By Karen Stokes
The African American Roundtable (AART) released a statement on Milwaukee’s proposed 2023 budget.
“While the Milwaukee Common Council decided against cuts to libraries and the fire department, it increased the Milwaukee Police Department’s budget by $20 million. This status quo budget continues the trend of funding police at the expense of every other city department and will lead Milwaukee to bankruptcy.”
“The same year the Mayor is giving a $20 million increase to the police, he’s proposed to cut funds to libraries and firefighters,” said Devin Anderson, membership and coalition manager for the African American Roundtable.
This budget calls for the cuts for four libraries and the temporary closing of the Martin Luther King, Jr. branch, which saves just $2 million dollars, while the police department budget is increasing by $20 million. Cutting libraries deprives communities of access to literacy support, internet access for people searching for jobs, and spaces for communities to gather, according to a post on the AART website.
“Our point is simple,” Anderson said. “At this moment people rely on libraries and no cut should be taken from libraries when we can just take $2 million from the bloated police budget,” Anderson said.
The African American Roundtable is advocating for a participatory budgeting process that gives residents decision-making power over public dollars.
Various cities in the United States have already created participatory budgeting processes. Chicago, New York, Vallejo, Calif, Greensboro NC and Cambridge, Mass. have all implemented participatory budgeting to some degree.
“We need to bring that to Milwaukee, let the people, the residents, decide on how they want the public monies to be spent,” Anderson said. “As residents we have to live with these budgets, we have to make do with less of these services so we should determine how the money is spent.”
For more information on participatory budgeting go to aartmke.org, to support AART, there is a petition to demand participatory budgeting in Milwaukee. You can also email your alderperson.