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Sunnyside's Promise asked to revise gang proposal

An information blitz to parents and the community about gangs and drugs was at the heart of a proposal Sunnyside's Promise presented yesterday to an executive committee of hospital, school and city representatives.

The local hospital, city and school district have each pledged to give $15,000 to the group that devises the best plan to rid the community of drugs and gangs.

The total annual cost for the package proposed on Tuesday morning would be more than $50,000, including $3,300 in monthly expenses.

The funds would include paying for an employee, attendance at a gang intervention program in Seattle and liability insurance dropped recently due to financial constraints.

The committee is giving Sunnyside's Promise first shot at coming up with a plan to tackle the problems of drugs and gangs.

Yesterday's proposal focused on publishing flyers and using advertisements to inform parents and youth.

Sunnyside's Promise also proposes to take responsibility for National Night Out block parties, saving the city of Sunnyside $4,100 each year.

The agency also seeks to gain access to school administration in presenting information to parents.

Nate Bridges is a liaison between Sunnyside's Promise and the executive committee. He says part of the proposal would include soliciting grants to re-open the community center as a place for activities when children are out of school.

Later in yesterday's meeting, Bridges called on expanding the information outreach to the community regarding gangs.

He said part of the problem is there are some in the "older generation" here who are "Archie Bunker-types," people he says that "feel there should be no Hispanics in Sunnyside."

Rather, Bridges said the older segment of the city's population that feels that way needs to understand that just because a youth wears baggy pants and wears a baseball hat askew does not mean he or she is part of a gang.

Sunnyside School Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole had a couple of concerns with the ideas suggested in the Sunnyside's Promise proposal packet.

First, he said he did not see a vision or plan for tackling with measurable steps the issues of gangs and drugs.

Cole also noted that Sunnyside's Promise was looking at essentially doing the work already being done by the schools and the city.

"The roles are a bit confusing," he told representatives from the non-profit agency. Specifically, he said the school district already does a good job of getting information out to parents. "If it was just a school district problem we could do it ourselves," he said.

If Sunnyside's Promise has information to distribute, Cole said the schools could deal with it pending his review, instead of Sunnyside's Promise participating in teacher-parent conferences, as was proposed yesterday.

Cole told Sunnyside's Promise officials yesterday that the agency has a history of taking on activities that are the responsibility of other groups.

"There are some activities you are holding on to," he said. "Of the 28 (Sunnyside's Promise) activities over the past five years, half of them were the responsibility of other agencies."

Instead, Cole said he'd like to see Sunnyside's Promise act as a hub to facilitate services and governmental agencies in working together on a specific plan with measurable steps and outcomes for ridding the Sunnyside community of gangs and drugs.

Sunnyside Community Hospital CEO Jon Smiley is an executive board member, and he told Sunnyside's Promise officials that he was looking for a plan that combines an organized process with activity. "I don't see that structure," he said.

Sunnyside School Board member Steve Carpenter is a member of the executive committee, and he asked Sunnyside's Promise board members if they felt the agency was up to the challenge of organizing a coordinated attack of prevention, intervention and suppression against drugs and gangs.

Police Chief Ed Radder, chair of the Sunnyside's Promise board, answered in the affirmative. He noted the proposal presented yesterday was an action plan for now until a gang study is completed by Deputy Chief Phil Schenck.

"We have the capacity to do it," Radder replied. "We just need the time to complete the strategic planning process."

John Hughes represents the school district on the Sunnyside's Promise board.

He was less certain of Sunnyside's Promise's capability of mustering a three-pronged effort of prevention, intervention and suppression.

"Who here has time to do that," he said, noting board members and volunteers don't have the time to even take on projects already proposed, such as developing a neighborhood ambassador outreach. "Where do we get that capacity?" he asked.

Hughes says he is "growing less confident" that Sunnyside's Promise is the agency to provide the coordinated effort the executive committee seeks. He says the proposal laid out yesterday is "what we (Sunnyside's Promise) do best" in sharing information with the community and other agencies and "beating the drum" in support of community programs.

Another Sunnyside's Promise board member, Suzi Carpino, wondered if the agency and its volunteers could afford not to take the extra time in coordinating an effort against drugs and gangs.

"We have the talent, the will to do this, we just have different ways of approaching it," she says.

The committee's directive yesterday to Sunnyside's Promise was to revise its proposal so it reflects a focused effort that provides a measured strategy for taking on gangs and drugs.

The school district, hospital and city have pledged to contribute at least $15,000 each to a coordinated plan of attack that it finds to be the most effective, whether it comes from Sunnyside's Promise or another agency.

"We can't afford to spend money on a program that isn't clearly focused and detailed," Cole said.

Sunnyside's Promise officials will go back to the drawing board this week and notify committee members tomorrow, Thursday, to set up a time for a second presentation.

Bridges said that whether or not it receives the funds, Sunnyside's Promise will continue to offer its programs such as the New Year's Eve event for teens at the high school.

During a meeting last week with the city-hospital-school district committee, Radder said if there was no funding then the agency's future would be a "discussion matter" for the Sunnyside's Promise board of directors.

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