May 3, 2012 by David Gillaspie
Monday night at the Water Building, city leaders sit in the round with Power Point squares flashing on opposite walls.
On the other side of the room, parents and kids sit in rows with a bunch of guys mixed in, all waiting their turn for public input, all there to witness. Cutting, not reducing, the wrong program does that. Testimony began with kids and parents.
It was all-American moment for everyone, and when they finished, one of the city people said it might be a good time for the school kids to head home.
After the room cleared a little, the guys waited for the next agenda item. They knew what it was. It was them and they were ready. They looked like an A-Team, tough men with hard faces, guys trained to pay attention.
And they listened hard.
These were guys in the Tigard Police Department. Most stood, untucked shirts covering handcuffs and weapons, looking like the athletes who’d been picked first in sports. They looked varsity, like they knew the rules and knew the streets and how to keep them safe.
While the administrators works with budgets and funds and priorities, it’s unfair to guess who they’d call in a pinch. The same as you and I, we call the police. The guys in the room looked like they knew how to answer that call, like they lived for that call and getting it right.
One young man bridged the gap between the the audience and the city people in front of them. He spoke before the parents and kids left.
Charlie Sandbo took the public input mic for his story. As a student he participated in the youth programs slated for budget cuts today. He’s been a DARE camper, a counselor, and a coordinator. He’s worked with at-risk kids in TOGA, police sponsored after school programs. He’s served the kids who need the food provided by the backpack program.
Sandbo is a Tigard kid who grew into a Tigard man. He attended Phil Lewis, Metzger, Fowler, and Tigard High. He graduated from Willamette University. Listen to him at the mic and you might think he’s a hometown booster. Listen carefully and you’ll know he’s talking about the kids he’s seen changed by the programs.
Instead of going home after school to empty houses and time to fill, the kids who do the after school programs get an idea of what it’s like to see further on down the road.
Charlie Sandbo didn’t preach Monday night. He didn’t judge or condemn. All he did was explain what a little time spent with kids can do. Most of all, he used the sort of examples that might get passed over as anecdotal evidence.
Through his role, and others like him, kids attending DARE camps look forward to being more involved. They want to become counselors. They want to be coordinators. It’s not a stretch to say that kids riding the fence between doing the right thing, or the other thing, need balance. Charlie’s one of the guys who gives it.
Social weight in the form of neglect, inexperience, or peers, pull kids one direction. The counter-weight is community involvement and the sort of attention provided in Tigard youth programs. As easy as it might be to say yes to temptations, it’s just as easy to say yes to positive role models. How many of those do you know?
Charlie is proof that youth programs work. Even though he didn’t come from a shelter, a broken home, or an agency recommendation, he’s the sort of leader who understands the pull on kids. He’s seen friends head down paths he won’t go. He knows that youth programs don’t provide all the answers, but they do provide better questions.
The administrators, the mayor, and the city manager have a most thankless job in creating budget forecasts. That’s what they’re good at. They explain how vulnerable the city is to economic change and who is responsible for public safety. The last thing they want is an apathetic population ignoring their city.
The police force needs to stay on the plus side of crime prevention instead of sliding into hardcore law enforcement. Youth programs work to make it happen.
Better roles for kids make better citizens who want to live in Tigard. They are the future and to treat them as anything less sets the stage for a decline when they move away and stay away.
Keep Tigard strong and vital.
Keep the open dialogue between citizens and the city.
Don’t be surprised if the policeman you call in your hour of need is one of the kids mentored by the youth programs on the chopping block today. Ask if they know Charlie Sandbo. He’s been around youth programs eleven years and plans on staying.