When Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his Young Men’s Initiative two weeks ago, he was brimming with glee that his $127 million initiative-set to address various issues affecting young Black and Latino men disproportionately in the areas of employment, education, criminal justice and health-was the be all and end all of brilliance.
Critics like Eddie Ellis, director of the NuLeadership Policy Group, Councilman Charles Barron and Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, were quick to point out the variety of short falls.
“After 10 years in office, for him to come up with a mere $127 million for a bogus initiative that has no job creation but money for the Department of Probation to reverse recidivism is unreal,” said Ellis. “The issues are jobs and education. Unless and until these two issues are dealt with in a serious and sustainable manner, from a community-specific and culturally competent perspective, we will continue to witness the same problems confronting young Black men.”
“This initiative was ironically implemented at a time when Bloomberg’s reputation and job approval rating in the Black and Latino community tanked,” said Barron. “The mayor has neglected Black and Latino youth for 10 years now. He has cut hundreds of millions of dollars from youth services across the city, shut down youth centers and continues to promote a failing public school system, where only 15 percent of Black and Latino graduates are prepared for college or a career.
“This neglect has created an environment for more young Black and Latino men to enter the prison-industrial complex or become gang members. It was this same Bloomberg who, just last month during budget negotiations, cut the Summer Youth Employment Program down to 26,000 slots. It was at 53,000 when I first came into office. Over 140,000 youth applied for these 26,000 slots.”
Bloomberg did not respond to an AmNews request for comment.
Barron was not done, as he blasted the mayor at an East New York press conference last Thursday afternoon. “During those same budget negotiations, Mayor Bloomberg completely cut the Peter Valone CUNY Scholarships for youth-$6 million that he zeroed out. On top of that, Bloomberg cut $10.8 million from the Summer Food Service Programs, taking food out of the mouths of babes.
The councilman determined that if the mayor is really serious about helping Black and Latino youth, he has a couple of plans that he should implement immediately.
“He should build 10 state-of-the-art youth centers like the existing design for the proposed youth center in East New York. This would provide construction jobs for youth to build the centers and permanent jobs for youth to operate the centers. This would cost $200 million out of the city’s multi-billion dollar capital budget. Remember, you gave a predominantly white community in Brooklyn $100 million to build a theater to bring in Shakespeare. It can be done.”
Barron told reporters at his press conference that Bloomberg should also “allot $25 million to a comprehensive youth entrepreneurial program. There are over 700,000 youth who are not in school and are not employed, and 85 percent of them are Black and Latino. He should secure $25 million in CUNY scholarships to pay the tuition of those high school graduates who want to continue their education and earn a degree.”
Barron, whose district includes the much maligned East New York, parts of which have an unfortunately high crime rate, told Bloomberg that he could “decrease recidivism rates by increasing education programs in city jails like Rikers Island so that the people who are incarcerated will have the opportunity to obtain their bachelor’s or master’s while they are there.”
And why not “allocate funding for permanent athletic, cultural, music and arts programs in our schools to enhance the learning process and motivate our children to succeed academically?” Barron asked.
The mayor did not respond as of press time to Barron’s suggestions.
“If you are serious, abandon the Bloomberg bluff and accept the Barron plan!” said the confident City Council member.