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Petition Seeks Annual Assessments of Social Service Programs Funded by the City
By Jorge Casuso
December 16, 2019 -- Santa Monica residents began circulating an online petition Sunday demanding the City conduct annual assessments of the social service agencies and programs it funds.
The petition was posted on change.org two days before the City Council prepares to strike a provision in the Municipal Code requiring the Social Services Commission to perform a duty it has not fulfilled in nearly four decades.
A resolution approved by the Commission last month states that the City "professionalized the collection of data and evaluations" of the grants in 1982.
Since then, City funded programs have "expanded significantly," making assessing them a duty "beyond the time, resources, and expertise of a volunteer commission," according to the resolution the Council will take up.
The petition circulated by SaMo Residents contends that neither the Commission nor City staff has been conducting assessments of the grants, which total $8.6 million during the current fiscal year.
"City staff publicly admitted that they do not prepare annual assessments," the petition states. "This lack of transparency and accountability is unacceptable."
Without a "realistic mechanism for annual assessments," the City "will continue to simply collect unverified, self-reported data from the providers, rubber-stamp it, and write a check for the next grant cycle."
The assessments must include grievances filed by participants, according to the petition, which cites two programs and agencies that have recently stirred public controversy.
One is the child molestation scandal involving a volunteer of the Police Activities League (PAL) ("Santa Monica City Officials Take Additional Actions as Sexual Assault Crisis Expands," October 25, 2018).
The other involves complaints about the quality of services provided by the People Concern, Santa Monica's largest homeless services agency.
"Despite well over $1.6M per year in City funding going to homeless services, we still see many homeless people in our neighborhoods and parks," the petition reads.
The Commission's resolution asks the Council to direct staff to encourage "individuals who have lived experience in homelessness" and those who have participated in City funded programs to apply for openings on the Commission.
Armen Melkonians, who heads Residocracy Santa Monica, pushed the petition on the group's Facebook page Monday.
"We're not talking about ten grand, we're talking about 8.6 million," said Melkonians, who said more than 100 Residocracy members signed the petition.
"There's no report, no accountability," he said. "If we're providing money, we have some duty to the taxpayers."
According to the petition, organizers will continue collecting signatures after the Council votes Tuesday.
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