Talking Points

from Invest/Divest Louisville

Reflecting on the 2019-2020 budget

In 2019 our city was held hostage to raise taxes on insurance premiums as a consequence of our state’s recalibration of pension requirements. Mayor Fischer pushed for a quick approval of a permanent insurance tax hike. A handful of metro council members rejected this proposal and called for the Mayor to stop the “scare tactics” and move forward with them on the upcoming budget process. An increase in the home insurance premium tax rate alone, would have jeopardized the ability of low-income and fixed-income homeowners to afford their homes. This increase would have taken effect on the heels of a revaluation of property values in West Louisville and other historically Black neighborhoods. This would have drastically increased housing insecurity and foreclosures in the Black Community. The mayor responded by giving one alternative: a 35 million dollar cut to community resources including loss of a firehouse, an ambulance, two libraries, four pools and over 300 jobs. Knowing the tax increase would disproportionately impact minorities and low income families, a handful of council members were forced to accept the cuts over the challenges that our community would have faced in the wake of an insurance premium tax increase.

Here we see that our Mayor passed on the opportunity to make cuts that would have improved the lives of our citizens and instead chose to pull funding from our systems of support. Because we wouldn’t allow for gentrification through mass-displacement as a result of tax hikes, our city was punished.

One must ask, what part of the city suffered the greatest from these losses… the part past 9th street?

Currently two-thirds of the budget is directed at policing our city. LMPD and LMDC’s funding totals $200 million a year, while in comparison our Health Department sees $20 million… that is 10%.

Although we find ourselves in a financial crisis Mayor Fischer has proposed an overall increase of $3.5 million for the patrol division. Most of this will go to salaries.

How can this be, when our children faced the threat of not accessing the public library or pools last summer? When our city would rather “reopen the economy” than protect every resident from the coronavirus? What else do our children stand to lose if we fail to act?

It is unacceptable to choose police officers over our health, our safety. We must revise the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and defund the LMPD and Corrections budgets to reinvest fully into what we know we need for our communities.

What is possible?

When we defund the police, we create opportunities to further end our investments into the carceral system. Defunding the police also means abolishing Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), defunding the policing of the Child Protective Services (CPS), and divesting from Rubbertown’s pollution to supply the military, and any other system that cares less about accountability and more about policing our behaviors for control.

When we reject investing in the systems that violently maintain the dominance of white supremacy, we can create expansive possibilities to invest in our community in all the ways we need to heal our trauma, nourish our bodies, build meaningful relationships with each other, restore our planet, and find joy.

We can create processes that really hold us all accountable for the harm we cause. Together, we can create local ownership over the systems that support our needs. We know we deserve better systems to support our healing from the immense trauma we all carry in our community. When we #defund, we can create expansive options to heal from how white supremacy has taught us to be in relationship with each other.

Funding priorities for $190 million budget investment into community

(see below for specific reinvestment demands, attach dollar amounts as desired)

  • Community based safety systems free from the carceral state
  • Develop community wide accountability processes that do not involve police or any other punitive response
  • Community wide education
  • Accountability
  • Consent
  • Conflict resolution
  • Bystander intervention
  • Antiracism education to unlearn white supremacy especially targeted at white folks
  • Paid workers
  • Conflict resolution facilitators to help guide the learning and unlearning we all have to do when in conflict with each other
  • Community trainers
  • Mental health first responders - $10 million
    Including crisis workers to support individuals leaving their abusers
  • Therapy collective - $2 million
    Funding to provide basic needs for people in crisis, including food, safe houses for people in crisis who need immediate, short term housing, and needed physical and mental healthcare

    Economic development

  • Fund specifically for pre development activities to support cooperative and fundamental organizations in our communities (i.e. the food co-op, Change Today Change Tomorrow, Play Cousins, etc). There isn’t a need to create more non-profits but a need to create a sustainable ecosystem of community-owned and organized resources to meet our desires, joy, needs and wants.
  • Fund to support cooperatively owned businesses and skill development
  • Education

Housing

  • Rehab every single vacant and abandoned property and give houses to people who need a home. Rehabbed homes should go directly to people and not be sold to banks. Homes should be guaranteed for every single person in this city.
  • Fund community-led arts and entertainment to create entire neighborhoods for our children to run around, explore, laugh, be loud, be curious, learn how to navigate conflict, and build lasting relationships. We can have parks, community centers, theatres, art studios, and all forms of entertainment because we deserve an abundance of options for joy.
  • We can ensure that people have ownership of our neighborhoods and that we create guaranteed housing for every single person, not because they’ve given their hard earned wages to a bank but because we made sure our neighbor was housed in a home that is safe and beautiful.
    • We can repair every vacant property in our community.
    • BLM should lead this work to inform what processes are needed and possible.

Environmental justice

  • Divest from Rubbertown, which means no more tax incentives and increased standards
  • Job training and creation for local environmental restoration of the air, water, and soil.
  • Fully fund public transit system to reduce vehicle dependence.
  • Indigenous land

Community autonomy/self determination

  • Participatory budgeting for community decision making every year
  • Fund ecosystems of health workers - including doulas, doctors, body workers, yoga instructors, massage therapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, chefs, and more to take care of our bodies.
  • Quality wages and training to create massive infrastructure for mental health first responders, for short term and long term response to the mental health consequences of living under white supremacy - including anxiety, depression, fear, traumatizing others, and more.
  • We can cooperatively own as many grocery stores as we need. We can build a local food system that works.
    • $5 million for Louisville Co-op
    • $5 million for Change Today, Change Tomorrow #FeedTheWest
  • In-home elder care to support their physical and mental health, as they find healing from a lifetime of white supremacy.
  • Universal basic income, especially for those with disabilities who should not have to work or seek work to be valued in our community
  • Monthly supporting income for all impacted by COVID-19

Addtional Talking Points

-Divest in technology for policing-


Investing 6.8 million in police and technology in 2014:

Louisville has a 24 hour surveillance center known as the Real Time Crime Center.

It was established in response to the so called “Wave of Mayhem” on the night of March 22nd 2014, which was a night of civil unrest and mourning where Black youth held their own vigil in response to the death of one student who (along with a second student) was critically injured in an altercation with an adult on the TARC.

This night supposedly resulted in 17 incidents of crime, which allowed for Metro Gov to justify a 6.8 million dollar increase in the “safety” budget, 4.7 million of which were reoccuring costs. With this money, our city created the Real Time Crime Center, hired 96 more police officers, and several crime, tech, and data specialists.

As of 2017 the Real Time Crime Center monitored:

  • Feeds from over 200 security cameras in target areas
  • Social media
  • And other police technologies such as ShotSpotter, which was ultimately ineffective and expensive.
  • Our city no longer uses ShotSpotter.

Investing Russell Neighborhood Development funds into Surveillance Technology from 2017-2019:

As noted by Ed Blayney, Louisville Metro Government’s Civic Technology Manager, in his Medium posts in June and November of 2019, Metro Government installed 35 state-of-the-art surveillance cameras around Russell neighborhood to the distress of many Russell residents.

Blayney notes that these police cameras have been placed in “public areas such as roadways, sidewalks, parks, etc.” Blayney’s Medium posts served to spin the increased police surveillance as technological advancement, by referring to Russell as SMART Russell.

How were they able to fund the increased surveillance?

Between 2017 and 2019, Louisville Metro Government’s Vision Russell initiative was able to leverage funding from the Choice Neighborhood Grant to increase surveillance in Russell by utilizing an unethical and biased needs assessment survey.

Vision Russell’s needs assessment survey used leading and loaded questions to force respondents to answer questions on safety—which is fundamentally different from security—in ways that would on the surface pass as support for increased policing and surveillance. These unethical research practices are fireable offenses that use corrupted data to justify racist policies and practices.

Investing in LMPD-partnership with Ring:

The LMPD has entered into a partnership with Amazon’s Ring, a cloud-based home security system. These partnerships are often propagandized as innovations on social media and on fliers by local police departments and governments.

LMPD are one of many police departments and government agencies (including Immigration and Customs Enforcement aka ICE) that have partnered with Amazon to gain access to Amazon’s cloud-based services and private home surveillance footage via the Ring application.

According to WDRB, in the wake of this new LMPD-Ring partnership, there are many people that are concerned with privacy all over the city. Some are concerned that our court system’s role in granting access to our private surveillance footage will be weakened.

ACLU of Kentucky’s communications director, Amber Duke, recognizes that Louisvillians have always been free to share footage with LMPD, but she is concerned that some residents might not believe that they have a choice when police officers contact them. “They might feel like, ‘Oh, I have to participate in this police investigation or I might be charged with obstruction,’” Duke continued. “… Whether or not people say yes to that request, I don’t think we can say that that interaction is entirely uncolored by the potential for coercion.”

Furthermore, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an internationally recognised nonprofit leader in the dense of digital privacy, free speech, and innovation, recently wrote “The rapid proliferation of this partnership between police departments and the Ring surveillance system—without any oversight, transparency, or restrictions—poses a grave threat to the privacy of all people in the community.” They continued, “...it also may chill the First Amendment rights of political canvassers and community organizers who spread their messages doortodoor, and contribute to the unfair racial profiling of our minority neighbors and visitors.” Let it be recognized that Ring’s claim to reducing crime has yet to be validated with evidence.

According to an NBC News Investigation, “after interviews with 40 law enforcement agencies in eight states that have partnered with Ring for at least three months — that there is little concrete evidence to support… [Ring’s claim that] it’s doorbell cameras reduce burglaries by more than 50 percent.” Bowling Green, KY, police Officer Stickle shared his skepticism with NBC News by saying “If you expect the camera to deter people, you’re assuming that they see it and that they care. Those are two big assumptions.”

Investing in the regional technology hub for Microsoft in 2019:

Louisville has become a Microsoft regional hub for artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), and data science. Metro Louisville Government and Microsoft are working together to create an AI and IoT ecosystem here in Louisville.

Predictive policing, corrupt and implicitly biased data sets, facial recognition, risk and worthiness algorithms, machine learning, and so much more, are the very real dangers of rapidly advancing technology without accountability, transparency, or oversight.

There are no measures being taken to mitigate these growing community concerns. These technologies have the potential of turning our city into a real-life Minority Report nightmare, where vulnerable populations will be criminalized, incarcerated, and even killed at greater rates than what we see today.

All this will be done under the camouflage of advancement and innovation

Resources:

View the proposed 2020- 2021 budget by clicking here

Budget committee meetings are set to be held on June 23rd at 5:00 PM and June 24th at 3:00 PM. Click here for more informaton.

View part one of the LMPD Audit. Click

LA Mayor Slashes LAPD Budget As Calls To ‘Defund Police’ Slowly Pick Up Steam. Read more