Gayle McLaughlin: The Importance of Our Youth

blogimage.jpgAt the March 17th City Council meeting, the city council approved up to $50K for a budget for the Youth Council.   There was a sample budget included. The great majority of this money in this sample budget does not come direct to the Youth Council for discretionary spending, but rather it addresses specific needs of youth for staff support, leadership training and technical assistance that are unique to preparing the youth to effectively and responsively work as a youth leadership body. It does provide a fund of about $10k to carry out a meaningful project or event focused on youth issues and engagement each year. Half of that could indeed go for the cost of renting the Auditorium so the remaining 5,000 dollars for planning an annual event is not much indeed.    

I want to thank Councilmembers Beckles and Myrick for co-sponsoring and supporting this item with me. Thank you also to Councilmember Martinez for voting to approve this.

It is important to understand that there is a history in recent years of attempts to acquire more funding for youth and to raise the youth voice in the City of Richmond. For example, in 2008, I brought an item to the Council, with the co-sponsorship of then Councilmember Tony Thurmond (now Assemblymember Thurmond) to ask that staff explore that a certain percentage of our overall budget be committed to youth activities similar to the Oakland Children and Youth Fund and schedule a future study session. While this was approved unanimously by the City Council, a study session was never scheduled. It was about that time that the Great Recession hit and the issue was left in limbo.

So discussions were continued by my office (when I was mayor) with many city youth organizations in a coalition effort to keep addressing the issue of youth funding ... and not let this issue be dismissed or side-lined. In particular, the desire has been for funding that addresses the needs of teens and young adults. The City, through our Community Centers, has increased its programs for younger children, and I know there is always an eye out for how to enhance and increase such programs.   But there is a great need to engage youth in their formative, coming-of-age years in Richmond. While youth violence has dramatically been reduced in the City of Richmond, I believe it is essential that we further address the root causes of violence by offering our youth as much guidance and opportunity as possible. Such needs are what prompted this item to come forward on March 17. Providing resources to the Youth Council to carry out their tasks in helping the City of Richmond address these needs will help us all create a more peaceful and flourishing city.

The amount approved for a Richmond Youth Council budget is a very modest amount to be allocated from overall Measure U funding. Given that specifics regarding Measure U funding had already been discussed 3X by the City Council, starting last December, and given that youth programs were part of the reason that the public supported Measure U, it seemed appropriate to seek this $50K/annually (for 5 years) for a Youth Council budget through this new funding source.  $50k is less than 1% (0.71%) of the 7 million dollar annual Measure U projection.  

The motion supported was a motion to approve "up to" a budget of 50K for the Youth Council.  The budget included in the Agenda Report was a "sample" budget prepared by my staff (when I was mayor).  There are a number of items which can and should be significantly reduced.  But if we are to have an effective youth council which includes significant representation from portions of Richmond that have no disposable income, we need to provide for bus fare and stipends to allow participation instead of having to work.  The Youth Council is starting to get active with some impressive youth taking the leadership.  We need to keep the momentum going. I feel certain our staff will come up with an appropriate budgeting that includes all the concerns raised in the sample budget included with the Agenda Report.

Lastly, I understand the mayor's and some of my other City Council colleagues' concerns about piece-meal budgeting, and in general I think it is best if financial allocations are done using our budget approval process. However, I believe this situation, as discussed in this article and throughout recent years, is very unique in preparing our youth to take on a leadership position in the City of Richmond. I look forward to working together with the Mayor, other Councilmembers, City staff and the Youth Council as we elevate the needs of youth citywide.

Reposted from Councilmember McLaughlin's "Defining Our Destiny" newsletter.

Photo courtesy San Francisco Magazine.

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