taught us anything, it has taught us and shown us that it is now past time for action.”
The 2020-2021 Budget
The Town Council also adopted the budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year on Wednesday.
In the approved budget, police spending makes up 13 percent of total budget allocation.
The decision to adopt the budget follows another council meeting that included over two hours worth of public comment on June 10, primarily concerning the CHPD's share of the budget.
At the June 24 meeting, Chapel Hill resident Sarah Hoffman voiced her displeasure with the council's decision.
“Dollars for the police budgeted in this funding cycle need to go back to the communities in the forms of mental health support and employing more Black and brown people in our schools,” Hoffman told the council.
Transit, the highest expenditure for the FY 2020-2021 budget, made up 22 percent of the total budget, or approximately $24.5 million.
Other larger budgeted items include general government and police budgets, each making up 13 percent of total allocations, and public works, making up approximately 11 percent.
With the budget passed and the new task force in the works, council member Hongbin Gu said she understands the urgency to take action in the case of figuring out the proper amount of funding for the CHPD.
“My background is in medicine. As we always do in medicine, the first principle is do no harm,” Gu said. “So I think we owe it to our community, and I owe it to those who especially are marginalized or the Black and brown communities.”
Following a summer break, the council will next meet in September.
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