The financial outlook for the city of Dallas is gloomy — the city could face a shortfall next year that ranges from $60 million to $100 million. T.C. Broadnax, the Dallas city manager, talked with KERA's Sam Baker about the budget, calls for police reform and police department funding.
Are the city's financial problems all based on the pandemic — does it all stem from that?
I would say yes. One of our biggest and major revenue sources, beyond property taxes, is sales tax. When residents and visitors aren't consuming products and, or, you know, visiting our retail establishments that has a specific and direct impact on the city. We get 1% of all the sales taxes spent within our boundaries, and that amounts to about $320 million plus a year. So right now that has been very much impacted, and that is the main drag on our revenues.
So spending aside, how do you budget your way out of this?
I think we've got to encourage individuals to begin to continue to utilize, with obviously all the necessary health precautions in place, patronizing many of our restaurants and other types of businesses. But we also have to tighten our belt and look for efficiencies, and refocus on how we provide and deliver the services that we do, given the current pandemic.
There have already been 472 furloughs — are more cuts, layoffs, staff reductions likely?
It is possible. Those decisions have not been made yet. But when you look at unfortunately the many men and women that we've had to furlough at this point, they, for the most part were employees that were providing the services that we're not able to open or reacclimate given the COVID pandemic. So some of that was just because of limitations on some of our facilities, not having the adequate space for social distancing. Some of that was also just the governor's orders. In addition to ours, around what can be open.
News reports have indicated quite a few on the City Council are open to the idea of diverting money from the police department to community needs. What's being suggested?
Several council members, as you indicated, have sent me a memorandum in some cases — a little different depending on their individual thoughts and needs and their district — that range from finding ways to do more human and social services that really get at root causes in the community, whether that's counseling for individuals related to some of the mental health challenges in our community, looking at facilitating counseling for people, particularly around housing needs and options, unemployment and employment counseling.
There is a wide range of things that have been talked about beyond policing and the response of our law enforcement, but many of these ideas and thoughts are things that have been lacking in quite a few of our more challenged areas, particularly in Southern Dallas, but there are places outside of Southern Dallas that have the same types of issues and challenges. So I think the council really wants to explore — and have us as staff explore — how we can work with partners throughout this community to find ways to push those services and get those services stood up to begin to deal with again, root causes out in our community.
You've released what's called the REAL Change Program to address the subject of policing and police brutality. What in that program speaks directly to eliminating or significantly reducing the chances of police brutality?
You know, I think every one of the items laid out, which there were 11 points identified ... to reduce opportunities for any types of police brutality. And so whether that's the duty to intervene as a requirement and order now, as it relates to what officers are expected to do should they see any use of force being utilized that they believe is unnecessary and/or is going too far. They've got a requirement now to intervene. I think the warning before shooting policy, that was a part of this is significant, as it relates to particularly individuals that you might encounter in your life as law enforcement, you need to clearly be able to advise people if in fact, the situation allows for it, that there may have to be deadly force utilized against them should they do certain types of behavior.
Beyond? I think the chokehold ban that the department has had since 2004, we've agreed right up front in the next 90 days to review all of our use of force policies in concert with our community police oversight board, and then publish any revisions and/or those use of force related policies out on our website more clearly so people can understand how we will be engaging people and use force if in fact necessary.
In addition, the Chief [of police U. Renee Hall] has committed before the end of this month to work with our city attorney's office to implement a new policy on how quickly we can have out in the public for public consumption, body cam and dash cam videos after any critical incident that has occurred. In addition, we've committed as a part of this budget that we're going to expand our RIGHT Care Program to include additional teams. The RIGHT Care Program involves and embeds mental health professionals that are often sent out in addition to police to help deescalate issues where there might be someone that is suffering from so many mental challenges when we go out for a call.
Any response from police unions to these ideas?
You know, I think we've had positive responses from them. And I think I want to commend the Chief for moving forward with those types of changes in the immediacy and finding ways to get at specifically the things that she believed right up front could be helpful. But we haven't gotten too much negative feedback from any of our associations. I think they wanted to just clearly better understand how any of those reviews, based on those new orders, might be carried out.
Some protesters have called for her resignation. Do you still support police Chief Hall?
I do. I think these are tremendously difficult times. I think not just for Chief Hall, I think for the entirety of the police department and the entirety of our city workforce, our elected officials, as well as those appointed. But I think it's bigger than the city of Dallas. I think it's bigger than Chief Hall or myself, for that matter. This is an issue that is challenging the country, and it's not an issue that just began May 25.
I think there's been a historical perspective on how law enforcement interact with communities that I think these times require us to think differently and to do better. And I know the Chief has committed to that. I'm committed to working with her to find ways to ensure that DPD can do better. And this city, as an offshoot, can do better related to how we police and how we form relationships.
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