A police department is one of the most visual and public-facing services localities offer. It is not surprising, then, that trust between the police and the community makes up the bedrock of a healthy and thriving city. This trust not only allows community members a sense of security, but it is also what allows police to perform their duty effectively.
Events of recent years have seen a fracturing of this trust in Charlottesville, and has seen a growing number of our neighbors feeling unable to put their faith in our police. Addressing these grievances, both tangible and perceived, is a crucial first step in healing our city and ensuring equity. It’s a difficult process; there is no magic wand. However, I believe that his hard work begins in three steps;
1. Enhance De-escalation Training
Our police department is well-prepared to face violent situations. However, we must continue to reinforce that the use of force is only deployed once all other options have been exhausted. Additionally, I believe it is also time for us to explore the possibility of establishing a non-force response number when emergency response is needed, but armed response is not.
2. Increase Community Outreach
Another important step in re-establishing trust between CPD and the Charlottesville community is ensuring that the community can see the police at work outside of tense and potentially adversarial situations. Programs like last year’s drive-thru trick-or-treat allow residents to get to know their police force in a fun and organic setting, and re-affirms that, at the end of the day, we are all neighbors. Down-payment assistance program to help ensure that police are living in the community that they work in.
3. Focus on Professional Development
As in any profession, there will be personnel within the police department that fall short of the standards that we as a community have set for them. To begin to build trust back, however, we must address these issues as they arise.
Access to safe, consistent shelter is vital for survival, and I am proud that the city of Charlottesville has been on the front lines in providing funding for affordable housing solutions. We have had great success in our partnerships with organizations like AHIP and Habitat for Humanity, and we need to make sure that we continue these efforts equitably. To do this, I believe we must;
1. Ensure Transparency
To ensure that funds are being allocated equitably, we need to know that we are getting the bang for our buck. Housing is a top priority, and the economic impact of the pandemic means that we must be more judicious in our funding of programs that make sure everyone has access to it. An increase in allocated funding also calls for an increase in the scrutiny given to the effectiveness of these programs. We need to make sure that our limited resources are doing as much good as they possibly can.
2. Support Community Partners
Organizations like AHIP and Habitat for Humanity are doing important and effective work. We must continue to support them in their efforts, and make sure they have the resources they need.
3. Explore Re-Zoning Options
Re-zoning to allow for mixed-use development and multi-family housing can be one of the most effective ways to increase the supply of affordable housing. We must explore these options, but we must also invite community input along every step of the way to make sure we are making community decisions equitably.
My work on Charlottesville’s School Board not only allowed me a deep understanding of our public school system, but through my travel through the School Board Association, it also allowed me to see how much of a gem our school system is. Public education was my first love when it comes to public service, and I would like to continue to work with and for Charlottesville schools as a member of City Council.
1. Continue to Support Schools as a Priority Within City Budget
Our schools are facing unprecedented difficulties as we navigate the pandemic. As always, we need to put the needs of children first, and ensure that they have continued access to the education they need to thrive.
2. Support Efforts to Make Decisions Through an Equity Lens
Ensuring equity in schools, like in all parts of the community, is something we must continually strive for. Closing education gaps and making sure that all Charlottesville students have the tools that they need to achieve their fullest potential must be top of mind when we think about supporting public education.
Support of Charlottesville’s businesses goes far beyond benefitting only business owners. A thriving local economy would allow more people to find gainful employment, and would also create a larger tax-base through which we can fund important city services. The recent economic downturn has left much of our business community in need of assistance. We must listen to the needs of businesses and workers alike in order to ensure a local economy that works for everybody.
1. Increase Dialogue Between Businesses and Local Government
As we begin to recover from the economic downturn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, we must make sure that businesses in our community have access to the services they need to rebuild and prosper.
2. Continue to Offer and Support Programs Aimed at Equity
Investing in programs aimed at equipping people, especially women and people of color, with the knowledge and resources they need to find meaningful employment and start their own businesses is crucial to Charlottesville’s continued economic development. Offering assistance in the form of grants, workforce training, and continued support of community partners doing similar and amazing work is key to expanding and diversifying our economy.