In a city where disquieting headlines flow constant, one could be forgiven for overlooking faint glimmers of hope.

Months filled with double-digit homicides and non-fatal shootings deserve a kind of reflection that may feel cheapened by a prolonged focus on seemingly unrelated acts. But an examination of Baltimore's many unsung heroes reveals a nexus that could prove instructive for those of us in government looking to build a stronger city.


In the months since widespread unrest gripped Baltimore, I've witnessed private citizens willingly give of their time, money and comfort for the sake of improving the lives of young people most at risk of falling through society's cracks.

A young woman, who earlier this year started a job in marketing at a health clinic near where rioting began in late April, converted a rundown laundromat into a safe zone, where children go after school to grab a hot meal, read a book and get help with their homework.

A group of dedicated young men organizes weekly anti-violence demonstrations and recently marched through the night from Baltimore to D.C. to spread their message of peace.

These individuals, and countless others who have generously donated their time and money in an attempt to propel Baltimore toward a brighter future, prove that sacrifice is the lifeblood of the city's recovery.

Their singular acts of service must be matched by a similar commitment from the public sector.

I believe that combining the ingenuity of the private sector, with renewed audaciousness from the public sector, offers the perfect prescription to help Baltimore heal and thrive during its post-riot resurgence.

That's why today, I will join my colleagues on the City Council, community and business leaders, parents, and philanthropists to unveil a bold new piece of legislation that would create a permanent funding stream to support outcome-based initiatives benefiting Baltimore's young people.

My Children and Youth Investment Act is designed to do the following:

•Earmark 3 percent of the city's budget to be placed annually in a non-lapsing fund (an amount currently equal to $31 million);

•Establish a framework for assessing the needs of Baltimore's youth population;

•And outline the types of programs eligible for funding, spell out the limits on the usage of dollars and collect data on programs that receive awards.

A number of cities have successfully pursued such an approach.

In 1991, San Francisco became a national model by creating a dedicated Children's Fund that guaranteed funding for children each year in the city budget, while preventing any cuts in previously funded services.

In 1996, residents in Oakland, Calif., voted overwhelmingly to amend the city charter in order to invest millions of dollars in programs and services proven to benefit children and young adults.


And in 2002, voters in Miami's Dade County passed a ballot initiative that has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into similar programming. Residents — in the face of a crippling recession — confirmed their commitment six years later by approving a 10-year, $1 billion tax hike to avoid a planned sunset of the fund.

If approved by the council, and signed by the mayor, Baltimore's Children and Youth Investment Act would appear before voters on the ballot during the November 2016 general election. The citizens of Baltimore, rather than elected officials and their staffs, would be the ultimate deciders about how we commit dollars to improving the lives of our children.

In the coming weeks, the council will engage in an extended and robust conversation about my plan, and the financial implications tied to it.

We should all enter this discussion sober-minded and keenly aware of Baltimore's limited resources, mounting financial obligations and diminished state aid.

With the implementation of a costly body camera program, and a host of other expenditures on the horizon, it is understandable that some among us may view my proposal as too much, too fast. They'll instead advocate for an incremental approach that history indicates would prove anemic.

I believe our city is capable of debating the scale and scope of government's financial participation in the transformation of the lives of our children.

Our citizens expect their government to match the moxie of private citizens who have sacrificed in pursuit of a better Baltimore.

Bernard C. "Jack" Young is president of the Baltimore City Council. His email is councilpresident@baltimorecity.gov; Twitter: PrezJackYoung.