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Santa Rosa gang prevention program gets new manager

By KEVIN McCALLUM

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa’s gang prevention program has a new manager and a new home.

The city hired naturalist Bethany Facendini to be its gang prevention and intervention services manager.

Facendini is a graduate of Montgomery High School who since 2004 has worked for the East Bay Regional Park District, most

Officers arrest an 18-year-old suspected of brandishing a machete during a suspected gang fight at Elsie Allen High School in 2012. (PD FILE, 2012)

recently as a supervising naturalist. She begins work Sept. 10 in Santa Rosa.

City Manager Kathy Millison also announced last week she was reorganizing the city’s gang prevention program, moving leadership out of the city’s Recreation and Parks Department and into the city manager’s office.

Millison said several factors made this the appropriate time to “refocus policy oversight” of the program.

These included the retirement of former gang prevention manager Ellen Bailey and the completion of a new, five-year strategic plan emphasizing regional gang prevention efforts and programs aimed at helping gang members re-enter the community after incarceration.

Facendini will report directly to Assistant City Manager Jennifer Phillips, who said moving oversight of the program makes sense because the city manager’s office already has strong relationships with officials in other communities, contacts that will help support the program’s new goals.

The city’s after-school and recreation programs for at-risk youth — the heart of the city’s gang prevention efforts — will continue to be run out of the Recreation and Parks Department. The enforcement components of the program will remain the responsibility of the Police Department.

Phillips denied oversight of the program was being shifted in part because of the political infighting.

The program has become a flashpoint for the City Council in recent years. Mayor Ernesto Olivares, a former police lieutenant, ran the program for two years before he retired in 2008.

Councilman Gary Wysocky, a political rival of Olivares, has criticized the accountability of the program and opposed efforts to boost the salary of the position. Earlier this year, the council set the salary of the position at $91,440 to $118,920, a range that could have resulted in a 20 percent salary boost over what Bailey had been earning.

But Facendini will start at the bottom of the salary range, less than Bailey was paid. Facendini was taking some time off between jobs and could not be reached for comment.

She has an undergraduate degree in english and women’s studies from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in environmental and social justice from Sonoma State University.

Her master’s project involved running an outdoor environmental education program for at-risk youth in Richmond. The program, called Teen Eco Action, sought to teach teens about the value of community activism and environmental stewardship through outdoor activities and restoration projects in East Bay parks.

Phillips said she doesn’t believe Facendini’s lack of gang-prevention experience will be a problem. She noted Facendini is bilingual and has a passion for social justice and youth.

“I think it’s an exceptional fit for her,” Phillips said.

Facendini was selected as a finalist by two panels of community members. Gail Ahlas, superintendent of the Roseland School District, served on one panel.

“Ms. Facendini’s experience working with under-served and at-risk youth, strong cultural competency, and contagious enthusiasm made her a stand-out in the interview process,” Ahlas said. “She brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to our community and gang prevention efforts.”

Wysocky said he was pleased to see the salary was at the bottom of the range and took the reorganization as an acknowledgment by the city manager there was room for improvement in the program.

“If this is her effort to right that ship, I’m hopeful that she is successful,” Wysocky said of Millison.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.





5 Responses to “Santa Rosa gang prevention program gets new manager”

  1. Equal Justice says:

    G4: I’m glad you said what you said because I thought I had misunderstood totally!! Parks Dept in “gang prevention” ? Ahhh ha ha ha h aha ha ha ha ha hah ha. Tooooooooo funny. What do they do… toss a basketball at the bangers & suggest a grudge match?

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. G4 says:

    The gang prevention and suppression manager is the Chief of Police, not some kid who worked in parks and rec with absolutely no background in minority gangs or police work.

    This is the kind of appointment which sets the public hair on fire when they learn about it.

    This is clearly a liberal’s way of crime prevention, teach them night basketball and open up the parks for soccer and they will come around to the left point of view.

    It maybe time to send Ms. Millison on to her next assignment in another liberal paradise with money to spend on unqualified hires doing work that he/she is not capable of handling by experience, education or job description.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  3. Reality Check says:

    PD, how about some performance information on any of these programs? Do we measure anything? If so, what? Is there any evidence taxpayers are getting anything for the effort?

    If newspapers are to survive they need to be more than a public relations outlet for city hall.

    A new manager with a background that includes degrees in women’s studies and social justice suggests the approach will not emphasize law enforcement. If so, one can only pity the victims of gang violence. They deserve better from city government.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  4. Graeme Wellington says:

    It makes no difference who is doing this job or who is supervising it. It can’t possibly succeed unless they are addressing the actual issue: parents.

    This is just for the sake of appearances so that some politician can point to this and say, hey, we’re doing something.

    We are in the true insanity phase, i.e., Einstein’s admonition that true insanity is trying the same things over and over and expecting different results.

    At the next election, please vote out as many of the people making these decisions as possible. You really need a completely different kind of person in charge that the standard politicians in place now.

    You voted them all in Sonoma County. It’s YOUR fault.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 5

  5. Over Easy says:

    This is completely ridiculous! The City manager should be fired for obvious incompetency.

    Gang prevention is a COMPLICATED set of social, cultural, and legal issues. Ms. Facendini has no experience in this or ANY related field. One can only speculate why she was given the position, as there are certainly better qualified candidates.

    This is another example of incapable management and if this were anything other than protected public employment Ms. Millison would be unemployed, as it should be.

    This Stinks!

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