MADISON, Wis - A group of African-American community members are bringing their concerns straight to the mayor's front door. The Focused Interruption Coalition held a press conference Monday in front of Mayor Paul Soglin's office in response to his plan to prevent violence. The coalition says they are in a deadlock with the city when it comes to funding and ways to prevent violence in the city.
The problem surrounds the coalition's desire to see a peer support specialist funded through the city's plan. Disagreement started last week between the two groups after Soglin announced that the city had formed a rapid response team to address violence in the city. Although, the mayor's office has promised to secure funding for the team, the funds are still not available.
According to the coalition, in the mayor's plan to address violence the coalition was left out of the conversation despite providing a 15-point plan to address violence that received the mayor's support last year. The city approved $400,000 to go toward parts of the 15-point plan introduced last year. The funds are part of a larger commitment to provide $3,000,000 over the course of three years towards violence prevention natives and community programs. Part of those funds are set to undergo a request for proposal in the fall, until then the money is not available for the group to use to help fund initiative to reduce crime
The coalition has a meeting with Gloria Reyes, deputy mayor for public safety, civil rights and community services, along with other members of the city Monday. They say they have come to a verbal agreement. Caliph Muab-El, director of communication of the coalition said they are hoping their discussion with the city will turn into action.
"I don’t believe in a burning bush. Money in the hand is real, resources on the ground are real and once I see that we can probably be a little more subtle but right now we have lives being lost, we have violence in the streets, we have people that are struggling with trauma and we have no responders there. There is no one to help them mitigate circumstances," explained Muab-El.
The coalition is demanding the city respond to the following request:
- The resolution made between the city, Nehemiah, Focused Interruption Coalition, and Boys & Girls Club of Dane County regarding funding of peer support as an immediate response for violence prevention this summer. The city needs to fund the people that are doing this work (Peer Support) and have the networks to grow this work.
- The demand for the mayor to keep his word on funding the 15 Point Plan. The plan is a holistic approach to violence prevention.
"The people's needs should be put first and foremost above politics. When you start to bring politics into the equation and you have people suffering and politics rise above the needs of the people, (then) we are in a bad, bad situation," Soglin said.
Reyes in an interview with News 3 last week said the mayor's office plans to request a budget amendment that would allow them to use $75,000 of already approved funds to fund the response team this summer. Soglin was unavailable for comment Monday.
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