“Don’t Defund Youth, Jobs, and Violence Prevention Programs” says Oakland Council President Rebecca Kaplan and Many Others
Oakland – The Oakland Administration is presenting to the Oakland City Council a proposal to completely defund youth programs, jobs programs, and vital community healing programs in their proposed changes to the use of Oakland Measure Z violence prevention funds. When the proposal was presented to the Life Enrichment Committee last week, numerous community members spoke against it, and shared concerns about the devastating impacts the elimination of these programs would have on already struggling communities. With youth not having a school environment to attend, and with job loss due to COVID having disproportionate impacts on Oakland’s African American and Latino communities, eliminating funding for youth programs and jobs programs at this time would be particularly harmful.
The proposal to eliminate these programs has been scheduled to a special Oakland Council meeting for Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 4:30pm or when the prior 1:00pm meeting ends.
The proposed plan is to re-allocate the funds for Violence Prevention from Measure Z, passed in 2014. The proposal, to eliminate community healers, jobs programs, and youth programs, directly contradicts what voters were told when passing the measure. Oakland voters passed the Measure based on the official arguments, which stated it would fund “Proven community programs that support our at-risk youth and reduce crime; these include job training, high school graduation assistance, violence intervention strategies, victim support and more.” (Ballotpedia, Measure Z 2014 )
The official ballot question, on the 2014 ballot for Measure Z, was:
Thus, both “dropout prevention” programs for youth, and “job training/placement” programs were explicitly promised to voters, yet are recommended to be eliminated from funding. The proposed spending plan defunds youth re-entry services, youth life coaching, youth employment and education support services, and job training and job placement throughout, as well as cutting community healers at a time when they are greatly in need.
In a letter asking the Mayor and City Council not to approve the proposed spending plan, but to be “guided by a true public health approach,” and instead, extend the current contracts, the Former Director of the Alameda County Department of Public Health, Arnold Perkins wrote,
“Healing cannot be an afterthought when it comes to the creation of a comprehensive public health-based approach to violence prevention and community peace-making. Many of the organizations I have worked with have done significant work to help community organizations, elected officials, and systems leaders to better understand the importance of Community Healing work.”
“…It would be devastating to abruptly shut down current programs and services, and then have them restart and ramp-up, should other funds be identified in subsequent months. It would be irresponsible to implement your proposed reduction plan; it would create a tremendous disruption of critical services and programs to communities most in need and programs that are already over-extending themselves to meet that need.” (Perkins email)
Council President Rebecca Kaplan stated, “We must not defund vital programs that are needed to prevent violence in our community, and which were promised to voters. This includes that we must fund programs for youth, jobs, and community healing, as part of the uses of Oakland’s Measure Z funds.”
Councilmembers will have an opportunity to vote whether to approve the proposed spending plan, or whether to direct City Administration to return with amended spending planning and to extend the funding of youth and job programs.
The administration had said they would be guided by a public health strategy for violence prevention, but have proposed to fund services only for those who have already committed acts of extreme violence or murder, and to eliminate funding for prevention programs. This is the opposite of what public health experts recommend, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) which stated:
“By definition, public health aims to provide the maximum benefit for the largest number of people. Programs for the primary prevention of violence based on the public health approach are designed to expose a broad segment of a population to prevention measures and to reduce and prevent violence at a population-level.”
The Special Council Meeting will take place at 4:30pm, after the previously scheduled 1pm Council meeting.
December 15, 2020 4:30pm Oakland Special Council Meeting agenda: https://oakland.legistar.com/View.ashx?M=A&ID=826195&GUID=729C3D8F-ABA1-4C64-82AC-5BC5F48DA355
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