Friday, August 5, 2011

Bloomberg: Let's invest in young Latino and Black Men

Time to shine the light on the commendable effort by New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg on reaching out to his city's highly marginalized young Latino and African-American males.

To further underscore his commitment, Bloomberg is reaching into his own very deep pockets - to the tune of 30 million smackers - to help finance the project.

To be fair, his efforts represent a tiny drop in the bucket. As the chasm of disparity between this demographic and mainstream America grows, we need more programs like this to address the crisis. We all know preventive medicine is cheaper than treatment medicine; hence, investing in our youth is cheaper and pays more long-term dividends than just locking them up.

Hats off to Mr. Bloomberg:

The administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a blunt acknowledgment that thousands of young black and Latino men are cut off from New York’s civic, educational and economic life, plans to spend nearly $130 million on far-reaching measures to improve their circumstances.

The program, the most ambitious policy push of Mr. Bloomberg’s third term, would overhaul how the government interacts with a population of about 315,000 New Yorkers who are disproportionately undereducated, incarcerated and unemployed.

To pay for the endeavor in a time of fiscal austerity, the city is relying on an unusual source: Mr. Bloomberg himself, who intends to use his personal fortune to cover about a quarter of the cost, city officials said. A $30 million contribution from Mr. Bloomberg’s foundation would be matched by that of a fellow billionaire, George Soros, a hedge fund manager, with the remainder being paid for by the city.

Starting this fall, the administration said it would place job-recruitment centers in public-housing complexes where many young black and Latino men live, retrain probation officers in an effort to reduce recidivism, establish new fatherhood classes and assess schools on the academic progress of male black and Latino students.

Mr. Bloomberg plans to announce the three-year program in a speech on Thursday morning in Manhattan, in which he will declare that “blacks and Latinos are not fully sharing in the promise of American freedom.”

Even as crime has fallen and graduation rates have risen in New York over the past decade, city officials said that black and Latino men, especially those between ages 16 and 24, remained in crisis by nearly every measure, including rates of arrest, school suspension and poverty.

Although the populations of young white, black and Latino men in New York are roughly the same size, 84 percent of those in the city’s detention facilities and nearly all of those admitted to children’s and family services facilities are black and Latino youth, according to data from the Bloomberg administration. “The magnitude of the disparities is stunning,” said Linda I. Gibbs, the deputy mayor for health and human services. “It’s tragic.”
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