Newsom Supportive – But Non-Committal – of Youth Commission’s Priorities

by Peter Lauterborn on March 29, 2007

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At a March 27th meeting at City Hall, the San Francisco Youth Commission unveiled its budgetary priorities to an attentive and responsive Mayor Gavin Newsom. “Your priorities are certainly my priorities,” said Newsom after hearing all of the Commission’s various committees report out on their principal concerns.

But while the Mayor’s response was positive, he was also noncommittal and there are no guarantees that these requests will be met.

The Youth Commission is a City body comprised of 17 youth between the ages of 13 and 23 – who advise the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, and the City departments on any issue which pertains to the lives of their peers.

The Commission’s budget recommendations cover a wide array of issues – including youth workforce development, violence prevention, transportation, physical and mental health services, social services, parks and recreation, and civic engagement.

The Mayor walked into the Commission meeting 45 minutes late, sat down at the table, and joked: “You’re late—all of you!” Newsom later explained that he was late due to a visit to the new 311 information center, which he then touted for several minutes.

As the Commissioners spelled out their proposals, Newsom remained generally quiet, nodding along when a particular item intrigued him.

After the presentation, Newsom spoke positively on issues to better support health centers in public schools, supporting transitional youth, and expanding (and for the first time funding) citywide civic engagement programs for high school students. He also took the opportunity to note other successes the city has seen in youth services, including the first increase in kindergarten enrollment in years and the soon-to-be-released recommendations from the City’s Transitional Youth Task Force.

Newsom’s only moment of reluctance came in response to the Youth Commission’s proposal to have Youth Fast Passes on Muni to cover BART rides between Balboa Park and Embarcadero – as adult passes do. The Mayor agreed with the concept, but asked: “What’s the cost? Do we raise the fares for seniors? Do we cut lines?” He then elaborated on the $25.4 million budget deficit that the City faces this year.

Despite apparent support from Newsom, the Mayor did not state active support to any of the positions. “Overall, he seemed to be responsive and agreed with our positions,” said Youth Commission chair Iqra Anjum, “But he made no commitments. We want to make sure that his office shows strong follow up.”

Newsom has made soliciting budgetary input from the Youth Commission habitual over the years, but according to Commissioner Anjum was far more attentive and receptive this time around.

“The good news,” Newsom said right before he walked out, “Is that you’ve said nothing audacious or shocking.”

Better news would be to see these recommendations become actual policy.

Peter Lauterborn is San Francisco a youth and education advocate. Please share your thoughts with him at plauterborn@gmail.com.

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