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Disproportionate Impact: Inequality Kills
March 6, 2022
Tomorrow evening, the City Council will vote on Policy Resolution PR 26-22 — a commitment to invest 100% of Columbia's American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in addressing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic in the context of research showing that inequality kills.
This legislation was drafted by Ward 1 Council Member Pat Fowler and myself in response to overwhelming public advocacy for the City of Columbia to make a significant investment (for the first time ever) in dismantling the systemic forces that perpetuate structural economic inequality.
I discussed the urgency of tackling entrenched poverty in two constituent newsletters last year, and received a strong positive endorsement for this proposal on both occasions:
- June 20, 2021: Addressing Structural Inequality with the American Rescue Plan
- September 6, 2021: Proposed Action on ARPA Funds
This time, I am asking you to share your opinions with the entire City Council (email addresses here), because the message does not seem to be getting through. Unpopular proposals such as $10 million for broadband and $5 million in bonus pay for police officers have been pushed forward over and over again, despite receiving no public support. I am aware that public subsidies would induce for-profit internet providers to invest in poor neighborhoods and expand opportunities for those residents, but large buckets of federal and state funds are already earmarked for broadband. And I very much appreciate our public safety employees who worked hard and courageously during the pandemic, but they are well paid compared to so many struggling families in this community.
Columbia's $25 million in ARPA funds are a rare and precious resource whose explicit purpose is to "deliver immediate economic relief to families." The Policy Resolution that Pat and I are proposing will restrict spending to our COVID response plus the following general areas:
- Homelessness services and transitional housing
- Affordable housing, energy efficiency, and rental/utility assistance
- Workforce development, childcare services, and small business support
- Behavioral health services for uninsured individuals
- Violence prevention programs
We are very thankful for The Rev. C.W. Dawson Jr.'s support for the Policy Resolution. As C.W. frequently points out, thousands of Columbia residents (especially, people of color) endure undeserved and deeply harmful disadvantages which are not the result of "bad choices." They are "structural" — meaning the rules of the economic game we all have to play are tilted towards benefitting the rich, creating a slippery slope into poverty for many in the middle class, and ensuring those already in poverty have virtually no chance of ever climbing out.
Policy Resolution PR 26-22 will take steps to reverse this injustice. Please tell the entire City Council how you feel the ARPA funds should be used.
City Council Elections
On April 5th, Columbia voters will elect the next Mayor, as well as Third Ward and Fourth Ward Council Members. In response to a question I have been asked many times since I announced my decision not to run again, I plan to vote for Nick Foster in the Fourth Ward election.
Nick is a lifelong public servant. His professional career includes directing the Alabama Poverty Project, Habitat for Humanity of Morgan County (Indiana), and the Voluntary Action Center (Columbia). He has a deep understanding of the causes of poverty as well as the practical and political skills to address injustice. At this time of ever-widening economic disparities, Nick Foster's experience will be an enormous asset to the City (more about Nick's platform here).
Finally, I want to raise a concern about the Mayor's race. There are several strong candidates with broad community support, but also a risk that our voting system (which does not allow “ranked-choice voting”) will elect a candidate with minority support. David Webber gives a good explanation in his recent Missourian article, "Columbia's mayoral race is an accident waiting to happen."
Please join me for Constituent Conversations Online on Sunday, March 20th from 2-4 p.m. Here are the video conference/dial-in links:
Zoom Meeting https://us06web.zoom.us/j/87402054048 or phone 1-312-626-6799, Meeting ID: 874-0205-4048
If you are unable to attend and wish to discuss a City issue with me, don't hesitate to call or email.