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Police Expansion Scaled Back : Council Poised to Pass $956.5-Million Budget

Times Staff Writer

The San Diego City Council on Monday set the stage to approve a $956.5-million fiscal 1990 budget, retreating slightly from its commitment to beef up police presence but rescuing several popular programs and services that were early casualties of the drive to improve public safety.

A day before its final scheduled hearing on the budget, the council reinstated 10 community-service officers who staff storefront police stations around the city, and restored two-thirds of the funds cut from the lifeguard service.

To save the community-service officers, the council cut back the expansion of its police force by four, reducing the buildup to 116 new officers. Just last month, council members were seeking 140 new officers, but they backed away from that plan when Police Chief Bob Burgreen advised them that it would expand the department too rapidly.

The council also put $117,000 back into the budget for a San Ysidro preschool program deleted June 22 in the mistaken belief that school district funds were available for it. Councilman Ed Struiksma also persuaded Sharp Cabrillo Hospital to pay for heart-resuscitation equipment to be carried by firefighters, a high priority for the council.

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But the council made no move to restore other major cuts that had freed up funds for police officers, including a $392,000 reduction in City Atty. John Witt’s consumer-fraud unit and more than $193,000 from weed- and brush-abatement programs.

The result is a spending blueprint nearly $26 million higher than the $930.9-million budget proposed by City Manager John Lockwood on May 11 and nearly $149 million more than the budget for fiscal 1989, which ended June 30.

Much of the increase over Lockwood’s proposal comes from a $16.1-million increase in Water Utilities Department funding. A land sale generated $2.9 million, early repayment of a loan by the Centre City Development Corp. produced $1.1 million, and projected profits from this fall’s Soviet Arts festival yielded $1 million.

The budget is heavy in capital projects, including park renovations and improvements to the city’s sewer system, along with two mobile police vans, an upgraded communications system and land for two substations--all for the Police Department.

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One project not included in the city’s plans--a jail--caused the only conflict at Monday’s hearing. Council Members Judy McCarty and Bruce Henderson continued to press for the facility, arguing that added police officers are of little consequence when jail overcrowding forces them to cite and release more than 100 misdemeanor arrestees every day.

The plan provides “more police officers chasing the same criminals and releasing them on the street. Bully, bully,” McCarty said.

But Mayor Maureen O’Connor argued that the city’s primary responsibility is safety in the streets, and noted that Struiksma and Councilwoman Gloria McColl are meeting with county supervisors on plans for a jointly funded jail. That proposal is scheduled to come before both boards at a joint meeting next month.

“The city of San Diego’s main responsibility is the safety and security of neighborhoods,” O’Connor said. Residents “want security. They want to feel safe in their neighborhoods. Police aren’t just there to arrest people. They’re there to do preventive law enforcement.”

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The council also asked Lockwood to determine whether part of a $170,000 charge for new computer systems in council offices could be used to fund other programs. Some council members say they do not plan to improve their computer capabilities and want the money used elsewhere.

The council is scheduled to approve the budget ordinance today.


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