In 2017, Melvin Willis was quoted in the media as advocating cutting the Richmond Police Department budget:
Willis said he would like to cut the police department’s budget and reallocate some of its remaining funding to city youth programs. “I would like to redefine public safety,” Willis said. “We need more investment in youth, our libraries and rec center are rundown. The RYSE youth center and Urban Tilth are viable programs that help prevent crime and violence.” (http://www.oaklandmagazine.com/January-February-2017/Taking-Responsibility/)
At last night’s Our Power candidates forum, Willis doubled down on his promise to downsize the police department, this time by 20 percent. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sc28c9MLKMc).
What is scary is that Willis is one of five Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) members of the City Council (three of whom are on the powerful RPA Steering Committee). Any four of them could vote at any time to gut the police department.
According to the last (2017) National Citizen Survey conducted by the City of Richmond, “Reducing Crime” is the most important issue for Richmond residents, with 95% agreeing that it is “essential” or “very important.” In the same survey, 58% felt that the police had a positive impact on their health and well-being (second-highest behind only parks), while only 12% felt police had a negative impact. Apparently Melvin is part of the 12%.
What Melvin wants to do is transfer police funding to youth programs. Now, I also support robust funding for youth. That’s why I negotiated the $35 million Richmond Promise Program to create a college-going culture in schools, encourage kids to go to college and assist high school graduates with generous scholarships. That’s also why I endorsed and signed the ballot argument in favor of Measure H that, if it passes, will increases real estate transfer taxes on high-end properties to add millions of dollars to Richmond youth programs. That’s why I revived the Mayor’s Community Fund (abandoned by the former mayor) to provide tens of thousands of dollars in grants to assist dozens kids sports and recreations programs.
Investing in youth is investing in our future, but ripping up the Police Department to fund youth programs is something only the RPA could dream up. Until Richmond becomes a safer city, people want a fully-staffed police department that can answer calls quickly, beef up patrols in high-crime areas and practice effective community policing.
When someone is breaking into your car or your neighbor’s house, threatening you with bodily harm, stealing packages off your porch, looking for a hooker on your street, or pointing a gun at you, calling the local youth program is not going to solve your problem.
Both Melvin Willis and the RPA are out of touch with reality. They live in a world where all corporations are evil, all landlords are greedy, profit is a dirty word and cops are not our friends; they are a problem.
If you care about your personal safety, as well as that of your family, friends and neighbors, please get out and vote, and don’t let Melvin Willis and the RPA continue to use Richmond as a laboratory for hair-brained social experiments.