On Wednesday Mayor Greg Nickels appeared before a very supportive audience at the newly remodeled Garfield Teen Center to announce that he will include $9 million in the Mayor’s 2009-2010 proposed biennial budget to fund the Seattle Youth Violence Prevention Initiative. The Mayor’s office has been prompted to act due to the shooting deaths of four teenagers during 2008 and an increase in the numbers of violent juvenile crimes during 2006-2007. The $9 million reflects approximately $3.5 million of re-directed funds and about $5.5 million in new spending. The proposal would focus on 800 children a year, mainly at the middle school age, who are at highest risk of perpetuating violence or becoming victims.
The programs would focus on:
1. Establishing reentry programs for repeat offenders in state detention programs.
2.Working with middle-schools to provide support for students with a history of truancy and students at risk of suspension.
3.Providing alternatives for youth who are arrested for crimes that do not automatically require detention.
4.Preventing retaliation by victims of violence and their families and friends to stem the cycle of violence.
The Urban League, Southwest Youth and Family Services and the Atlantic Street Center, along with the Seattle School District were named as the community partners responsible for helping to design neighborhood networks and service delivery. The Urban League will represent and design the network for the Central Area; the Atlantic Street Center, Southeast Seattle; and Southwest Youth and Family Services, West Seattle.
In answer to questions regarding how the three agencies were chosen Mayor Nickels responded that they each have a long history of working with others and of effectiveness in their communities.
Extending youth center hours, to provide safe places for youth activities; working closely with middle schools to add police officers in schools, improve attendance and provide conflict resolution training; and adding mentors are elements of the initiative.
Questions also included how Mayor Nickles plans to assure accountability. Setting specific goals are key to ensuring accountability. For instance, the goal of cutting in half the number of incidents of youth violence by May 2010 will be measured according to the definitions set in the goals. Increases in neighborhood and school safety, improvements in school performance and reductions in recidivism are also measurable. Measures will be set according to the program designs.
James Kelly of the Urban League and Seattle School Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson were on hand to speak in favor of the Mayor’s proposal and were well received. Members of the faith community were recognized and praised for their contributions to the community.
Next steps will include completing design of neighborhood networks and partnerships and the review of the Mayor’s budget by the City Council. If passed as planned implementation would begin in January 2009 with final results for the first year reported in June 2010
The press release, a video of the press conference and an overview of the initiative are available at:
The Seattle PI report:
The Seattle Times: