LA City Council Confirms Director of New Youth Development Department

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council voted today to confirm Lisa Salazar, the interim executive director of the city's newly created Youth Development Department, to remain in the position permanently.

The council voted unanimously on June 29 to create the Youth Development Department to centralize the city's response to the high number of young people living in poverty and being arrested in Los Angeles.

Salazar, who previously served as director of workforce development and economic opportunity to Mayor Eric Garcetti, became the department's interim executive director in July.

``She's already proven herself to be a change agent for our youth through her work with the mayor's office, where she had previously worked with more than $50 million of grant funding. In her current role, she has already managed to fully staff her department, which is no small task,'' said Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, noting staffing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rodriguez co-introduced the motion to create the department in 2021.

The city's youth programs were previously spread across 26 departments without a centralized approach, and in February, Rodriguez, along with Councilman Kevin de Leon and Councilwoman Nithya Raman, introduced a motion to create one department to focus all of its resources on young Angelenos, saying they ``deserve a government structured and designed to meet their needs informed by their voice, not outdated preservation of unmeasured programs.''

Rodriguez, during her efforts to create the department, said the department ``will help to address and uplift the needs of the more than 800,000 young people in the city, and young adults, who desperately coming out of this pandemic are going to continue to need greater resources and access to supportive programs that currently are very difficult for them to access and identify.''

The department serves as the central information center for the public to access youth services in Los Angeles.

It also is tasked with developing a road map for long-term youth program planning, coordinating with city departments to develop a citywide three-year Youth Development Strategic Plan, advising the mayor and the council on the city youth program to ensure efficient use of city resources and the greatest return on its investment, and providing necessary staffing for the Olivia Mitchell Youth Council, which the council voted in May to create.

The Olivia Mitchell Youth Council will be similar to the Youth Advisory Council that former Mayor Tom Bradley established in 1974, and is named for Mitchell, who oversaw that council.

Rodriguez added on Wednesday that Salazar, as interim executive director of the department, has ``already gone after and secured'' state funds to create the Olivia Mitchell Youth Council.

Salazar addressed the City Council before Wednesday's confirmation vote, which passed 13-0, and spoke about the needs of young people in Los Angeles.

``In these past months, I've talked with hundreds of young people and over 50 community-based organizations, business leaders, educational leaders,'' she said.

``And what I have learned is not new to you, but I want to reiterate, the pandemic has had a devastating impact on young people, and in my conversations with young people across the city, I learned that they want what we all want. They want (and) deserve (to) feel safe, to feel like they belong, to have a seat at decision-making tables, to have a good education, good paying jobs with opportunities to grow, to develop their leadership skills.

``They want places and programs that allow them to connect with their peers and share experiences. And most of all, they want to feel safe in their communities and they want mental health services,'' Salazar said.

``I believe we have the resources. I believe we have the leadership and political will, and I believe we can do better.'' Of the 800,000 young people between the ages of 10 and 25 in Los Angeles, 200,000 are living in poverty and 3,000 are homeless, according to the motion introduced in February that sought to create the new department.

According to Rodriguez's office, people between 10 and 25 also made up 32% of arrests over the last 10 years.

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