City must invest in youth to prevent future problems
A series of tragic deaths from police use of force brought a discussion of race to the forefront nationally this year. What is the relationship between a police department and a community? What type of policing does a community want? And, what are the proper mechanisms for accountability?
When the riots occurred in Ferguson, Mo., we said it could not happen here. Today, I am not so sure. A tide of emotion has swelled up in neighborhoods around the city that have similarities to challenges faced in Ferguson and other cities where the divide between communities of color and the police have been exposed and widened.
In recent weeks, fathers and mothers have testified before the City Council of their fears about neighborhood safety and the rift between them and the Police Department. They expressed a feeling of a lack of respect by the police for residents. This is obviously a complicated and sensitive issue, deeply rooted in the social injustices of the past.
If we are to meet this challenge in a constructive way, we must look for commonality in our humanity. The Council has heard the community’s pleas and seeks solutions to improve the relationships between the community and the Police Department. We are considering a number of changes in policy, specifically around use of force. We will provide funding for additional training for police officers, and establish a police oversight commission.
This is an important issue, and I hope the changes the Council is working on will rebuild trust within the community. However, a systemic “fix” is needed to ensure that our next generation of young people has the services and supports needed to be successful in school, career and civic life. If they lack hope, feeling they have nothing to lose and act in accordance with that feeling, we will never have the Sacramento that I know we all desire.
My focus has been and will continue to be increasing the support for young people in our community. There are three facets to this discussion – the programs provided by the city, the quality of those programs, and the level of resources dedicated to those efforts. As a city, we spend slightly more than 1 percent of the general fund on kids – about $4 million annually. Services are spread through many departments with no overall goals, framework or evaluation requirements.
This past month I brought a proposed ordinance to the Law and Legislation Committee to change that. The proposed ordinance also would create the Sacramento Children’s Fund to address the resource aspect of the equation. The fund would get revenue from the city’s tax on the cultivation and manufacturing of cannabis. It would be used for programs such as job training and internships, after-school programs, and other supports and services to ensure the success of our young people.
All of Sacramento’s children deserve the same opportunity. I hope you will join me in ensuring that outcome. Working together, we can solve today’s problems and prevent tomorrow’s.
In addition to his council duties, Jay works as an independent consultant and policy advisor on education reform and youth policy and strategies.