Published in Nonprofits

Coalition aims to educate, amplify residents’ voices in GR budget process

BY Tuesday, November 29, 2022 04:47pm

GRAND RAPIDS — Dozens of individuals and organizations in Grand Rapids have formed the Coalition for Community Owned Safety to educate residents on the city’s budget and explore new ways to direct city funding to address the root causes of crime. 

Five core nonprofit organizations founded the coalition: LINC UP, Urban League of West Michigan, NAACP of Greater Grand Rapids, Urban Core Collective and ACLU of Michigan. The coalition also includes nearly 20 other organizations, including the Hispanic Center of West Michigan, West Michigan Farmers of Color Land Fund, and Black Wall Street GR. 

“This is an education awareness campaign,” coalition Director Denavvia Mojet told MiBiz. “We aren’t telling residents how to feel, we are just giving them information to make an informed decision. This coalition is built around the belief that the city is safer and healthier with these social services, so of course we want to invest in these things. But we want to listen and ultimately encourage the city of Grand Rapids to do what residents are asking, which is to create a balanced budget to keep residents safe.”

The Coalition for Community Owned Safety formed in part because many residents see the need for the city to address the root of crime instead of just responding to it, Mojet said. 

“We never look at all the things the community is lacking that lead to people resorting to crime,” Mojet said. “Some of us think it’s a really common sense solution to address the root issues.”

The group is hosting a series of events that will each focus on one of the coalition’s five priorities for community safety: affordable housing; mental and physical health; environmental sustainability; police accountability; and equitable economic development. 

The first event on Dec. 1 at LINC UP’s headquarters in Grand Rapids will focus on police accountability. ACLU of Michigan board member Joe Marogil will lead a discussion about the city of Grand Rapids budget, and what city officials are doing to address issues with safety and police accountability.

“Municipal budgets are hard to understand,” Marogil said in a statement. “The city of Grand Rapids’ budget is over 500 pages and residents are rarely invited to dive deeper than press headlines to understand how their tax dollars are being spent. Our coalition is helping people understand whether the city is moving in the right direction on spending priorities.”

Marogil added that “budgets are moral documents. Demystifying this for residents is really exciting work.”

The events will be led by people in the coalition who are experts in that area, Mojet said. Gift cards will also be given out to residents who show up to the event series, she added. 

Upcoming coalition programs include a reinvesting in climate change event at noon on Dec. 10 at the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology. A reinvesting in mental and physical health education event is also set for 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 at the Grand Rapids Public Library. The group is currently working to schedule events focused on affordable housing and equitable economic development.

When the series of community events has concluded, the group will showcase how the city budget aligns with event attendees’ ideas on how to address public safety. The coalition aims to issue a report in spring 2023.

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