By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer

The Sacramento City Council voted 5-4 Tuesday to move into a “workshop format” to further discuss funding that would supply community-based organizations that deliver gang prevention in the city.

The workshop will delay approval of $ 1 million allocated to a half-dozen non-profit organizations that specialize in gang prevention, intervention, and suppression services proven to decrease violence.  

In an effort to clear up misunderstandings, misinformation, and frustrations over the programs, the workshop will explore ways to increase funding.

“We will move into the workshop within the next few weeks and delay any funding decisions,” said Mayor Steinberg after the vote. Steinberg voted against the workshop. “That (majority vote) is the will of the council.”

City Councilmembers Eric Guerra, Sean Loloee, Katie Valenzuela, Mai Vang, and Rick Jennings voted to have the workshop. 

Steinberg, City Council members Jeff Harris, Angelique Ashby, and Jay Schenirer were in the minority. The purpose of the discussion was to allow city manager Howard Chan to prepare Gang Prevention and Intervention Taskforce (GPIT) grant agreements for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. 

At the core of the issue is how the money will be spent, why 11 of 17 organizations that applied for Request For Proposals (RFP) didn’t get approved for funding, and what went into the decision to grant funding for the remaining six community-based organizations.

Academics 4 Athletes, Brother 2 Brother, Helping Our People Eat, Sac Impact, Neighborhood Wellness Foundation, and the Rose Family Creative Empowerment Center were endorsed for funding by the city’s Office of Violence Prevention. The requests range from $83,333 to $250,000. 

“I think there should be more agencies funded than just six,” Greg King, founder of Always Knocking Inc., told the City Council. “To have just six agencies to do a citywide project should be reconsidered.”

On Jan. 27, the city released RFPs on bids for the GPIT grant program. In total, the city received 17 proposals totaling $2.97 million in funding requests.

Jennings, who initially asked for a workshop format to have a “comprehensive conversation” about the recommendation, was also concerned about the GPIT’s process of distributing funds. 

During the meeting, Jennings asked why one of the recommended programs gets less funding than others. His comment was directed at Steinberg and Dr. Nicole Clavo, manager of the Office of Violence Prevention (OVP).

“There’s too many questions that I don’t have any answers to. I am a little frustrated at this point and time,” Jennings said. “I am not comfortable with the process, I am not comfortable with the fact that I don’t know four of the six organizations, and I am not comfortable that Rose only got $83,000 and organizations that I don’t know got $250,000.  And when I look at the staff report all of the services are the same. No, I am not comfortable with all of that.” 

Several council members wondered why two organizations  that were the original grantees of the GPIT did not submit RFPs for the new budget. Healing the Hood and Advance Peace are clearly absent from the GPIT but Jennings, Guerra, and Steinberg  said the organization still has their support.

Healing the Hood (HTH) works in seven Sacramento neighborhoods with the intention of reducing community violence committed by high-risk youth. The areas HTH works in experience the highest rates of Black child death, including third-party homicide – the suspects are not the primary caregivers), according the Black Child Legacy Campaign. 

Advance Peace (AP ), a life coaching program, is dedicated to ending systematic and retaliatory gun violence in American urban neighborhoods. The program has been used in Richmond and Stockton. 

“I do see that Advance Peace is an important tool of the intervention that we need to be doing and need to accomplish,” Guerra said. “I am requesting that Advance Peace come back to the council as part of the council conversation for the 2021-2022 budget. Whether the council decides to fund it or not, well that is a different choice.” 

The GPIT grant program was established in 2016. Since its inception, the city of Sacramento has awarded approximately $5 million in grants to more than 30 community-based organizations.

The program’s overarching goals are to reduce gang-involved crime, improve the academic achievement for those involved or likely to be involved in gangs and increase opportunities for those already involved or likely to be involved in gangs.

While the council is now in the position to add more funding to meaningful programs to curb gang violence, councilmembers want to find ways to enlist and fund more organizations that specialize in reducing violence and gang activities.

The mayor and the city council also want the organizations that do the work to collaborate more with each other and the community.

“Do you want to know if I am going to put more money into gang intervention? I’m sure I am,” Steinberg said to the groups that appear to be at odd about funding. “But if it’s not enough money, then get together and make that the discussion because we are not here to adjudicate. I know what’s going on … lots of rivalries. Don’t put that on our (council’s and mayor’s) doorsteps. Figure it out.”