THIS TIME WE'LL GET IT RIGHT. SERIOUSLY. WE MEAN IT.
Once again politicians are reinforcing defeat. According to today's L.A. Daily News, Tony Cardenas and Maxine Waters announced a new bill (H.R. 3526) to "professionalize" gang intervention work and make an effort to make sure that taxpayer money isn't being skimmed, stolen or wasted.
You can set your watch by these periodic announcements that "this time, we'll get it right." The new bill comes on the heels of news that some intervention workers have been rolled up in criminal investigations. In the past few years we've had Hector "Big Weasel" Marroquin and his children, Mario Corona, Marlon "Bow Wow" Jones and Alex Sanchez as poster boys for what can go wrong with gang workers.
If we go back into deep history, that list of violators gets very long indeed.
We haven't heard exactly how this new bill will be any better than the dozens of bills previously passed. The most curious sentence in the Daily News story is, "The congresswoman (Waters) said her bill will use Rodriguez's Valley-based Communities in Schools program as a model for other cities." If you recall, Mario "Big Spyder" Corona was a Communities in Schools intervention worker when he was caught with a pound of meth in 2007. The question is, how bad are the other programs if this is the one they picked as a model?
No doubt, this blog will be accused, (yet again) of throwing all gangsters in the "no hope" category and left to survive on their own. For the record, I absolutely believe in redemption. I have to believe it because I've seen it too many times for it not to be a reality. My main objection is the spending of taxpayer money on these programs. As with most government programs, once they're up and running, and they develop a constituency, and there's a bureaucracy in place whose purpose will dissolve if the programs go away, it's almost impossible to pull the plug. If a program is de-funded, the losers are the most protected and coddled sector of the population - government workers.
My objection would be pointless if these programs were hugely successful. But they're not. The Advancement Project studied these programs for a year and couldn't find a single gang member who walked away from the life. This new bill is nothing less than an admission that the programs don't work. So the answer, according to Waters and Cardenas, is to continue to spend money on them.
Let's do something radical. Let's get some private funding from Tom Hayden, Bill Gates, Ed Asner, The Ford Foundation, The Annenberg Trust, The Pacifica Foundation and other activist groups. Let them create the model, fund it and run it. If they can make it work, I'd have no objection to matching private money with taxpayer money.