Only Brand Names Need Apply

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In a field with a well-earned reputation for avoiding public intramural squabbles over youth policy, one has nevertheless broken out among the carefully anointed members of the Levitan Youth Policy Network.

The center was established at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore by the estate of Sar Levitan, a relentless proponent of large-scale public interventions on behalf of unemployed youth. Appointed in 1994 to run the center was Marion Pines, a former director of what is now known as Baltimore’s Office of Employment and Development and a prominent national actor in the youth employment field.

Pines convened a currently 33-person group to think about the future and political prospects for services to 16- to 24-year-old disadvantaged youth. In March, one prominent member, Gary Walker, president of Public/Private Ventures, penned what he called “a not pleasant to read (or write)” memo urging a survival-of-the-fittest strategy to expand effective programs for this hard-to-serve, poor and often minority population that is estimated to include about 5 million people.

Walker writes, “Our national culture or self-identity is fundamentally inimical to social policy.” He notes that “individualism is our password” and that “the evidence favors the broader culture’s distrust of social policy. … An advocacy strategy rooted solely in sympathy, guilt or society’s moral obligation toward this age group has inherent weaknesses. … To those of us who have worked in this area, it seems a steady decline [of federal funding] for the past 20 years.”

The best way for aiding 16- to 24-year-old out-of-school and out-of-work youth, Walker says, is to focus on the brand names in the field: Job Corps, YouthBuild and state and local youth service corps. Not viable in the long term are other youth employment programs funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, including the Youth Opportunity Grant (YOG) demonstrations and non-brand-name groups funded through the Workforce Investment Act.

In an earlier P/PV brief (“The Policy Climate for Early Adolescent Initiatives”), Walker writes, “Brand names are the Good Housekeeping Seal of Doability,” citing Big Brothers Big Sisters and Boys & Girls Clubs as groups “in which people have confidence.” Pushing the brand names, Walker believes, is the way to “shape a winning strategy” that is communicated to the public using “less reliance on moral arguments.”

Not making the grade in Walker’s view are the vast array of unaffiliated CBOs, which, although they may belong to a trade group such as the National Youth Employment Coalition (NYEC), have poor prospects for a robust future.

The reaction to Walker’s break with liberal orthodoxy was strong, even unpleasant. Bret Halverson, one non-member of the Levitan Network who has followed Walker’s writings, finds them “cynical and narrow-minded.”

Retorts Walker about that analysis, “It may be wrong, but it isn’t cynical.” The federal budget facts in the youth job-training sector are indisputable, Walker says. “There has been a steady decline since 1979” under the Carter administration.

Steve Trippe, executive director of the Sebastopol, Calif.-based New Ways to Work and chairman of the NYEC, says Walker is “not forward- thinking” and is “not respecting underfunded CBOs.”

Halverson, a former staffer at the United Way in New York City, agrees, adding, “The big hidden problem is there isn’t any money around” to train youth workers employed by the CBOs aiding disadvantaged youth, not their lack of a brand name.

Walker confesses that “my strategy is not one I find morally satisfying. There is a down side [leaving non-affiliated CBOs to fend for themselves] or it wouldn’t be a strategy.”

Walker gets support from Tim Moore, executive director of the Center for Employment and Training in Durham, N.C. He agrees with Walker’s pessimism, noting, “It’s not a pretty picture for youth right now” and cites the loss of a million jobs held by youth in the last two years.

Andy Sum, director of Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies, finds Walker’s analysis “too limited a strategy.” He says that the effect of Job Corps on wages for graduates is “disappointing,” and that YouthBuild has “never been subjected to the same [evaluation] test as other programs.”

“Would I support YouthBuild over everything else? I would not,” Sum says. Walker’s got one thing right, continues Sum: “Nonintensive will not work.” Programs, he says, must involve young participants for well beyond the 200 hours of a typical employment readiness program. “Quirky, anemic ones just can’t do much.” Walker’s “brand programs,” Sum says, at least know “you’ve got to run their model.”

The no-press-allowed (i.e., Youth Today) Youth Policy Network will gather and gab at P/PV’s Philadelphia headquarters this month. Brand-named refreshments will be served. Contact: Levitan (410) 516-7169, www.levitan.org; P/PV: (215) 557-4400, www.ppv.org.

FY ’02: Earmarks Folly: The Sequel

In July, when Congress passed a supplemental appropriation for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, its advertised purpose was to “further recovery from and respond to terrorist attacks on the United States.” Tucked into the bill (H.R. 4775) were a few items illustrating just how much the practice of earmarking funds for children and youth groups has come to be as juvenile as pin the tail on the donkey.

One provision orders a sex change in Seattle. A $250,000 earmark to the local YMCA was switched to the YWCA. Why? “It was just a typo-error,” quips Seattle YWCA Executive Director Rita Ryder. The funds to the “Y” will be used to operate what Congress calls “an at-risk youth center.” Actually, Ryder says, there will be two: one at the Central YWCA; the other at the High Point YWCA.

Wrong agency, wrong number of programs, but as least the earmark’s champion, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), got the state right.

There was no brotherly love evident when Congress earmarked “$150,000 for the American Theater Arts for Youth Inc., Philadelphia, Pa.” Oops, wrong Philadelphia. The no-compete award was intended for Philadelphia, Miss., and the rest of the state. The Philly program does get a $25,000 consolation prize.

Frenzied lobbying for next year’s earmarks will crescendo in September, so the earmark winners back home will be filled with gratitude before they vote in November for their bring-home-the-bacon incumbent, who probably also voted for President George Bush’s $1.35 trillion earmark tax cut for America’s wealthy.

Split is the Verdict

After 16 years of successful collaboration, even 3,000 miles of parched countryside weren’t enough to prevent a clash of egos by the co-directors of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

Out is Vinnie Schiraldi, the CJCJ’s hard-charging D.C.-based advocate who has become one of the most articulate and widely quoted (and real) promoters of progressive crime policies. In at CJCJ as executive director in San Francisco is Dan Macallair, no sloth at raising hell himself.

Together the duo built CJCJ into a $4 million operation with 65 staff, half in California, the rest in D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia. For a decade the two managed one of the youth field’s most difficult organizational setups, delivering well-researched, shin-kicking policy advocacy – often aimed at the very public agencies that fund CJCJ’s direct-service work with delinquent youth and adult offenders.

But CJCJ, says Macallair, needed a growth-induced “restructuring.”

It got one all right.

The CJCJ board of seven (stocked with Macallair’s cronies) decreed at an April meeting in San Francisco that there would a single director – one Daniel Macallair. Schiraldi would become the East Coast director, while then-Executive Director Jodi Schwartz was designated operations director.

No dice, said Schiraldi and Schwartz. Soon after the rupture, Schwartz was gone from San Francisco and Schiraldi (along with his D.C.-based advocacy team that includes Jason Ziedenberg, Tim Roche and Deb Clark) were leaving, along with $1.5 million of CJCJ’s budget.

Now open for business as the Justice Policy Institute, Schiraldi’s shop will be less involved in direct service, focusing instead on influencing public policy. Contact: CJCJ 415-621-5661, www.cjcj.org