As the budget talks in Washington resume, I have found myself wondering at the myriad of items we spend money on. From something as complex and costly as the Pentagon to those as simple as national parks and monuments, it’s a massive list.
I sit on the board of a local non-profit organization, The Peace Education Program. I know firsthand the decision-making process behind what we choose to invest in (spend money on) and what we do not. Decades of work in the peace and non-violence movement has shown some significant progress as well as shortcomings. This is true of just about any issue-specific group. But when we are trying to take illegal guns off the streets, trying to decrease the amount of violence that takes place in our communities, you need to be willing to fund what works. I know from the success of our program and other local programs like it, violence interrupter programs are working.
Louisville, like most cities across the country, saw a rather significant spike in crime, specifically gun crime, during the COVID shutdowns. That spike seems to have peaked, but we can and must continue to do better. One program that has played a role in driving crime down across our country is the Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative. Funded locally by the Metro Government Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, it and others like it are now on the federal chopping block.
The small amount of COVID relief money that is funding violence interruption work has made a big difference. Lives continue to be saved. But with the pandemic money going away, a new funding source is needed. While the Senate has acted to preserve these life-saving programs, the House has yet to do the same. This is crucial as this work provides benefits not just for Louisville but Kentucky as a whole.
No, the budget cannot be a bottomless pit of money. But the police support this effort. The city supports this effort. Anyone interested in reducing violence here and across our country should support this effort. To not fund this violence interruption work would be, as the saying goes, penny wise but pound foolish.
With a new budget deadline set for mid-November, serious budget decisions are now in the process of being made. Programs will be spared, scaled down, and some completely zeroed out. Funding violence intervention and prevention work is both the smart thing to do and the right thing to do.
I am hopeful the House of Representatives will choose to be both.
Written by Paul Neumann, a partner at Tantalum Partners. He was CEO at UW Solutions for 26 years. He serves on the UW boards and those of the Louisville Peace Education Program and AMPED as well.