Answering the question directly: an essential city service is anything that is vital to the maximum sovereign wellbeing of all people and for the maintenance or upkeep of vital infrastructure.
I do believe we have a gross imbalance of city funding priorities, as we recommend investing much more heavily in Public Health, Education, and Universal Resources as a means for establishing strong public safety and overall wellness outcomes, and I would seek to reduce the costs of police activity dramatically.
Erica Ford, a NYC peace leader, recently shared with the Austin Justice Coalition. Her model uses a proactive and strong approach to community-led accountability, which reduces the need for police in many circumstances, and they have seen a steep increase in public safety as well as all other general health and economic outcomes. It’s very well proven that greater spending in the areas of public health, social services, and education leads to better outcomes for everyone, and that increases in police budget typically equates to more violent and harmful outcomes. We can apply a model like this in Austin and save multimillions from our police budget and invest in people-led community safety and accountability programs.
The key to all of this is the introduction of New and Creative, Cooperative and Regenerative Revenue sources for the People’s Fund, aka the budget. We need to rid ourselves of the extractive models for generating our revenue, since they are inherently unsustainable. We need revenue that is invested in regenerative, People-first organization and systems.