Nearly three months ago parents, responding to a brawl at an apartment complex on Cedar Rapids’ southwest side, pleaded for help. This Wednesday news reports detailed two new shooting investigations — one on the southeast side that landed a man in the emergency room, and an earlier incident on the northeast side that shattered a vehicle’s back glass while police responded to a separate call just a block away.
None of these disturbances rise to the level of the heartbreaking 2015 shooting death of a local teenager, which ultimately prompted the joint formation of the Safe, Equitable and Thriving Community Task Force by the county, city and school district. Yet these and other spats of violence, especially gun violence, in all quadrants of Cedar Rapids show more must be done to bring the final recommendations of the SET Task Force to fruition.
So we were glad to see officials from all three government agencies were finally able to come together, provide seed money and agree to a clear path forward.
The city and Linn County have each pitched in $100,000. Cedar Rapids Community School District added an additional $25,000. Those contributions are expected to continue annually for a three-year period, allowing the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation to oversee a new grant program intended to address root causes of violence and further enact SET recommendations.
In addition to startup grants, the initial pool of funds will be used to hire one additional part-time Foundation employee — a person who will work solely on the new program, including identification of other funding sources necessary to achieve goals identified by the SET Task Force. Those range from cultivating intercultural communication and understanding to aligning worker skill development and job-placement efforts, from expanding financial incentives for affordable housing development to studying gun violence as a public health issue.
These are tall orders and long-range goals that require resiliency and sustained focus from all involved agencies as well as the hundreds of dedicated community members who made such goals a reality.
The new program begins with two 11-member committees. One will guide policy, while the other maintains the grant process. No one agency will hold a controlling interest on the committees and, while such gatherings may not be strictly governed by open-meetings law, we urge officials to keep this next phase of the task force as transparent as what brought us to this moment.
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True funders of this effort are community residents, school district workers and patrons, neighborhood associations, and nonprofits expected innovate solutions to turn the tide. Its success benefits us all, just as its failure will negatively affect us all.
Too many disturbing incidents have transpired in the 21 months since the SET Task Force released its final report and recommendations and the community waited for next steps. That none included a teenage death is significant, yet forward momentum must never be tied to a body count.
Keeping community voices at the forefront, its time to make each SET goal a reality.
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