Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, a former Democratic state representative, has decried the city council’s decision to eliminate $7 million from the Dallas Police Department’s overtime budget and proposed an unsuccessful amendment to restore the appropriation while cutting funding for city salaries, a move which would have saved more than $6 million.
“Cutting 25 percent of our police overtime budget is unconscionable,” Johnson asserted last Wednesday.
“You can defund the police in the midst of a violent crime spike, or you can defund the bureaucracy to make our city safer and stronger.”
Councilman Omar Narvaez said that many people in his district voiced support for the police department cuts and opposition to the mayor’s proposal to cut salaries.
He expressed concern about the employees who make less than six figures whose salaries would be reduced.
“[M]any of them are those hard-working families that are making $60,000 year and sometimes it’s a single mom like the mom that raised me, sometimes working two or three jobs, because we know that women, especially Latina women and black women, do not make the same amount of money as straight, white men in our society,” Narvaez said.
Councilman Chad West contended that the City of Dallas currently compensates its employees fairly and that reducing that compensation could incentivize them to move elsewhere.
“It’s my opinion that cutting the salaries of any city employees is a recipe for disaster,” West said.
Councilwoman Jennifer Gates stated that she believed the matter had been oversimplified as a question of “defunding police” or “defunding bureaucracy.”
“$6.5 million in a $2.5 billion budget doesn’t defund the bureaucracy. We need to find cuts but we have to strategically find ways to cut and we need to be staying in our lane of government. It’s just not about slashing salaries, and it’s not about slashing salaries unfairly,” Gates said.
Johnson criticized the council for its reaction to his amendment and for what he called an “exercise in theatrics.”
“You claim that you’re willing to cut $30 million but you will literally pillory me for wanting to cut $6 million for public safety and streets and tax relief,” Johnson said.
The mayor has been advocating for salary reductions as the economy suffers from lockdown measures and federal deficit spending reaches record-setting levels.
Johnson’s amendment would have reduced salaries on a tiered basis, starting with a cut to the compensation of City Manager T.C. Broadnax, who makes more than the president of the United States annually. The amendment also included a cut to employees making as little as $60,000 a year.
Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn was the only member of the council other than Johnson to support the mayor’s proposition.
The Dallas City Council slashed $7 million in police overtime from the draft budget earlier this month.
After a number of controversies, Police Chief Renee Hall tendered her resignation last week, which will be effective November 10.
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Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan in Dallas. During the academic year, he coaches high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.