Faith Leaders’ Letter in Support of the People’s Budget
To the Members of the Jacksonville City Council:
A budget is a moral document that reveals a community’s most deeply held values. It is therefore morally indefensible for the city of Jacksonville to continue to spend nearly half of our billion-dollar budget on policing while largely ignoring the needs of the hungry and impoverished.
We recognize police officers serve an important function in our city. However, we also recognize that the institution of policing has a long history of disproportionately enforcing the law against racial minorities and the poor. Occupying underfunded neighborhoods and filling prisons does not decrease crime, and using our tax dollars to promote a fear-based compliance to the law violates the most profound values of our respective faith traditions. Our faith compels us to center the needs of our poorest and most vulnerable neighbors rather than further strengthen the might of the State. We are called to establish justice through compassion and freedom, not fear and control.
For these reasons, we—the undersigned faith leaders—support the aim of Jacksonville’s People’s Budget to correct the historic over-funding of the police force and return financial resources back to our local communities by: addressing hunger and homelessness, creating living-wage jobs, assisting entrepreneurs and small business owners in Northwest Jacksonville, expanding mental health services, and revitalizing our public transportation system.
True and lasting justice cannot be achieved through punitive measures that target already marginalized peoples. True and lasting justice begins with the equitable sharing of community-resources, which is the sincerest way we can love our neighbors as ourselves.
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Reimagining Public Safety and What Reinvesting in Our Community Could Look Like
Information provided by the Jacksonville Community Action Committee
We believe the best way to deal with the social issues in our city is through prioritizing our most impoverished areas with direct investment. We know that increased policing won’t keep our communities safe however, increased opportunity, development, wages, and services strengthens communities. Increased spending on JSO means more divestment from our communities. We must prioritize our communities. This means assuring that the 2020-2021 City of Jacksonville budget meets those values. A People’s Budget is a true economic stimulus for the Northside, Outeast, and other underdeveloped areas and would benefit the city quickly and sustainably.
Reallocation & Reinvestment
Addressing Food Insecurity
Food insecurity is a serious issue depriving Jacksonville residents of necessary access to quality food. We can address food insecurity through a food desert elimination program which could cost 25 million dollars. Money will go to organizations and businesses in Jacksonville that work to tackle food security in the most vulnerable areas. Money shall be spent in order revitalize and expand the green houses on Edward Waters College to produce more food. New green houses shall also be built in order to tackle the food desert problem across the Northside and Outeast and in other vulnerable areas.
Creating Living Wage Jobs
Good working class jobs are a benefit to any community. By a reallocation of the budget, the City could create 1,000 living wage, union jobs under the Division of Public Works at $16 an hour costing around 40 million dollars.
Supporting Black Entrepreneurs and small Black owned businesses
From the 240 million being reallocated from the JSO budget, we can direct 40 million dollars to the Office of Economic Development, specifically for the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund which would then create a large base of funding to seed new African American small businesses in underdeveloped areas.
Neighborhood and Community Infrastructure
Stronger neighborhoods means stronger communities.
More funding to the Neighborhoods department—which holds the Housing and Community Development Division and is responsible for our city’s affordable housing initiatives—would be a great investment in our communities future. This could be accomplished through a 23 million dollar funding increase—funding in 2019 was 22 million. This reallocation could also mean an increased contribution from the city into HUD and other public housing.
Parks, Recreation and Services—50.5 million increase—funding in 2019 was around 49 million
● We recommend the City reinstate/rehire full-time Park Managers in low income area parks and provide adult supervision and activities designed to protect, promote, and provide safety for all our youth homelessness elimination initiative programs.
● Spend 15.5 million on the creation of brand new homeless shelters in order to reduce the massive homelessness. Funds will also be spent to build affordable family housing. This will help revitalize the downtown area and attract more business to the area.
● 15 million dollar increase for the division of mental health services to improve access to quality mental health service for the people of Jacksonville
● Public Libraries for additional staff and activities—20 million increase—funding in 2019 was around 35 million.
● A stronger public transportation system means a stronger city. A 20 million increase in city funding to the Jacksonville Transit Authority for revolutionizing and expanding public transportation would benefit all of Jacksonville, especially the working class of this city. Currently the city contribution as of 2019 was only 1.4 million.
● More funding to the Kids Hope Alliance could further—20 million increase—2019 budget was 35 million.