Mayor Maureen O’Connor, who elicited a skeptical response last week from the governor’s office when she asked for $34 million in emergency funds to combat street crime, said Tuesday that she will submit a new request for a higher amount.
O’Connor made the announcement after meeting with members of a newly created Emergency Council, which is supposedly mapping out strategy to deal with a “state of emergency” that O’Connor said has been created by a recent spate of street gang violence. The mayor said San Diego Police Chief Bob Burgreen will put together a budget proposal with the higher figure that she will submit to Gov. George Deukmejian, possibly later this week.
The city is going ahead with the funding proposal despite a virtual guarantee from Deukmejian’s staff that the governor will veto the request, regardless of the amount. O’Connor submitted the request for $34 million in emergency funding amid much fanfare last week. Kevin Brett, Deukmejian’s press secretary, said a state of emergency is traditionally declared only after a natural disaster and offered little hope that the governor would accede to O’Connor’s request.
“We’re still going over the concept we will present to the governor,” said O’Connor. “Thirty-four million dollars does not seem to meet our overall need.”
Both O’Connor and Burgreen, who attended the Tuesday meeting, refused to say specifically how much money will be needed to meet the supposed crime emergency. However, Burgreen offered a “ballpark” figure of between $50 million to $100 million to apply a “systemwide approach” to the crime problem.
The mayor declared the state of emergency and submitted the $34-million request after state officials announced a $2.5-billion budget surplus.
O’Connor said that city officials would also ask the federal government for emergency funding but that she was not sure which federal agency would be approached. She said her office would contact U.S. drug czar William J. Bennett for assistance.
Burgreen envisions using the state and federal funding at every level of the criminal justice system, including hiring more police, building new detention facilities and courtrooms and hiring more judges. The chief said the top priority in the city’s fight against crime is building new detention facilities, which are financed by the county and administered by Sheriff John Duffy. The county’s jails are severly overcrowded, and most misdemeanor offenders are either given citations or routinely booked and released.