By Russ McQuaid
WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Obama calls his program, “My Brother’s Keeper.” Greg Ballard titled his plan, “Your Life Matters,” and both campaigns are aimed at looking after America and Indianapolis’ most vulnerable youngsters.
“I’m trying to figure out how do we get more young men into college and fewer into jail,” said the president as he hosted a town hall meeting attended by Ballard. “We’ve got a bi-partisan group of mayors today who are going to bring the ideas of My Brother’s Keeper to their cities.”
Last winter Ballard launched a local effort directed at youth with emphasis on education, employment and respect for the law.
The mayor talked about his plans during a youth jobs announcement last week.
“A job gives a person a sense of accomplishment and a way to support themselves,” he said at a Clean For Green announcement which places teenagers into environmentally-friendly summer jobs. “It can also help deter a person from turning to a life of crime.”
Obama was introduced to the town hall by NBA star Chris Paul and began his address with a major mentoring commitment.
The NBA and its players association are joining with others to recruit 25,000 new mentors to work with our educators and schools all across the country.”
Such a focus on mentoring would be similar to the work done by Rev. Malachi Walker and his Young Men, Inc., on Indianapolis’s north side every summer as dozens of young people participate in classes and programs.
“People recognize that America will succeed if we are investing in our young people,” said the president. “We also know that we’ve got to make sure that boys and young men of color are part of that success.”
President Obama said that an emphasis on early childhood education is key to preparing children for success.
Mayor Ballard has also spoken of the need for such early education as well as more household stability.
Ballard’s trip comes one week after he indicated that increasing police spending would not solve Indianapolis’ crime problem.
In 2013 the mayor unsuccessfully lobbied the city county council to repeal the homestead property tax credit to raise $9 million for public safety spending.
Another attempt to eliminate the credit may be combined with a commitment by the council to raise the county option income tax to provide another $15 million for additional police and program funding.
Superintendent of Indianapolis Public Schools Dr. Lewis Ferebee singed the pledge that was part of the announcement with other school leaders Monday.