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Baltimore moves closer to launching $12M youth fund

City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young is preparing to submit legislation that would bring the city one step closer to distributing money from a $12 million fund for children and teens — about one year after city voters approved the new approach to funding youth programs.

A 34-member task force developing recommendations about how to spend the money will hold its final meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Based on those recommendations, Young plans to submit legislation Nov. 13 that will create a framework for sending money to community organizations that work with young people in Baltimore.

“The thing the council president is most proud of is this process has been completely informed and led by community,” said Lester Davis, a spokesman for Young. “Each meeting the task force conducted was filled to capacity with folks from all over the city. It really is governing not from high on but joining forces with the community. He’s looking forward to unveiling the legislation.”

The task force recommended that Associated Black Charities distribute youth fund grants in the first year of the program. In the second year, Associated Black Charities would design a new organization to do so.

Task force co-chairman Adam Jackson, the CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a Baltimore think tank that focuses on black empowerment, called Associated Black Charities “vital” in a Facebook post.

“ABC is the only philanthropic institution in the region with a racial equity framework to its work,” he wrote. “This means that their frame and approach to distributing resources would be fundamentally rooted in racial equity.”

The task force members include representatives of some of Baltimore's most influential organizations, such as the Abell Foundation and Catholic Charities.

Melissa Schober, a parent and advocate, said she’s watching the process closely and has questions about timing and accountability.

“I’d like to see them go for evidence-based programs and for community-based programs,” she said. “Given that it’s $12 million, I want to make sure that we’re spending the funds really wisely.”

Davis said it’s possible that grants will not go out until next fiscal year. In that case, he said, the money would roll over to next year and the fund would then have more than $24 million to give out.

Mayor Catherine Pugh included money for the youth fund in this year’s budget, which took effect on July 1.

Before she left office, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Young clashed over his plan for the youth fund.

Rawlings-Blake vetoed his first bill, arguing that creating such a fund was fiscally irresponsible. She said dedicating tax dollars for the new fund would tie the hands of future mayors, and in tight budget years could force cuts to core city services.

Nevertheless, the City Council unanimously overrode her veto — the first time since 1982 that Baltimore's council had rejected a mayoral veto. That move put the measure before city voters, who amended the charter last November to approve the fund. More than 80 percent voted in favor.

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

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