Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Tragedy That Must Never Be Repeated

My heart and prayers goes out to the Bologna family. As a parent, I shudder to even think of losing my son or daughter but to lose three members of one’s family is pain and mourning beyond imagination.

The murders of the Anthony, Michael and Matthew Bologna have shaken San Francisco and especially Excelsior District to its core. The Bologna family is known and loved by many in the community. This working class family has given so much to the neighborhood to its youth and schools. Anthony Bologna grew up in this neighborhood and many long term Excelsior residents went to school, coached and played ball with him. He and his sons, Michael and Matthew were truly respected and loved by peers and adults alike. How can such horrible things happen to such good people?

This terrible tragedy has left the neighborhood with a palpable sense of outrage, hurt, fear and disbelief. Many of us feel helpless at the senselessness of these killings. However, there is much that we can do.

The best thing we can do at this moment is happening. People are talking to one another in affirming ways. Folks across the Excelsior are expressing compassion and sympathy for the Bologna family and acknowledging our common fears for our own loved ones. This communication is a great step towards making lasting change. People are generally asking the following questions: How do we best support the Bologna family in their suffering? How do we protect our family members against such senseless violence? How do we talk to our kids about it and when is it appropriate to discuss it with young children? What should the city’s do and who is responsible? How will the city ensure that this never happens again?

The city has been grappling with such terrible violence for at least four years now. It’s high time to come up with a plan to deal with it.

First off, it’s important to know that policing is only one part of the solution to public safety and violence prevention, a major part but not the only part. There is a great need for police suppression efforts and investigations to clear cases for prosecution. Police and community working better together in a closer more trusting relationship is a vital ingredient to overall public safety.

We also need to ensure there are opportunities for people to have better choices away from criminal activity, for community serving organizations to support people with greater access to education and employment -- two major pathways out of these mean streets. District 11 lacks these services and many others.

What we do not lack are neighborhood organizations like Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, the San Francisco Organizing Project and ACORN as well as institutions like our schools and churches that can play a vital role in bringing about change. We have many kinds of artists from painters, writers and hip hop musicians and dancers. We have people who volunteer like crazy in our schools and community based organizations, but we have not always come together to ask the big questions about how we can improve our communities and neighborhoods. Such comprehensive discussions are important first steps for developing long-term plans for community building and overall public safety.

Here are is my vision for increased public safety for all of District 11:

Strengthen Community Policing and Community Police Relations
  • Strengthen community policing efforts by fostering more trustful relations between the community and police.
  • Set high standards for interaction between foot beat officers and neighborhood organizations, merchants and residents.
  • Create a neighborhood community police relations plan with a public/police committee oversight on staffing levels and deployment.

Increase Neighborhood Participation
  • Hold annual neighborhood violence prevention summits to craft and update an overall violence prevention plan.
  • Involve organizations and institutions from across the district in the summit and the formation of the plan.
  • Share ways neighborhood residents can increase communication and neighborhood watch programs. The city must ensure support across ethnic divisions which all too often exist and may impede such efforts.
  • Share techniques and skills for residents to recognize the signs of activities that may lead to violence.
  • Provide schools with information regarding violence prevention strategies; involve school site councils in planning efforts.
  • Increase greater coordination among community groups and community based organizations.

Provide Reentry and Criminal Justice Services and Reduce Recidivism
  • Provide adequate levels of supervision and case management for people on probation or at risk of involvement in the justice system.
  • Provide greater access to jobs and vocational training for people on probation and at risk of involvement in the justice system.
  • Provide adequate resources for probation officers and set high standards for outcomes and accountability for juvenile and adult probation officers working with people on probation.
  • Increase supports for people on probation to finish education such as high school equivalency or to seek higher education.
  • Strengthen restorative justice responses to graffiti and petty criminal activity that can lead to greater criminal activity including violent crime.

Increase Street Outreach Efforts
  • Intensify street outreach effort for youth at risk of involvement in criminal and violent activity.

Provide Greater Opportunities for Youth and Young Adults in District 11
  • Provide more recreational and educational opportunities for District 11 youth such as sports, after school programs and college prep programs. Ensure that girls are served as much as boys.
  • Provide greater arts and musical outlets for District 11 youth. Such outlets must be known and accessed by youth across the district.
  • Provide greater connection to jobs and job training for District 11 youth. Create a one stop to serve youth in the Ingleside and Excelsior neighborhoods.
Strengthen Educational Facilities and Involve the School District
  • Provide early childhood education that can have lasting impact on academic performance. Invest in childcare facilities and center-based childcare.
  • Provide conflict mediation classes in all public schools K-12.
  • Involve students in neighborhood services programs from clean and beautification efforts to neighborhood outreach and tutoring younger students.
  • Welcome faculty and administrators' involvement in community events and services.
  • Convene neighborhood school administrators in violence prevention planning efforts.

Provide Greater Family Support
  • Acknowledge that many families are struggling with parenting, many for lack of time, and provide greater access to parenting classes and family support services.

Involve More Children and Youth in Solutions
  • Children and youth have great ideas for solutions to violence, involve their energy and talent in neighborhood planning and advocacy efforts.
  • Support greater classroom involvement in community projects that can lead to neighborhood revitalization, safety and cleanliness.

Ensure Greater Accountability
  • Set high levels of accountability for police department and community based organizations to show evidence of change in tactics and behaviors to uproot violence.

If District 11 were to do these things in a coordinated way, we could do much to enhance our safety. We could also provide a national model for how neighborhoods can respond to a tragedy and violence in general. We owe it to all the residents of our district but especially to the Bologna family that tragedies like this never happen again.

15 comments:

Green G said...

Greater lighting also has a big impact on crime. The simple solution of increased street lighting has been shown to reduce crime by 20%.

Mixed-use and walkable neighborhoods also help: if people are walking in their community throughout the day--instead of sealed away in a car away from everyone else--this "eyes on the street" keeps everyone more safe.

Community11 said...

Thank you John Avalos for helping to save the Trauma Recovery Center, so that people like Danielle Bologna can access the services they need to psychologically deal with this type of tragedy.

Twice, the Trauma Recovery Center was threatened with closure due to budget cuts and twice John stepped to the plate at City Hall to save the program.

http://www.traumarecoverycenter.com/

Thanks again!

Matt said...

I'm not sure how much control you would have over this issue as a Supervisor, but the white elephant in the room seems to be decreasing housing prices.

Since District 11 is full of homeowners who took out a loan and bought their houses during the housing bubble, you may want to develop a program where homeowners could receive assistance from the local government in paying off their loans. Since the federal government is doing this backwards (i.e. bailing out companies like Bear Stearns, Lennar, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, instead of homeowners), maybe local government could pick up the slack. A lot is talked about rent-control and helping renters (which is definately important) but very little is mentioned about suffering homeowners who are deep in debt.

Also, I like the idea of a speculation tax -- something that has the double benefit of keeping prices lower and also bringing in signifigant revenue. Peskin is doing this with the property-transfer tax and perhaps it could be extended to other areas within local purview. I don't know if this is possible but perhaps their could be a speculation tax on gas prices in San Francisco.

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