Andrea Campbell, one of the three Boston city councilors who are running against Acting Mayor Kim Janey in this year’s race for the city’s top political post, will vote against Janey’s operating budget, she announced Tuesday.
Speaking at Roxbury’s Nubian Square, Campbell said Janey’s $3.76 billion operating budget “does not meet the urgency of this moment,” and suggested that the proposed police budget for next fiscal year will fail to produce needed reforms.
“I absolutely believe we need our city budget to respond to the urgent needs of our residents,” she said.
Janey’s recently resubmitted operating budget comes amid a crowded mayoral race that includes the acting mayor and three councilors who will be voting on the matter: Campbell, Annissa Essaibi George, and Michelle Wu.
Janey, who is still technically a city councilor, won’t be able to vote on her own operating budget, leaving 12 councilors to accept or reject it. Of that number, Janey needs seven “yes” votes for it to pass. The council is expected to vote on the matter June 30, one day before the start of the new fiscal year.
It was unclear Tuesday whether Janey has the votes.
Most city councilors did not immediately return inquiries about whether they would support the proposed budget. Others indicated it was too early to comment, saying that they were still digesting Janey’s resubmitted budget proposal, which she unveiled Friday.
Councilor Liz Breadon said she was “still studying it.” Councilor Frank Baker declined to comment. Councilor Julia Mejia released a statement but did not say definitively whether she would support Janey’s resubmitted budget.
“The budget dilemma we’re in right now is tough: We have an appointed mayor and no permanent police commissioner,” Mejia said in the statement. “It makes pushing for what we need to see in this year’s budget all the harder. But we can’t lose hope.”
Councilor Ed Flynn said he was undecided on how he will vote.
“I will continue to listen to my constituents and advocate for our shared priorities, including pedestrian safety infrastructure such as speed bumps, public safety resources, our parks and urban tree canopy, as well as services for our seniors, persons with disabilities, and language access for immigrant neighbors,” he said in a statement.
Councilor Michael Flaherty said he is still reviewing the resubmitted budget, but he said at this point, a week before the final vote, he is a “no” vote.
Wu, meanwhile, said she “looked forward to reviewing the budget resubmission and engaging with my colleagues and the administration” at an upcoming hearing. She gave no indication which way she would vote.
The brewing showdown is quite a reversal for Janey from last year’s budget process. She was among a handful of councilors to vote against then-mayor Martin J. Walsh’s operating budget, which ultimately passed 8-5. Campbell and Wu also opposed Walsh’s budget in what was an unusually contentious and much scrutinized vote; the “no” votes said Walsh’s budget did not do enough to address structural racial inequities.
On Tuesday, Campbell referenced last year’s vote as she discussed her reasons for opposing Janey’s budget.
“A full year later, the council is being asked to consider a police budget that does not look a whole lot different, that actually adds officers and provides no strategy whatsoever to actualize promised reductions to overtime,” she said. “That does not answer the calls for change that I still feel and hear every single day, even if they’re not quite as loud as last year.”
Janey’s campaign manager, Kirby Chandler, defended Janey’s record on police reform in a statement, saying the acting mayor “has taken strong steps to increase transparency, accountability and reforms in the Boston Police Department.”
“She has proposed a budget that cuts overtime by a third, but she is also making smart investments for the long term that will create a more responsive, diverse, transparent, and accountable department,” said Chandler in a statement.
Janey’s office did not respond to an inquiry about whether she had enough council votes to pass her operating budget.
Janey’s latest budget proposal represents a year-over-year increase of $152 million, or 4.2 percent, and the resubmission follows more than three dozen council hearings and working sessions in recent weeks. Her administration has said its proposal makes “further investment in core city services and resident needs, while centering an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The council has the power to accept or reject the budget. It can also reduce the budget but has no authority to add to it. Councilors can transfer funds only if the mayor requests that.
Failure to approve a budget before the start of the new fiscal year would mean real financial uncertainties for Boston. A temporary budget known as a 1/12 would take effect, which would see the city fund services at the previous year’s levels, but Boston would still be on the hook for the new year’s costs. This dynamic could create budget gaps in various departments.
Last year, with the threat of a 1/12 budget looming, city officials warned that rejecting the operating budget would bring with it potential layoffs and spending reductions.
There has been friction between Janey and the council recently, with the council approving a rule change that gives that body the power to remove Janey as council president, which would hypothetically strip her of the acting mayor title.
Janey became acting mayor after Walsh left City Hall to become US labor secretary in March.