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Anti-gang funding request supported by council

Nate Bridges of Sunnyside's Promise appeared before the Sunnyside City Council last night at a workshop to ask for more funding from the city.

Approximately 11 months ago Sunnyside's Promise set out on a plan to help do something about the city's gang problem. An executive advisory committee was formed, consisting of Bridges, two members from the Sunnyside School District, two representatives from the city and two representatives from Sunnyside Community Hospital. The committee's task was to figure out how to make services available that would reduce gang activity, reduce drug and alcohol abuse and create more programs for Sunnyside youth.

The committee came up with a plan and asked the city, the hospital and the school district to pony up $15,000 each to get this plan off the ground.

Bridges told the council the committee's initial priority was to get a permanent executive director for Sunnyside's Promise. Mark Baysinger was recently hired to fill that role.

The $45,000 was to last until June 30 and if the group needed more, they were to come back and ask. Bridges said most of that money is still available. But, Bridges said, with the hiring of Baysinger and a planned move for Sunnyside's Promises to its own building, Bridges asked for an additional $20,000 from each partner to get things going.

The money will ensure the director is available for at least the next 12 months. The money will also be used to give kids other alternatives than gangs. Bridges said the gang problem can be solved if the supply of new recruits can be cut off.

Prevention and some intervention will be used for kids at risk.

"We're all partners in this thing," Bridges said. "As we make this a safe community we can market it as a safe community."

This in turn will help bring people and businesses to the area, which will increase the city's tax base, he added.

Council members were on board with the proposal. Since the presentation came during a workshop the council could not take action but directed Sunnyside City Manager Jim Bridges to see if funds could be made available.

Bridges asked that the city look for the money some other place than the police department budget, adding it was counterproductive to take away money from the suppression side.

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