Council approves amended resolution providing funding to address root causes of crime, poverty

Council approves amended resolution providing funding to  address root causes of crime, poverty
June 17
15:18 2020

Last week The Chronicle reported the Winston-Salem City Council was considering a resolution that would move $1 million in appropriated funding from the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD) to programs geared toward fighting poverty. Earlier this week an amended version of the resolution passed a vote by the full council. 

After Chief Catrina Thompson and the Winston-Salem Police Foundation OK’d the resolution, and it passed the Public Safety Committee unanimously, it seemed as if the resolution would pass without any issues. But after several concerns raised by citizens and members of the city council, Councilmember James Taylor, who is publisher of The Chronicle, introduced a substitute resolution. 

Currently there are 40 vacant positions within the WSPD; the original resolution would’ve taken 15 of those positions and reallocated the money (approximately $1 million) to address some of the root causes of poverty, crime, and recidivism. 

A breakdown of the $1 million appropriation showed funding going toward doubling the class size for the SOAR (Successful Outcomes After Release) program, doubling the resources for youth summer employment opportunities, raise city government minimum wage to $14 an hour, and increase funding to help community residents with rental/eviction assistance. 

The amended resolution calls for the establishment of a citizen’s advisory committee. Members of the committee will be appointed by the mayor and the city council and will be responsible for deciding how the $1 million will be spent. It also directs the city manager to explore other ways the city could save $1 million to account for budget adjustments. 

“In the resolution we outlined exactly where we thought that money should be spent, but we wanted to create this Community Investment Allocation Committee to allow the people to be heard in the process and make sure the money is going where it needs to go,” Taylor said. “I do think the city should do more, but given the current budget cycle and because of COVID-19, I think $1 million is certainly a step in the right direction toward positivity.”

Councilmember Robert Clark said he couldn’t support taking the 15 positions away from the WSPD. Clark suggested that the council considering using COVID-19 relief funding to address some of the issues outlined in the resolution. He said while the resolution calls for the elimination of 15 positions within the police department, other departments will have to make up for the deficit. “It is very easy for the police chief to support your motion, Mr. Taylor, because it doesn’t do anything,” Clark said. 

“I cannot support a sham of a motion that in fact eliminates positions in every department but the police unless you are willing to amend your motion and cancel both police training courses in the current budget.” 

Jeff MacIntosh, representative for the Northwest Ward, said he didn’t think the city would have enough additional revenue to cover the cost of the resolution. Councilmembers Denise “DD” Adams and John Larson applauded Taylor for the resolution and the amendment to include public involvement. 

Adams said, “Let me be clear, I’m not about defunding the police, but it’s time we intentionally look at how the city is divided because of lack of opportunities and resources.” Larson said the resolution was the first step in the right direction. 

“I think Bob Dylan said times are changing. A month ago, two months ago, we weren’t facing the sort of issues that we’re facing now with the pandemic and civil discourse about what this city is going to be,” Larson continued. “I applaud Councilmember Taylor for his effort … to come forward with a first step. This is not a solution but it’s a first commitment by this city to actually begin to address what we’re hearing out in the public.” 

Despite the concerns raised by some of the council members, when it came time to vote on the resolution it was passed unanimously. 

In other business, the city council also approved the $470.6 million 2020-2021 budget proposal. The budget allocates $362.2 million for operations, $55.7 million for debt services, and $52.6 million for capital improvements. 

The 2020-2021 Proposed Budget can be viewed on the city’s website, 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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