2020.10.12 – Weeks in Review
Hello community! I hope you’re all doing well and got to enjoy the weekend. Here’s a look at what we’ve been up to over the past several weeks.
2021 Budget Approval
Our COVID-induced budget shortfalls have not been as extreme as originally predicted, which allowed us to add $1M back into the 2021 budget. After a bit of deliberation, here’s what we ended up spending that on:
- Created a public information officer position for APD to liaise with our communications department for police matters. Both APD and City Management agreed that this position is necessary for police communications as sensitive information has been improperly shared in the past which can compromise investigations and complicate disciplinary actions.
- Created a position for an Internal Auditor for APD. As part of ongoing efforts to improve accountability and transparency for law enforcement activities, City Management asked for a new position that would be part of the city’s auditing team to keep it independent of the department.
- Created a position for a Mental Health Program Manager for our existing Crisis Response Team and our new CAHOOTS-style pilot program for a non-police response for mental and behavioral health calls.
- Restored 50% of the cut to Medical Service Unit (MSU) overtime funding. The vast majority of calls that get routed to AFR are medical in nature and these units allow for a faster response time while putting less wear and tear on our roads from larger firefighting apparatuses.
- Restored 25% of the cut to material acquisition for libraries. This will allow our libraries to keep their offerings up to date and better stocked, which is important as we’ve seen demand for library services spike during the pandemic.
- Doubled funding for APD mental health wellness checks and expanded coverage to both career service and civil service employees. I had been discussing officer wellness issues with Chief Wilson since early January in the wake of the Nate Meier incident. Many of the events that have led to APD being in the news have involved alcoholism, which is often a sign of self-medication to cope with other issues. Providing our career service and civil service employees more opportunities to work through direct and/or vicarious trauma is an important part ensuring we are able to care for our first responders and improve interactions with the public.
- Put half the total add into capital projects for road maintenance. I proposed an alternative allocation for this money towards fully restoring cuts to MSU overtime and fully restoring cuts to library material acquisition as both are being heavily utilized during the pandemic but I did not have the support.
I am hopeful that our local economy and sales tax revenues continue to perform better than projected and that we’ll be able to return to full funding levels sooner rather than later.
Youth Violence Prevention
We’re going to be discussing youth violence prevention at our October 12th Special Study Session. The programming will be funded by the 1% increase for retail marijuana sales taxes that we passed earlier this year, which amounts to $1.2M in revenue to allocate to this issue area. Councilmember Lawson is proposing a Youth Violence Prevention Program that is focused on gang intervention and prevention — effectively a reintroduction of the Aurora Gang Reduction Impact Program (AGRIP) that was stood down after funding was eliminated with the end of the red light camera program. The total cost for this programming is estimated to be around $700K per year, and given the uptick of youth violence that we’re experiencing and the effectiveness of AGRIP I will be strongly supporting this measure.
I will also be bringing forward a proposal for a Keep the Lights On pilot program, which is an after school program modeled after other successful initiatives that we’ve seen throughout the country. The idea is simple: it is cheaper to be proactive and provide safe places for youth to gather, learn, study, build positive relationships with each other and law enforcement, and find support structures in our schools after-hours than it is to be reactive and deal with the fallout of youth violence. The pilot program was crafted by our Community Relations Division Manager in partnership with Chief Wilson and community organizations. I am hopeful that my colleagues will support the $245K proposal and that this can serve as the foundation of a community schools program for our city.
Ward IV Meeting
Our October Ward IV meeting will be on Thursday the 15th at 6:30 PM on Webex and will be simulcast on Facebook Live. Based on comments from our last meeting we’ll be discussing the minimum wage, campaign finance reform, and police reforms in an open forum setting. You can join the meeting here and the password is Ward4.
As always, you can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 720.634.6927 (text preferred). See you all soon!