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American Rescue Plan Budget and Priorities

The local newspaper, The Villager, requested a questionnaire and here are my answers.

How would you as mayor propose spending that money?

I will be spending the money to jump-start the citizen economy, spend some immediate money building digital infrastructure for citizen engagement, and address the public safety goals of my predecessor. 

I will not disregard the previous work Mayor Carter did in improving the city, in particular, public safety. I will take a “Yes And…” approach which builds upon my predecessor. Mayor Carter is planning to spend $40 million to launch the Office of Neighborhood Safety.  I agree with the problem that they are trying to address, which is to send non-police officers for low priority calls to free up officers time to handle higher-priority calls. However, this office has not provided a solid proposal on how to address the calls, will not collaborate with the SPPD, and aims to make officers’ jobs even more stressful.  Instead, I will provide a solid and executable proposal to reduce officer workload, where patrol officers can use that freed up time to engage the community they serve directly (i.e. paid time), bridging the empathy gap. My proposal will be considerably cheaper because it does not “reinvent the wheel”. It’s a supplement to existing community outreach efforts and has a clear objective.

If elected to office, I cannot spend the American Rescue Plan dollars immediately for budgetary restrictions from the city council, till next year’s budget. This allows ample time to engage citizens in how they want to spend the economic relief dollars. I will siphon some money for economic/business development and another for community engagement. Essentially there will be multi-year public proposals developed by citizens and local organizations. These proposals will have in-built annual progress reports. Essentially, Citizens will be investing, leading their own initiatives, and holding themselves accountable. Once the money runs out (by 2024), the city can transition (including the legal work) to a participatory budget.  

Some immediate spending will be spent on building the digital community network platform to advance civic engagement, democracy, and community building for ALL ages. The prototype is the Knock my Block Initiative, which is a semi-private block club network. More details will be provided in the next question.

In your first term as mayor, what would be your top goal for the city? What program or initiative would be your top priority? How would you accomplish or carry out that program or initiative? How would you pay for it?

 

My goal has always been to increase citizen capacity and agency in making our city better. People, including kids, want to belong and contribute to their community in their own unique way i.e. asset, which builds community pride. I want to connect people’s assets to existing or new organizations to build stronger and connected communities. This is called asset based community development.

 

To achieve this and create a robust participatory budget for citizens, I would need to build a digital community network platform to advance civic engagement, democracy, and community building for ALL ages. The initial prototype is the Knock my Block Initiative, which is a semi-private block club network that improves public safety and creates a social network for neighbors. I will be partnering with district planning councils to reach out to all residents via door-knocking, including figuring out their preferred communication method. A core priority is that less technology averse people can still be involved, this is why direct engagement via knocking on doors are important. More adjustments 

 

The initial start-up funding will come from the American Rescue Plan, and I’m not 100% certain if the dollars can be used immediately to get this project rolling once elected. The last opportunity for the approval of the 2022 budget would be in December, but I will not be mayor-elect. I would have to do a potential organizing effort to get the city council to permit funding for my project before the budget deadline. Though if already elected, this should be of relative ease.