Neighborhood safety, security threatened by state budget cuts

By JEFF HAYDEN

This column was written with Minneapolis Eighth Ward City Council Member Elizabeth Glidden.

The turn of April to May is usually a time of sunnier skies and happier times where we look forward to spending our afternoons and evenings outdoors in our communities with friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, the turn of seasons this year has brought us a dark reminder that violence is still present and requires our collective action.

Last month, 19-year-old Tomika Swoope was tragically shot and killed in South Minneapolis. It was reported that Tomika had been walking her cousin to a bus stop on her way home when she and her cousins were shot at for no reason.

Senseless violence like this is particularly jolting. A range of emotions such as fear and anger are common and justified. It is a particularly good time to look to our neighbors, families, and communities for support.

We are reminded of our collective response last year after the repeated violence in Powderhorn Park. We banded together to bring something positive out of something tragic. With constructive compassion as our guide, we can again use community solutions to reduce violence and make our neighborhoods a safer place to live, work, and raise a family.

This terrible tragedy serves as a reminder of how critical it is that we have a coordinated support system in place to prevent violence. We need community organizations like MAD DADS who are committed to safer streets. We need a better education system that emphasizes after- school programming to reduce truancy and keep our kids on the right track.

We need a healthcare system that provides equal access to health care, ensuring that community elders and other role models are there to guide our children. We need public safety officers that are adequately funded to ascertain safe neighborhoods. All of these elements are part of a community system that can help reduce violence and promote safety in our communities.

Unfortunately at the State Legislature, there are efforts at foot to dismantle this system. Education funding, services to support vulnerable children, and public safety funding could all see deep cuts if we do not pass a balanced budget that balances the sacrifice.

In particular, Minneapolis schools will see a $23 million spending cut. In public safety, $12 million will be cut from the Office of Justice programs, a 17.5 percent reduction. This cut will compound pressure on already stretched-thin programs for crime victim services, community crime prevention, and youth intervention. Funding for youth jobs programs may also be cut by more than 30 percent. As a result, the Boys & Girls Club, the MN Youth Program and Youthbuild may suffer.

The largest cuts in the budget are reserved for Health and Human Services where over $1 billion will be slashed. These cuts will eliminate health care for over 100,000 Minnesotans, disproportionately affecting seniors, the disabled, and communities of color.

We believe these cuts are the wrong approach, and Representative Hayden continues to advocate with many of you for a budget solution that is fair, recognizing that it “takes a village” to keep our community safe and thriving.

As we mourn this tragedy, we encourage you to focus your energy toward positive and peaceful results. Whether it’s volunteering with youth development organizations or attending neighborhood watch group meetings, individuals working together within our community have the power to create change.

We hope you will consider taking a few hours from what we hope will be a sunny, hopeful spring and summer to help our community heal and grow stronger.

Jeff Hayden is the District 61B state representative. He welcomes reader responses to 651-296-7152 or rep.jeff.hayden@house.mn, or visit his office in the State Office Building, Room 389, across Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. from the Capitol.