AURORA | Aurora lawmakers on Monday said they wanted to further vet recommendations for divvying up $500,000 among groups working to stem youth violence in the metro area.
The council previously decided to earmark the half-million in marijuana tax proceeds for grants to organizations that could partner with the city to prevent and intervene in youth violence and shootings specifically.
Grant applications were reviewed and scored by a panel that consisted of school resource officers from the Aurora Police Department and representatives from the Tri-County Health Department, Aurora Mental Health Center, Colorado Youth Detention Continuum, and Aurora Housing and Community Services.
Earlier this month, the panel’s recommendations earned the support of a council policy committee including councilmembers Juan Marcano and Crystal Murillo, both of whom were absent Monday, and Ruben Medina.
But council members on Monday questioned the chosen organizations’ ties to Aurora, the prioritization of some programs and whether it would be better to reduce the number of awardees so that each could receive more money.
“It concerns me that we’re not going to see the desired impact for some of these because we’re going to give them too little resources. We’re going to be spread a mile wide and an inch deep,” said Councilmember Dustin Zvonek of the seven organizations tabbed to receive $400,000 in funding for intervention work.
A staff slideshow indicated all but one of the organizations were slated to receive less money than they asked for, though Christina Amparan, the city’s youth violence prevention program manager, said the amounts were within a range of acceptable funding requested from each applicant.
Councilmember Angela Lawson was among a handful of council members who also questioned whether the applicants were based in Aurora or had enough of a link to be effective, saying that “some of these organizations are Denver-focused.”
“I want to make sure these organizations are focused on our kids,” Lawson said.
Amparan said five of the seven recommended awardees for intervention work and eight of the 11 awardees for prevention work would be based in Aurora. She also told councilmember Alison Coombs that the two intervention awardees based outside of the city, Fully Liberated Youth and Step Up Youth Corporation, meet youth in schools and at home.
Amparan defended the recommendations drafted by the panel.
“We had a pretty solid panel that reviewed the applications,” she said. “These are solid recommendations based on the review of the gap analysis and services that we know our youth need.”
Council members did not oppose a suggestion to vote on each of the recommendations for intervention funding at an upcoming regular meeting, while recommendations for prevention funding could come back for review at the June 13 study session.
In the meantime, council members will be asked by staff whether they want to fund individual programs at recommended levels, not fund them at all or contribute a different funding amount.
Council members have expressed skepticism toward staff recommendations for solving Aurora’s youth violence crisis in recent months, opting to reorganize the city’s Youth Violence Prevention Program as an anti-gang program and commit more money toward violence intervention versus preventative programming.
In a presentation on the city’s draft strategic plan for dealing with youth violence, which also took place Monday, Amparan told Zvonek and Councilmember Francoise Bergan that grantees would be expected to track information about client outcomes like rates of recidivism and violence in schools.
Zvonek also said he wanted the city to track the prevalence of youth violence generally, arguing that metrics such as the number of clients contacted by outreach workers don’t necessarily measure rates of violence.