I once heard our current mayor Rick Kriseman say that a “budget is a moral document.” If that’s true, then the Kriseman administration’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year reveals a serious lack of morality on the part of our city government.
I’ve looked at the budget. As with every previous year, the biggest chunk of money in the budget goes towards funding the St. Petersburg Police Department. Think about that. In a city ripped in half by social and economic disparities, food deserts, starvation, homelessness, unemployment and sewage leaks, their top priority is not economic development, but police containment.
I have heard so many people respond with shock when I tell them that over $100 million of the city’s $500 million goes towards the police department. And that is not even including an additional $85 million that the administration managed to scare up to fund the construction of a new police station across the street from the current one.
The justification given by the city for the prioritizing of a public policy of police containment is that the number one job of the city government is “public safety.”
The term “public safety” is used by pessimistic and corrupt politicians to provoke an emotional response from voters, especially from those of us in the white community. The government and its mouthpiece, corporate media like the Tampa Bay Times, work overtime to pound fear into our hearts about a car theft epidemic supposedly swarming our neighborhoods like a plague of locusts, portraying the face of a black teenager as the poster child of crime in St. Petersburg.
The failure factory known as the Pinellas County School Board, which brutally mistreats black children in our public schools, is not given the same treatment by the media. Neither is the Kriseman administration’s failure to promote any meaningful economic development for the black community. Neither are the ravages of gentrification, a legacy of displacement kick started by the architect of the “Midtown:” black population removal scheme himself, Rick “Box Cutter” Baker.
In a city where over half of black teenagers live in poverty, twisted notions of “public safety” are used to justify the encirclement of the south side with the police, as opposed to an optimistic public policy of reparations and economic development for the black community.
It is my position that the responsibility of the mayor is, indeed, public safety, but for all people, including the black community, to feel safe from the pangs of starvation and poverty.
Public safety for all people in St. Pete requires a commitment from the mayor to ensure that no human being is without a place to sleep at night or denied a future of genuine economic development, quality education and affordable housing.
That is the cornerstone of public safety. Public safety means protecting our residents from environmental and public health disasters, such as the polluting of our waters with 300 million gallons of sewage, which is exactly what happened under the current mayor.
Public safety means protecting the homeless population from the type of violence perpetrated upon them by the tyrannical Baker administration who infamously ordered the St. Pete police to slash the tents of homeless people.
Public safety means protecting the children of south side from the murderous Pinellas County Sheriff’s department so that no mother ever has to go through what Kunde Mwamvita has had to suffer, forced to bury her 16-year-old child Dominique Battle and her two friends, Ashaunti Butler and LaNiyah Miller.
Public safety means unity through reparations, a progressive and optimistic vision of a city brought together for the first time through righting the wrongs and building a city of shared prosperity where no one is living at the expense of anybody else.
It’s time for us to reclaim the term “public safety” and declare that the greatest threat to our public safety is the “Two Ricks,” Baker and Kriseman.
We are tired of their failed policies that have created divisions and disparities.
We are ready for radical solutions.
We are ready for a new beginning.
We are ready for unity through reparations.
Vote Jesse Nevel for mayor on Aug. 29.
Vote Akile for District 6.