Bloomberg's Young Men's Initiative Gives Money to...CEMUSA?

CEMUSA.jpg
Steven Thrasher
A Young Men's Initiative ad at a bus stop
Last summer, Mayor Bloomberg rolled out the Young Men's Initiative, a "public-private partnership" that patted the mayor on his back for wanting to "help" young black and Hispanic men. The Voice and others pointed out that the initiative did nothing deal with the actual levers at the mayor's control to help such New Yorkers -- his locking up records numbers of black and Hispanic young men for weed arrests, his suspending record numbers of brown and black youngsters in schools, and his refusal to follow federal court orders to integrate the FDNY.

The Voice's report seemed to at least embarrass NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly to at least pretend to reign in illegal weed arrests due to stop-and-frisk, although we now know they largely continued.

Still, since his initiative was so widely mocked after a big roll out, we've heard little about it. When would the Mayor start spending his largesse on "helping" these men? Where would the big bucks go?

Now we know: to CEMUSA, apparently.

I guess the mayor thinks he can break the cycle of poverty with young black and brown men, who have much lower rates of high school graduation and higher rates of unemployment and incarceration than other New Yorkers, with an ad at a bus stop.

According to the message of the ad, these men can be help if they just listen to this message:

ID = applying for a job! Everybody should have an official ID. Find out how to get your birth certificate, Social Security card and non-drive State ID at nyc.gov.
Seems a little naive, but to be fair to the mayor, there are a lot of people the initiative aims to help that are "disconnected" from mainstream society in terms of things like not having a checking account or proper ID.

These are legitimate stumbling blocks to employment, although one suspects they're not as big of stumbling blocks as, say, an arrest record for being caught with weed. (And, as the Voice pointed out last year, according to the NYPD white people are carrying weed at rates higher than blacks and Hispanics when they're actually stopped; they're simply not stopped as often. So the mayor could end this barrier to employment by simply treating brown and black New Yorkers like white New Yorkers.)

Still, let's assume getting everyone an ID is a legitimate goal. But if someone were to take heed from the ad and go to NYC.gov, it's kind of a byzantine experience. On the city's homepage as of this writing, there is no ad for the "Young Men's Initiative." There is no link for how to get an ID. It's not the kind of webpage one imagines someone who didn't finish high school, perhaps -- the kind of person the initiative ostensibly wants to aid -- could easily navigate. It took the Voice a few minutes to find the "How Do I Get an ID?" webpage, four clicks deep into the site.

The initiative will spend more than 100 million dollars. It wouldn't cost the city much at all to put the message from their bus stop on their homepage, or to create a dedicated URL for it, if they thought this was so important.

Is the initiative still just rolling out things to try to look good, instead of dealing with any actual problems?

@steven_thrasher | sthrasher@villagevoice.com


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