Anti-Trump protests cost Atlanta taxpayers up to $16 million for public safety

By David Pendered

Atlanta taxpayers will pay up to $16 million for public safety services provided during protests in January against President Trump’s inauguration and his travel ban directed at seven Muslim-majority countries, Atlanta’s budget chief said Wednesday.

trump protest, travel ban

Thousands attended an anti-Donald Trump travel ban protest outside Atlanta’s airport on Jan. 29. Credit: Christopher Aluka Berry / Reuters via theatlantic.com

The costs can be attributed to overtime pay for police officers, firefighters and corrections officers, according to Youlanda Carr, Atlanta’s budget chief in the Office of Budget and Fiscal Policy. The three department ran up budget overruns that total up to $16 million.

“At the beginning of the year, we had a lot of protests throughout the city and so we had a lot of overtime that we had to account for,” Carr said. “That is the main reason why police is over budget.”

The actual total cost won’t be known until further investigation is conducted into the cost overruns incurred in January by the three separate departments. In addition to overtime payment, the police and fire departments incurred costs related to pay hikes that weren’t included in the budget for a number of  job classifications.

Councilmember Alex Wan delved into the issue of breaking out the exact line items that caused the cost overruns – i.e., overtime pay and salary increases – as well as the potential impact of the decision by the managers of the police department to leave some positions vacant. The vacancies could have resulted in the department being understaffed, forcing the department to respond to the protests by bringing in officers who had to be paid overtime.

Carr said the Finance Department will provide that information. Then she indicated the overtime pay is the crux of the issue.

anti trump, high fives

The Woman’s March in Atlanta gained widespread attention for the warm interaction between marchers and Atlanta police officers. A video of high fives was viewed by more than 4.5 million viewers on Facebook. Credit: hollywoodlife.com

“The overtime is what caused us to be over,” Carr said.

Carr provided the information at Wednesday’s meeting of the Atlanta City Council’s Finance Committee. Carr was presenting Department of Finance’s routine quarterly update to the Finance Committee.

Here’s how the numbers break down:

  • Police: $12.6 million in cost overruns;
  • Fire/rescue: $2.2 million in cost overruns;
  • Corrections: $1.2 million in cost overruns.

Atlanta was a hotbed of anti-Trump protests as Trump took office and issued his proposed temporary travel ban.

Hundreds gathered at Atlanta City Hall on Jan. 20 and demanded that Mayor Kasim Reed announce that Atlanta is a sanctuary city that will not enable the arrest of undocumented individuals.

Atlanta made headlines in hollywoodlife.com, which posted participants in the Jan. 23 Woman’s March sharing high-five’s with Atlanta police officers. Good Morning America reported that more than 4.5 million viewers watched the video on Facebook.

anti trump, john lewis

Congressman John Lewis participated in a march in Atlanta to protest President Trump, who denigrated Atlanta and Lewis’ job in serving it. Credit: fox25boston.com

Atlanta’s airport was the site of multiple protests by those opposed to Trump’s proposed travel ban, which he issued via executive order. It has since been stalled in court.

Carr presented the numbers by way of addressing the city’s overall cost overruns for Fiscal Year 2017, which ends June 30. Carr and others in the department delivered the update on multiple city accounts regarding revenue, expenses, debt, and investments.

The overall budget is over-budget by $8.5 million, Carr said. Some departments have not gone over budget. Others have.

The parks department, for example, is $3.8 million over budget. That’s a result of the department serving a growing number of children and older residents. The higher costs stems from everything from supplies for activities to increased usage of water and sewer, Carr said.

Atlanta has top credit ratings from the big three rating agencies. The city’s total debt is $6.94 billion. More than three-quarters of that sum is related to Atlanta’s airport and the upgrade to the city’s sewer system.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

14 replies
  1. Steve Hagan says:

    $16,000,000 divided by ten events divided by 100 officers per event equals $16,000….I think there is an abundance of fuzzy math here….Report

    Reply
  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Steve Hagan You think the City uses funny math? LOL
    I suggest the City send a bill to the DNC since they orchestrated the events. Don’t hold your breath for them to pay the bill. Whatever happens is always someone else’s fault.Report

    Reply
    • Steve Hagan says:

      Find n officer who got 16K in extra pay over the last few months…there must be more than a hundred of them to have spent 16 million and were there ten events?? ….Maybe it was 1.6 million not 16….Report

      Reply
  3. Sheila Fuhrmann says:

    Actually the DNC didn’t orchestrate the events. People using their right to protest orchestrated the events. By twitter, Facebook groups. Many of which weren’t even close to being Democrats.. And the majority were women. ..Report

    Reply
  4. K. Cool says:

    This is BAD journalism – falsifying numbers, no sources or references and inference towards the negative. It’s not real reporting…Report

    Reply
  5. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ K. Cool
    This site is about applauding those who consider themselves shakers and movers, and influencing public opinion. Maria is in the PR business.
    If you want unbiased journalism, you should look elsewhere.Report

    Reply
  6. Cindy Battles says:

    So the only time any of those events paid overtime was during protests? The wording is fishy here. And if the writer (who is clearly right leaning) has a problem with paying public servants overtime while citizens exercise their first amendment rights…how does he feel about the amount of money taxpayers are spending on the President’s weekend trips to Mar-a-Lago?Report

    Reply
  7. Burroughston Broch says:

    @ Cindy Battles
    Your Trump Derangement Syndrome is showing. And you had no problems paying for Barak Obama’s frequent and very expensive vacations. Trump is staying in his own home.Report

    Reply
    • Cindy Battles says:

      Yes. And so is the secret service and most of his staff. And you are paying the bill. Almost every single weekend. And before you tell me they are staying for free…better check the CBO. Also, the increased budget for secret service.Report

      Reply
    • metitometin says:

      Jesus, Trump has already spent more time playing gold in 100 days than Obama did in 8 years. Turn off the FOX Noise please. Trump is just using this White House gig to enrich himself at taxpayer expense. What a loser. Resist and Impeach.Report

      Reply

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