The 2020 Capital Improvements Program will contain $6 million to support programs that are intended to help youths develop life and career skills.
More importantly, the programs will be those designed to steer youths away from crime, said Mayor Stan Booker.
Booker said the youth programs will be coordinated by a Blue Ribbon Committee, whose members will be appointed after the CIP election. That committee will be an advisory entity whose members are experts in their fields, such as those in health care or who work with at-risk teens.
There will be at least one council member. Booker has mentioned Ward 7 Councilwoman Onreka Johnson and Ward 1 Councilwoman Mary Ann Hankins as potential members because both women have a background in social work that deals specifically with youth. But, Booker said other members will be those who work with youth and have expertise in projects and programs intended to steer youths away from crime or lifestyles that might lead to crime.
He said Lawton already has programs that would fit into the committee’s defined goals. For example, the Comanche County Health Department had a three-year program, funded through a federal grant, that focused on youths. Booker said that program helped cut juvenile crime by 26 percent, a proven track record “the Blue Ribbon Committee could reinstitute.”
Other potential programs focus on things such as community renewal or emphasize going into neighborhoods rather than taking youths somewhere else. Booker said a mentorship program already coordinated by the community’s fraternities, which matches men with youths who need a guiding hand, could be incorporated into the Blue Ribbon Committee’s work.
Booker’s goal is to have the Blue Ribbon Committee active by summer, and he predicted the first pilot program will be one focused on neighborhoods. But, those decisions will start with the committee.
“We’ll develop guidelines,” he said, of the committee’s first steps.
But, the committee’s work will be advisory only. The projects it proposes will be taken to the City Council for approval. And, those projects must have “measurable results.”
“We don’t want to waste time if they are not working,” Booker said.