Should Sacramento children have their own City Hall department on par with fire, police and public works?
The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday will examine ways to overhaul management of city youth programs, including the possibility of dedicating a department that oversees all kid-centric offerings.
The proposal is championed by Councilman Jay Schenirer and Mayor Darrell Steinberg, both longtime advocates of city-run children’s initiatives, from after-school care to vocational internships for high school juniors and seniors.
“The long-term success of this city really depends on our young people, and for them to be successful we have the responsibility to provide the supports and services to give them opportunities,” Schenirer said. “I believe the city should value our kids the same way we value our police and firefighters.”
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The Department of Parks and Recreation oversees most of the city’s youth programs, dedicating about 45 percent of its budget and 66 percent of its staff to those efforts, according to a city report.
But additional youth efforts are handled by other city agencies, ranging from the Police Department to the Department of Convention and Cultural Services.
Schenirer would like to see children’s programs centralized in a department that has a single vision. The proposal also recommends looking at options such as putting youth programs under the supervision of a dedicated senior staff member within City Hall without creating a new department or creating a youth division within Parks and Recreation. Tuesday’s proposal will include $30,000 for the city manager to hire a consultant to examine those ideas and others.
Schenirer tried last year to create a dedicated department through Measure Y, a June 2016 ballot measure that would have imposed a 5 percent tax on marijuana businesses to pay for youth services. After a narrow defeat, Schenirer revived the idea of tying marijuana revenue to youth services in recent council discussions about marijuana regulations, but the council so far has resisted that idea.
The proposal the council will review Tuesday calls for a “reliable and sustainable” funding source for youth services but does not mention marijuana.
Beyond that, the City Council will consider approving $950,000 toward a high school internship effort planned by Steinberg. One of Steinberg’s first moves when he took office in December was to help secure potential state funding for a new local internship program he promised during his campaign.
“I view it as a potential transformative project because by definition it seeks to link young people, especially high school juniors and seniors, with the growing employer base in Sacramento and with the range of industries we are working to grow,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg won a soft commitment from the state Employment Training Panel for up to $950,000 for a pilot program that could train and pay as many as 500 kids from five city high schools in internships. On Tuesday, the City Council will consider matching that amount and lift funding to nearly $2 million.
Steinberg said he has also asked local school districts if they will contribute funds.
Steinberg said he expects the program will launch this year at Hiram Johnson, Luther Burbank, Grant Union, Valley and Arthur A. Benjamin Health Professions high schools. Steinberg has hired a youth services and internship expert, Erica Kashiri, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to run the program.
The mayor also proposes turning campuses into community centers that provide programs and services for families and residents when school isn’t in session, including summer.