It’s clear that Sacramento’s youths need our help, and Measure Y will help them.
It will keep our kids off the streets, provide vital funding for homeless youths, and put art and music back in our schools.
I have a number of reasons for supporting Measure Y. I have worked on youth issues for more than 20 years and have seen up close the challenges many children face. They can be heartbreaking.
I also have spent more than a decade in politics and know that kids’ programs are the last to be funded and the first to be cut.
Measure Y will levy a 5 percent tax on businesses involved in marijuana cultivation and manufacturing with the revenue directed into a fund to support children and youth programs. At least 85 percent of revenue will be spent on direct services for kids, mostly through community-based organizations. The remaining dollars will go to evaluation and administration. Finally, the measure creates an oversight committee for transparency and accountability.
The need in Sacramento has been documented again and again. Of youths under 18, 29 percent live in poverty. Our local school districts’ data demonstrate that our kids are not achieving academically and not being set up for success.
Despite this proven need, the city invests less than 1 percent of its general fund in programs serving children and youths. Our school districts, which are already being asked to do so much, cannot provide all their students with after-school programs.
At the same time, research speaks volumes about the positive impact of investing in high-quality, prevention-focused programs.
Students who regularly attend after-school programs are less likely to drop out, and these programs generate between $1 and $5 in public savings for every dollar invested. For our high school students, a job that is coupled with workforce training has an enormous life-long effect; for every year they work, their income in their 20s rises 14 to 16 percent.
We have an opportunity to invest in these kinds of programs. And while Measure Y opponents raise the alarm of tying the hands of future City Councils, when deficits are projected in the city’s general fund, it’s the council’s job to find alternative revenue sources and cut unnecessary spending. Surely my colleagues possess the expertise and creativity to do so.
But what I have not seen, nor expect to see, is a call to action to protect the programs for our kids that will save the city money in the long run. Measure Y is that call to action.
Now it’s up to the voters to tell their elected officials that it’s time to follow through and invest in our city’s future. Enough words and clichés. It’s time to act.
Jay Schenirer represents District 5 on the Sacramento City Council and is the main author of Measure Y. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.