Activists speak out against $16 million increase in St. Pete’s proposed police budget

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El Chesson wearing a shirt reading, "Rent Control Now!" By: Josh Holton (07/15/23)

Activists have come out against a 16 million dollar increase in the City of St. Petersburg budget for police and public safety while other community needs have not been prioritized. Over a dozen affordable housing advocates rallied in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

The President Barack Obama Main Library has been closed for renovation and asbestos removal for two years now, leaving St. Petersburg residents without access to the city’s main library. The activists protested outside. El Chesson said this leaves residents without a vital informational resource and refuge from the sweltering summer heat.

“The library is one of those sanctuaries for people who don’t have cars, that don’t have housing, who can afford to go hang out in a coffee shop. That’s why we need public libraries. And this, this is one of you know, this is the main library. This is in a central location in St. Pete. And it’s been very disruptive for with it being closed.”

Chesson is with The Party for Socialism and Liberation as well as the St. Pete Tenants Union. They wore a shirt saying that “housing is a human right,” and they connected the issue of scarce affordable housing and evictions to the proposed increases to the city police budget.

“Because the police are the ones who show up to do the evictions. The police are the ones who protect private property. There’s really no excuse that this project is still being dragged on the instead of funding the police. They should be funding our needs, which is housing. No one should be on the street, and that could easily be remedied by instead of funding the police, they fund our needs.”

 

Daniel Tyson is with the St. Pete Tenants Union and said the bay area should look at getting to the root of crime by taking lessons from other major Florida cities.

“Didn’t take care of the neighborhoods, didn’t take care of the racism, didn’t take care of the housing. And what happened. All three of those things. By the time the 80s and 90s came around West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami became murder and crime capitals.”

Tyson gave Mayor Ken Welch credit for making an effort to connect with citizens but said that he would like to see that concern for the people represented in his proposed budget.

“Okay, we have a $337 million budget. We can’t commit 13 million to human services and public housing and infrastructure, and live the truth? And assistance, rental assistance, food assistance? Just assistance! Nobody’s asking for a meal ticket, but you can’t make an inhospitable economic warfare against your own citizens, and that’s what’s happening.”

Organizers questioned the need for more police funding with crime in the area decreasing 21 % in the last 5 years. They argued the real root of many crimes is poverty, and that improving living conditions by doing things like opening the main library could have the most impact on building safer communities.

Via https://www.stpete.org/government/departments/finance/index.php:

City of St. Petersburg Budget Milestones

  • July 13, 2023 – Mayor submits recommended FY24 Budget to City Council
    July 20, 2023 – City Council adopts tentative millage rate and sets September FY24 Budget Public Hearing dates/times
  • ADOPTION

The City of St. Petersburg will host public hearings for the Fiscal Year 2024 City budget

  • Public Hearing #1: City Council adopts the tentative FY24 City Budget and millage rate.
    Sept. 14, 2023 at 6 p.m.
  • Public Hearing #2: City Council considers adoption of the final FY24 Budget and millage rate, and approval of the Capital Improvements Plan.
    Sept. 28, 2023 at 6 p.m.

Oct. 1, 2023 – Fiscal Year 2024 budget begins

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