In a pre-taped video address today, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway announced that the city will be prioritizing support for public health workers and violence reduction programs in the next city budget.
“Because of steep revenue losses due to the coronavirus, the city faces a $21 million shortfall in our 2021 budget. We will not be able to do everything we want to do,” Rhodes-Conway said. “Public health will be a priority this year. Violence prevention will be a priority this year. Equitable economic recovery will be a priority this year.”
Last fall, Mayor Rhodes-Conway proposed to halve funding for the Focused Interruption Coalition, a local group that provides crisis counseling and violence reduction programs. The group’s city funding dropped to $225,000 this year, down from $400,000 in 2019.
Yesterday, community leaders gathered on Madison’s south side to call for more city support for programs that help level the playing field.
“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, executive director of the Focused Interruption Coalition.
He’s also director of Strategic Partnerships and Prison Reentry Services at the Nehemiah Center. Yesterday’s conversation was held in response to a purported increase in gun violence in Madison — and to call for much more financial support to increase equity in a city with deep inequities across most sectors of life.
On Tuesday, a car shooting on Madison’s east side left 11-year old Anisa Scott in critical condition after being struck in a car-to-car shooting on East Washington Avenue. This morning, she died after being taken off life support at 11:11 AM this morning. The family reportedly chose that time because she was shot on August 11, and was eleven years old.
News 3 Madison reports Anisa loved monster trucks, was very smart, and would text her grandmother every morning that she loved her. Her death is Madison’s 10th homicide of the year.
An online fundraiser for her family has raised more than $68,000. And today, mourners gathered this afternoon at downtown Brittingham Park.
The Madison Police Department says the city has seen an 88% spike in shots fired incidents from this same time last year. Public Information Office Joel DeSpain, says that, year-to-date, the department has had nearly 160 shots fired reports and ten homicides.
DeSpain says that the investigation into Scott’s case is ongoing.
“We have pledged, to her family, that we have a very dedicated group of detectives and we are hoping to identify and arrest, in short order, those who are responsible for this senseless murder,” he says.
Mayor Rhodes-Conway voiced her support for the city’s police department in her speech today. Back in June, the mayor drew criticism from the city’s protest leaders for a video thanking the police force for their work during the previous weeks’ protests.
During those protests, Madison’s police, backed by the National Guard on several occasions, deployed tear gas and less lethal projectiles.
“I want to be clear in acknowledging that the Madison Police Department has been a national leader with the Madison Method of Policing,” Rhodes-Conway said. “MPD’s methods have informed national institutions and reform efforts. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect or that it can’t continuously improve. We need to acknowledge the good work that has already been done, acknowledge the real harms experienced by the black community in Madison and nationwide and be clear-eyed about what needs to change.”
Brandi Grayson, the Founder and CEO of Urban Triage, a Madison-based racial justice group, says the Mayor’s speech is the latest case of Rhodes-Conway hedging her support between the police and Black lives.
“She took a position praising the Madison Police Department as a prototype for policing,” Grayson says. “Which is incongruent with our racial disparities, our arrest records, the experience of black people, the experience of trans people. It’s incongruent for this to be a model.”
A Race to Equity report seven years ago found extreme racial disparities in fundamental indicators like housing, health, education, and income in Dane County.
Reporting from the Capital Times this spring finds that those disparities haven’t gotten better.
According to the Capital Times, 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.
Mayor Rhodes-Conway’s attempts to walk the line between satisfying protesters and police comes as she’s facing a recall effort by community members. The group, called “Recall Satya 2020,” has until mid-September to collect at least 36,204 signatures to trigger a recall election.