Wu rejects City Council budget changes that will defund police and fire departments

Local news

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said Monday she was vetoing a series of budget adjustments made by the City Council last week, including cuts to funding for town's police and fire departments.

By a vote of 10 to three, town council decided to reallocate funds from the police, fire department, constructing authority and transport authority to areas reminiscent of housing assistance and youth work. Wu presented her Budget proposal for the 2025 financial 12 months in April. The city councilors had formulated their amendments in over 30 hearings and dealing sessions, which culminated within the vote last week.

The City Council reallocated $15.3 million of the proposed $4.6 billion budget. The total spending proposed by Wu was not reduced. Under the Council's changes, the entire city's major departments, including public safety departments, would still face budget increases.

Wu has the ability to approve or reject changes made by council members and exercised that power on Monday.

“Boston is now the safest major city in the country, and we must continue this progress through ongoing coordination and strong community safety infrastructure and excellent city services for youth, families and seniors,” Wu wrote in a letter to city councilors. “Our record-low levels of violence are due to well-resourced public safety measures, beautiful parks and public spaces, and comprehensive programs that serve every generation of our community.”

Council member Brian Worrell, chairman of the Budget Committee, defended the method that led to the council's redistricting.

“The package agreed to by 10 council members last week took a data-driven approach. And in this vote, the council demonstrated its commitment to public safety with the largest increases in recent history, increasing next year's police budget by $47 million and the fire budget by $27 million. The council's final package reflected voters' voices and none of the differences will impact staffing,” Worrell said in an announcement.

Councilmen John FitzGerald, Ed Flynn and Erin Murphy voted against the changes last week. All three expressed satisfaction with Wu's decision on Monday. Wu first announced her veto on Sunday through the Boston Fire Department's annual memorial ceremony, based on Murphy, who was in attendance. Murphy said she was not surprised by the move, as Wu had opposed similar proposals to chop public safety funding during Mr. Wu's tenure. the forwards and backwards of last 12 months.

The City Council could override the mayor's vetoes with a two-thirds majority. It's unclear when the matter might be taken up. Worell could opt to call a separate meeting before one other vote, Murphy said. In that case, council members likely wouldn't vote until their June 26 meeting, since next week's meeting falls on the federal Juneteenth holiday.

Murphy expressed optimism that more of her colleagues might agree together with her, Flynn, FitzGerald and Wu.

“[The amendments] would have drastically affected security in the city, and the mayor agrees. I am confident that we can convince other colleagues of this as well,” she said.

FitzGerald said on Monday he was committed to totally funding all “core city services.”

“I think this is a great thing,” he said of Wu's veto. “We've seen a big drop in crime over the last few years, and I think that's the result of our investments in our police and other programs that keep kids active and off the streets.”

Flynn pointed to “great uncertainty” in Boston's economic outlook and stressed in an announcement that fiscal responsibility should be taken “seriously.”

“Now is not the time for the City Council to cut funding for public safety departments and essential city services,” he said.

The Boston Police Patrolman's Association also praised Wu.

“We applaud Mayor Wu for not only prioritizing public safety, but also reversing all irresponsible cuts to the police budget by a City Council that appears to care more about playing political games than ensuring the highest level of public safety for the people of Boston,” the union said in an announcement. Posted to X.

Wu's budget proposal incorporates about $2 million in changes proposed by the council. In her letter, she acknowledged the council's deal with housing and youth jobs. Wu retained $500,000 in allocations for down payment assistance, community land trusts and legal representation for families.

It also accepted funds for municipal salaries, inspection services, garbage disposal in containers, infant and maternal health programs, and support for small businesses.

Voters gave the City Council the authority to reallocate funds as a part of the mayor's 2021 budget proposal. Although she agreed with Wu's veto decision, Murphy said she would really like to see a broader discussion about that process and the way much power it actually gives to city councilors.

“This is the third year in a row that the mayor has rejected virtually every amendment submitted,” Murphy said.

FitzGerald, who was elected to town council for the primary time, said he was “excited” to see Wu's response to the council's amendments and said the complete process had gone well.

“Any conversation that looks at other ways of doing things is worth it. Those are things we should be looking at,” he said. “Certain issues are being illuminated, you understand where the money is coming from and where it is going. That's probably the most important responsibility we have as city councilors because we are the financial stewards of this city. The process went well and at the end of the day, the mayor is the mayor and that's why you get elected to that office.”

image credit : www.boston.com