The City Commission also heard an update on a program that seeks to reduce violence by reaching out to street gang members.
The Kalamazoo City Commission has set an important rule for the endowment it wants to create. Commissioners voted 5 to 2 last night to allow restricted gifts to its planned Foundation for Excellence. That means donors can give money for specific projects.
The endowment is intended to fund a property tax reduction, make up for cuts in state revenue sharing and pay for aspirational projects.
On Monday, Commissioner Shannon Sykes said that if donors can restrict their gifts, some parts of the city could end up more favored than others.
“I’m not saying that’s what we’re doing. I’m not saying that’s our intention. But to insinuate that a nonprofit is not capable of letting our most marginalized folks fall through the cracks is absolutely just not true,” she said.
Other commissioners and members of the public said they trusted the Foundation to balance its spending even with restricted gifts, and a majority of the board voted not to reject them. During public comment, Kalamazoo Community Foundation President Carrie Pickett-Erway said she thought that was best.
“The size of the foundation that you’re talking about is going to be so large that those restrictions are going to be minor. You will easily be able to adjust your spending to accommodate the smaller pockets of the restrictions within that,” she said.
The commission is expected to vote on the Foundation’s incorporation on August 21.
Public safety officials in the City of Kalamazoo aim to reduce gang violence by reaching out directly to members of those groups.
Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley says that less than half of one percent of residents take part in “street groups,” but they account for about 50 percent of homicides and non-fatal shootings in the city.
The department held a meeting in June where street group representatives heard from community members affected by violence. Social agencies offered help with work, education and other needs. On Monday Hadley told the city commission that since the meeting, none of the 21 participants has been arrested, and at least one has found a job.
“Others have also reached out for services and our hope is there will be more,” he added.
Northside Ministerial Alliance President Addis Moore is part of the effort.
“For the first time we get to talk to people before crimes are committed. We get to plead with them and share with them that there is another way,” he said.
Hadley told the commission that non-deadly shootings among gang members have declined since 2014, when the department started the outreach program.