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News :: Organizing : Politics : Race : Social Welfare
Boston City Council's White Majority Abandons Youth of Color
30 Jun 2006
Several hundred Boston youth, youth workers and community members converged on Boston City Hall on Wednesday June 28th to demand a budget that would offer more job opportunities to young people.
Several hundred Boston youth, youth workers and community members converged on Boston City Hall on Wednesday June 28th to demand a budget that would offer more job opportunities to young people. The thirteen city councilors (nine district councilors and four "at-large" or citywide councilors) are required to vote on the mayor's budget each year.

The youth and their supporters wanted the city councilors to reject the budget until the mayor's administration agreed to add more money for summer jobs and teen programs. As it stands, the budget only allows for 9,000 jobs for 22,000 documented teens in the greater Boston area and only 190 jobs for youth with CORI. By comparison, the budget provided for approximately 150 new policemen which many youth and organizers fear will only exacerbate the problem.

Youth from many community organizations packed the room including from Project Hip Hop, Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project (REEP), Alternatives for Community Environments (ACE) and the Hyde Square Task Force.

The youth expressed concern about rising urban violence in their communities, and want the city to increase funding for youth job programs. So far this year, 36 young people have fallen victim to violence. Over the past several years, funding for these types of youth programs has been drastically reduced. Community organizers point out that this is one reason for the spike in youth violence across the city.

Citizens attending the council session were informed that they could sit and listen but could not "express approval or disapproval in any way" at anything the city councilors said. Youth held yellow and white pieces of paper with messages for city officials reading, "Prove that youth are a priority to you!" "An additional $1.2 million for youth jobs will increase summer safety" and "Don't wait 'til were dead".

In earily 2005 the Council formed a new committee on Youth Violence Prevention chaired by Councilor Ross (of district 8). The four committee hearings were attended by hundreds of youth from around Boston. After the hearings Councilor Ross recommended that the budget should indeed be increased to at least $5 million dollars (with an additional $1,2 million) for youth jobs.

During the council session, it became clear that the majority of the city councilors were determined to ignore the youth and community concerns and pass the budget without alteration. The vote broke down on racial lines, with the four councilors of color (Felix Arroyo, Chuck Turner, Charles Yancey, and Sam Yoon) voting to oppose the budget, and the white majority voting to pass it. Councilor Ross went against his own recommendations and voted to pass the Mayor’s budget.

The young people began chanting for their elected officials to listen to them and vote immediately on the budget. A short time later Councilor McDermott (of Allston-Brighton) addressed the chamber and not so subtlety berated the youth, saying it was not the cities responsibility to create any summer jobs for them. During his comments many of the citizens chose to silently turn their backs on the proceeding. At that point, council president Michael Flaherty order the council chambers be cleared and all youth, citizens and media removed from the room by police. They then voted to pass the budget, 9 to 4.

Outside the building youth and supporters gathered for an impromptu meeting to discuss their next steps in challenging the city on this issue. In contrast to the lack of citizen participation allowed inside city hall this meeting was a welcome and refreshing example of direct participation and democracy. Youth took turns voicing options, suggestions and plans of action. They decided to keep fighting despite the budget vote.

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