Divest from the
San Ramon is a beautiful city. We have great schools and green spaces. We have an appreciation for art and culture. And most importantly, we are a community of families. However, our city's budget does not prioritize San Ramon citizens and our way of life. Instead, our city wastes millions of dollars every year by allocated excess funds the San Ramon Police Department. These funds are not used to keep our streets safe. By cutting only a fraction of the budget for the SRPD, we can continue to keep our city safe, and also invest in our community. When we invest in our workers, teachers, green spaces, and culture, we invest in our future. Community investment means that San Ramon will be safer because there will be well-funded resources that help mitigate crime. The current SRPD budget is 27.6% of the San Ramon City 2020-2021 Fiscal Budget, and totals to around $25,081,370. In comparison, the funding for parks, community development, and housing combined is only 13.2% of the same budget. My policy of divestment and reallocation is to put our money where our hearts truly are---with our children. By reallocating the excess money given to SRPD, the city of San Ramon could be a pioneer for universal childcare, free standardized testing programs, youth mental health counselors, and creating more opportunity for housing relief.
By Sameera Rajwade for City Council 2020 Campaign
August 31, 2020
It is a trending national public demand in response to the lynchings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and other victims of systemic racism. The economic crisis brought on by COVID-19 has left Americans vulnerable due to drastic losses in revenue. It is imperative city leaders prioritize community services in their financial planning over increased funding for police departments. In a town like San Ramon, which is consistently ranked one of the “safest cities” in the Bay Area, we should all be able to recognize that our police budget is far too high for how little our city uses or effectively needs the police to operate effectively and safely. This policy paper outlines the specifics on what is referred to in the media as “defunding the police.” As you will see, defunding simply means redirecting.
What Does It Mean to “Defund” and Why We Use the Word “Divest”
Cultural life, arts, recreation, and community development is what makes our San Ramon community strong! Defunding the police and redistributing the work and money into specialized professionals creates new job opportunities for community members passionate about public service (ex: medical professionals, social workers, counselors, independent orgs). Therefore we should be prioritizing our focus on community expression, health, ambition and satisfaction.The word divest is the action component of the national call from the Black Lives Matter movement to “Defund the Police.” What defund and divest have in common is that money from police department budgets must be reallocated to non-policing forms of public safety and community support. To defund is to begin divestment. For San Ramon, it makes the most sense for us to call it divest/divestment as it highlights its opposite-- reinvestment.
We ask too much of the police. Majority of calls the police take are non-violent disturbances- alarms, patrol checks, party patrol, and suspicious vehicles (srpd annual report). With violent crime rates being the least committed crime in San Ramon compared to property theft, why is our taxpayer money going toward an increase in militarization? SRPD should not take calls to petty disturbances or calls that are better handled by specialized professionals trained in de-escalation (social workers). Finding smart solutions to public safety is key! The police are not the pinnacle of safety.
It’s time to redefine what keeps us safe. Americans are fighting a battle on multiple fronts. The pandemic has left Americans fighting for their health as well as their finances. We are living in times where small businesses and minority groups are at risk for eviction and financial insecurity. Another battle is one against hate. Past cases of racist graffiti and general alienation felt by BIPOC residents exposes societal issues showcase that anti-Racist work needs to be done in San Ramon. Investing in workers, teachers, mental health professionals, and our futures can only happen when we understand safety without authority but rather through community. With a post-COVID society, proper funding to school safety protocols, mental health programs, creating our own version of the Green New Deal, and increasing funding to housing are just a few examples of policies we could implement to increase the sustained safety of our recovering community.
Focus on the most important draw of San Ramon - families. In a city of families, investing in us and our children's growth is essential to the foundations of San Ramon. During remote learning for schools this upcoming year, it'll be a hard transition for parents and students to keep up. Especially with an economic crisis students may not have the luxury of the internet from home, leaving them behind the curve. It’s time we start investing into our children.
San Ramon has the funds now, without raising taxes, to support our children. The funds to support the mental health and safety of our families and children would come from a redirection of city funds of approximately $2.5 million that is currently earmarked for militarized weaponry and systems for the San Ramon police. We would not shrink the number on the police force. San Ramon would not have less than it has now, it would simply not become a militarized police in our family based community. Our children, our families, our neighbors don’t require that the San Ramon police have their own armory in our backyard. Let the state of California or the Federal government deal with militarized levels of police enforcement. Let us focus on creating and maintaining a well balanced community that starts with the mental health and well being of our community.
School Board and City Council
City Council is not directly responsible for educational funding, but we could be if we built more partnerships with the schools that are in our towns borders and in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD). The Cities Counties Schools (CCS) Partnership, a collaborative project between the California State Association of Counties and the California School Boards Association has written several toolkits on policies that local government (city council) and the school board could legislate together as a collaborative effort. According to WesternCity there are a number of cities in the Bay Area whose school board and city council work closely together to achieve a common goal of improving the “conditions of children, families and communities.” For example, the City of Brentwood, the Brentwood Union School District, and Liberty Union High School District have several ongoing partnerships. The City of Sunnyvale, the Sunnyvale Elementary School District, and numerous community agencies partnered to guide programs and operations of the Columbia Neighborhood Center (CNC). Union City also has a long history of working together with the New Haven Unified School District in which the city funds a student crisis intervention and counseling program at several different locations within the school district.
All the above examples are unable to happen in San Ramon because of the little collaboration and financial agreements between our government and our district, that could be easily solved if the police budget wasn’t almost a third of our budget. The fact that the CCS partnership exists in all of these cities proves how all the ideas presented in this white paper are more than possible, they are already being done. The City of San Ramon has to decide to step up, and when I am a serving member of the city council I will make sure to be in a leader in collaborating with the SRVUSD school board about how we can partner to most effectively redistribute the money from the police budget into the safety of the families who rely on our schools and the staff who keep them running.
Demand for Divesting in San Ramon
The San Ramon Black Lives Matter protest had major traction with 600+ residents marching on the streets in solidarity for the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement which centers on reform of policing practices in America. In response to this protest, the largest ever in San Ramon's history, the San Ramon Police Department's only response was to ban the use of carotid restraints effective on June 12th but did not address or satisfy the demands of activists. This did not address the problem of over-militarization or the historical racism of the U.S. police force, but yet we have persisted and our change.org petition continues to grow close to 2,000 signers with each day (sign here).
Background on the SRPD
As of 2020, the San Ramon Police Department consists of 69 sworn officers, 22 civilian staff members and 54 volunteers and has a budget of $25,081,370. The SRPD budget takes up about 27.6% of the San Ramon City 2020-2021 Fiscal Budget (see figure below). 81% of the department budget is spent on “personnel services,” which includes salaries, wages and fringe benefits of City employees. $20,414,306 are allocated to pay for San Ramon Police personnel services. When one thinks of police budget we often think of the cost of materials/supplies [$425,590] and the purpose of the police, which is crime prevention [$1,046,626], yet the total of these two numbers is microscopic (only 7.2%) compared to the money allotted to the personnel services sector of the Police department.
Another unnecessary expenditure by the SRPD can be found in what is highlighted in the budget under the section titled “Significant Accomplishments FY 2019-20” (page 103). It stated that the SRPD, “created a Drone Program to assist in police operations and enhance public safety. Three police drones with cameras have been purchased and seven members of the Police Department have become certified as drone operators.” While there is no information on what kind of drones were purchased and how much they cost, after quick research an example cost of a police drone is $19,599 per unit. Therefore, if the SRPD bought three drones the cost could equal to around $58,797 spent on a toy in a town that's crime rate is lower than 80% of California. Drones do not stop crimes, social programs do.
Police power in local government is very pertinent in San Ramon, as it is across the United States. Not only do the police control a near majority of our cities budget, but politicians are the ones who grant and choose what to fund and what not to fund. San Ramon’s acting city manager, Joe Gorton, was the police chief (‘13-’17) as well as a captain from (‘06-’13) before assuming his role in 2017, which he was appointed to by the acting city council members. Additionally, the Sameera for San Ramon campaign has been unable to obtain statistical information from the city of San Ramon at all, but not limited to the following items: racial demographic of those stopped during moving violations, a more detailed budget breakdown, reports of police misconduct.
Crime in Our City
The crime rate in San Ramon 2019 was 1.37 per 100 residents, via the SRPD 2019 annual report.
It is apparent from the data of the city fiscal report, of both the general fund and the total sum of the city budget, that the amount of money the city of San Ramon spends on its police is exorbitant. A better use of this money would be to redirect it into new city-funded programs that will help spread the wealth of our city to be felt by families? San Ramon is extraordinary and we should set a national example by being one of the first cities in the state and the nation to begin transforming our budget away from police expenditures and be more focused on family and community needs.
Other policies to be considered in order for our plan to divest to be successful is:
Free Daycare Provided by City
San Ramon is a city of families, so naturally daycare is at the tops of many citizens' minds. Parents budget for whether daycare or a sitter is cheaper, safer, or whatever the reasoning may be. Yet, the city has no budget for helping with this issue. The idea of universal childcare has become more normalized with a policy introduced by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in the beginning of 2019. There is an urgency for a policy like this that is often ignored by those in office inherent sexism toward the issues of working mothers. Sen. Warren wrote, “Today, in more than half the states in the country, a year of child care costs more than a year of in-state college tuition. We’re placing a huge financial burden on working families looking to find a safe and nurturing place for their kids.” This is true in San Ramon as well where it costs more to send your 2-5 year old child to daycare then it would to send your 18+ year old to Diablo Valley College for the year. According to SF children’s council it costs around $2,000 a month for daycare, DVC costs $736 for a full course load of 16 units for a whole semester. If we compare these costs annually, daycare cost $24,000 and community college costs $1,472, which means on average daycare costs about 1500% more than community college.
We must redirect money from the SRPD budget into making daycare more affordable. It is unacceptable that the growing room would have to seek donations to get enough supplies to accommodate for federal health guidelines due to COVID-19. The city should fund the growing rooms.
Where to Reinvest
More Subsidized Housing Options for Teachers
This idea was brought to our attention by an article by the Wildcat Tribune when investigating the housing struggle San Ramon teachers go through because of the lack of subsidized housing in the district. The average teacher salary in SRVUSD, according to Glassdoor.com, is $55,000. The California poverty level is $47,500 putting teachers just above poverty level income. San Ramon cannot attract high quality teachers to support our children without other forms of assistance. San Francisco Chronicle article published in 2016, also spoke toward how the Bay Area housing crisis affects local teachers in the area. It wrote, “district-subsidized housing lessens new teachers’ concerns about un-affordable housing, helping with teacher recruitment [...} School districts have all of this underutilized land, and here’s a policy that helps them be competitive.” This quote comes from real estate developer Dominic Dutra who makes a career from helping districts plan for teacher subsidized housing. So why doesn’t San Ramon implement a policy that is popular amongst several other cities in the Bay Area? Dougherty Valley High School Librarian, Kerri Pike, spoke to the Wildcat Tribune on how San Ramon is an outlier, “there are some districts that are offering subsidized housing or working with mortgage companies for lower interest rates for mortgages; none of that is happening in our district.”
To figure out how much it would cost to invest in subsidized housing in San Ramon we look to the housing relief plan created in the Santa Clara County FY 2020-2021 Recommend Budget. The plan, “BUILDING HOMES, CHANGING LIVES 2016 Affordable Housing Bond Progress” has a chart that displays both the timeline and cost of each housing development. For how this kind of program could be implemented, please look to the North San Pedro Apartments in the chart below.
North San Pedro Apartments have 135 total units, which means it cost $53,333 per unit. For example, there are 88 total staff at Windemere Ranch Middle School [WRMS] and if every person employed at WRMS was in need of subsidized housing it would cost the city $4,693,304 [53,333 x 88]. The total cost to provide subsidized housing options for our schools could cost around only 5% of the SRPD budget. It would not cost the citizens of San Ramon an extra cent to be able to provide real housing relief to our teachers, we only need to divest from the city's exponential spending on police to make this policy a reality. A lesson that our city must take with us as we recover from COVID-19 is that our homes should be an individuals’ beacon of safety, and therefore providing housing relief to the citizens that need it most must be a top priority.
For context, poverty in the Bay Area is an extremely inflated issue. For example, HUD defined “Low Income Limits” in San Francisco as $82,200 for an individual and $117,400 for a family of four in 2018, based on 80% of the area’s median income. However, the federal poverty guidelines in 2018 were only $12,140 for an individual and $25,100 for a family of four. The average salary for teachers in San Ramon Valley is $64,476 a year. Therefore, by the standards laid out by HUD, the teachers of San Ramon Valley are making $17,724 below the poverty line standard in the Bay Area. If this wasn’t already a problem, an article by Curbed San Francisco wrote how San Ramon’s average price for rent is actually higher than San Francisco even with having an unusually low amount of rentals and therefore is usually left out of national rent surveys because of it. The article also points out that according to the Census’ American Community Survey the median rent in San Francisco is $1,632/month versus in San Ramon the average rent is $1,987/month. Considering both the amount teachers are paid and how much rent costs in San Ramon, if a person employed by a school in San Ramon was looking to rent, 37% of the teacher’s income would have to go toward rent. Subsidized housing could reduce this burden significantly for our teachers, and as San Ramon owes its high property values to the success of our public schools this means the city of San Ramon owes a lot to its teachers.
There is no doubt
that education is the first priority in our community, so why are we not funding the people who make that possible?
Valuing people over property is part of the referendum to divest from the police. We must value our teachers in the same fashion as San Ramon values its top public schools. Therefore, if the police can spend $20,414,306 on “personnel services,” then we can spend at least 5% of that on providing adequate housing options for the people who teach in our schools.
Mental Health Counselors in School
According to Mental Health America, childhood depression is more likely to persist into adulthood if gone untreated. Currently in California, 401,000 children have experienced at least one major depressive episode (MDE) and 63.9% of those children did not receive mental health services in 2020. These statistics show themself in the culture and priorities of San
Ramon's education system. Recently, in 2018, a freshman at Dougherty Valley took their own life. After this tragic incident in the community the school has still seen little changed to address the overwhelming stress felt by students. In 2015, in an article by Michael Tobin titled “DVHS Students Reach Catastrophic Stress Levels” reported, “48.6 percent of those answering [DVHS students] the survey stated they had thoughts about suicide.” They revealed that 73 percent of their stress comes from schoolwork, homework and grades.” As suicide has become the second-leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States, as reported by the Population Reference Bureau in 2016, how can San Ramon keep each other and our children safe unless we begin to address the issues of declining mental wellness publicly and with sufficient enough financial support from our local government.
According to the School Mental Health Toolkit by Mental Health Colorado there are 6 steps to implement positive change. The first step laid out in the toolkit is to identify an already established champion for the cause in our schools. Therefore, I have reached out to several students who have gone through both the middle schools and high schools in San Ramon to see if they know any faculty/teachers who have stood out to them in being understanding and well-versed in how to handle crippling mental health amongst their students (please see testimonials in full document via google docs at the bottom of this page).
There are people in our schools who have the skills and training to be there for students, but this often happens between class periods or in an additional time that has to be carved out by the student. We as a city have to start making structural change that creates space for mental illness to be regularly talked about not only when students are at their most desperate. What these testimonials all have in common is that teachers made space for individual time with the students, had the creativity to make alternative assignments, and made concrete future plans to check up on the student consistently. How do we show up before it's too late? We can do this by building our structural mental health programs around these three concepts: one-on-one time, flexibility in assignments, and consistently showing up for our students even when they don’t come to us.
The second step to building a sustainable program is to assess San Ramon’s current work for helping increase positive mental health by doing a school assessment in our middle and high schools.
With the assessment done we can begin to promote what statistically works best as well as what students actually want. Because of my experience in the San Ramon public schools I already have a good understanding of what works best in a school setting for students experiencing problems with mental health. Some of the best things we can do to promote good mental health practices:
Build a city wide suicide prevention program through awareness and creating spaces for students to express themselves outside of work and academia.
Fund workshops for teachers to learn about how to de-escalate mental health episodes and what to notice in their students.
Have more flexibility and understanding in assignments for students suffering from mental health problems.
The initiatives I have proposed for increased mental health programs in schools could all be funded through money divested from the police department.
An Inclusive Approach to Mental Health Services in a Diverse Population:
BIPOC communities often seek out therapists of color who can help identify and validate their life experiences. However, there is a lack of diverse representation within mental health providers. Due to this fact, therapists of color are in high demand yet difficult for POC communities to access. Providing and employing our diverse city with mental health professionals of color creates a safer and happier community.Due to the events that have transpired from COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd, BIPOC communities are experiencing heightened fear, grief, and anger. The mental welfare of our community should be our top priority.
Without the proper representation of mental health providers, more than often, BIPOC individuals are misdiagnosed leading to additional harm to their mental wellbeing. San Ramon is home to immigrant and first-generation families from different areas of the world. A misdiagnosis in racial/ethnic minorities is caused by factors such as language and cultural differences between a patient and provider.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, increasing the proportion of racial minority providers is considered an important factor for improving health disparities. Also stating this would help provide patients with a more culturally appropriate approach to treatment.
Racial, ethnic/gender minorities suffer from poor mental health due to cultural stigma and lack of awareness to mental health, along with discrimination and systemic oppression, and inaccessibility to adequate care. They are also less likely to seek inpatient or outpatient mental health care. Racial/Ethnic minority youth, disproportionately Black Americans with behavioral disorders are more likely to receive harsh discipline from their school or placed in a juvenile hall program. There are mental health disparities among different BIPOC communities. Understanding the difference in experiences helps for more accurate treatment. Please see this information below from the American Psychiatric Association.
Black Americans have a diverse demographic with immigrants from African nations, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and other countries. For African Americans who’s ancestors experienced the brutality of slavery suffer from intergenerational trauma. Intergenerational trauma is a phenomenon where generations of people who have experienced significant trauma pass down maladaptive behaviors and severe mental illness.
Only one in three black Americans who need mental health care receives it.
African Americans often receive inadequate and poorer quality of care due to racism and lack of cultural competence.
They are less likely to be included in mental health research.
They are less likely to receive evidence based medication therapy or psychotherapy.
One study found that physicians were 23% more verbally dominant, and engaged in 33% less patient-centered communication with African American patients than with white patients
Asian Americans speak more than 100 languages across the demographic. Yet data shows that 30% of the population is not fluent in English. The cultural differences create communication barriers between patients and providers.
Some experiences Asian Americans face is the model minority myth which creates extra pressure on individuals to meet familial and societal expectations. These pressures lead to cultural barriers when it comes to addressing and seeking mental health care.
Suicide is a leading cause for Asian American Youth
They are also least likely to seek out mental health services.
Lack of understanding surrounding mental health among asian immigrants leads to neglect and denial of help.
Latinx/Hispanic communities include people from many different races and nationalities. Hispanic refers to the spanish language or ancestry to Spain. Latinx includes populations from central/south america and the carribean.
Studies have shown that older Hispanic adults and Hispanic youth are especially vulnerable to psychological stresses associated with immigration and acculturation
Hispanics are more likely to report poor communication with their health provider
Hispanic children and adolescents are at significant risk for mental health problems, and in many cases at greater risk than white children
Lower rates of insurance coverage for Hispanic is likely to be a function of ethnicity, immigration status, and citizenship status.
Muslim Americans Muslim immigrants come from 75 different countries around the world; no single country or region accounts for a majority of Muslim immigrants, making it one of the most diverse religious community in U.S
Nearly one-third of Muslim Americans perceived discrimination in health care settings; being excluded or ignored was the most frequently conveyed type of discrimination
Recent travel and immigration restrictions directed primarily at Muslim countries by the U.S. government have led to traumatizing experiences for many Muslim Americans. In particular, the harsh handling and long detainments by U.S. Customs and Border Protection can be retraumatizing to those already vulnerable.
Indigenous Americans are the poorest demographic in the United states. With 1/3rd of the demographic living in reservations. Systemic displacement of Indigenious Americans has caused a lack of adequate resources and economic opportunities.
Children and adolescents have the highest rates of lifetime major depressive episodes and highest self-reported depression rates than any other ethnic/racial group.
In 2014, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Indigeneous Americans.
Research shows that Indigenous men and women who meet criteria for depression/anxiety or substance use disorder are significantly more likely to seek help from traditional/spiritual healers than from other sources.
Our city must understand the nuances to the BIPOC experience when it comes to mental health. Divesting from our police department and reinvesting into therapists of color makes for a safer city that is equipped to provide its residents with more accurate care.
Shrink Police Size
Terminate salaries and pensions of officers with a low rating from the community or history of brutality/discrimination
Cut down on unnecessary patrol and special units
Shrink Police Scope
Police presence in schools, public area, etc
End practices that discriminate the homeless
Shutdown units that target protesters and use bias surveillance tactics
No Collaboration with ICE, Joint Terrorism, etc
Shrink Police Equipment
Block Military/Surveillance equipment under DOD 1033 Program
Reduce spending on facial recognition
Cut spending from expensive vehicles and heavy duty weaponry
Shrink Police Power
Increase in police budget transparency
Create participatory budget hearings before approving
Open police contracts to be available information to the public
Decriminalize survival based offenses
Repeal law enforcement officer bill of rights
Long-Term Reinvestment Goals
2021/2022 fiscal year budget will not increase the police budget by any amount
Increase funding for subsidized housing;
City creates more programs with the school district to decrease the amount of money teachers have to spend on school supplies and increase the wellbeing of students and their families.
The above three policy ideas are not the only spaces where the money from the police budget could go. This policy proposal has called for and provided detailed explanation for how at least 10% of the SRPD budget, $2,508,137, could be reinvested into education and family centric programs. Even with 10% of the budget gone, the SRPD still spends an exorbitant amount on personnel services when there are plenty of other programs we could be funding like free standardized testing classes for students, socially distant play times for kids in the park, and all the above mentioned policies. City council members are the ones who ultimately decide and vote on what the city spends its money on for the fiscal year. That is why when elected, I, Sameera Rajwade, will fight to reallocate the money from the police budget into programs that focus on the economic wellbeing of our citizens and families in the FY 2021-2022 budget.
Our goal is to decrease the SRPD budget by at least 25% by FY 2021-2022 and reinvest that amount or more into spaces that are underfunded with attention to the intersection of education and housing.
Please see a full version of the policy via a google document HERE
If you would like a pdf version please email