Community members upset with Fort Myers approved cuts to agency funding

Organizers of community programs in Fort Myers continued to plead with city officials to provide much needed funding to keep services in place for those who benefit. A packed crowd of passionate community members asked for leaders to rethink a plan to allocate much of program funding to one facility.

Dozens of organizations are set to see money cuts, as Fort Myers City Council approved its  annual city budget Monday, which includes the plan to give funding to S.T.A.R.S. and cut  funding for  other community agencies.

“It takes a village to raise people, and I really feel like this is a village,” Ebony Simmons said. “We need this.”

Council was joined by hundreds of people at its meeting, as community members showed up to demand funding the council recently voted to allocate largely to the city’s S.T.A.R.S. Complex.

This decision has come at the cost to other programs for youth and education in Fort Myers. Security guards outside council chambers confirmed more than 200 people filled up the room at max capacity.

Moments after the city approved its budget, Abdul’Haq Muhammed, the executive director and founder of Quality Life Center, tried to console the packed crowd of upset community members, many of whom were in tears.

“And we will teach our children without their money,” Muhammed said. “You get up off your money … Work hard. Do what you got to do. Put the money into your children, and don’t be a victim.”

Almost all the members of the public in attendance were connected to Quality Life Center, an after-school program that is currently expanding to help more children in the Dunbar community.

“That would mean that I would have to cut staff, draconian cuts, in order to stay afloat,” Muhammed said. “We’re not going to die. We’re going to fight.”

An amended budget was discussed during the meeting, one that would still provide added funding to S.T.A.R.S. but also fund remaining agencies for one more year. But that motion was shot down 4-3 by the council.

Councilman Johnny Street was among council who voted in favor of the failed motion.

“For our people to slam the door in their face, that’s wrong,” Streets said.

Reporter:Justin Kase
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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