After the George Floyd protests broke out across major U.S. cities, some mayors and police chiefs were accused of issuing stand-down orders to their police officers. Nightly news streamed video footage of the looting, rioting, and general mayhem that ensued in the absence of a civil order.
“Autonomous zones” sprung up in progressive cities and were described as part of a “summer of love.” Mayors pushed to defund local police departments. Center-right politicians called these cities “lawless” for refusing to protect the life, liberty, and property of its residents.
In Seattle, the highly compensated city council voted to defund their police department. In Congress, an effort led by U.S. Sens Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) pushed to defund these cities of their federal aid.
President Donald Trump indicated a willingness to review the situation. However, nobody knew exactly how much federal funding was “at stake.”
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com quantified $14.8 billion in federal contracts and grants flowing into five major cities where civil unrest looms and policing is restrained: Seattle, Portland, New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.
We mapped the flow of federal funds during fiscal year 2019 to all units of government based within the city location. Here’s how it breaks down:
Portland, Oregon (Federal awards: $252.5 million | pop. 653,115) A family of four, on average, received $1,548 in federal subsidies ($387 per person).
The City of Portland (Mayor Ted Wheeler) received $34 million with the police department only getting $37,000. The public schools received $4.9 million and the housing authority another $26.4 million.
Other governments receiving aid included the Port of Portland ($33.5 million) and $143.9 million into higher education: the local community college ($53 million), and Portland State University ($90.9 million).
Since FY2016, federal funding into Portland-based governments increased from $173.7 million to $252.5 million (FY2019), up 45.4-percent.
Wheeler, who also doubles as the police commissioner, has always denied giving stand-down orders to the police. However, since 2016, prominent critics have alleged a hands-off police presence in the face of violent protests and riots.
Seattle, Washington (Federal awards: $365.1 million | pop. 744,955) A family of four, on average, received $1,960 in federal subsidies ($490 per person).
The City of Seattle (Mayor Jenny Durkan) received $97.5 million. The public schools received $42.5 million. The housing authority received $203 million in federal aid.
Other governments receiving aid included City Light – a city-owned utility ($3.8 million), and the Port of Seattle ($17 million). Seattle colleges received $1.1 million in grant funding.
Since FY2016, federal funding into Seattle-based governments increased from $283.6 million to $365.1 million (FY2019), up 28.7-percent.
In June, Durkan called the “police-free” Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) within Seattle’s East Precinct a “block party” and police boarded up their precinct and let the protesters have free reign.
San Francisco, California (Federal awards: $516 million | pop. 883,305) A family of four, on average, received $2,337 in federal subsidies ($584 per person).
San Francisco city hall (Mayor London Breed) received $279.2 million – dwarfed by the $309 million into the housing authority. The fire department received $1.4 million.
The city also received nearly $1 million of surplus military equipment under Program 1033. Since 2013, the city procured 320 items including 136 infrared illuminators, 100 night vision scopes, 49 reflex and thermal sights, 2 night vision sniper scopes, and a remote ordinance neutralization robot ($185,493).
Transportation districts received nearly $140 million including the the city transportation authority ($7.1 million), Golden Gate Bridge district ($64 million), and Metropolitan Transportation Commission ($68 million).
Other government receiving aid included the Coastal Commission ($2.9 million) and Judicial Commission of California ($4 million).
Since FY2016, federal funding into San Francisco-based governments increased from $509 million to $584 million (FY2019), up 14.7-percent.
In June, Breed announced that the police would no longer respond to a host of de-criminalized activities; and in July, the mayor announced a defunding of the police with the dollars re-directed toward the black community.
San Fran was already the national leader in petty crimes that critics say was the result of lack of police law enforcement.
Washington, D.C. (Federal awards: $3.3 billion | pop. 705,000) A family of four, on average, received the equivalent of $18,723 in federal subsidies ($4,680 per person).
In Washington, D.C. (Mayor Muriel Bowser), we found 33 separate city agencies receiving federal funds: the district government ($2 billion), the Metropolitan Police Department ($3.8 million), the fire department ($5.7 million), emergency management ($18.5 million), the DC university ($76.4 million), housing authority ($125.6 million), and public schools ($996.4 million).
Other DC units of government receiving federal money included human services ($54.3 million), employment services ($35.9 million), health department ($24.3 million), energy and environment ($7.3 million), consumer & regulatory affairs ($3 million), and the commission on the arts ($1.8 million).
Since FY2016, federal funding into Washington, D.C. increased from $2.2 billion to $3.3 billion (FY2019), up 50-percent. (This comparison between the years does not account for a $4.5 billion in funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to an entity listed in the federal data as “Dist. of Col.” in FY2019.)
In June, President Trump criticized Bowser of “not locking down the city” as protests turned violent. The mayor defended the actions of the unified command of local and federal law enforcement. However, she called for the removal of all “extraordinary federal law enforcement and military” from the city.
New York, New York (Federal awards: $5.6 billion | pop. 8.4 million) A family of four, on average, received the equivalent of $2,667 in federal subsidies ($667 per person).
We found 52 units of government based in New York City (Mayor Bill de Blasio) receiving federal funds: the city government ($2.4 billion), housing authority ($2.3 billion), and the social services department ($875.3 million).
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey received $61 million and the city university received $616 million.
Other city agencies receiving federal funds included homeless services ($2.4 million), the medical examiner ($1.5 million), and library ($322,966).
In 2016 and 2017, the city police used Program 1033 to procure two mine-resistant vehicles. These military MRAPs, with a value of $1.5 million, were loaned at no charge by the Department of Defense.
Because of inconsistent federal disclosures, a comparison between FY2016 and FY2019 can not be calculated.
In June, the police union accused de Blasio of a stand down order. CNN reported $1 billion in budget cuts to the police department.
As the above analysis shows, cutting the flow of federal funding into cities is a difficult proposition. However, the federal government could begin moving facilities out of unsafe cities.
Officials and department secretaries could move federal buildings, agencies, and bureaucracies into safe environments. Doing so would have a substantial negative economic impact on cities.
It just may cause mayors and police chiefs to re-prioritize the civil order.
Note: we requested comment from the five city mayors and the Office of the President, Office of Management & Budget and will update the piece with responses, if any.