Amid the tragic shooting in Orlando, there was a story on Page 3A in The Bee about a candlelight vigil for Deston Garrett, a young man set to graduate from high school who was shot and killed in south Oak Park.
Deston’s death is another solemn reminder of the challenges young people face in many of our neighborhoods and the lack of action to meet their needs. It is time we, as a council and a city, step forward and offer more than lip service or condolences to Sacramento’s young people. It is time we act.
Two weeks ago, an overwhelming majority of voters supported Measure Y, which would have created guaranteed ongoing funding for programs that support success for Sacramento’s youths. Unfortunately, Measure Y fell 1 percent short of the two-thirds vote required.
While Measure Y did not pass, the statement made by 65 percent of Sacramento voters about youth being a priority was not lost. This is why we will be moving forward proposing a council action to create the Sacramento Youth Fund and to set aside resources specifically for programs that support our young people.
In the past five years, the city has invested millions in infrastructure, from the Golden 1 Center to the water treatment plant, water and sewer pipes, and fire stations. In fact, the day the City Council voted to put Measure Y on the ballot, we spent more than $10 million for equipment and supplies such as vehicles, radios, etc.
We have hired more police and firefighters. And we have put significant dollars into the arts, including the Crocker Art Museum, the Studios Project and the B Street Theatre.
But all the investments we have made in physical infrastructure were not enough to save a promising young man’s life. What we and 65 percent of our voters want to know is when we will begin to make a real investment in the future human infrastructure of Sacramento: our city’s youths.
Currently, we spend just more than 1 percent of our general fund on programs specifically designed for young people. And, while we have invested more in the past two years – including some youth jobs and gang intervention programs – it is insufficient.
On July 19, we will be bringing a proposal to the Budget and Audit Committee to do what 65 percent of the voters asked: use revenue from the taxation of cultivation and manufacturing of marijuana to significantly enhance programs and services for youth.
Like the June ballot measure, our proposal will ensure that there is strong oversight on how funds are spent, that expenditures on administration are capped at 10 percent, and that all programs are required to undergo a rigorous evaluation.
Unlike the ballot measure, bringing this proposal to the City Council provides members with the ability to make adjustments as circumstances change. Finally, we will propose the creation of a Department of Youth Services that will develop a well-defined set of goals and outcomes to guide and align city investments in children and youth services, ensuring that resources can have the highest impact on our most vulnerable residents.
It’s clear that we need more after-school programs, preschool programs, job programs and opportunities for our youth to learn, play and be safe. This need becomes more pressing with the onset of summer because in most areas, youth violence will spike during the hot months ahead if our youth don’t have access to these kinds of opportunities.
Are we going to allow Deston’s senseless death be a signal of what’s to come in the next three months and beyond? We are asking the council to take action on our proposal and prevent future “Destons” from happening again.
In addition to his council duties, Jay works as an independent consultant and policy advisor on education reform and youth policy and strategies.