Funding safe and thriving communities
Local governments are responsible for keeping our family, friends and neighbors safe. Teachers in our public schools, people who make sure our water is clean to drink, and the people who respond to calls for emergency assistance all work for public institutions or local governments.
We all pay taxes. We also have a responsibility and an opportunity to shape the future priorities of our city and all the institutions funded by our tax dollars and serving us and our community.
The cost of policing we saw in some of the nation’s biggest cities is high. The New York Times business section on Sunday took a look at the costs of riot gear alone, which included special ballistic helmets at $1,160 each; gas mask (Avon Rrotedion Systems FM53 Multi-Role RPE System) at $1,500; a high-tech weapons system with silencer (HK MR556A1 + suppressor) at about $5,000; a ‘40MM LMT tactical single launcher’ (presumably for tear gas canisters) at $800 and body armor and related equipment at $700, among other items. Of the $11,000 cost per New York officer in full regalia, $9,000 was the riot gear. (And this does not include the $211,000 cost of a bearcat armored vehicle).
In many cities people cry out for the defunding of police and the redirection of those funds to the bigger needs of the community. Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza told NBC News’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday: “When we talk about defunding the police, what we’re saying is, invest in the resources that our communities need … What we do need is increased funding for housing, we need increased funding for education, we need increased funding for the quality of life of communities who are over-policed and over-surveilled.”
Everyone, no matter their race or how much money they have, deserves to live in safe and thriving communities. It’s time our public funding priorities reflect that. The wealthy few and corporations have used their influence to enact policies that cut their taxes and siphon away resources for good schools, public transit, health care, healthy and affordable housing and economic security programs. “Trickle-down” policies have made the rich richer, but utterly failed most neighborhoods in which working families live – especially communities of color where many factories have closed and work forces abandoned.
We need to direct our public resources to the things that really keep our community safe, yet they have been drained by tax cuts to the wealthy, tax breaks for special interests and tax abatements on local school and health and human service revenues. As advocates call for resources to be directed away from law enforcement and towards these programs, it’s important to pair that with a call for everyone – especially the wealthy and corporations – to do their part, too.