The Dublin City Council passed a two-year budget that members believe will add enough flexibility to meet future economic challenges from COVID-19, and also help satisfy requests from some of its residents for a more transparent look at the city’s police department.
Speaking from their homes on June 9 in a virtual meeting continued from June 2, Vice Mayor Arun Goel noted how important it will be for the city to conduct a study session for a more candid conversation about the role of police officers — especially their attitudes, and histories regarding their interaction with the community.
The issue was brought up by seven speakers from the public, who phoned in their comments. No organization was identified. The speakers said that the community should know about the demographics of its police force.
“We should tap into our communities of color and ask them about their experience,” said Faith Rynda, a young caller who has posted many of her videos on YouTube about Dublin High School people and events. “Dublin, for most of its history, has had a good experience with police, and now we want to see an analysis of where we are.”
Rynda stated that she and others phoning in were not objecting to any Dublin police practices. Rather, they wanted a separate study session about how the council and public might take a deeper look into individual police attitudes and experiences in dealing with minority group members. The council backed the study session idea with unanimous consent vote. Staff members planned to meet this week to draft areas of interest for the report.
Goel noted that it was important to increase the transparency of the department.
“I did not grow up in a completely equitable time, (with) brown skin, living in the Bay Area, growing up in the 1970s, and going through the airport, and getting racially profiled,” Goel said. “It’s real.”
If the council is going to evaluate the police in a fair and objective way, members should ensure their objectivity by avoiding any favoritism. For his part, Goel said he has never taken campaign donations from the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, which serves as Dublin’s police force, and noted he doesn’t intend to.
Police Chief Garrett Holmes told a reporter that when he confers with staff, he will listen to what concerns people have, some of which are already on the public record but not readily available. Holmes estimated it may take a couple of months to put the report together.
Holmes also reported to the meeting attendees how Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton cooperated to head off what could have been a difficult, or even violent, situation.
Over the last few weeks, police monitored social media during the protests over Floyd George's death in Minneapolis. They saw some online threats of vandalism and looting at vulnerable commercial sites.
On June 2, 3 and 4, during the county’s curfew, police dispatched to block off local freeway exists to address a potential threat. One plan involved up to 200 cars, four people to a car, from Northern California as well as other states, said Holmes. The planners sent two or three “scout cars” to different shopping centers late at night to see which locations looked vulnerable, according to Holmes. But the Valley’s police organizations set up roadblocks just off the freeways and stopped all traffic. People who could prove they were going home were admitted; they thanked the police for their proaction, Holmes stated. Big targets for the “scouts” were the San Francisco Premium Outlets in Livermore, Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton and Hacienda Crossings in Dublin.
Dublin increased its police presence immensely. Nonpatrol officers involved in crime prevention, investigations and traffic volunteered to switch to the late shift, multiplying Dublin’s patrol effort by five.
The plan worked. With merchants already hit hard by COVID-19 precautions, vandalism and theft would have struck one more blow, said Holmes.
COVID-19 Budget Impacts
The COVID-19 impact on the Dublin budget will take a toll in expected revenue. Although property tax will continue to rise, it will be at a lower rate than previously estimated. It accounts for 53% of the budget.
Sales tax revenue, 21% of the budget, will be significantly lower, because of tight restrictions on stores from the county’s shelter in place order. However, the city’s fiscal position remains strong, thanks to reserve funds built by staff and past city councils.
In the longer run, beyond three years, sales tax revenue should make a comeback as COVID-19 recedes into the background.
An operating deficit may emerge in fiscal year 2025-26, but the silver lining is that the operating deficit had originally been forecast to occur earlier than that. Cumulatively, Dublin City Council has reduced or eliminated some capital expenses to save that money.
Goel summed it up when he said, “The council’s job is to make sure the budget is well managed, not always going for the top grade, not for the filet mignon, but something more basic to meet our essential needs.”