Proposal for the creation of a Department of Inner City Affairs within the Seattle Mayor’s Office

TO:  Seattle City Council/Office of the Mayor                    DATE:  June 13, 2014

FROM:  David Toledo/Unified Outreach                            RE:  Establishment of Department of Inner-City Affairs

Proposed

To establish a Department of Inner-City Affairs (DOICA) within the City of Seattle Mayor’s office to address issues specific to Seattle’s Central District and Rainier Valley in order to assist in reducing the amount of criminal activity in Seattle with the use of “outside the box” youth programming and community liaisons that will be proactive in preventing violence, advancing race & social justice issues, and providing a mutually-beneficial partnership with Seattle’s public safety officers to provide previously unattainable neighborhood resources when crimes do occur.

Doica word 2

Background

There have been 7 young adults murdered a number of shootings in the Seattle Central District and Rainier Valley since Spring began, including shots fired at a vehicle as it was being ticketed by the KC Sheriff’s Department.

Budgetary Allocation:  We propose that the city use money already allocated to programs in the Office of Arts & Culture/Department of Neighborhoods to cover any costs associated with the program.  We propose 20% from each Department be allocated to the Department of Inner City Affairs.

Supervisory Relationship:  Director of theDOICA Reporting directly to the Seattle City Council or the Mayor.

WHO is committing the Crime?

One thing about youth crime and violence is that SOMEONE knows something.  The kids know who is doing what in the community; so the question is how does that information come to light?

Thinking OUTSIDE of the Box:

Within every youth community there are “networks” operating; kids who have formed communities-within-communities based on common interests.  Within urban communities we see an even closer kinship between youth who bond over artistic interests; kids who envision a career selling millions of albums rapping know the other kids in the city who share that dream.  The break-dancers know who the other break-dancers are; the graffiti artists know who the graffiti artists are.  These communal groups can be a great resource if we have the right liaison between the youth and our community leaders/authorities.

Who do these kids TRUST?

Obtaining information from kids can be a complicated task.  There is no doubt that the knowledge of who has committed the crime (violent or otherwise) is generally known in the community.  But because of community loyalty, the mistrust of those in authority, or the fear of reprisal, many witnesses are afraid to come forward.

From our experience growing up in these communities and continuing to work with low income and at-risk youth we believe many low income and at-risk youth are more responsive to those in the (shared) artistic body, and those seen as old school/OG’s (original gangsters) who have established themselves in the neighborhood.

The same kid that is hesitant to share knowledge of a known criminal act with a parent, teacher, or police officer will easily share that information in casual conversation with their breakdance instructor or one of the OG’s at a neighborhood picnic.

Departmental Structure/Use of Liaisons:

We are proposing that the DOICA be headed by an Executive Director who answers either to the City Council or the Mayor.  The Director of DOICA will appoint 4-5 Program Directors who will report to him/her.  Each Program Director will have 10 Program Administrators assigned to a specific grid in either Seattle’s Central District or Rainier Valley (known as BBQ zones); each Program Administrator will have one assistant.

If is further recommended that the DOICA be permitted the power to appoint one Board Member to each of the following Commissions to ensure that the DOICA program is able to reach its maximum potential.  We recommend a DOICA voice on the Arts Commission, Community Police Commission, and the Human Rights Commission.

With the DOICA in place we believe that Seattle will be able to dramatically decrease violence.

We are proposing that those OG’s that are also active in the artistic field be recruited to act as liaisons between our at-risk youth and our community leaders/authorities.  Community leaders such as Pastor Ray Rogers, Dr. James Croone, Tyrone Dumas, and many more who have a 20/30+ year history in these neighborhoods and are “neighborhood famous” in Seattle’s CD and South-end of Seattle are needed.  These are respected elders you can find at neighborhood barbeques and community events and when they speak the kids listen.

These community elders are artists and arts administrators in their own right; hosting musical performances, parties, and community events where youth engagement occurs.  Events where troubled youth are recognized, conflicts resolved, lives set straight; yet these events will never be approved for a Department of Neighborhoods or Office of Arts & Culture Youth Arts grant because they don’t fit the Arts Commission’s idea of what an artist looks or sounds like.  The same type-A personality, the direct speaking style, the same REALNESS that makes these people attractive to our youth are seen as negatives by Seattle’s artistic gate-keepers and turned away from receiving artistic and community grants.  So the key is to design program partnerships that recruit these OG’s and back their programs; with the understanding that there is an open communication and true working partnership with the select branches of law enforcement, courts, and other areas of public safety.  We are confident that Unified Outreach has a blueprint for such a partnership; an achievable plan to save lives.

Accessing the necessary FUNDING:

The City of Seattle already spends millions of tax payer dollars each year on youth arts, sports, and technology programs.  Many of these programs are already making a difference in the lives of our children; however, in order to meet today’s needs it is obvious we must try something different.

Currently the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs has a budget of $8.5 million, and the Department of Neighborhoods has a budget of $12.4 million (combined nearly $21 million).  Not surprisingly, these departments often have a surplus (Large Project Fund is one example).  We propose 20% from each Department be allocated to the Department of Inner City Affairs in order to support a new Department operating under the guidelines that have been provided in this memo.  A more comprehensive operational structure and staffing hierarchy can be provided to the Mayor’s office and the City Council at their request.

What is the value of a human life?  Are the 7 lives lost over the last few months worth less because they are from the Central District and Rainier Valley?  $5.3 million per year towards the DOICA is reasonable and the return each year in the lives saved cannot be measured.  If city leaders can put $21 million each year to simply “enrich through art” the lives of those in Seattle, isn’t it worth $5.3 million to actually SAVE those same lives?  Would it be a more palatable program if it funded programs in Magnolia? Queen Anne? Lake Union?  These are hard questions that deserve answers.

Our proposal is a viable solution to reducing crime and providing safer streets.  However, because it is a new and unique approach to solving the problem it is bound to encounter pushback from the status quo; and as such will need visionary leaders to champion this as we move forward.  Seattle’s leadership must get out of its comfort zone and begin engaging in a more indigenous form of youth outreach, which requires bringing in oversight that understands the working relationship between this new style of community leader (OG’s), and at-risk youth.

The neighborhood elders that have contributed to the actualization of this proposal would be honored to serve on the steering committee as the City begins its search for a qualified candidate to serve as Director of this newly established Department.  These are men raised in Seattle’s CD and Rainier Valley and still have deep connections to those communities.  We know the neighborhoods, the kids, and the community leaders (OG’s) that can make this program a success.

AVOIDING Common Mistakes:

We have to avoid the common mistake of just throwing money at the problem.  We have to resist the urge to simply throw money at “established youth, arts, and community programs” in the area who may produce fine programming but do not know how to reach our target audience; and who (once they have received the special funding) will simply hire the same old friends & family and list them as “Special OG consultants”.  Not every person living in the CD and Rainier Valley for decades is respected by the community.  Also, there are many artists and arts/programs already operating that don’t reach the kids we are talking about.  We need to recruit REAL community-leader OG’s that have a PROVEN history of working with our YOUTH.  The people living in the neighborhoods that are being affected by this wave of violence KNOW who the people are that are working to make a difference.  The creation of a Department of Inner-City Affairs (DOICA) within the City of Seattle Mayor’s office, with the right people in leadership roles CAN and WILL save lives.

Proposed Department of Inner-City Affairs Mission Statement

“City of Seattle’s commitment to reducing violence and promoting justice for every community.”

Thank you for your time and consideration.  Unified Outreach and the Steering Committee would be honored to present our proposal to the Seattle City Council and/or Mayor Murray in a public hearing as determined by the Seattle City Council and Mayor’s Office.

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