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LETTER: Reduce city police budget and spread cash around, groups say

Engage Barrie and Just Recovery Simcoe call for measures such as making city more pedestrian-friendly, growing community gardens, and job creation
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BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at news@barrietoday.com. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is from local resident Alyssa Wright on behalf of Engage Barrie and Just Recovery Simcoe. 
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Engage Barrie is a grassroots collective that formed in 2019 to foster an equitable community, mobilize and empower people, and build an engaged local democracy. As part of Just Recovery Simcoe, we encourage governments to provide fair, sustainable and resilient recovery solutions to uplift all residents.

Local government has some of the greatest impact on our daily lives — and while this pandemic has made it clear where there is need for improvement, it’s also shown the innovation and community spirit of area residents. The more people who share their ideas, the more diverse, representative and equitable our municipal actions will become — we present only a few here.

As shown in Barrie’s Budget Allocator tool, defunding the police by only five per cent would give the city an extra $2.8 million (10 per cent would give $5.6 million) to invest in people, nature, and community, by:

  • Making the city more pedestrian-friendly, encouraging active transportation, increasing health and safety for all residents, as well as the environment, by creating more and better protected bike lanes; prioritizing pedestrian traffic (eliminate “beg buttons” at lights); and prioritizing snow clearing on sidewalks, to increase accessibility and allow families to walk to school safely.
  • Increasing support of community gardens, public library, and youth services.
  • Making local businesses more attractive than driving to mega-stores: Continue the weekend pedestrianization of downtown.  Create more comfortable seating areas at Meridian Place and elsewhere, to allow people to gather safely.
  • Increasing the public’s sense of safety through better lighting and streetscape design, especially between parking lots and restaurants/shops.
  • Being more strict with developers about creating affordable housing units. Insisting developers keep walkability, green space, and community gathering areas a major factor in design plans.
  • Committing to job creation in female-dominated sectors. Expand child-care funding and support, as this is a key determinant of whether many women can re-enter the workforce at all.

And, for absolutely free:

  • Highlight businesses using or creating alternative energy sources.
  • Support and uplift our health unit’s research and resources, and stop fighting their efforts to ease Barrie’s opioid crisis — especially their proposed Supervised Consumption Site.
  • Prioritize the voices of residents over corporations, and the at-risk over the privileged.  Make it easier and safer for all residents to have their say, and listen to the experience and knowledge they offer.

For more information about Engage Barrie, please visit us at www.engagebarrie.ca.

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