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By Henrietta J. Burroughs                  
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Posted on Monday, July 25, 2011  
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Community residents, key city staff and several city council members held a five-hour retreat to develop a strategic spending plan to allocate city tax money to prevent and combat violence and crime in the East Palo Alto community.

The participants in the retreat gathered on Saturday, July 23 to focus on the best way to distribute the proceeds from a parcel tax measure, known as Measure C, which East Palo Alto residents voted to enact in the November 2006 election. Under Measure C, city residents agreed to pay an additional $100 a year in property taxes.

Vice Mayor Laura Martinez, who made the opening remarks at the retreat said, “In overwhelmingly passing the Measure C Parcel Tax, citizens said that they were tired of the status quo and were ready to dispense additional resources to fight crime through a two pronged approach.

“The first approach would focus on ‘community and neighborhood policing, training, crime suppression and investigations’ through vesting additional resources to the Police Department and the second [approach] would focus on violence and crime prevention services ‘with an emphasis on youth and families’ through ‘preventive social services provided by the City of East Palo Alto, or by adding capacity to community-based nonprofit programs with a focus on youth, ex-felons, domestic violence and support for senior citizens.’”

In passing Measure C, community residents agreed that each year, 50% of the parcel tax revenues would go to the East Palo Alto Police Department, while the remaining 50% would be distributed to nonprofit groups operating in the community. Since the passage of Measure C, the city has spent hundreds of thousand of dollars supporting both approaches.

Since 2006, the city has issued an RFP to solicit community proposals from local nonprofits that thought their agency me the required criteria to receive a Measure C grant, Prior to issuing the RFP each of the city’s council members appointed several community members to the Measure C Oversight Committee which the city established to review the proposals and select grant recipients.

But in 2010, the East Palo Alto City Council and the city staff decided that it was necessary to develop a strategic spending plan. According to Martinez, who is the city council liaison to the Measure C Oversight Committee, the city wanted “to ensure that by the expiration of the tax, a significant dent would have been made on the problem of violence and crime in … [the East Palo Alto] community.

During the community retreat, which was facilitated by Dr. Omowale Satterwhite, one of the founders behind the city’s incorporation movement, the participants listened to ML Gordon, East Palo Alto’s city manager and city resident Stewart Hyland present the historic context behind Measure City and they heard a report from the city’s Chief of Police, Ron Davis, who discussed the key causes of crime and a UC Berkeley crime study which analyzed city crime data from 1986 to 2008. Davis also presented crime data from 2010 to the present.

Consultant Peter Ellis, discussed the socio-economic conditions in the city which looked at existing city programs, educational data an the city truancy, suspension and dropout rates for middle and high school students.

After the prepared presentations, the participants formed about four to five working groups to discus their vision for East Palo Alto, their guiding values, strategic goals and the outcomes they wanted from the use of the Measure C money.

They agreed that their mutual vision was to “create a city where residents of all ages live in safe neighborhoods free of violence.” As part of their guiding values, they said that they valued: all of the community’s residents, wanted collaboration between residents, governments, faith based and community organizations; wanted to address East Palo Alto’s challenges with a community response and would not give up on any youth and adult and were committed to facilitating personal transformation and successful reentry into the community.

As part of their strategic goals, the group decided that they wanted to: expand community and neighborhood policing, training, crime suppression and investigations; engage and provide relevant services to high-risk youth and young adult populations; expand youth and early intervention care and among other things, they wanted to monitor and evaluate funded care to track progress and improvement.

With the implementation of their guiding values and strategic goals, the participants at the retreat expected that over time, the plan that they were creating would make a significant dent in reducing violence and crime, would engage the community, achieve safe schools, community areas and neighborhoods and create a seamless, integrated delivery system of services. 

For Cruz Hyland. an East Palo Alto resident who attended the retreat, the motivation of the group’s participants was very clear. “People really want to make good use of the Measure C money.  And it seems that everyone is in favor of helping the “at risk youth,” she said. 

A summary of the plan the group created at its retreat will be presented to the East Palo Alto City Council at its meeting before it begins its summer recess on Tuesday, July 26.

A final plan will be presented to the council for its approval in October.

To contact the author of this article, Henrietta J. Burroughs, send an email to epatoday@epatoday.org.




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