Audrey Davis for Fort Wayne City Council at Large
Issue Based Framework
For a Bold, Inclusive, and Caring Fort Wayne
1) Creating the Conditions for Community Well-Being (Bold)
We should be a city where everyone feels safe, can live free, and knows that they matter.
Whether we live in the urban core of our city, or in a suburban neighborhood, we know what makes us safe— knowing our neighbors, having the time to invest in each other’s lives, secure housing, access to good jobs, and reliable transportation and quality healthcare. But, 60% of our city’s operating budget currently goes toward law enforcement, dwarfing the amount spent on youth and child services, and neighborhood and community development. While law enforcement have a part to play in how we respond to harm, it is time that they are not the only tool in our tool-belt for public safety.
City Council could help lead a new way forward by:
Invest in G.V.I. (Group Violence Intervention) and peacekeeping training in our neighborhoods with local leadership
Pilot an MCAT (mobile crisis assistance team) which would bring together a clinical social worker or mental health clinician and a paramedic to respond to calls reaching out for help during crisis
Advocate for the creation of a "Diversity, Equity and Inclusion" council that would create a measuring stick from national models and best practices for concrete indicators of how what we say we care about matches up to what we actually are doing. We would create a grading system to be used across industries for the city to know how to help all fields take steps to advance an actively anti-racist culture in the city.
Currently there are more Program Service Officers (PSOs) in our schools then there are mental health therapists. The city could start with working within FWCS to ensure each school has a licensed mental health counselors.
2) An Inclusive Economy
We should be a city where everyone has the ability to flourish and thrive.
While FW has been enjoying record growth and has created an appealing environment for corporate investment, we have a lot of work to do for how the average middle-class worker can see that benefiting them. The largest employing sectors of our state are retail and service industries, which according to the Allen County United Way A.L.I.C.E. Report leaves only 30% of the jobs in and around Fort Wayne paying a wage reliable enough to raise a family. The city’s Southeast quadrant still falls last when it comes to employment offerings, and nurses and teachers are still working second jobs to put food on the table.
While we often hear how Downtown Improvement and other investments will “attract talent,” we need to be building more entry points for youth and adults who are already here to grow skills, vocational training, and wealth. Every young person who graduates from a Fort Wayne high school should know that the city has a plan and a place for their gifts. Economic development is only valid when it's tied to human development and development of place and belonging.
What we need to do about it:
In Fort Wayne, we are the second biggest city in a state that is the number one in the country for out of state developer/landlord forced evictions, which, according to the Eviction Lab website, we have about 15 evictions per day. We are also known for having one of the most landlord-favoring rental environments. And the Indiana FSSA — Family and Social Services Administration — report last year confirmed that the largest contributor to mental illness is insecure housing. It also hugely affects infant mortality rates, which Fort Wayne also has record-high numbers of especially among minority mothers.
We’ve seen leadership in City Council recently to pass legislation that gives tax abatements to developers of affordable housing, which can seem like a step forward. But, sadly what we see in builder-focused policies, there is no rules that require affordable housing to keep affordable rates, and in 10 years they are back to non-affordable rates. You cannot increase the labor force if you have no place for them to live. There are a set of solutions that we could pursue to ebb the tide:
Ensure any Econ development proposal, especially those involving residential areas, pass the “affordable housing defense” test.
Put a moratorium on Developers and property management companies that take over swaths of properties and increase rent exponentially overnight, and ensure corporations receiving tax abatements provide family wage jobs among other requirements
The “Housing First” model, which is an effective city model meant to address homelessness, works when it is actually fully implemented:
Get people into stable housing, and then all the service agencies they need (see Milwaukee model)
Our public transit system does not run on Sundays and cannot currently serve those who work 3rd shift jobs. According to the (year) Harvard Study, mobility/reliable transportation is the biggest determinant of breaking out of poverty. The City Council will need to work with Citilink to assess how well current bus routes and schedules are serving needs of all residents, and to champion investment to expand Transportation while cutting back on environmental impact
Work with our strong corporations in Fort Wayne to build an award/recognition standard in employee care: Some guidelines could be to recognize corporations that provide in-house childcare (IN is one of the states with the highest costing childcare in the country), family wages, health incentives and low environmental impact
Neighborhood and Community Development:
Work to build off of the leadership in human rights advocacy that the Ft Wayne Metro Dept already serves in housing and workplace disputes, and allow it more funding to take on more issues and cases
To help grow the leaders and capacities that would be needed on such a council, and others, I would advocate for funding to be dedicated to establishing a "Neighborhood leadership in public life" training initiative, that would cultivate and train unexpected and hard to reach indigenous leadership across the 4 area partnerships
3) Health and Mental Health for All (Caring)
We should be a city where health is accessible, and everyone can access treatment when they are ill.
Whether we live in the north or south, near DuPont Crossing or South Anthony, every Fort Wayne resident deserves to be healthy. Whether it’s access to fruits and vegetables, a therapist to talk to when we are feeling off balance, or a doctor who knows your chart and will listen to us when we are sick, it actually benefits everyone when our neighbors and neighboring districts have access to health.
But, Fort Wayne residents live in a state that ranks 48th out of 50 for how much money it invests per citizen in public health, our region was graded a 37% for “equity”— “how well all members of a community are afforded the opportunity to love a productive, healthy life,” and currently about 90 cents per dollar spent on food here doesn’t just go to entities out of city, but out of our state and country.
Together, we will use the capacity of the City Council to:
Bring a new level of leadership to what will eventually need to be a city-county partnership, determined to meet people who are struggling to overcome addiction or to find mental health and wellness where they are as part of a public health plan, not a public safety issue.
Propose a local initiative that incentivizes, adequately recruits and financially supports people of color in pursuing mental health occupations, including nurses, teachers, and therapists.
Advocate for a full-time position to be added within the city’s 4-11 call-line for a “Mental Health OmBudsman” who would act as a connections point between residents needing mental health services with accredited and available therapists
Help the FWPD (who provides 70% of the arrests that end up in the AC Jail) hold conversations with other local stakeholders about the amount of calls they respond to monthly that are in fact mental health and safety concern calls rather than threats to society. Require a tracking system to be implemented that records and makes publicly available to types of services requested. Create the political will to fund proven strategies that divert these individuals away from criminal justice system through other forms of crisis response, which will save us money and add needed support to first responders
Be a voice on the council that challenges for building projects that have detrimental impact on community and environment (Smeltering Refinery, Jail, landfills, etc.) to not be concentrated in one area of town, and insist that projects meant to revitalize and bring health to communities (parks, grocery stores, etc.) involve the local leadership of that community.
We are all paying for status quo thinking in government:
The playbook of the Right is to tell us that multi-racial solidarity is an illusion— that any time a governmental decision benefits one group of people, it will cost the rest of us. But, in fact we all suffer when racialized narratives narrow our circle of human concern and prey upon fear and individualism rather than our common need and the common good.
How does having no hospital on the Southeast side impact people Northeast or Southwest, you might ask? Well, when treatment and preventative care is delayed due to inaccessibility or ambiguity, a person who could be treated for pre-Diabetes with a change in diet and stress reducing lifestyle changes becomes an E.R.patient suffering from lost eyesight or a stroke. Not only does this cause higher wait times in the E.R.for everyone, a more expensive medical bill for the patient, but also everyone loses whenever a life in our city— a family member, an employee, a coach, a mentor — is cut short. Audrey believes firmly that we all do better when everyone has access. She will use her position to challenge “Zero-Sum thinking” in local policy decisions, and commit herself to starting the conversations others want to avoid around how race and class are used to keep us from all having nice things.
Fort Wayne can be an example to the state how to do what is right:
Fort Wayne has gained recognition for being one of the most healthy economic forces of Northeast IN, and even the Midwest. Yet, we live in a state where public education is yearly being under-funded; where our incarceration rate is the 5th highest in the country; and where the power of collective bargaining and working-class institutions have been systematically undermined.
A lot of the policies that are hurting working families come from the statehouse rather than City Hall. But, rather than wag our finger and wait for the statehouse to get it, Fort Wayne is uniquely poised to teach the Indiana General Assembly how to test and adapt best practices in health, safety, and economic development that match the needs of the 21st Century and will last into the future. Why? Well, for starters, no other metro area in the state of Indiana is home to both the wealthiest and poorest zip codes of the state. No other municipality is home to the largest school district of the state. And, no other city government is about to reach of 5/4 Democratic majority by electing Audrey Davis to Council to put everyday people back at the center of decision making.
It is in recognizing our weaknesses that we will grow strong:
For sometime now, we’ve heard the story from City government that we are checking all the boxes; that we are a strong city where people are generally doing very well. But this narrative simply does not ring true for the thousands of residents who still struggle to find public housing due to having a criminal record; will have to continue working a second job even as a nurse or teacher due to rising cost of living and low salaries; or have to chose between rent and groceries some montages due to the dwindling amount of affordable housing in our city. While recognizing our assets is a critical place to start for growth, Audrey will also unapologetically bring to her analysis a fair critique of the power imbalances, and the public choices to put profit over people, that have allowed the realities to be the case in Fort Wayne.
Relational leadership is the only way to maintain transformative change:
Audrey’s seat on council will only allow her to be as bold as the depth and breadth of the stories and experiences she’s exposed to through listening to vulnerable families, young and curious entrepreneurs, and tried and tested neighborhood leaders. That's why, when she’s elected, she will publish her monthly calendars so that you know where she is spending her time and will work with new and existing leaders in each of the 4 municipal districts to hold quarterly town halls, where local concerns and anticipated needs can be honestly wrestled with and incorporated in that year’s priorities.
Why I'm Your Candidate:
If you are satisfied with how things are moving in Fort Wayne, I'm not one of the three City Council at Large candidates for whom you should vote. Our hunch is that in order for Fort Wayne to become a place where everyone has access to health, safety, and economic dignity, we need compassionate leadership who has a track record of standing with the communities often left out of the decision making process, testing new ideas and building consensus through conflict. Perhaps no other name frustrates our opposition and comforts a growing majority of Fort Wayne residents than Audrey Davis. Davis will Deliver.