Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Shamann Walton in June said they would look at ways to divert funds from the San Francisco Police Department to the Black community. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Breed promises ‘good budget year for the African-American community’

Days before Mayor London Breed is set to introduce her proposed two-year city budget proposal, a report was issued Monday with hundreds of recommendations for how to reinvest money from the Police Department’s budget into San Francisco’s Black community.

The report, issued by the Human Rights Commission after a number of community meetings, suggests broad areas for where the funding should go, including homelessness, mental health, housing and economic assistance.

The report does not specify funding amounts but indicates where Breed may prioritize the spending when she introduces her proposed city budget on Friday. She is not expected to announce how much she intends to reinvest from the Police Department’s budget until then, according to the Mayor’s Office.

“This is our opportunity to do better,” Breed said during a virtual Human Rights Commission meeting late Monday afternoon.

Breed, along with Supervisor Shamann Walton, tasked the commission with coming up with the recommendations in June after jointly announcing their plans to redirect an unspecified amount of police funding to Black communities following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death inspired calls across the nation to “defund the police”

Breed has to close a $1.5 billion deficit over the next two fiscal years in her Friday proposal, but she said she will invest in new services for the Black community. And she said much of what she herself supports was in the recommendations, adding that “my budget will hopefully be a budget that you all could be proud of.”

“It is going to be a tough budget year,” Breed said. “But I think it is going to be a good budget year for the African-American community.”

She said that “we still have a number of challenges that we are still facing with that budget and where the money is going to come from” but she said she does not intend to reduce funding to groups who provide services to Black residents and actually will increase their funding.

But Breed warned that what she proposes may face criticism from those who will experience cuts and that the Board of Supervisors may face pressure. The board’s review of the budget proposal begins next month.

“There’s a traditional group of very loud voices that go to the Board of Supervisors every single year demanding funding for various purposes which never include Black people and they tend to get their way,” Breed said, adding that “organizations that usually have a lot of political power will see some cuts.”

Breed said some of the reinvestment funding in her budget proposal will go for specific programs, while other funding will end up in a more general pot for allocation later on.

“That I think is where some challenges may end up being because people may see it as an opportunity to swipe some money to deal with things that they think should be funded that may not be funded,” Breed said.

During the meeting, Breed pointed to some specific recommendations in the report.

“I have of course my own ideas, but I am so grateful that many of the things I want to see done are the same things many of you want to see done, including prioritizing mental health and homelessness in the African-American community — a citywide problem but disproportionately we are still over represented in all of these categories,” Breed said.

She also signaled her support to expand The City’s home buyer programs to specifically provide down payment assistance to Black residents, calling it “something that is actually going to help black people get homes in San Francisco.”

Breed said she would also like to look at policies around affordable housing to give a preference in the lottery to Black persons who may have been displaced and are no longer living in San Francisco.

She also spoke about providing funding to persons who are released from jail, where nearly 50 percent of those incarcerated are Black.

Breed said that The City needs to make sure those released don’t recommit crimes to “get money so that they are able to take care of themselves.”

“We have to make sure that they have resources from day one,” she said.

Walton said in a statement that the commission’s role was important to elevate the voices of Black community. “Having Black voices take the lead on the process for reinvestment in our community is key to developing strategies that lead to tangible outcomes,” Walton said in a statement.

He also said that “the only way to address some of the systemic issues that have negatively affected Black people and have existed for decades in our city, is to make a sizable investment in the Black community that will lead to real change.”

Human Rights Commission Executive Director Sheryl Davis said that the commission’s work is far from over, despite having come up with “over 600 recommendations that came through the 13 meetings.”

“This is a working draft. There will be additional versions,” she said.

The commission will launch monthly community meetings starting in September to review progress on recommendations and starting in October will launch quarterly meetings to provide updates on the report.

Breed said that the issues in San Francisco that have led to stark disparities in the Black community have been talked about for years, but she said that “this is the first time that I feel confident that they are being taken seriously.”

“I want to look back on my time as mayor and be proud that we have made a difference for the African-American community in San Francisco,” Breed said.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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