LA County Counsel Resigns After 8 Months, a Unique SF Drug Abuse Program for Teens, Public Input on LA Child Safety…and MoreJune 16th, 2015 by Taylor Walker
LA COUNTY COUNSEL MARK SALADINO UNEXPECTEDLY ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION AFTER 8 MONTHS IN OFFICE
Late last week, just eight months after taking office, Los Angeles County Counsel Mark J. Saladino startled nearly everyone by announcing his resignation.
Saladino was hired last October on the recommendation of then-CEO William Fujioka, who some considered a controversial figure in the county.
Supe. Mark Ridley-Thomas, the only board member who voted against hiring Saladino, said there had not been enough of a search for competitors, the board had not agreed to a list of requirements for candidates, and Saladino’s prior legal experience was in corporate finances, lending, taxation and related areas. In fact, in 2013, Saladino had not practiced law in approximately 15 years, since he had taken over the position of county treasurer-tax collector in 1998.
Saladino will be returning to the Department of Treasurer and Tax Collector.
LA County Board of Supervisors had a special meeting Monday, that included public comment, as a step toward appointing an interim County Counsel.
Metropolitan News-Enterprise has the story. Here’s a clip:
Saladino hadn’t practiced law since being appointed county treasurer-tax collector in 1998. State Bar records showed that he took inactive status in 2002 and returned to active status on June 27 of last year, eight days after then-County Counsel John Krattli made public his plans to retire.
Prior to becoming treasurer-tax collector, Saldino was a deputy county counsel, having joined the office in 1990. His prior experience was at large law firms in New York and Los Angeles, in the fields of public finance, corporate finance and securities, bank lending, real estate, taxation and other transactional matters for public and private clients.
A spokesperson for Board of Supervisors Chair Michael Antonovich said the supervisor had no prior notice of Saladino’s intent to resign. Requests for comment from the other four supervisors produced no responses, although longtime board employees said it was virtually unprecedented for a department head to resign without prior notice.
Saladino’s successor will be the ninth person to occupy the post of county counsel since DeWitt Clinton retired in 1998 after 15 years.
Los Angeles County and the Office of the County Counsel are also currently in the middle of a legal battle against the ACLU and civilian watchdog Eric Preven, who are demanding that County Counsel disclose exact dollar amounts paid to private law firms in lawsuits filed against the LASD and its personnel. (Read more about that: here.)
SAN FRANCISCO SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROGRAM HELPS ADDICTED KIDS GRADUALLY CURB DRUG USE THROUGH JUDGMENT-FREE, “HARM-REDUCTION” APPROACH
San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point Youth Foundation helps kids ease out of substance abuse, in a neighborhood beset by violence, where 39% of residents live below the poverty line.
The Foundation’s program, Youth Moving Forward, provides counseling and substance abuse treatment to kids 13-17, using innovative “harm-reduction” strategies that focus on preventing harm that results from drug abuse, rather than specifically targeting the drug use.
The program provides a judgment-free, safe space for kids and connects them with free sports programs and other activities as alternatives to drug use.
Youth Today’s Sarah Zahedi has more on the program, which is funded by the SF Department of Health. Here’s a clip:
“Our goal is for them to reduce their use,” said counselor Julia Barboza. “So instead of [their] smoking five times, we say, ‘How about you do it four times?’ We meet them where they are at so to not have them totally quit but to reduce their use. In the process, they are not aware that they are actually going to stop.”
Johnson agreed she did not even know she was in a substance abuse treatment program when she was going to talk to her counselor.
“They don’t call it a drug treatment program. They just tell us that they are there for us to talk to,” Johnson said. “It was just a safe space and seeing it that way helped because it doesn’t scare you away.”
For this reason, youth services program director James McElroy said the counselors make it a point to avoid calling Youth Moving Forward a drug treatment program.
“We don’t want these youth to walk around thinking something is wrong with them if they decide to take part in our services,” he said. “We aren’t here to judge. We are here to help them achieve what they are trying to achieve in life.”
To do so, the program also makes a point of referring youth to social activities such as sports, exercise and field trips as an alternative to drug use.
“A lot of the times, the youth’s substance abuse problem comes from the kid not having anything else to do,” McElroy said. “We want to make sure we promote activities a youth is interested in so they can do something productive with their time at no cost.”
The program’s five counselors serve approximately 80 clients per year. Barboza said their success is due to the bond each counselor shares with the youth.
“We call them our kids versus our clients because they spend most of their time with us,” Barboza said. “At a lot of agencies, you don’t see that, kids just come in and out. Here, we do more than counsel kids and just sit in an office to help them reduce their use. We cook for them when they are hungry, we clothe them when they need clothes, we shelter them when they need shelter.”
CHILD WELFARE CZAR HOLDS MEETING IN COMPTON TO GATHER INPUT FROM PUBLIC ON BOOSTING CHILD SAFETY
The Los Angeles County Office of Child Protection held a meeting in Compton for members of the public (72 in attendance) to brainstorm and give input on a strategic plan to boost child safety and welfare in LA County.
The strategic plan was one of 163 recommendations made by a Blue Ribbon Commission on Child Protection convened to jumpstart reform efforts in the county child welfare system.
Among the ideas submitted by community members was a child safety mobile app.
The Chronicle of Social Change’s Holden Slattery has the story. Here’s a clip:
Attendees included employees and directors of numerous government agencies and local nonprofit organizations. The groups focused on the pantheon of child welfare goals: child maltreatment prevention, finding permanency for children in the system, safety and well-being. After they posted their objectives on the wall, attendees used stickers to vote on their favorites—the ones they would like to see in the strategic plan.
That strategic plan, itself, was one of the 163 recommendations made by the BRC in its 2014 report, which scored numerous headlines for decrying the county’s child welfare system as “in a state of emergency.”
But the Office of Child Protection wants more recommendations—ones that reflect the voices of people in locations throughout the county, according to Interim Child Protection Director Fesia Davenport.
“We know that the Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations are going to pre-populate many areas of the strategic plan, so we’re looking for ideas for the gaps,” Davenport said.
STATE SEES RESULTS AFTER INVESTING IN REDUCING CRIME IN VIOLENCE-PLAGUED OAKLAND
The $2 million California spent on crime-reduction efforts in Oakland last year appears to have paid off. According to 2014 end of year crime reports, homicides in Oakland were down 11%, shootings down 13%, and burglaries and robberies dropped a combined 30%.
The $1.3 million of the state money has beefed up existing anti-recidivism programs, but a portion was also spent launching new pilot programs.
Oakland Local’s A. Scot Bolsinger has the story. here’s a clip:
In a report recently submitted to the city council, Sara Bedford, director of Oakland Unite, said the funds have impacted a wide number of programs.
“It has augmented existing services and allowed for more individuals impacted directly by intense violence to receive important support services,” Bedford wrote.
The money was dispersed among a wide group of service providers and programs that include employment training for formerly incarcerated young adults, academic support for youth on probation, crisis counseling and legal help for domestic violence victims, street outreach and Ceasefire case management, among other programs, according to Beford’s report.
Though the lion’s share of the money went to existing programs, the grant required some funds — not to exceed $340,000 — be used to enter into agreements with new partners, according to Bedford’s report.
Halpern-Finnerty highlighted some of the pilot programs funded, like academic assistance for youth on probation through the East Bay Asian Youth Center.
“It got off to a good start and went well. This summer kids got interested, so we’re looking into something that is worth funding in the next cycle,” she said.
Halpern-Finnerty said the request for proposal funding process under the recently passed Measure Z encourages innovative new projects that may not have been situated to benefit from the one-time funding grant. On Friday, Oakland Unite submitted plans for a new innovation fund under Measure Z that would create a foothold for new ideas and innovation to reduce violence.