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Grant To Combat Youth Violence In Jeopardy

By Paul Tuthill


Springfield, MA – The city of Springfield Massachusetts, which was expected to benefit from a youth violence initiative championed by Governor Deval Patrick, is in danger of being shut out of funding. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.

A Massachusetts state official is threatening to revoke an 800 thousand dollar grant to combat youth violence that was awarded to the city of Springfield late last year. In a letter to Springfield's mayor this week, Massachusetts Health and Human Services Undersecretary Marilyn Anderson Chase warns the grant will be in jeopardy if the city does not agree to accept the money by the end of the month.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno says the city council has twice been asked since December to accept the money, and twice has sent the request off to committee for study.
Governor Deval Patrick met with a group of young people in Springfield a year ago as he was formulating the strategy to combat youth violence. The governor invited Mayor Sarno to attend the announcement of the initiative in Boston last spring. Chase, who is the governor's point person for the initiative has visited Springfield several times to talk up the program. Chase informed Mayor Sarno she was cancelling a visit to Springfield scheduled for next week because of the discord over the grant.
City Councilors have questioned why the administration plans to give the largest share of the grant, 350 thousand dollars to Roca, an eastern Massachusetts based organization that opened a Springfield office just last year. Representatives of AWAKE, a community based group have complained about being shut out of the funding. Mayor Sarno said Roca's intervention program that focuses on young males most prone to violence matches the grant criteria
Springfield City Councilor Thomas Ashe, who chairs the Public Safety Committee says the committee will recommend the full council accept the 800 thousand dollars at a special meeting that has been hastily scheduled for Monday
City Councilor Melvin Edwards, who twice voted to refer the grant acceptance to committee, says the matter has been blown out of proportion.
Springfield was one of 11 cities awarded a total of 10 million dollars from the governor's Safe and Successful Youth Initiative. The only other city in western Massachusetts to get a grant was Holyoke, which received 440 thousand dollars.
Chase has pledged the Patrick administration will hold cites that get funding accountable to achieve demonstrable results in reducing youth violence The governor said in his state of the state address this week that he will seek more funding for the initiative in next year's budget.