Archived Stories

Make children your priority

By July 25, 2010

Special to The Enterprise

Dear Joe Krovoza and Rochelle Swanson,

Congratulations on your recent election to the Davis City Council. YouÕve both knocked on a lot of doors, smiled for a lot of photo-ops, kissed a lot of babies and heard more than enough free advice from this most right and relevant city. But, at the risk of piling on, IÕd like to invoke my columnistÕs privilege and offer you my own letter to young (at heart) council members.

To begin, consider the words of Nelson Mandela, ÒThere can be no keener revelation of a societyÕs soul than the way it treats its children.Ó As the elected representatives of our local society, you can do well by setting your sights on improving the well-being of DavisÕ children as the touchstone of your policy agendas.

This does not just mean attention to youth programming through Parks and Rec, but also, considering the implications for young people of the CityÕs affordable housing policies, its economic development strategies, its transportation infrastructure and so on. Can you even think of a city function that does not somehow affect young people?

As you think about the well-being of the young people of our community, please focus special attention on those who are least well-served and represented by the systems in the city. Young people of color, immigrants, low-income youth, LGBT youth and others who are not considered part of the ÒmainstreamÓ need to be brought into the center of the cityÕs caring.

We need to build systems Ñ educational, juvenile justice, health, employment Ñ that match the highest possibilities and aspirations of these young people. We need you to champion this cause and to push back against the public perceptions and treatment of certain youth as at-risk, criminal or worthless, and to cherish them for their vision, dreams and leadership.

One of the most important arenas for this effort will be in the contentious issues of policing and the experience of many youth (and adults) of color that they are unjustly profiled and treated by the cityÕs police force. What has been described in this space by my colleague and friend Jann Murray-Garc’a Ñ including last monthÕs column in which this profiling literally Òhit homeÓ Ñ also has been recounted to me by many of my students of color at UC Davis. It is a stain on our communityÕs name that must be lifted.

We need your leadership in making clear that there will be zero tolerance for racial profiling and that pro-active measures are required to rebuild trust between the police force and the diversity of the cityÕs residents. We simply canÕt have a community with a Òhigh quality of lifeÓ if many of our neighbors and friends do not feel safe or welcome in their own neighborhoods.

And speaking of safe ground, your leadership is needed to ensure that those with insecure, poor-quality or no housing at all are provided with the means to shelter and ideally, the means to build a meaningful and decent life for themselves. Your leadership in supporting the Davis Community Church and our others in our faith-based community in their efforts to serve those most in need is required.

Efforts under way to develop a 10-year plan to end homelessness in the community are a step in the right direction. But how about five years? A decade is a long time to wait for a home. And while you are at it, how about the city providing the use of a small office space for the Spare Changer and other self-help efforts by the homeless but not hopeless among us?

Likewise, you can help set a visionary approach to providing low-income housing. At a minimum, Davis should maintain its commitment to the Sacramento Area Council of GovernmentsÕ regional compact for production of affordable housing and should consider going beyond the 10 percent annual set-aside as well as strategies to make more housing options available to low- and very low-income residents.

Finally, I urge you to think regionally and globally as you act locally. Please use your new leadership positions to help position Davis as a leader in regional efforts to promote healthy, prosperous and equitable opportunities for all members of our broader community.

How can Davis contribute to regional efforts to address water quality, flooding, economic vitality, housing, climate change and other issues that affect, but span beyond our city limits?

Tall tasks indeed, but I have a hunch you are both up to the challenge. Go get Õem, champs!

Ñ Jonathan London, Ph.D., is a Davis resident and parent. He shares this monthly column with Jann Murray-Garc’a. He may be reached at [email protected]

Jonathan London

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