SAN ANTONIO – The City of San Antonio failed to be transparent during the budget process, according to Demonte Alexander, director of external affairs and special projects for Bexar Facts.
Alexander spoke with KSAT during a Q&A on Friday to discuss his recent column on San Antonio Report addressing the city’s proposed increase in police funding for the FY2021 city budget.
Under the current proposal, the San Antonio Police Department’s general fund budget would increase by $8.1 million.
The budget proposal does include cuts to police overtime and would switch the Crisis Response Team over to the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District. However, such cuts were outweighed by a scheduled 5% pay increase for officers and state-mandated increases for retirement health care. Those increases would put the department’s general fund budget at $487.2 million.
Alexander said it was a “missed opportunity” by the city to be transparent about that mandatory increase during budget conversations with citizens, especially those who called for decreasing police funding.
“So, I think we missed an opportunity there, really, you know, cut down some of the criticism, if you will. And some of the the tension by at least number one, laying that out front,” Alexander said. “You almost feel like you’re led to believe that there will be a change happening. Then after you have these conversations and you see an actual increase, whether that’s by eight or whether by three, it’s still an increase.”
Alexander says the city council’s decision to declare racism a public health crisis is something else activists did not request.
“Everything that they said in that with racism being a public health crisis. OK, great. We knew that before we made it a resolution. But also, what followed that is non-binding,” he said.
Alexander says activists and community members are working hard and having those difficult conversations with city council and they feel like they’re not being heard.
“And I think that’s where the frustration comes from. And it comes in the forms of these, again, these symbolic gestures for moving statues, great,” he said. “But what is that really doing to help somebody who needs, who’s going to be put out of their house today?”
You can watch Alexander’s full interview in the player above.