Mayor Nutter has been touting law enforcement efforts that are reducing crime, so why is he risking that success by inadequately funding the District Attorney's Office?
Nutter has proposed increases for the police, prisons, and public defender's office, but his proposed budget would shortchange the District Attorney's Office by at least $2 million. That doesn't add up in a city that so far this year is on pace to reduce the 331 homicides and more than 1,200 shootings that occurred last year.
District Attorney Seth Williams says cutting his budget would would put in jeopardy several worthy initiatives, including the Gun Violence Task Force and the Small Amounts of Marijuana program, which moves low-level marijuana possession and other misdemeanor cases out of the criminal-court system. That saves tax money, police manpower and overtime, and helps reduce prison overcrowding.
Both Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey have been crediting such programs and others for a recent drop in crime. But unless the District Attorney's Office is adequately funded, the initiatives will likely be eliminated or reduced, beginning July 1.
Williams says the proposed $31.6 million budget for his department is so woefully inadequate that it would not even cover mandated salary hikes, not to mention the rate of inflation. He has appealed to City Council to provide a modest increase, which seems reasonable to operate a department where salaries account for 93 percent of the budget.
Since taking office in 2010, Williams has rolled out an impressive agenda that fulfills several campaign pledges. Just recently, he assembled an elite team of veteran prosecutors to investigate public corruption. Such a move was long overdue, having been resisted by his predecessor, Lynne Abraham, who made it her policy not to go after political figures.
Williams deserves credit for speaking candidly about his budget. The dispute shines a light on a budget process used by the Nutter administration that Williams described as "inadequate and disrespectful." He said there was no prior consultation with his office to find out what it needed before the mayor issued his budget.