Yesterday, amid calls to reallocate police funding to upstream services, Regional Council finalized its 2021 budget, which resulted in an ~$5 million increase to the police budget.
As one of those people in support of Reallocate WR's calls to action, including a 0% increase for the police budget and redirecting those funds to upstream community services, I was disappointed in council's decision. It's frustrating to see so many people rally around this issue, only to see limited change.
But as I reflect on that last statement, I think there is reason to still be hopeful. As someone who watches local politics closely, I think it's fair to say that there tends not to be a high level of engagement with council decisions and actions. There have been few issues where I have seen the community come together to advocate like they have in support of Reallocate WR.
There were 11 delegations who spoke at the most recent public input session on the budget. A meeting, I remind you, that was not originally scheduled and only came into place because of residents advocating for its inclusion.
Add to those 11 delegations, the many other delegations who called for a reduction to the police budget at the first public meeting last month. And then, add to that, the over 40 pages of written correspondence that council received. 40+ pages! And all of it was in support of Reallocate WR's calls to action. That is something to be proud of!
Having watched local council over the past few years, I have seen many decisions made, some I have absolutely agreed with and others adamantly opposed (and many fell somewhere in between). But most of the changes have come far too slowly for me, someone who wants to see all of those good decisions turned into action...well, yesterday! No doubt many of you feel the same.
While many of us are disappointed about yesterday's council decision to increase the police budget, I think there is still a lot to be proud of. The original draft budget included an ~$8 million increase but that ended up being reduced by $3 million; there were 2 motions not only put on the floor, but approved, relating to making some changes to policing and upstream services; and lastly, we have created momentum for real change. I see a community who has engaged deeply with this issue and is committed to taking the action needed to change the status quo. That excites me! And at a time when we feel the disappointment of yesterday's decision, it is that community committed to change that gives me the energy to keep pushing for change. So thank you!