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Local News

Santa Maria Council OKs Youth Safety Task Force

Santa Barbara County Supervisor Steve Lavagnino voiced support for the plan and said the Board of Supervisors will consider funding

Santa Barbara County Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavaganino updates the Santa Maria City Council about plans to ask the Board of Supervisors to OK funding for a comprehensive action plan. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavaganino updates the Santa Maria City Council about plans to ask the Board of Supervisors to OK funding for a comprehensive action plan.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Maria City Council agreed to form a Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Safety, another step in the battle to stem violence in the community.

Council members voted unanimously Tuesday night to create the task force, which is expected to include key elected officials and top representatives of agencies in the community. 

The task force creation follows last year’s hiring of an outreach coordinator, when the city also decided it also needed a comprehensive action plan to address issues surrounded youth violence.

Last year, city leaders and other community representatives met with California Cities Violence Prevention Network, led by Ernesto Olivares, who hails from Santa Rosa and led similar anti-violence efforts in his community.

“What ended up being the outcome of this was an opportunity for us to see and model the city of Santa Rosa and other cities that created a mayor’s task force to set the policy and the tone for a group effort in approaching the issue of youth violence,” Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada.

The task force, or policy advisory committee, is designed to have decision-makers who can commit resources toward quelling violence, Posada said. 

“It’s a very long process,” Posada said, adding it could take six months to get the comprehensive plan created before it’s ready for implementation. 

Santa Maria will contract with the California Cities Violence Prevention Network to craft a comprehensive plan address issues surrounding youth violence, Posada said.

Santa Maria city staff members who will work closely with the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Safety include Recreation Services Manager Teresa Reyburn, police Lt. Dan Cohen and Outreach Coordinator Eddie Galarza. Not pictured is Deputy City Manager Jason Stilwell. Click to view larger
Santa Maria city staff members who will work closely with the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Safety include Recreation Services Manager Teresa Reyburn, police Lt. Dan Cohen and Outreach Coordinator Eddie Galarza. Not pictured is Deputy City Manager Jason Stilwell. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

In choosing this path, the city declined to pair with Santa Barbara County in using $75,000 to create an anti-gang task force similar to one in operating on the South Coast.

However, Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino showed up Tuesday to offer his support — and some funding for Santa Maria’s new approach.

During the Feb. 14 meeting, Lavagnino said, the Board of Supervisors will formally consider the $22,000 request to pay for the California Cities Violence Prevention Network to develop a strategic plan.

“I see no problem with us getting a portion of that ($75,000) used for this,” Lavagnino said. “I talked to our CEO (Mona Miyasato) already and she is 100 percent in support.”

The remainder of the $75,000 would be set aside until the strategic plan is crafted, Lavagnino said.

Plans to hire a county outreach coordinator apparently have been dropped, Posada said. 

Mayor Alice Patino presides over Tuesday’s Santa Maria City Council meeting where members agreed to form the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Safety. Click to view larger
Mayor Alice Patino presides over Tuesday’s Santa Maria City Council meeting where members agreed to form the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Safety. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Last summer, some city leaders balked at the county plan, worrying about not having control, and chose to hire an outreach coordinator. 

The Mayor’s Task Force is expected to meet monthly initially, Posada added.

In addition to the task force, a technical resource committee will be made up of community groups and agencies proving programs and services for youths and families, Posada said.

Some key city staff members will serve on the task force including police Lt. Dan Cohen, Recreation Services Manager Teresa Rayburn and Deputy City Manager Jason Stilwell.

Terri Zuniga, a former councilwoman, said the new plan needs to include outcomes specific to the Santa Maria Valley.

“Our community’s hopeful that as a result of your efforts and your support of this project that we’ll see  positive results,” Zuniga added.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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