Supporting youth programs should be a priority

Jeff vonKaenel

Kids today. They don’t clean their rooms. They spend too much time texting instead of doing their homework. And I’ll never understand why they continue to spend their allowance on candy and shoes instead of donating to political campaigns.

All right, that last one is sarcasm. But consider: Some of the best times of your youth were spent playing sports or making art as part of youth programs. As a kid who swam, played Little League, and won library reading contests, I can tell you I am so grateful that my parents’ generation was willing to pay good money to support youth programs.

And I am ashamed that my generation has not done the same for our kids.

The problem with youth programs is that they cost money. And they are competing with other government services such as police and fire protection. In politics, money talks. And, again, kids seldom contribute to political campaigns. So when push comes to shove, youth programs are dropped.

Councilman Jay Schenirer has an innovative solution for this problem. His Measure Y, a.k.a. the Sacramento Children’s Fund and Marijuana Business Operations Tax, levies a 5 percent tax on pot cultivation and manufacturing. These tax dollars will go to support youth programs. Schenirer estimates that the tax will bring in approximately $5 million a year.

Opposing Measure Y, which will be on the June ballot, are council members Jeff Harris, Larry Carr and Angelique Ashby, who make the reasonable argument that Measure Y will lock up funds that could go to the general fund. Future councils could find more pressing needs for this money. This is a solid argument. And, generally, I agree that it is a bad idea to freeze funds for one particular area.

However, the city freezes funds all the time. Take the arena, for example.

But there’s a painful political reality here. City leaders get large campaign donations from the city’s unions, particularly police, fire and developers. Spending for police and fire represents a huge chunk of the city’s general fund. But Measure Y can only be used for youth programs, not increased salaries for police and firefighters, from whom many politicians receive significant campaign donations. Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, who is running for mayor, is strongly supported by police and fire unions. But on the campaign trail she touts the fact that she’s a mom; shouldn’t a mom support putting money aside for children’s programs?

I doubt that youth programs will ever make it to the top of the city’s priority list. It is a sad reality of the political world we live in.

Our content is free, but not free to produce

If you value our local news, arts and entertainment coverage, become an SN&R supporter with a one-time or recurring donation. Help us keep our reporters at work, bringing you the stories that need to be told.


Stay Updated

For the latest local news, arts and entertainment, sign up for our newsletter.
We'll tell you the story behind the story.

About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.