Buyer’s Remorse

Voters deserve a chance to repeal Children’s Fund

By R.E. Graswich
April 2024

It didn’t take long for the Children’s Fund to become a poster child for buyer’s remorse.

The Children’s Fund was a feel-good initiative pitched to voters in 2016, 2020 and 2022 as an easy way to steer young people from temptation with after-school programs and wholesome activities.

Money would come from cannabis sales taxes, about $9 million every year.

In other words, demon weed would save the city’s youth.

Harassed by campaign promoters for six years, voters finally approved the Children’s Fund in 2022. If only to make politicians stop asking.

But Children’s Fund chief salesmen, Mayor Darrell Steinberg and then-City Council member Jay Schenirer, obscured one important fact about those cannabis tax dollars.

The money gets detoured away from the city’s general fund. This creates a $9 million budget hole.

The loss of $9 million may not mean much when the city is fat and happy with state and federal dollars to support pandemic shortfalls. Today’s a different story. Cash pipelines are dry.

The City Council, whose appetite for pay raises and pet projects grew without restraint for four years, faces a $66 million budget deficit. Next year looks worse. The city could use that $9 million.

Here’s an obvious solution: Repeal the Children’s Fund before it causes more damage. Dumping the Children’s Fund happens in three steps.

First, city officials honestly explain the mistake. They admit the Children’s Fund was a nice idea, but financially irresponsible.

Second, the City Council puts a repeal initiative on the next ballot.

Third, voters revoke the Children’s Fund and return $9 million annually to the general fund, where it helps repair the deficit and saves essential city services.

Now is the time to start repeal discussion. The Children’s Fund has not become a factor in the city’s quest to prevent juvenile inertia, sloth and delinquency.

In 15 months since its approval by voters, the Children’s Fund accomplished nothing.

The City Council appointed nine members to the Children’s Fund Planning and Oversight Commission. Consultants are supposed to produce a five-year strategic plan by June. That’s it for 2024.

Mayoral candidate Flo Cofer won’t touch the Children’s Fund. She says, “The city has other options to fill a budget deficit, including implementing some of the 39 process and efficiency recommendations they paid Management Partners to give in March 2020.”

Really? Those recommendations suggest Sacramento dump unionized employees and contract out for city services. I’d love to see Cofer do that.

Repaired or repealed, the Children’s Fund demands attention. Since promoters needed three tries to get the fund approved, voters deserve one chance to fix the mistake.

The Children’s Fund is expected to divide its $9 million annual windfall among nonprofit organizations that support young people. Such work is hard to measure.

Think about all those nonprofits that seek to resolve homelessness.

Let’s look at a local nonprofit called Youth Forward. This organization played a major role in promoting the Children’s Fund initiative.

According to tax documents, Youth Forward’s mission is to “support the needs of disadvantaged children, youth and families through education, research and community-based activities.”

Vague if worthy goals. Difficult to quantify and measure. But thanks to tax statements, we can measure the pay of Jim Keddy, executive director of Youth Forward.

In 2022, Keddy received $162,432. That’s up from $124,889 in 2020.

As for accomplishments, Youth Forward’s tax forms tickle the imagination.

The nonprofit reports it “promoted youth mental wellness at four local high schools through lunch time and after school activities.” It made “recommendations” to county officials for “a more humane and effective juvenile justice system.”

Finally, Youth Forward “educated” community leaders about ways to finance the Children’s Fund with cannabis taxes. As a political outfit, Youth Forward hit a home run.

Keddy says Youth Forward doesn’t want Children’s Fund dollars. The group is successful without cannabis money. About 73% of Youth Forward’s money comes from gifts and contributions, plus consulting fees.

Which demonstrates the superfluousness of the Children’s Fund. It’s a budget-busting redundancy ripe for repeal.

R.E. Graswich can be reached at Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

Stay up-to-date with our always 100% local newsletter!

* indicates required
Type of Newsletter
Share via
Copy link