How to end the violence

Pub date June 27, 2006
SectionNews & OpinionSectionOpinion

OPINION Despite its loss at the polls earlier this month, the spirit of Proposition A, the homicide prevention charter amendment on the June 6 ballot, lives on. Prop. A would have mandated that the city invest $10 million in violence prevention efforts. Instead of the typical police response to violence, Prop. A sought to address the root causes of violence, the social isolation and limited opportunity that are so endemic to the neighborhoods most impacted by street violence.
Prop. A offered a menu of strategies, including community outreach and organizing, job training and job creation, and reentry services so that ex-offenders have more than a couple hundred dollars in their hands when they leave prison. It was clear to everyone involved in the Prop. A campaign that this was about ameliorating the harmful effects of poverty and racism.
Even before the election, Prop. A was having an effect. Just two months after saying that no further investment was necessary to stem the tide of violence, Mayor Gavin Newsom crafted an ordinance with Sup. Fiona Ma to increase funding for violence prevention efforts. Responding to community groups, the Board of Supervisors stripped from the original Ma-Newsom legislation a bunch of police department goodies, including a ropes course, surveillance cameras, and bookmobiles — and beefed up the provisions on jobs and workforce training and added school-based violence prevention efforts, street outreach programs, and reentry services.
Overall the Board of Supervisors invested close to $6.9 million in programs and services. That’s a great initial investment but not enough, especially when a significant portion of the new funds can only be used for people under the age of 18.
The budget process offers the opportunity to serve the 18-and-older population and build on the foundation set earlier this spring. To this end, the budget committee added back over a million dollars to save San Francisco’s Trauma Recovery Center for the victims of violence and sexual assault. Now as a result of great advocacy from the violence prevention community and some unprecedented collaboration between the district attorney, the public defender, and the sheriff, the budget committee can program outside the box.
Before the committee Thursday, June 29, will be proposals to increase street-violence prevention outreach efforts, wraparound case management for victims at San Francisco General Hospital, housing relocation services for families impacted by violence, and reentry programs for ex-offenders. All of these programs can be part of a national model for other cities to emulate.
Contrary to the mayor’s line that the city does not need to contribute more resources to violence prevention, I believe city-sponsored resources make a dramatic change in how people caught up in all sides of the epidemic can have better choices and a dignified way out of these mean streets.
Violence is solvable if we make the right choices. SFBG
John Avalos
John Avalos is a legislative aide to Sup. Chris Daly. He dedicates this column to Andrew Drew Elle, a.k.a. DJ Domino, who was shot to death on Tuesday night, June 20, at 24th Street and Folsom.