Since the city released the results of their consultant’s research in early March, the City Council has been roasted for its alleged waste of scarce funds on such an obvious issue, none as much as Woodards. There was, I believe, good reason for the public reaction, especially when the results seemed so predictable (my own response was a succinct, “Duh”).
Surprisingly, (at least to me) Councilwoman Woodards’ restrained answer was worth the effort. In it she rightly acknowledged the skepticism which had accompanied the costs and contents of the report, conducted by Missouri-based Executive Interface, LLC. Woodards then addressed the need to quantify the gang problem not as a regional issue, but on a more manageable, Tacoma-sized, level. She made some solid points.
Woodards’ measured reasoning was not without some fluff, however: “What we found through the assessment is that we can effect the biggest change in Tacoma’s gang problem by intervening and offering options other than gang membership” How much did we waste on that nugget?
It was only when Woodards finally pointed out the real reason the City Council requested a study on the gang problem – to qualify for a federal grant – that the figurative wind fell out of my indignant sails. She wrote, “The U.S. Department of Justice has grant funding available for gang-prevention and intervention efforts. Without a community gang assessment, Tacoma cannot qualify for some of this funding.”
In other words, Tacoma needs to spend money studying a problem it already should have quantified, because the expense is necessary to qualify for federal money. Ohhhh.
In fact, when I read my original column on the gang study (3/7), I found a comment that foreshadowed Councilwoman Woodards’ revelation. A reader with the account name Estuterry wrote, “Has it occurred to anyone that the possibiity exists there is funding of some sort which cannot be applied for until a study is completed and a criteria is met?”
Quite so, Estuterry. Or, should I say, Councilwoman Woodard! (Cue dramatic music…or not.)
All joking aside, the important issue of gang violence is worth the attention this sidebar brings to it. As for the report itself, the money is spent, the study is done and the gang problem is real. Councilwoman Woodards and her colleagues on the council should be given the opportunity to demonstrate that the expensive study will be a big enough lure to land a federal grant.
So excuse our stale wit, our “duhs” and general negativity. No more jokes about paying a consultant to see if Tacoma has an aroma or spending money on a test for salt in the Sound. You have put us (or at least me) in our place.