Grand Rapids city leaders attempt to clear up concerns over proposed city budget through virtual town hall
Due to a technical problem, no calls were taken, but all questions were answered via a Facebook comment or text.
GRAND RAPIDS, me. – Grand Rapids hosted a virtual town hall on Thursday evening using the city’s proposed budget.
Much of the night was spent discussing the budget for the Grand Rapids Police Department. Despite the town hall meeting, the Defund the GRPD group still does not feel that the community is being heard.
“It’s just daunting to see,” says Zahna, a volunteer for the group.
Due to a technical problem, no calls were taken, but all questions were answered via a Facebook comment or text. Something Zahna was frustrated with.
“That gives you a space where you can really easily choose what you want to go through, the ones that sound best,” she says.
For the past year, Defund has asked the GRPD to cut the budget to the chartered minimum of 32% of the city’s total budget. That would represent roughly $ 5 million downsizing and a loss of staff.
“I was only doing this for the time being, and I spoke to the boss the other day and to get that number, it would be about 50 officials,” says City Administrator Mark Washington.
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said the city’s goal over the past few years has been to expand its in-house officials to better reflect the community.
“Those who would be laid off would be our newest employees,” she said. “For me that contradicts exactly what we want to achieve.”
Defund the GRPD just says they don’t care.
“It’s a shame that you’ve waited so long to develop your own and that they have to leave these positions, but at the same time that’s not our problem,” says Zahna.
Washington noted at one point that the GRPD currently has 100 fewer officers than at its greatest. Bliss supported this statement.
“We have to make sure that if someone calls 911 and a cop shows up, we have the resources and a cop can show up,” she said.
In response, Zahna said at a presentation to the 61st District Court earlier this week that a 40% reduction in cases has been reported over the past 10 years.
“If arrests don’t lead to court, why do we still need nearly 300 officers and sworn people on the street,” asks Zahna. “That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
The city budget has not yet been determined. Another public hearing is planned for May 18.
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