Last Monday, more than 100 people gathered in north Long Beach to call for more city money dedicated to children and youth in Long Beach.
As part of the Invest In Youth Campaign led by Khmer Girls in Action (KGA), the event offered a platform for youth and residents to endorse the campaign and participate in various call-to-action activities.
At the meeting, at the Ninth Council District field office, people first talked about the proposed Fiscal 2019 budget where Mayor Robert Garcia has proposed $200,000 in one-time funding to support programs for youth wellbeing through a Participatory Budgeting process. With a goal to provide even more resources for youth, KGA is urging city leaders to increase the amount to $500,000. The hashtag, #500kForLBYouth, has been created for this initiative.
One of the resources KGA is working towards is to create a Youth Center.
“My biggest focus is to advocate for a youth development center for organizations like KGA to help youth, so that they have a safe place to go and don’t struggle alone with their problems,” Alexis Chem, a KGA leader, said. “One day there will be this big place where youth can go to get help, find yourself and see what your life potentially can be. I would like to be a mentor at that center.”
In the meantime, KGA said the most immediate goal is to help secure a youth fund.
According to a recent “Invest In Youth” survey, 83% of respondents believe that community-based youth development programs are the best way to support youth. Though survey results show that only 18% of respondents believe that increasing police presence in neighborhoods is the best way to make the community safer, much more money is spent on police enforcement compared to youth development. Currently, the city spends $170 per youth on positive youth development compared to $10,514 per youth arrest.
Seven out of 10 respondents supported greater public funding for youth programs, with the top funding priority going towards supplemental academic programs followed by job training and youth leadership/development. The survey included responses from 757 Long Beach residents from all nine City Council districts.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, youth (ages 0-19) make up approximately 27% (127,000) of the 469,793 people living in Long Beach. With youth accounting for a quarter of the population, it seems fitting that budget priorities should include youth voices, speakers said.
"There is a disconnect from what our community sees as budget priorities and what our city invests in,” Chelsea Chhem said. “We believe our elected officials should respond and make the changes needed so that our city spending shows that youth matter!
“This is an important moment in the budget cycle to include youth voices. That’s why we are hosting the Young People’s Budget Hearing.”
In a call to action, residents are encouraged to call elected officials in their district to talk about the importance of the youth fund and call for an increase the one-time seed money of $200,000 to at least $500,000. Residents can also advocate for more youth-friendly decision processes that include youth voices in the city’s budget.
The Youth Budget hearing was cosponsored by Ninth District Councilman Rex Richardson. KGA youth leaders Breana Syakhasone, 15, and Emily Chan, 15, hosted the event.
Richardson, as well as representatives from Congressman Alan Lowenthal’s office and the Long Beach Office of Equity were there as well.