District 11 Supervisor John Avalos wants you! Avalos wants you to use your voice in helping him advocate for neighborhood programs in the OMI. To start working on this, the OMI Neighborhood Summit was held at Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreation Center April 24. Nearly 50 residents, neighborhood activists and organizers of all stripes met to build a coalition for pitching ideas and lending support. Those ideas and support will come in handy because it’s budget season, and the OMI needs all the funding it can get.
“The funding gets cut and cut and cut,” OMI Neighbors In Action President Mary Harris said.
Avalos’ aide Frances Hsieh said the summit went very well. “We had some great feedback, which we are still processing,” Hsieh said. “Overall, there were certainly some ideas that will get incorporated into our work on the budget this year.”
That’s good news because it means that San Francisco’s City Hall is paying attention to what OMI residents need and want. Unfortunately, the budget continues to run a deficit, and all programs remain on the cutting table. Harris publicly thanked Avalos for his leadership and encouraged him to continue reaching out to the OMI.
However, there were detractors. Some resented that programs for seniors and children were so affected by poor funding. For example, some attendees said I.T. Bookman Community Center, in Ocean View, has inadequate services. The Center’s Mayor’s Youth Employment and Education Program was eliminated recently. The lack of summer programs for youth was also a concern during the Q & A session with the supervisor.
“We heard about long-term community needs and needs that would fall outside the annual budget process,” Hsieh said.
Those long term needs include having Avalos continue to offer events like this one. As Harris pointed out, it’s often difficult for OMI residents to get down to City Hall and sit through a four hour meeting to vouch for their needs.
After lunch and a brief presentation about the city’s budget process, everyone broke into groups to brainstorm. Each of those groups counted the services that were provided and what the neighborhoods needed. (In other words, what were the strengths and weaknesses of the OMI.) It was a concentrated effort to get feedback from residents instead of only hearing from the most visible activists who make up the traditional power base of the local non-profits.
At this meeting, members of Avalos’ office were in attendance as were representatives of Out of Site Youth Arts, Department of Children Youth and Families, Ocean Avenue Revitalization Collaborative and YMCA among others. The OMI Family Resource Center provided barbecue chicken and hot dogs, and children enjoyed face painting and a bouncy house.