Jefferson County chapter and allies help engage thousands in the Metro budget process | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Jefferson County chapter and allies help engage thousands in the Metro budget process

Working with allies, the Jefferson County chapter recently helped engage thousands of Louisvillians in the Metro budget process and secured a major victory that built community power.

Most Jefferson County residents want to see more investments for schools, parks, health clinics, and neighborhoods. In the past year, they have also been asking lots of questions about the city’s budget – especially the police budget – because of the increased attention to police violence against Black and brown folks and the people protesting said violence. And with many members feeling like the process isn’t accessible or transparent, members and allies decided to dig into what values should be in the budget, monitor the process, and share what they were learning with others. 

Originally the budget hearings were only available on MetroTV but after significant pushback from the community, they were also eventually streamed on Facebook so that more folks could access and participate in the virtual meetings. However, meetings still lacked other accessibility supports like ASL interpreters and closed-captioning. And despite the fact vaccinations are on the rise, the meetings were still closed to the public with very little opportunity for people to speak directly with the council.

With virtual meetings the main way to access the hearings, members and allies – including Take the Seat, 490 Project, Louisville SURJ, Black Lives Matter, ACLU, and Books and Breakfast – monitored twenty-three hours of hearings on the various parts of the budget. The chapter then shared weekly updates from the budget hearings that included important analysis and context for the budget as well as ways to submit comments or contact their Metro Council person. The chapter also partnered with ACLU for a canvass on Juneteenth in the Smoketown neighborhood to talk with folks about the budget, hear what investments they want in their community, and to invite them to submit comments or questions about the budget.

In the end, community members sent thousands of emails and submitted hundreds of comments about the budget. Most of Mayor Fischer’s original budget passed the council as-is. However, the community scored a major victory when $4 million was divested from LMPD’s budget for a deflection program meant to explore non-police first responders, such as behavioral health specialists, and re-invested in the Emergency Services budget. 

With so many people engaged in the budget hearings, the council knows that the community is watching them and will be holding them accountable. And with the city receiving $388 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan, community engagement is as important as ever. If you have ideas on how the money should be spent, contact Jefferson County chapter organizers Corey Dutton ([email protected]) and Shauntrice Martin ([email protected]) to get involved. Or you can find the link to submit an official comment here