Editor:

How much is life worth to City Manager Rod Gould? Pico Neighborhood residents continue to suffer from gang violence, while at the same time the City Hall staff is working on another bureaucratic scheme to destroy the city’s most effective community-based response to gangs. The statistics and the youth who defend the Pico Youth & Family Center (PYFC) reveal the truth; gang violence and, most importantly, gang membership has decreased since the PYFC opened in 2002. Considering that voters passed Measures Y & YY to “address gang violence,” the city manager is betraying our trust. Does he not care that the PYFC is unique, irreplaceable and essential to protecting our youth from the influence of gangs?

City Hall has wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars to destroy the reputation of PYFC founder Oscar de la Torre, even going as far as having the SMPD lead a biased and unethical investigation of Mr. de la Torre. I have personally witnessed the biased and inaccurate reports by city staff members. These malicious and biased attacks against PYFC and Oscar de la Torre represent a continued pattern of selective enforcement and discrimination from city staff, something I know all too well as my son was 10 years old when he was arrested at school for a fight he did not start. Charges against him were assault with a deadly weapon, but there was no weapon.

These biased reports keep stating that the PYFC is a problem, but the truth is that the PYFC exists because the city of Santa Monica has failed in addressing more than 42 homicides since 1989 in the Pico Neighborhood. [T]he city of Santa Monica has a long history of neglecting the needs of the Pico Neighborhood and low-income residents. This neglect has left a trail of trauma and it’s a shame that in “Silicon Beach” mothers worry about their kids being shot.

Fortunately, we have compassionate leaders like Oscar de la Torre, who takes a stand, and a City Council that knows that you can not arrest yourself out of social problems and that only leaders of a culture can change a culture. The PYFC saves lives and is a positive place in the community. Whose values are we promoting by destroying it?

 

Mary Cornejo

Co-founder of Mothers for Justice

Santa Monica