Taxpayer’s night brings criticism of city’s continued emphasis on policing and prisons at the expense of schools and youth programs by Taya Graham and Stephen Janis
Wesley Hawkins: It’s almost like the system is about punishment, and not helping, and not building. How do you build your community if you don’t invest in it? Taya Graham: This is Taya Graham reporting for The Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland. Tonight, City Hall opens its doors for its taxpayers to give them an opportunity to voice their hopes and concerns for the City of Baltimore. In a city beset with poverty, high crime and other social ills, the Council’s annual meeting to listen directly to the taxpayers took on a pointed tone. Kim Trueheart: I’m looking for 49 million dollars from the police budget. That’s 10%, for the math-challenged folks in the house. 49 million dollars, okay, will go a long way. It’ll take care of the cuts for after-school programming, it’ll even help to keep some of the teachers. Taya Graham: Many recounted frustration with the city’s inability to address the seemingly intractable problems that affected them personally. Kim Trueheart: I was here last year talking about this exact same thing for these students, and I’m here again this year. Community school organizers are important, and I really want to express that. Taya Graham: Baltimore City spends twice as much on policing as it does on education. But emerging from the discussion is a theme that has taken on new urgency, rolling back the city’s investment in policing and punishment and shifting to policies they say will engender hope. Tay Hardy: For the past 10 years off and on, I’ve been trying to get a playground in my community. I’ve heard every excuse imaginable, from every politician imaginable. In fact, I feel insulted that someone’s boasting about a playground for dogs, and kids in my community don’t even have a playground. I’ve been living on this property for 59 years. I’m a homesteader. I’ve been paying taxes, and whenever I contact anyone about a playground, it’s always some kind of subterfuge or whatever, and we can’t get a playground. It’s not that much money. People are talking about two, three million dollars. I’m only talking about $30,000 at the most. Taya Graham: It was a break from the past, and a plea to change the policies of a city that has invested billions in police but little in the people who the Council represent. Phillip Bass: In the community where I live, the closest recreation center is Walter P. Carter Elementary/Middle School. Not only is it the closest recreation center, but it is also the closest public pool. As a result of the 21st Century schools model, a new school building will be opening in 2019. However, there are fears that this school will no longer be able to serve the community under the new budget shortfalls. Taya Graham: And a recognition that unless Baltimore invest in people, not tax breaks for developers and aggressive policing, the City will not change. Speaker 1: No wonder why nobody feel like they have a reason to live. We have to do that. The people who in these positions that can do that, we must do that. Wesley Hawkins: This is Taya Graham and Stephen Janis, reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.