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Meet The People's Budget GR

Get to know the new grassroots organization looking to radically change the funding of the Grand Rapids Police Department
Rest in Power

Rest in Power /Bryan Bolea

Meet Rik E. Horoky & Dom Damron from the People’s Budget GR. Their mission is to change the way we fund our city, specifically, moving funding away from armed public safety toward public works. They would like to see increased funding for programs like 311 (a non-emergency phone number used to make complaints or report problems like road damage), public “ambassadors” who are trained in de-escalation and first responder techniques, direct relief to citizens who’ve suffered from Covid-19, direct rent assistance, and more support for public schools and parks.

Damron, a self-described “YouTube philosopher” believes that we, the people, must begin asking ourselves some of life’s most difficult questions, “What is our moral philosophy?” and, more specifically, “What is justice?” Damron posits that we “all have a moral philosophy, even if we don’t realize it.” Pondering such questions is a necessary and critical part of how we improve things in our city. But, Damron stresses, people from all walks of life must be involved in this discussion regardless of background or political persuasion. Alienation of any one group or viewpoint is not, at all, in the best interest of the citizens.  

In other words, the People’s Budget wants to spark a city-wide discussion about these questions. What is the philosophy that guides our decisions on how we spend our tax dollars?  By examining and clarifying our underlying moral philosophy, we will become more clear about our values.  And then we can allocate the funding in a manner consistent with those values.

“We don’t believe that [police] reform is enough by itself,” Horoky says.  

Currently, the City of Grand Rapids is preparing to cut the budget substantially (roughly 22 million) while simultaneously hiring new officers. However, zero dollars are allocated to expanding the public programs described above. One concrete example of what Horoky and Damron would like to see is the hiring of more unarmed crisis intervention specialists instead of simply hiring more armed patrol officers.  

The murder of George Floyd has sparked a new era in not just law enforcement but in everything that goes into supporting a system that seems unable to reform itself. Budgetary change is a critical albeit unsung part of this process. According to The People’s Budget GR, the people of this city deserve a police department they can trust and a budget that addresses their needs not those of an antiquated system riddled with racial bias. 

What is our moral philosophy as a people, as a city?  

“We all have some sort of moral system we use to make our decisions,” Damron said. “Sometimes we don’t realize what our underlying moral system is but it’s there, maybe it just feels like instinct, but it’s there.”

The People’s Budget GR is dedicated to “asserting that public services have greater value than the police do and that this effort should be seen in the context of a larger discussion about how we assert and monetize “value” in a corporatized, neoliberal society,” Rik summarized.

The People’s Budget GR is part of a growing call to reprioritize city budgets across the country. The People’s Budget of Los Angeles, for example, has recently succeeded in winning a proposed reduction of $150 million from the LAPD budget. The Los Angeles counterpart’s demands are being met, in part, due to the ongoing protests of police brutality. Similar changes are being called for, with apparent success, in Minneapolis. 

“Defunding the police” is a phrase wide-open to misinterpretation, so let’s be clear. The People’s Budget of GR wants to make Grand Rapids a safer and more just city by redirecting the funding to where it can do the most good. At the end of the day, “we the people” must decide where our money goes and whether it is spent in a way that enhances our community and grows this thing we call justice.

Learn more about the the People’s Budget GR and get involved on Facebook.


Disclosure: Sean J. Kenny is an active board member of the Community Media Center, the parent entity of The Rapidian.

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