According to the Madison Police Department, 2020 has had a reported 143 shots-fired incidents so far, an 88% increase from the same period last year.
Madison community leaders and activists expressed their frustrations with officials’ inability to take meaningful action against gun violence at a press conference this afternoon.
The conference was held outdoors on Madison’s south side, and featured a dozen speakers, including Alder Sheri Carter and Alder Barbara Harrington-McKinney. It was held in response to gun violence in Madison, the most recent of which left an 11-year-old girl in critical condition on Tuesday.
“We need help, so it’s either city, county, either y’all help us, or move the hell out the way. Cause this is the time, this stuff has to change,” said Anthony Cooper.
Cooper spoke at a community conference on gun violence today. Cooper is the director of Strategic Partnerships and Prison Reentry Services at the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development, a nonprofit that works to empower African American families through its services. Cooper is also executive director of the Focused Interruption Coalition, a community-based peer support and violence prevention group.
The group had its budget slashed last year, from over $400,000 to $225,000 dollars. Cooper’s words struck a chord with attendees this afternoon, as the city grapples with increased gun violence. The conversation was sparked by a shooting on East Washington Avenue this week, in which an eleven-year old child landed in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.
Mayor Rhodes-Conway was quick to denounce gun violence in a statement Tuesday.
“It has to stop, and it has to stop now. We all have to come together, and work with the police to reduce the violence in the city. This requires the whole community,” Rhodes-Conway said.
While many speakers today also called for a coming together of the community, Shy Aikens feels city leaders are failing to listen. Aikens represents the advocacy group Black Umbrella Global.
“We are disenfranchised. Our voices are not being heard by our elected officials who we have put into power,” Aikens said.
That’s echoed by James Morgan, a peer support specialist at Just Dane, formerly known as Madison Urban Ministries, who questions the city’s commitment to addressing systemic racism. While the city has held task forces, programs, and studies on its extreme disparities, Morgan argues leaders have not taken action as a result of those studies.
“We’ve had commissions to study race in this city, alright, disparities in this city. You get a blue-ribbon committee together, and then it goes on the shelf,” Morgan said.
In 2013, a Race to Equity report found extreme racial disparities in fundamental indicators like housing, health, education, and income. Those disparities have not gotten better.
Reporting from the Capital Times this spring found that African Americans, who make up seven percent of Madison’s population, wind up with a quarter of the city’s traffic violations, 43% of arrests, and make up 46% of inmates at the Dane County Jail. And while Black students make up 18% of Madison schools, they get 57% of all out-of-school suspensions.
Alder Barbara McKinney says that for real change to happen, the city government needs to fund more targeted programs.
“Someone said we don’t need your money, yes you do. Yes you do need the money. programs need to be funded to be sustainable. Startups happen, touch the lives of people in one day one hour one week one year, two years. And then they’re gone, that’s not what we need,” McKinney said.
The process to form the 2021 city budget is getting underway, with budget negotiations expected in early September. The City of Madison faces a projected $30 million hole for 2020, and an estimated $25 million shortfall for 2021, as a result of lost revenues due to the pandemic.