LTE: Investing in at-risk youth is an important step in reducing crime

I agree Mayor Lucas’ new initiative to hire 500 at risk young people for summer internships is a step in the right direction. I benefited from a similar program in the 90’s when I lived in the East Side; it was a good program but I gleaned nothing constructive from it. I am also aware the mayor is not getting any love from the business community in compensating any interns they may take in. One could consider the incentives these businesses might have enjoyed in the past from taxpayers; some not deserved, in more honest times this would be called theft.

The program is based out of Omaha. It seemed to curb violence, increase high school graduation rates and is aimed to 14-18 age group. The initiative is not fully funded. The mayor cannot rely on the business community and may have to lean more on civil society. My humble opinion on how to fund it lies with the root of most violence – “the drug war.”

This war has affected minorities disproportionately for decades, demonized them via different mediums, bringing about injustices in judicial fronts and tears in the social fabric. Inconceivable decades ago, the admired entrepreneurs of today along with their sordid political allies have made marijuana, the Mexican name popularized as negative and foreign, available to the thoughtless consumer. It’s a win-win. They bring more revenue to fund charitable causes such as veteran groups, an uncontested cause, to gain political clout from the general voter to the more progressive and becoming a lauded business ally at the same time.

The local level could tax this new revenue stream where big weed business has conveniently forgotten the oppressed on where its new empire is built upon. This higher excise tax could fund meaningful programs, such as the summer program or beyond that a similar but local and watered down version of Mexico’s own recent federal initiative; under supervision, business owners hire recent high school graduates who are not college bound, wages subsidized by the government and if not hired by the employer after a year, a business loan is available at zero interest with long payback periods and small business guidance. This is an effort to pry the young from organized crime, again a morbid result from the drug war. It could be funded even more by charging a quarter at the metro routes; the community along with business owners enrolled in the program could feel involved in the formation of the youth in the urban core at the same time building their confidence for the future. Furthermore the state could tax it as well and fund programs in rural areas where the drug epidemic has expanded.

The summer program may nudge the youth to the stage but what about the rest of the school year? Perhaps stipends for ALL kids who stay in high school, which is a tough time for any developing child. A local bank could offer saving accounts and coach them on financial responsibility. Austerity measures in the school district, on our city council, to fund more programs as well, such as family services and mental health to slowly fill in those social pitfalls in the urban communities. Do we really need high salaried “public” servants who have no real direction or are already thinking about their next political step?

A concerted effort by leaders of all aspects to print a widely available moral pamphlet without bias from any distinct group but with an absolute ethical principle; the respect of life for one and others as well as our environment, there are some out there already. This isn’t a cultish new age inclination but a millenary practice by the original people of this continent. It is at home where our children learn to be patient, to say thank you, please, to forgive and our society has not benefited many of them with that condition. It is not up to our teachers and police to be our last line of defense but a part of a combined communal effort. This approach will be called idealistic, impractical even foolish because is not conducive to conventional wisdom but I ask: are the suburbs the answer then or do we just commit it to “God helps those who help themselves” type proverbs in a place where social mobility is nonexistent? Bootstraps not included.

The Mayor could exercise a beautiful concept in government that has little or no use in our representative democracy called direct democracy. Another “primitive” practice in Latin America that has not been fulfilled due to conflicted foreign interests. It is when the individual who has been delegated the power to govern from the people turns to them and says “ You put me here, I am all ears, I lead by obeying you”. This is ideal during the election process because neighborhoods with their own representation can pluck out candidates who don’t have their priorities at heart, sort of like a primary. A candidate whose bright idea is to partner with developers to bring more luxury apartments to blighted zones can be brushed aside for the candidate who wants to invest in the sewer infrastructure, roads and neighborhoods. During their term they could be audited by the people for compliance or risk recall. But our Mayor Lucas is already in office, he could call for roundtable discussions, input, and consensus through a popular vote. As an Indian guru once said “It is not a measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society”. We could finally stand for something or get back to our regular programming, only notice the news and move on down a spiral that closes in.

Thank you for your time.

Oz Baeza
Northeast resident

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