We are proud to close 2019 with a movement of hundreds of people across all wards in the Root & Restore community in St. Paul. We know that a multiracial, class-diverse, and gender-expansive movement grounded in alternatives to policing, community solutions sourced from the leadership of those closest to harm, and healing justice is necessary for St. Paul to be a city where everyone can live with dignity and joy.
We acknowledge that investments in policing and punishment have, for centuries, dismantled our communities, without addressing the root causes of harm. Generational trauma and the systematic denial of basic daily needs weigh particularly heavy on Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. We recognize that this damages our collective resilience, strength, and humanity. Collectively, building on the leadership of so many before us, we have called for our city leaders to shift resources away from failed policing, criminalization, and surveillance approaches, and invest in a public health approach to community-led healing.
And our efforts are making a difference.
For instance, Root & Restore’s narrative work and engagement helped secure significant non-police public safety investments in the 2020 city budget, including:
- In a dramatic departure from the addition of nine officers last year, the 2020 budget DOES NOT add any new officers and reduces the sworn force by five.
- Instead of hiring more cops, the mayor’s supplemental budget invested in public health programming like the Healing Streets initiative and CURE Violence approach and restorative justice efforts, like the ETHOS Restorative Justice Program.
- In contrast to investing in misguided, surveilling technology like Shot Spotter, the supplemental budget added significant resources toward street-level intervention from community ambassadors and community mental health responders (not embedded in the police department).
- Rather than doubling down with more funding for police, the supplemental budget invests nearly $500,000 in targeted youth employment programming, funds to ensure recreation center programming stays free, and a pilot for our community members returning from incarceration.
There were also serious missed opportunities in the budget, including:
- Instead of redirecting dollars from a police department that already consumes one-third of the General Fund, additional funding for the supplemental public safety budget will come from an increase in property taxes that will hit hardest in the communities that are most impacted by violence and harm.
- Instead of building funding for community-led safety into the base budget, for long-term, durable investments, the funding for public health approaches are included in the supplemental budget.
- A proposal to redirect $200,000 from a parking fund to resource a pilot grant process for community-based gun violence prevention efforts failed.
- The budget includes no funding to rehire a community-first public safety director to coordinate city efforts and work with the county or resources for a community-first public safety cabinet that would guide the assessment of our city’s needs, gaps, and opportunities, and administer resources to prevent and heal harm.
- While the more than $1 million committed to community safety, restorative justice and economic development is significant, it is still less than 1% of the funding for SPPD.
So while Root & Restore broadly supports many of the investments to #FundTheVillage of on-the-ground organizations and individuals engaged in community-led public safety efforts, we know the importance of details, especially those pertaining to policy. We will continue to hold our elected officials accountable to practicing our collective values and put community first in enacting the promises of this budget. We know the budget is a reflection of our values and our love for St. Paul. And, with that love, we believe another world is possible.
Galvanized by your energy and input, we accomplished so much this year. We strengthened our collective analysis of public safety, challenging the script that police will keep us safe, through coordinated attendance at city engagement sessions, concerted narrative work, deep and broad outreach and connection, and our 2019 Voter Guide for city council and school board candidates. Because our movement is people-centered, we believe relationships are sacred. Root & Restore deepened our relationships with each other, our neighbors, our friends and leaders across the river in Minneapolis, and with Saint Paul decisionmakers.
We are grateful for all the community members and leaders who have taken the time to sign our petition, come to our meetings, share your stories, engage with us online, and believe with us that another world is possible.
We invite you to join our movement of change leaders and magic makers by joining our email list (contact carolyn.szczepanski(at)gmail.com to be added), liking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter.
With you, we believe that “another world is not only possible, she is on her way.” -Arundhati Roy