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Budget surplus will fund violence prevention programs

By Aldrich M. Tan

April 13, 2006

The Budget and Finance Committee passed an ordinance to appropriate $6.3 mil. from the budget surplus to fund violence prevention programs.

The committee passed the ordinance with an additional motion to put certain funding going to the Mayor' Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Department of Children, Youth and their Families in reserves until further information could be developed about where the funding would directly go to.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi stepped out of the chambers briefly to clarify the news to members of the San Francisco Organizing Project about the ordinance's passing and the added motion.

"We want to make sure that we're not throwing out money that will end up ineffective," Mirkarimi said.

Loud cheering echoed through the hallway outside the council chambers.

Sharen Hewitt, executive leader of the Community Leadership Academy and Emergency Response Project, emphasized the growing urgency of the situation to pass the ordinance.

"Six people have died in the streets since I last spoke to the committee," Hewitt said. "This is a life or death issue."

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said he was concerned about whether or not performance standards will be in place. Allan Nance, director of Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, said such measures are not currently in place but they will be.

"We fully anticipate that the funds that we make to community-based organizations will include performance measures," Nance said. "We certainly expect to be front and center on that dialogue."

The committee passed the ordinance after requesting to hold $931,327 of funds going to the DCYF, which would go to the Community Outreach and Street Level Intervention program, and $1.3 mil. for programs in the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development, deputy controller Monica Zmuda said.

Minister Regnaldo Woods, director of the "Up From Darkness" program and SFOP member, said he was extremely excited about the ordinance's passing. He applauded the Budget and Finance Commission for its continuing support and discussion of the issue.

"The commission has been an outstanding and has asked careful and tough questions in the process," Woods said.

Woods said that community organizations face a new challenge - finding a means to allocate the money to focus on young adults at highest risk of being victims of violence.

"We will lose over again if we don't look at this specific age block," Woods said.

The ordinance's passing means funding for the Visitacion Valley Violence Prevention Youth Council, an organization that provides non-violent options for high school and at-risk youth in the area.

"Our mission is to provide a voice for all youth but we need money in order to run our council," said Markeda Cottonham, 15, from the City Arts and Technology High School.

Cottonham and her friends Chea Sayon, 16, and Sayisha Warr, 16, said that the council will need over $2,000 to fund a variety of outreach programs including a college tour, a talent show, and the organization's second annual summer jam.

Programs such as the Youth Council will prevent at-risk youth from becoming victims of violence on the street, said Joyanna Wendt, a fourth year student at the University of California, San Francisco.

"I've seen enough gunshot wounds on kids," Wendt said. "These programs encourage youth to become leaders so they don't become patients at the San Francisco General Hospital."




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