This week brings some good news from the violence prevention front in California.
Frequent readers of this blog and other National League of Cities media may be aware that NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education and Families has co-sponsored a 13-city gang prevention initiative since 2007. The California Cities Gang Prevention Network identifies promising strategies to reduce gang violence; promotes the development of comprehensive, data-driven local plans that blend prevention, intervention and enforcement; and recommends state and federal policy changes that can support local efforts.
Last month, Network Director Jack Calhoun reported on California Assembly Bill (AB) 526, an important piece of state legislation developed with substantial input from Network cities based on their knowledge and experience in spearheading cross-sector violence prevention collaborations.
One of the primary challenges Network cities face is coordinating the multitude of state and federal funding streams that can be used to address youth violence in their communities – from mental health and substance abuse prevention to job training and reentry. These funding silos – dispersed across at least 17 state agencies with different timelines, reporting requirements, and performance measures – pose barriers in cities where law enforcement, social services, schools, faith-based organizations and other key players are working together to develop comprehensive and coordinated approaches.
AB 526 begins to remove these barriers by directing the new Board of State and Community Corrections to identify and consolidate grants serving similar purposes and target populations and move toward a single application for delinquency and gang prevention and intervention funding. It is also designed to shift funding toward youth and gang violence prevention programs grounded in evidence-based practices and principles, and requires the Board to provide incentives for comprehensive regional partnerships that maximize their impact by braiding state funds.
Last Sunday night, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 526, opening new possibilities for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of local violence prevention efforts in California. Passage of this key piece of legislation provides a potential model for other states and parallels similar efforts to at the federal level. The Governor, state legislators and staff, and Network city teams deserve praise for working across levels of government to identify solutions on this critical issue.
(Visit Jack Calhoun’s Hope Matters blog for additional, forthcoming analysis. Also, check out PolicyLink to learn about bills signed by Governor Brown that could improve outcomes for young men of color. In particular, these bills reform school discipline and “zero tolerance” policies, which contribute to school dropout rates. The legislation is consistent with recommended strategies in NLC’s new guide on City Leadership to Promote Black Male Achievement, which describes actions that cities can take to reduce disparities between black males and their peers in the areas of education, work and family.)