By Megan Burks
Community Groups Want More Say in City Budget
KPBS reported Monday some community groups are upset neighborhood councils and residents have been shut out of the preliminary phases of the city’s budget process.
Each spring, the mayor releases a budget draft after consulting with city departments and staff. His office then presents that budget proposal to the community in a series of public meetings. The briefings are a time for residents to ask questions, but the real opportunity for input doesn’t come until the City Council takes up the budget in May.
Barry Pollard of the Coalition for Neighborhood Councils told KPBS community groups should be able to make recommendations before the mayor pens his draft. The hope is that a collaborative process would ensure a more equitable distribution of resources across neighborhoods.
At this year’s first budget briefing Wednesday, Mid-City residents were eager to know when they could speak directly with their elected officials on budget matters. The mayor’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer, Jay Goldstone, and other city staff were on hand to take questions, but there was no formal time for public comment.
Audience members were most concerned with whether City Heights would keep its multicultural police storefront and police service officers. It will. They also wanted to know about funding for Neighborhood Code Compliance. There are no cuts there, but funding levels remain at 2012 levels and some inspectors funded by redevelopment dollars could be lost.
Councilman Todd Gloria’s budget advisor, Pamela Ann Ison, spoke with residents after the meeting. She said her office plans to reach out to community members and urge them to attend the City Council budget hearings, which begin May 2.
Guy Mock, co-chair of the City Heights Town Council, said officials skirted tough questions at previous years’ budget briefings. But he commended Goldstone for allowing a conversation among the audience and staff Wednesday, instead of sticking to question cards submitted beforehand.
“This is probably the first time I’ve enjoyed coming out to one of these meetings, because there are no service cuts,” Goldstone said.
Follow KPBS @KPBSnews.
Mayoral Candidates Square Off in KPBS Debate
KPBS and 10 News hosted a mayoral debate Thursday. Watch below to see what candidates Councilman Carl DeMaio, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Congressman Bob Filner and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher had to say about transportation, infrastructure and jobs.
See what people are saying about the mayor’s race on Twitter by searching #sdmayor.
‘We don’t hire homies to bake bread, we bake bread to hire homies’
If anything should make it onto your weekend reading list, it’s this feature on Homeboy Industries, a Boyle Heights project that employs former criminals who have a tough time landing on their feet after prison.
Father Gregory Boyle started Homeboy Industries because he saw that a lack of jobs was turning his neighborhood into a revolving door for youth caught up in the criminal justice system. They’d get out of prison with no prospects and no resources except ties to gangs.
So Boyle bought a bakery, then a café, then a silkscreen shop, all so he could hire former felons who otherwise wouldn’t have jobs. As he puts is, “We don’t hire homies to bake bread. We bake bread to hire homies.”
The program now employs nearly 400 former criminals. Boyle offers free tattoo removal, counseling and GED classes. The brand has expanded to a line of chips and salsa sold regionally at Ralph’s. He’s working on opening an eatery at LAX later this year.
The program alone is inspiring, but author Douglas McGray’s article on it is truly a joy to read.
|At night, [Father Boyle] would walk. No one knew what to make of this at first. The young men who lingered on the corners stayed aloof. Police stopped him outside a housing project, assuming he was there for drugs. But whenever guys would get beaten up or shot, he would visit them in the hospital. He had an ear for the neighborhood’s slang, and he adopted it as his own. And he was a Jesuit priest, in a neighborhood where gang members were mostly Latino. (“They’ll be running from the police, and they’ll still cross themselves when they pass a church,” Boyle jokes.) Once, he came upon a brawl, still the largest he has ever seen–50 or 60 men, with baseball bats, blocking four lanes of traffic. He ran into the middle of the mob, bellowing, “Put down the motherfucking bats!” The men stood down, shocked. “It was like the parting of the Red Sea,” Boyle recalled, chuckling. “They said, ‘G . . . you cursed!'”
Oh, and if anything should make it onto your weekend shopping list, it’s Homeboy Salsa. It’s expected to bring $500,000 in revenue to the program this year.
Follow Homeboy Industries @HomeboyInd.
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Follow me @spkcityheights.