The framework of a strategic plan to address youth safety in the Santa Maria Valley received partial approval during a Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Safety meeting Monday, but work on a final document still has to be done.

The task force, which was formed earlier this year to address issues of violence and quality of life of young people in the region, released its 39-page document titled the “Together for Youth and Families Strategic Plan” last week for the public’s review.

On Monday, the group officially presented the plan to the task force. Its drafters hoped to receive a recommendation approving the plan so that it could be sent to the Santa Maria City Council for adoption and implementation next month.

The consensus of the policy council Monday was to approve the basic framework of the document but hold off giving its final blessing until the group could review and potentially incorporate the findings of a recent youth town hall meeting hosted by another organization.

The current strategic plan’s framework has four main focuses -- prevention, intervention, enforcement and re-entry -- with nine implementation goals that align with those areas. The goals include increasing opportunities to participate in the community, creating a specialized team of law enforcement personnel to suppress gang activity and reducing the rate of justice-involved youth returning to incarceration.

At the start of Monday’s session, representatives from Central Coast Alliance United for A Sustainable Economy reported on the results of a youth town hall meeting, focused on youth violence, organized by CAUSE on Oct. 12. 

“Since the task force started, I think it has had good intentions but I think it has failed in getting the community’s input,” said Abraham Melendrez, community organizer for CAUSE.

During CAUSE’s town hall event, which included about 80 or 90 attendees, three major topics of concerns were highlighted: creating more facilities for the community to use; improving the relationship between teachers and students; and providing more mental health services. 

CAUSE is working on a report about its town hall’s findings, which Melendrez said should be ready next week. 

Santa Barbara County 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, who has been a part of the task force since its inception and brought part of the initial funding to the effort, attended CAUSE’s town hall.

“I think there is a lot of crosstalk going on," Lavagnino said. "They feel like we are not listening, (and) they feel like we are not respecting their opinion but, to be honest with you, they are saying a lot of the same things we are."

Lavagnino himself suggested the task force hold off on any major approval of the plan until CAUSE submits its report on its town hall effort.

Once necessary changes are made, the plan will be made available for public review, again, early next month. 

City officials hope to approve the plan at a City Council meeting in late November.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.

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