Universal Design Needed in 2020 Budget

Graphic of person in wheelchair on incline with the words "Nothing About Us Without Us"

by Michele Mashburn, Director, San José Peace & Justice Center

A letter submitted to the San José City Council on June 15.

As a resident of San José since 2007, I have experienced many things in this city. One thing I have not experienced is support and understanding around the issues of equity with disability related concerns. I have not seen adequate equity around issues that many members of the vibrant communities of color bring to these meetings and others. Budgetary priorities are skewed to groups that are informed by racism, ableism, sexism and more. To continue to reward those groups with impunity and limited liability creates a barrier that no one can topple and we will continue to skirt the issues with no real informed solutions. Additionally, when you pat yourselves on the back, you are repeating the oppression and obstructing your view of the reality people try to show you on a regular basis.

The time to topple barriers is now. We are at a much needed time of revolution: Revolution of values, of practices, of relationships, and much more. For years, we have tried to reform policies and procedures based in Ugly Laws, Jim Crow laws, and Segregationist, colonial and imperialistic beliefs. These evils are at the root of existing policies and practices. Injustice is the basis of these institutions and reforms will not work.

We need a new system. One that prioritizes equity and has voices from all communities at the table. We need to look at the barriers that prevent people from showing up. As this time of COVID-19 has shown us, there are many ways to navigate this world. Until we put equity at the forefront of these initiatives and look at why we are not meeting the people where they are, we will get nowhere.

Ableism is built into the capitalistic system we operate under. It is a mechanism that compounds and informs all other isms (sexism, racism, etc.). While we may know about disabled residents, how many of you understand what ableism is and how often is it included in discussions around equity?

The time to shift the budget is now. It is time to include more equitable solutions in education and community services. It is time to include Universal Design in implementing policies and procedures. It is beyond time to include equity for ALL groups marginalized by the structures and attitudes of society and not just the groups our representatives are most comfortable with.

I am writing to demand that funding is reallocated from SJPD to social and public programming that takes place in our communities. It is an outrage that 44% of city funding goes towards the Police Department. The SJPD has seen a rise in overtime pay which, more often than not, is paid out to officers responsible for harassing the unhoused, and Black, Indigenous, and people of color AND disabled community members.

I demand a budget that adequately and effectively meets the needs of at-risk San José residents during this trying and uncertain time, when livelihoods are on the line. We demand a budget that supports community wellbeing, rather than empowers police. One guiding principle to ask is if it is restorative or extractive.

It is your duty to represent your constituents. I am urging you to completely revise the San José city budget for 2020–2021 fiscal year.

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