After an emotional, hour-long meeting on Thursday evening, the agreed to write a letter of support for youth advocate Joe Carmona's Peace Warrior's program.
Thursday's meeting featured sometimes tense exchanges between neighborhood council members and Carmona, who is looking for permission to set up his volunteer run gang intervention program at in Highland Park, as well as at middle schools in Cypress Park and Glassell Park.
While generally supportive of Carmona's efforts to mitigate gang violence at Burbank, council members said they did not agree with the scope of the letter of support he had submitted for approval.
Carmona was asking the board to sign off on a letter he had written to Councilman José Huizar, which he asks for the following:
"I am asking you to organize a community that will have the intent of asking LAUSD Superintendent Dr. John Deasy to put me under his direct authority, to have me establish a PEACE WARRIOR program at Luther Burbank, Irving, and Nightingale Middle Schools."
HHPNC members Lisa Brewer and Tina Gulotta-Miller both said they supported the general idea of Carmona's program, but had some specific concerns with his request.
In particular, Gulotta-Miller said she was concerned with Carmona's refusal to include local principals in the development of the Peace Warriors program.
"You can't say 'I'm right and you're wrong and I'm not going to call you,'" Gulotta-Miller said in reference to Carmona's relationship with local principals. "I would feel more comfortable if you were open and more transparent and communicated with those principals."
Thursday's meeting featured several emotionally charged moments, as community and council members discussed painful stories of living through gang violence in Highland Park.
Peace Warrior Michael Penaloza held back tears as he recounted how he was kicked out of LAUSD after a physical altercation with a teacher.
"I've been gang-banging my whole life. When I went to school, I didn't get support from the teachers. When I started doing a little bit better after Joe came into my life, I tried to go back to school. There was one teacher, he asked me, 'What are you doing here? You're a lowlife.' That's the same thing you're doing to us. We're asking for support," Penaloza said. "You guys are thinking we're gang-bangers, and we don't need a second chance."
Council member Janet Dodson said the neighborhood council was, in fact, interested in assisting Peace Warriors, but said that Carmona had asked for support that they could not provide.
Dodson said that, rather than signing off on Carmona's letter, the council should instead compose their own document, stating only their general support for the Peace Warriors.
"We have no power. We can give you a letter, but I could not possibly support the letter you submitted. That letter is asking the councilman to do something he cannot do," Dodson said. "If you want a simple, straightforward letter, we can support that."
Dodson's motion to compose a general letter was unanimously supported by the board. A draft of the letter will go back before the council at their next bi-weekly meeting.
After the meeting, Carmona said he was pleased to receive the neighborhood council's support, but was concerned that process would continued to be stalled.
"I'm concerned about the slowness," he said. "LAUSD is going to start identifying these kids and processing them out once the school year starts."