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City Council endorses grant program to help reduce crime

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Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments from Mayor Mitch Colvin about issues discussed during the public forum.

The Fayetteville City Council on Monday endorsed a grant program that will help community organizations fight crime but said it wanted more information before the program is implemented.

Councilwoman Shakeyla Ingram made the motion before it was seconded by Councilman Larry Wright.

“The ideas that we hear all the time,” Ingram said, “they just need the money to be able to do it.”

The Empowering Community Safety Micro-Grant Program would work with community groups to help reduce crime in the city.

Chris Cauley, the director of the city’s Economic and Community Development Department, said the feedback – like a scoring analysis discussed by Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins to determine priorities – will be in the grant manual that the staff handles.

“What we can bring back – if I understand the city manager right – is we can come back to your next work session and bring back a couple of options," he said.

That would include which citizen's advisory board the council would support to make the final grant awards, Cauley said.

The program is part of the city’s violence reduction strategies.

“It’s for them to share what their plan is,” Hawkins said of those who might apply. “It is their idea. … It can be any topic or any program.”

Grants would range from $1,500 to $5,000, Cauley said. The allocations would be made to leverage groups with ideas and programs on how to reduce violence and crime.

Groups are not required to be a nonprofit to request a micro-grant. For-profit businesses will not be considered.

The city would have four grant cycles, with $50,000 set aside for each.

Interested organizations must have an annual operating budget of less than $100,000, according to background material in the agenda packet. The organizations must be individual citizen groups, Cauley said, and not individual businesses.

Hawkins first proposed a series of crime reduction strategies in the fall of 2021. The council appropriated $250,000 to fund the micro-grant strategy in November.

The first grant cycle is expected to get underway on May 2. Applications would be due by 11:59 p.m. on May 29. The fourth and final grant cycle is expected to be completed by the fall of 2023, if not funded further.

Programs that receive funding will be required to report measurable outcomes, Cauley said.

Hawkins told the council that Charlotte also has a micro-grant program. “We already have a lot of people doing amazing things for the community,” she said.

Cauley said he and Hawkins talked about the program with people in Charlotte, and they devised a similar program for Fayetteville.

City Manager Doug Hewett said the program would come back for additional approval at a May work session. It would then need to go before the full board at a regular meeting.

“It looks like it still has work in the ideologies in there,” Wright said.

During the public forum portion of the meeting, a half-dozen speakers voiced concerns about Hawkins and the council.

Myah Warren, a local activist who is running for City Council, questioned the council’s transparency over different matters.

“I want to talk to you about a word that you’re tossing around a lot, but many of you don’t know what you’re talking about – which is transparency,” she said from the podium. “Was it transparent when you all voted not to have the mayor investigated by former council member Tisha Waddell? Was it transparency when you decided to not have the Market House demolished? You didn’t want to hear from the citizens but you chose to make the decision on your own and then bring in the DOJ (U.S. Department of Justice). Was that transparency?”

“Was it transparent when some of you chose to go to protests for Mr. (Stephen) Addison but have so far failed to show up for protests for Mr. (Jason) Walker? Is that transparency?” she asked.

Stephen Addison was shot and killed in a road rage incident on Jan. 3. Jason Walker was shot and killed Jan. 8 by an off-duty Cumberland County sheriff’s deputy. No charges have been filed in the Walker case. The deputy, Lt. Jeffrey Hash, has been placed on administrative leave.

Walker’s death sparked protests around the city.

Mario Benavente, a law student at N.C. Central University and a City Council candidate, said the city has let down Walker and the community. Benavente implored the council to take action and obtain justice for Walker. He asked that an independent civilian oversight review board be instituted, which he said was long overdue.

“The police simply cannot police themselves,” Benavente said. “Here we are again. Another instance of police misconduct is going unaddressed. A killer is not being held accountable.”

After the meeting, Mayor Mitch Colvin said, "It's the usual crowd. They're regulars at tonight's meeting. Two are running for office. There was a lot of structure to what they said. I understand they're concerned."

Speakers Shaun McMillian, Chelinko Hurst and Nero Coleman also addressed what they said has been a failure to the community on the part of the City Council regarding Walker, the  Market House and the proposed Murchison Road Choice Neighborhood Plan that would revitalize the area while investing and leveraging investments in the long-overlooked area of the city.

“We had been led to believe that the Murchison Road Choice was in stone only to find out that we’re attempting to compete with 11 other cities,” Coleman said. “I pray that we win. But what if it doesn’t?”

Fayetteville is in competition with 10 or 11 cities to land one of the three, four or five implementation grants that are awarded on a yearly basis.

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Fayetteville, City Council, crime, micro-grants

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