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Thursday, January 14, 2021

I’m Just Sayin’: Proposal addresses food deserts

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I’m Just Sayin’: Proposal addresses food deserts

The city is revamping its efforts to take on food apartheid in Indianapolis which could be a positive development for Black Indianapolis.  

The city is revamping its efforts to take on food apartheid in Indianapolis which could be a positive development for Black Indianapolis.  

City-County Councilor La Keisha Jackson is the sponsor for Proposal 337 which establishes some basic and important infrastructure for addressing the food apartheid — or the systemic lack of access to healthy food and food insecurity experienced in Black neighborhoods throughout the city.  

While Indianapolis experiences food access and food insecurity issues across the county, Black neighborhoods experience a disproportionate share of the failure of food systems due to both healthy food access issues and disproportionate levels of poverty. 

Proposal 337 amends the city code that established the Office of Public Health and Safety, creating a division focused on food issues. 

The division of community nutrition and food policy “shall be responsible for addressing racial inequity in the food system, creating an inclusive mechanism to launch and coordinate food policies and programs, reduce food insecurity in Indianapolis and improving equitable access to health food in Indianapolis, with a focus on food desert and low access areas.”  

The proposal formally recognizes the Indianapolis Community Food Access Coalition (Indy Food Council) and creates a city liaison to the organization.  

It also establishes the city’s first Indianapolis Community Food Access Advisory Commission, a 13-member group that will establish city goals related to healthy food access, coordination of retail and for-profit operations leveraging some cities resources, as well as a review the food equity impact on each city agency’s work. 

The city created a food czar and established a food fund meant to address food insecurity a couple of years ago. It’ll be interesting to see how this new commission, the food coalition and the food fund impact food insecurity issues moving forward.  

What I’m hearing … 

City-County Council Proposal 355 by GOP Councilor Paul Annee seeks to use taxpayer dollars to paint “Back the Blue” on Shelby Street between Cottage and Oliver streets. 

Some community activists have already targeted this proposal for defeat.  

I support good officers and I’m against bad officers. If IMPD ever left this city I would leave with them.  And I don’t take a back seat to too many people on my consistency and efficacy in pressing for police reforms either. I also believe IMPD leadership is committed to improvements.  

The biggest problem with the proposal isn’t that many Black people will perceive the proposal as insensitive or even incendiary. I’m not going to get riled up about a street mural on the southside of Indianapolis.  

The problem is that the proposal suggest that government has a responsibility to condemn anti-police rhetoric and to use taxpayer dollars to do it. 

Never mind that IMPD has recently been called to task for leading the nation in dog bites and that this problem disproportionately impacted Black people, including Black juveniles and uses of force in the Black community are disproportionately high.  

In fact, of the over 29,000 uses of force by IMPD last year around 52% involved Black residents.  

Government doesn’t have to do this — it isn’t a “shall.”  

Policymakers will need to weigh what message is this proposal sending to a Black community that is still mourning the loss of the potential in Dreasjon Reed?  

While proponents can point to low morale of IMPD officers, which matters for community policing, opponents of the bill have their arguments as well.  

IMPD just got a new contract with raises as well as an agreement on a force level of 1,743 officers which means there is a commitment to spend more money on police. Far from defunding the police there was a $7 million increase in the budget for body cameras that both the community and officers wanted.  

Seems pretty supportive.  

On the other hand, the Black community still must contend with disparate negative consequences implemented by local government even now ranging from disparate uses of force in the Black community by IMPD, Black contracting disparities with the city, Black pay disparities even in city government, environmental justice issues in Black neighborhoods, food deserts and swamps in Black neighborhoods, and a perennially high Black homicide rate fueled by systemic racism — I could go on.  

Not to mention, the Black Lives Matter mural was privately funded.  

The politics of Proposal 355 likely make it a non-starter for this city county council — but we shall see.  

Pike and Wayne townships residents are raising concerns about public assistance expenditures and the lack thereof.  

While there have been raises for both the trustee and a new fire chief in Pike Township, a September Pike Township trustees report found that only half of the public assistance money had been spent nine months into the year.  

I know Trustee Annette Johnson worked incredibly hard to get the Pike Trustee position. My hope is that there is a public explanation for this situation. I’m also hearing there are similar rumblings in Wayne Township.  

Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears will be implementing a Conviction Integrity Unit in early 2021 to look for possible wrongful convictions in previous cases handled by the office. This is certainly progress. Additional steps that should be considered include     

Juneteenth and Indigenous People Day are now paid holidays for city-county employees. Indigenous Peoples Day replaces Columbus Day and Juneteenth will be celebrated on June 19.   

See ya next week! 

Marshawn Wolley is a lecturer, commentator, business owner and civic entrepreneur. Contact him at [email protected] 

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