Upcoming Next Week, Part 2: Orange County Work Session on Children’s Services
From District 2 Orange County Commissioner Rod Love
Let me start off this week’s column by saying that the below is addressed to anyone interested in being effective in addressing family and children issues in communities that have demonstrated the necessity of a laser-like focus to be successful.
On October 30th, 2018 at the Commission Chambers at 201 South Rosalind Avenue Orlando, FL 32801, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners will be engaged in a Work Session to address children services. As during the public budget workshops, I am compelled to solicit citizen support for the establishment of Community Empowerment Zones (CEZ) for blighted communities riffled with high juvenile arrests, low performing schools, high incidents of behavioral referrals, high child welfare placements into foster care placements, early learning enrollment of low income families, and an array of undiagnosed children’s services needs.
While there is much that ails impoverished communities, such as the lack of economic opportunities, CEZ has a singular goal that incorporates a hybrid theory of a very successful law enforcement management philosophy called CompStat. CompStat directs the deployment of limited resources within a defined geographical area to address specific data driven needs while achieving maximum effectiveness.
In 2016, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners allocated $250,000 to create a program specifically for small grassroots nonprofit organizations. The Small Scale Citizens’ Review Panel (SSCRP) Funding Program was developed by the Citizen’s Commission for Children (CCC) and is currently being piloted with five nonprofit organizations. The goal of this program is to aid smaller agencies in gaining access to Orange County funding opportunities. I applaud Commissioners Clarke and Siplin for their leadership and efforts in concert with the Board in championing this initiative. In proposing the establishment of Community Empowerment Zones (CEZ), my intent is to build upon the efforts already established and put into the Review Panel program.
I am imploring community and faith leaders as well as all community stakeholders to attend the Work Session to exercise your right to speak in favor of the establishment of CEZ during public comment, which will begin promptly at 9:00 a.m. Those who wish to give public comment may do so by arriving early before 9:00 a.m. on October 30th and completing a speaker card at the desk in front of the Chambers or online. CEZ provides an incredible opportunity to empower community stakeholders to engage in taking personal and community responsibility in their communities.
My father-in-law, who happens to be a pastor, provides spiritual leadership to my family and I, and one particular verse that he shares is applicable for this topic is James 4:2, “You have not because you ask Not”. Let me be clear: CEZ is not welfare, it is economic wellcare. CEZ utilizes existing resources to provide direct services to children and families who are in desperate need of these services.
After Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs proposed $20 million for children’s’ services a few months ago, it has become incumbent on the Board to explore a transformative undertaking specific to being purposeful in addressing lack of economic opportunities and resource effectiveness. In doing so, the Board also has the obligation to ensure that such approach is consistent with its past business logic in expending tax-payer dollars for specific purposes with defined and measurable outcomes.
As I had stated in a memo to my fellow Board members back in July, the timing could not be better for the establishment of a critical services funding formula based on community needs. This formula would be inclusive of the proposed $20 million in new funding for children services and the existing $67 million currently allocated for children services, for a total of approximately $90 million. After the establishment of the funding formula, critical need services could be targeted in geographical areas with documented needs based on empirical data. Several of the identified geographical areas would be designated as CEZ with the specific intent to concentrate children and family services through economic investment in under-served communities. The primary focus areas are: Head Start; child welfare; juvenile delinquency; healthcare disparities; and mental/behavioral health.
In addition, the Board must solidify the commitment to this initiative by codifying it into policy as a mandate to ensure funding appropriations are based on empirical data and specific outcome objectives. To this end, the level of funding for CEZs should commensurate with and proportionate to the level of need as indicated by empirical data in the identified areas.
This is an opportunity to create a new paradigm of social responsibility and accountability through the creation of CEZs that incentivize local community stakeholders to invest directly or indirectly in the creation of human service jobs. The jobs will benefit disadvantaged youth, families, and communities while positively impacting the local economy, and CEZ in particular. Additionally, this initiative places true community responsibility on contractual outcomes that improves quality of life issues in communities decimated by poverty and other related issues. Furthermore, this initiative would also strengthen and develop direct community-based leadership and accountability in the delivery of services to children and families.
We as a Board have a vested interest in moving the needle towards a more effective and efficient use of tax payer dollars. However, we also need the input and perspectives of community stakeholders to carry out this initiative. Talk to your neighbors, friends and family. Ask your pastors and community leaders where they stand on this topic. Will they show up? Will you? Whether you plan to speak or not, I am requesting that everyone wear the color green which symbolizes hope and growth as well as to show your support for this important issue.
I hope to see all of you (again) on October 30th.