Town Hall Meeting

In August 2015 Commissioners James and Neering held their first Town Hall Meeting which was considered a success with between 100-125 residents in attendance.

On December 8, 2015 the second Town Hall Meeting was held, which I attended.
When I pulled into the parking lot and saw the number of cars present I believe the meeting was going to be another success. When I walked into the building and asked where the Commission’s meetings were being held I was directed to another building with approximately 12 cars in the parking lot.

There was a total of 22 people in attendance which included Commissioners James, Neering, and Moffitt along with Pastor Kevin Jones, Assistant Pastor of the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church.
In the audience was Commissioner Ryan, two representatives from the Palm Beach County Gang Unit, and a representative from the Children’s Service Council along with two young women with teenage boys.
One of these young boys stood out as he spoke of his fears and hopes for his neighborhood.  He is being raised in a two-parent household and maintains a 4.0 grade average, and proudly mentioned his grandfather was a WPB Police Officer. One woman spoke and told the story of how her son was murdered.

Pastor Jones spoke of the “Mayor’s Village Initiative” and all that it offers. Below are the highlights of that initiative.

Mayor’s Village Initiative

The Mayor’s Village initiative is a city of West Palm Beach initiative which focuses on the plight of African American boys and young men.
The goal of the initiative is to prevent and reduce youth violence and to improve the outcomes of African American boys and young men in targeted areas of the city. The village consist of government agencies, businesses, concerned citizens, the faith community, nonprofits, philanthropy, and schools. The city will act as an umbrella and pull its vast resources together to help address this issue. At this time, we are focusing primarily on the North End of the city.
The current programs under the initiative reads.

Community and Police Dialogues- The dialogues consist of 4 to 5 week conversations between police officers, community residents, and community social service providers. These dialogues create a safe and and non-confrontational space for these individuals to develop trust, better understand each other’s experiences, and work together on solutions to build positive relationships between law enforcement’s and residents.

Kids & Cops Workshop- This workshop is a discussion between African American teenage boys and police officers. It is an opportunity for the youth to express their thoughts and feelings about their relationship with law enforcement. Additionally, it allows the young men to hear from police officers about their roles in the community.

Neighborhood Accountability Board (NAB)–  This program is geared for youth 12 to 18 years of age. The goal is for the youth to repair the harm that was caused in the community. A child that commits a first time misdemeanor offense qualifies for this program. They must be referred by the Police Department or the State Attorney’s Office. The conference consist of the offender and their parents, the victim (if they want to attend), and a board that is comprised of trained neighborhood volunteers. They talk about the offense and agree on appropriate sanctions. The youth have approximately 90 days to complete their assigned sanctions. If they complete the sanctions, the offense will not be on the record.

Operation Youth Violence: Reduction, Intervention, and Prevention:  The West Palm Beach Police Department developed this program in response to the high number of arrest concerning our inner city youth. The program is geared toward first-time felony offenders between the ages of 13 to 24. The goal is to provide them with the necessary resources and mentoring in hopes that they will become productive members of the community. This is a collaborative effort between government agencies, the faith community, and other public / private entities. These youth are offered the opportunity to enroll in GED programs, job readiness courses, counseling, and subsidized employment. These services are provided through the Urban League of Palm Beach County and the Pleasant City Youth Empowerment Center.

Workforce Development Program:  The goal of this program is to connect residents to employment. The goal is also to assist them in overcoming any barriers to obtaining employment. We have educational institutions, community groups, and the private sector at the table supporting this program. Many of the jobs require training and it is our goal that we make training available for the residents knowing that, at the end of the training, a job is waiting.

All the information above was available and the Commissioner’s and Pastor waiting to share with residents. Unfortunately, too few residents received the message.

The North End of the city is made up of thousands of hard-working residents who just want peace, to work and provide for their families. They should not live in fear because their children want to play in the front yard.

Unfortunately there are a handful of criminal types and it appears that peace is not on their agenda. A good example: On Sunday December 6, two 18 year old men were shot on the street in the North End. Neither man will cooperate with the police. Can the city expect retaliation in that shooting in the coming weeks?

The North End of the city has a problem and I don’t believe the residents can fix it without the help of the police department. The police department cannot fix the problem without the help of the residents. What are we waiting for?

The last Peace in the Street March for 2015 is scheduled to be held on Thursday Dec.17 starting at 5:15 PM. Please meet @ Coleman Park Community Center located at 1116 21st. St. WPB Fl;  where residents and police march together.  Working together = success