SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The Sacramento City Council voted unanimously to fund a controversial $1.5 million program to combat gun violence.
Sunday’s deadly shooting at Meadowview Park prompted the special meeting Tuesday night at city hall, preceding the regular council meeting.
Forty-nine-year-old father Ernie Cadena was killed when shots rang out Sunday afternoon at the popular Sacramento neighborhood park.
“He was working hard, he did what he could for his daughter and his girlfriend and his baby to come. I don’t think he expected this at all,” said Cadena’s cousin Inez Sutton.
Cadena was spending the day at the park while his friend C-Bo, a well-known Sacramento rapper, was filming a music video. The artist had announced his video shoot on Instagram, writing, “let’s go Sactown OG’s will be outside.”
“It’s a sad, senseless shooting that shouldn’t have happened,” said close friend Allen Brown.
As families gathered to mourn Tuesday night, inside city hall chambers there was a strong show of support for the Advanced Peace program.
“If we don’t try something different, we’re gonna continue to see these patterns,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
The Advanced Peace program is aimed at combatting gun violence in Sacramento by targeting the roughly 50 young men who are believed to be responsible for most of the gun violence in the city. The program is one modeled after a similar, successful one in Richmond that provides participants with high-level mentorship, daily check-ins, case management, and life-goal plans. Per studies presented to the council, from 2010 to 2016 Richmond saw a 50 percent reduction in firearm assaults and 54 percent reduction in related homicides.
The city is being asked to commit $1.5 million over four years.
“It worked in Richmond, it worked in other cities, I believe it will work here, this is our opportunity,” said Sacramento Pastor Les Simmons.
“If giving them positive mentorship, giving them love that they never had growing up, at the same time giving them alternatives to a life with a gun in your hand, then I’m all for it,” said Nicole Clavo, a mother who lost her son JJ to gun violence in 2016.
But City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby had her concerns over the ambiguous language of the contract.
“There’s nothing in this contract that says they’ll need to work with police or even schools,” said Ashby.
“We have no opportunity to pull out of this contract. None!” she said.
Ashby recommended changes and a one-week delay, but received much pushback from the mayor and other members of the council.
“One week delay down the line is another gang shooting, another victim, so no,” said Mayor Steinberg.
Others have criticized the program for offering stipends to qualified participants for reaching their achievements.
Sheriff Scott Jones said in a statement that reads, in part, “I have fundamental objections to this program. I am against significant taxpayer funding (or any money) being paid to people just to NOT commit crimes or shoot people. They do not engage in law enforcement at all, and I have been told that if they become aware of one of the participants committing crime, they will NOT notify law enforcement.”
The mayor’s office says participants can qualify for a stipend, but the money comes out of the program’s private funding, not taxpayer dollars.
They also add that law enforcement will be involved in helping identify the participants that may need the program.
It was a heated debate that eventually ended in a unanimous show of support, giving families some hope.