Today may be the last day for Santa Ana residents to call for a city budget this year that reflects their needs, as council members are set to take a final vote this evening on solidifying their new $353 million taxpayer dollar spending plan.
Some community demands are outstanding, as organizations like Chispa are rallying people on social media to speak out tonight while a coalition of community groups are planning a demonstration outside the council meeting chambers before the vote.
The initiatives that are currently proposed include funding for the city’s first ever Vietnamese community liaison, increased money and commitments toward the city-funded legal deportation defense fund and a spike in policing costs. despite the department adding no new services.
[Read more about what’s in the budget, and the discussion around it, here.]
Those proposals are set to be finalized tonight, after the City Council approved its first reading of the budget on June 3.
If any significant changes are made to the budget today, the process starts all over with a second reading required at a later date.
The city’s new Vietnamese community liaison will serve an estimated 25,000 Vietnamese American residents, due to advocacy from the dais by Councilmember Thai Viet Phan.
Phan, the council’s first Vietnamese American woman, repeatedly called for that initiative in the city’s spending outlook over the last several months amid a nationwide Anti-Asian racism conversation and low participation by the community in Santa Ana civic affairs.
The city will spend $150,000 at most this upcoming fiscal year on the liaison position, though staff said the actual cost could be lower.
The city is also set to overhaul its services to undocumented residents — known to make up a sizeable portion of the population — by ramping up funding for the Legal Deportation Defense Fund by $100,000 every year and making it a reoccurring line item in the budget.
There are still some outstanding community requests.
Members of the transgender community showed up to a May 24 special council meeting demanding council members devote city dollars toward housing, health clinics and other supportive programs specifically for transgender people.
Trans people, especially trans women, struggle to get proper health care in the U.S. due to factors like a lack of insurance, unemployment, and homelessness, according to the National Center for Transgender equality.
“We need housing programs for transgender people. We pay taxes and don’t get any help from the government,” said Jessica Flores, a self-described member of the “Translatinx community.” The city is home to trans advocacy group “Alianza Translatinx.”
“Our trans brothers and sisters live on the street … you have forgotten us. We don’t have a clinic — health services in Orange County — for us,” Flores said. “I need my hormonal treatments and I do not have a doctor to give me those … we need housing that is specific for transgender people.”
Council members’ final budget vote — whether it incorporates or leaves out the transgender community’s demands — takes place during Pride Month.
Like most years, this year’s budget is set to increase police spending to $141 million, way above other quality of life areas like parks and libraries.
Last year, social justice protests and a similar police spending plan reinvigorated community scrutiny over officials’ fiscal priorities.
This year, Santa Ana Police Chief David Valentin said the department has been listening to the community — namely after the protests last year fueled brief unrest in Santa Ana.
At the first budget hearing earlier this month, Valentin listed off future goals like implementing “restorative justice” programs, assessing “alternative” police responses to crime, and the expansion of youth and community engagement efforts like the PAAL child mentorship program and the Family Justice Center.
Some council members like Phil Bacerra have pushed back on notions of reallocating police spending, arguing the only way to reduce issues like police overtime spending is by hiring more officers and increasing funding.
“The only way we’re going to reduce overtime is by hiring more officers, which would be increasing funding for police,” he said at the June 3 meeting, arguing the department is one of the more progressive ones in the country and has “always been ahead of the curb.”
Yet some in the city still aren’t happy with council members potentially approving increased police costs, with local activist groups like Chispa rallying on social media for residents to call in today to voice opposition to them.
Brandon Pho is a Voice of OC staff writer and corps member at Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @photherecord.
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