In Mayor Jim Kenney’s final budget, $223 million has been set aside for anti-violence investments. Whatever that means…
There’s a lot to like in Mayor Jim Kenney’s final budget in office.
If you’re making minimum wage and would like to cut your transit costs, there’s something there for you. The two-year, $62 million pilot program that will provide free fares on SEPTA to folks living near or below the poverty line and the city’s investment in the SEPTA Key Advantage Program will help a lot of people get around.
For those who are concerned about the School District of Philadelphia and the future of the city’s children, the $419 million investment that the budget includes for education is probably music to your ears.
Want to see a tax cut? Wage taxes are going to get a snip, as are Business, Income, and Receipt, or BIRT taxes.
But while there’s a lot of good things to point out in the 2023-2024 budget, there’s one thing that I’m going to need a little more information about. And that thing is probably one of the most important that we’re dealing with as a city right now.
That thing? The $233 million that the city has set aside for what’s being euphemistically called “anti-violence investments.”
Now according to the rundown that was given to members of the press during a budget briefing held prior to Thursday’s budget address, that $233 million — which is a lot less than the $1.6 billion that the Philadelphia Police Department is going to get in this budget — this means “increasing community safety, reducing gun violence, and supporting residents and neighborhoods impacted by gun violence and incarceration.”
That’s a whole lot of words that say very little, if anything.
Fortunately, because I’ve been at this journalism and budgets thing for a while, I’ve become fluent in bureaucracy. Which is why I have a whole lot of questions about what this means in terms of the city’s anti-violence efforts.
You see, you can say that you’re going to put $233 million into something, but that money can actually go into departments that have nothing to do with that something. When you say “increase community safety”, that could mean giving police officers tasers. Or putting more money into playgrounds, which is okay, but has nothing to do with giving mental health treatment to people in neighborhoods traumatized by gun violence.
And while one of the best ways to put an end to gun violence is economic development, my fear is that this money, which should be put into a fund to help people lay loved ones lost to violence to rest or to help families relocate, has no business winding up in the hands of the Commerce Department.
Now, I can’t say that this is what is going to happen. I’m hoping that it doesn’t. But digging into what “anti-violence investments” is something that I hope Philadelphians do as the budget process goes on.
The budget hearings begin on March 28 at 10am. You can catch them on Channel 64 or on the City Council website at https://phlcouncil.com.