Pittsburgh City Council members listened for about two hours Tuesday as dozens of speakers criticized the city’s 2021 budget proposal and demanded a 50% cut in the police department’s budget.
TribLive reports that the 45 people who signed up to speak during Tuesday’s meeting said they were associated with a “Stop the Station” movement that has railed against relocating a police station from Washington Boulevard to East Liberty — a move that’s included in the budget proposal.
The plan to move the station was the subject of one of a multitude of protests this summer.
The Stop the Station drive had more than 1,000 signatures on an online petition as of Tuesday.
On Monday, the school district was also asked to make budget cuts to their police and student safety programs.
Pittsburgh City Council members listened Tuesday as about three dozen speakers criticized the city’s 2021 budget proposal, asked for a 50% cut in the police department’s budget and wanted to see increased spending on social service programs.https://t.co/51WxYMgQCU
— TribLIVE.com (@TribLIVE) December 8, 2020
“I feel betrayed by this council that you are even considering this proposed budget,” Georgia Crowther of Squirrel Hill said.
The call to “defund the police” is more than a slogan used by protesters across the country this year, Jennifer Lines of Friendship said.
The call to cut police spending is an “earnest plea for our very lives,” Lines said. “We are exhausted.”
Council members don’t respond to comments from residents who speak at meetings, council President Theresa Kail-Smith said.
“We’re not being rude, we’re being respectful,” Kail-Smith said. The resident comment period is “our time to listen.”
At the end of the meeting, Councilman Ricky Burgess said he was grateful for the concerns of the people who spoke.
Burgess and other council members also clarified that laws and union contracts prohibit council from making a 50% cut to the police department.
Many residents also value the work police do and “know it is needed in our community,” Burgess said.
The current budget calls for the elimination of 200 police officers if COVID-19 pandemic relief isn’t approved at the federal level.
Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich calls that a “disastrous” decision for the city.