05/14/2010 04:46 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Keep the Lights On

As the proposed budget moves from the Budget Committee to the full City Council, I want to thank Chairman Parks and the rest of the committee for their budget recommendations, which came from hard, diligent work. I am reiterating my core goal of balancing the budget with more than just one-time fixes, and I am asking Councilmembers to reconsider the proposed cuts to the City's Gang Reduction and Youth Development programs.

Over the last three years, the comprehensive reorganization of gang reduction programs has worked. Partnering with almost 1,000 new officers on our streets, gang-related crimes are down 10%; gang-related homicides are down nearly 11%; and just last week, Attorney General Eric Holder held up our programs as a national model saying:

"We need more programs like Summer Night Lights...They're literally turning the lights on in the parks where crimes often occur and offering recreational, educational, and artistic activities. This approach is having a positive effect, and it's an example of the innovative approaches we must adopt."

This marks the first time in decades that we've seen real and tangible progress on reducing gang violence. And as we are struggling to keep our neighborhoods safe in the midst of high unemployment and recession, we simply cannot afford to turn back.

Some might argue that an 8% or a $1.33 million dollar cut to our gang programs is not significant, but 8% means 296 young people and their families will not receive services. And 8% means we will lose intervention workers who have built trusting relationships within our communities, relationships that are sometimes the sole reason why we are able to stop violence. These relationships take time. They do not happen over night. And if we lose these intervention workers, we lose some of our best weapons in our fight against gang violence.

I urge council to reinstate the full funding of these programs. Keeping our streets safe and reducing gang violence has to be one of our top priorities.