Funding Approved to Bring Violence-Reduction Expert To Muskegon County

Andrew Trzaska | December 22, 2010

An organization known for its violence-reduction strategies will be coming to Muskegon County to assess possibilities for improvement in light of an unstable 2010.

At Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, the board voted to extend $20,000 from its stimulus-based Strengthening Communities Grant to bring in Robert Woodson, Jr. and representatives from his Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.

The CNE is known for helping reduce youth violence, providing assistance to already-existing community organization, and finding ways for towns for gain funding for their violence-reduction strategies.

This vote comes on the heels of an informational meeting held last Friday at the Louis McMurray Transportation Center in Muskegon Heights.  Close to 50 community leaders, government officials, and members of the general public attended the presentation and its following discussion to clarify what the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise may do in Muskegon should they choose to work with the city.

Commissioners voted on December 9 to table the proposal until after the Friday meeting, which was already scheduled at the time.  Several commissioners indicated at that point that the proposal was accompanied with too little information attached.  The community meeting was seen at the time as a way for the County Commission to get more clarification on the CNE’s methods.

Five current commissioners and one incoming commissioner attended the meeting on Friday.

At the community meeting, it was further explained that not all of the requested $20,000 would go towards the assessment, but would be starter money if the community chose to move forward with the CNE’s plans.

Several major points of consensus appeared to develop during the meeting.  The first was that working with the CNE was not a vote of no confidence in current strategies, including law enforcement work.

County Commissioner Charles Nash drove the second point home: the community must be ready to work together before the CNE arrived to assess the community.   Louis Churchwell, speaking of possible future cooperation with the CNE and Woodson, said

“What do we need to look like to get him to stay here? We need to show him we have the ability to help ourselves.”

The major established point appeared to be that the grant money at stake with Tuesday’s vote was minimal and since it would not bind the county into any sort of long-term contract it was worth going forward with the assessment.

Tom Pastoor, President of the McLaughlin Neighborhood Association, echoed this sentiment.
“I don’t see a downside at all.  I’m excited that the county wants to embrace young people and attack our problems – not attacking the youth themselves, but the other things that got them here.”

Pastoor commented and asked questions a few times during the meeting, and did also indicate that regardless of whether the CNE ends up working with Muskegon after the assessment, this motion could help get community groups working better together.

“If people of Muskegon come out of their silos, we will succeed with or without Mr. Woodson.”

Woodson is tentatively set to come to Muskegon on January 12 for several days to do his assessment.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst

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