Pubdate: Tue, 09 Feb 2016
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Jay Schenirer
Note: Jay Schenirer represents District 5 on the Sacramento City 
Council and is the author of the Sacramento Children's Fund Initiative.


Levy on Marijuana Cultivation in Sacramento Would Raise Money for 
Youth Programs

Children's Services Don't Get a Big Enough Share of City Budget

Children Don't Have a Lobbyist, So Council Should Let Voters Decide

Tuesday night, the Sacramento City Council has the opportunity to 
make a statement of its values and priorities with a proposal to 
place a measure on the June 7 ballot to create a dedicated funding 
source for children and youths.

It will provide desperately needed resources to help our young people 
succeed in their education, career and life. The proposal is to place 
a small tax on the cultivation and manufacturing of marijuana. The 
real decision before the council is not whether to tax this industry 
but where to direct the funds.

The need for additional children's services is very real in 
Sacramento, where 29 percent of children live in poverty, 73 percent 
of Sacramento City Unified students qualify for the free or 
reduced-price lunches, and 64 percent of third-graders scored below 
proficiency for English.

We say we are a full-service city, but we aren't for children and 
young people. In 2014-15, the city spent $2.5 million, or less than 1 
percent of its general fund dollars, on services for youths.

While children under 18 are 25 percent of the population, they cannot 
vote and don't have a paid lobbyist. This is why the council should 
place the measure on the ballot so that the voters can ultimately decide.

The proposed measure would place a 5 percent tax on marijuana 
cultivation and manufacturing and generate an estimated $5 million 
annually. To maximize impact, most of the funds would go to 
community-based organizations through a competitive process. To 
ensure quality, each funded program would be evaluated. To ensure 
transparency, the fund would have an oversight committee.

Public safety is incredibly important. That is why most of our 
general fund dollars are directed toward our police and fire 
departments. However, programs that keep children engaged in positive 
learning opportunities also keep them out of police cars. We need 
both a fully funded police department and a robust set of prevention programs.

The measure has broad support from community-based organizations and 
nonprofits that work with children and youths. They see firsthand the 
challenges our children face. The measure also is supported by many 
of those in the marijuana industry. They embrace regulation and want 
to contribute to making our city a place where kids thrive.

We all want a full-service, first-class city. However, if we are ever 
going to get there, it will be because of investments we make in 
human infrastructure, not just physical infrastructure. Those 
investments need to start with our city's youngest and most in need.

Tuesday night, we can do more than talk about how much we value 
children. We can act.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom