Calling on Philadelphia to Reinvest in its Community, Not the Police
Building Wealth and Health Network members and Center Director Mariana Chilton, PhD, submitted written testimony to Philadelphia City Council for inclusion in the hearing on the city's proposed fiscal year 2021 budget.
The revised budget was released with $370 million in cuts to city services including Parks and Recreation, Free Library, Housing Trust, and anti-violence efforts, due to the impact of COVID-19. However, this revised budget also included $14 million increase for the Philadelphia Police.
Network members Shyaine Betha, Leslie McCrea Washington, and Jessica Seigel shared personal stories of their experience of racism in Philadelphia and urged City Council to reconsider the significant cuts and funnel money from policing to education, recreation and after school activities for children, mental health support, and affordable housing efforts.
"The proposed budget cuts paired with an increase in budget for the police show a blatant ignorance, lack of understanding, and lack of solidarity regarding what people in the community really need," they said. "It is evident through this budget that the lives of Blacks, people of color, and the poor are not valued. It is telling us we are not welcome here."
"Our community, and Philadelphia as a whole, does not need more policing, we need more support to not just stay alive but to thrive."
Chilton highlighted the Center's research on racism and its impact on hunger and economic insecurity. She called on City Council to defund the police, abolish prisons, and embrace Universal Basic Income. Chilton also presented reparations and rematriation of land to the Lenape Nation as a use for funds earmarked for the police department.
"Philadelphia will not truly be serious about addressing poverty and racism unless it demonstrates in the budget a line item for reparations," she said.
On June 8, 14 members of City Council sent a letter to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney expressing their opposition to increases in in the police budget and calling for him to implement a number of police reform efforts. The proposed 2021 budget has $760 million allocated for the Philadelphia Police Department, representing 15% of the the total budget.
Mayor Kenney released his agenda for police reform June 9 that eliminating the proposed budget hike.
Read full testimony:
Photo by Taymaz Valley