Philly budget treats gun violence like it’s tomorrow’s problem

Opinion

Most of the $ 155 million the city has budgeted for anti-violence programs is for long-term initiatives. But hello, the crisis is happening.


Photos of an anti-gun rally on the steps of the art museum in 2018 (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers / NurPhoto)

Putting your money where your mouth is means nothing if you are working with a bad script. Someone should tell the Kenney administration as they enact the city budget against gun violence.

A recent report of the City Comptroller’s Office reveals that only $ 68 million of the $ 155.7 million that made the city’s headlines to fight gun violence is real new spending – the rest comes from elsewhere in the budget that has been reclassified. For example, the Kenney administration designated funds to restore public institutions such as libraries, parks and recreation, and even the Dell Music Center, which have all been affected by the pandemic cuts, as “anti spending. -violence “

“These initiatives, while important, are not aimed at addressing the gun violence crisis in the city,” Comptroller Rebecca Rhynhart said in her report.

But the big bomb is much more infuriating: just $ 33 million, or 21 percent of that $ 155.7 million, goes towards interventions that will have an immediate and short-term impact, and this includes $ 22 million in grants to be awarded. The $ 22 million program was set up by the administration to provide grants (ranging from $ 100,000 to $ 1 million) to nonprofit organizations that provide “direct healing and restorative practices.” trauma-informed or shelters and mentoring programs ”. This money is intended to focus on short-term interventions. Its good. But that means the rest of the money goes to other things: 70% to long-term projects that will take years for their value to be apparent, like after-school enrichment, mental health support. and youth mentorship. Another 9 percent goes toward improving police response to incidents involving behavioral health. These types of interventions are known to reduce violence in the long run. But this crisis is coming at present.

Why is the city playing games to fight gun violence head-on? Why is he using deceptive fundraising schemes, such as reclassifying items in the budget?

One possible answer might simply be politics. Mayor Jim Kenney has been heavily criticized by politicians, activists and the press for its response to this ongoing crisis. By injecting millions into various community projects and initiatives, he is able to give himself the kind of image repair that only money can buy. And with the rollout of these grants to come, expect Kenney to show up in many neglected neighborhoods, snap photos, and show commitment to the public. At first glance, this is Policy 101, but in this particular case, it is a deeper issue.

These grants, I fear, are bandages at best and muzzles at worst. Of course, community groups that receive these grants will feel seen, but they will likely temper their vocal criticisms accordingly, especially since the deadline to apply for its latest anti-violence community expansion grant program was last week.

And by spending large amounts of money on what’s called gun violence to address town issues that are arguably unrelated to gun violence, Kenney appears to be more invested in cosmetically fight against armed violence that directly fight it. The revitalized parks are nice and the after school programs are nice, but their anti-violence benefits are years away. The increased expenditure for efforts that immediately and directly intervene with shooters (such as work done with the Community crisis prevention program) in our neighborhoods would be better. Corn effective short-term interventions are sometimes less attractive because they often involve non-based consultants in Philly and don’t put so much money in local pockets as do long-term projects.

Until there, nearly 1,600 people were shot dead in Philadelphia and more than 360 have been murdered this year, with the murder figure representing a 17% increase over the same period last year. The City should refocus its budget priorities to fund response programs that serve those most likely to shoot or be shot, such as Group violence intervention. Data currently shows that cities like Oakland had seen progress with similar programs as recently as 2018.

It’s not that long-term programs shouldn’t be funded, but more current money — and certainly much more new money should be directed towards the immediate resolution of this crisis. Much of the funding for the short-term intervention has yet to be determined as it relates to the Anti-Violence Community Expansion Grants Program, which the city will begin to allocate now. Hopefully, the funded programs will actually tackle violence in the short term, because that is, literally, our only chance to fund immediate responses for a crisis that is occurring as we speak.

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