City to State: Save Weed & Seed
Council asks Lehigh Valley's state delegation to keep community law enforcement/revitalization program.
Easton wants Governor Corbett to continue financial support for the Weed & Seed program, and has asked local legislators for their help.
At Wednesday evening's city council meeting, officials expressed dismay over the impending loss of Weed & Seed, and what it could mean for Easton's most vulnerable neighborhood.
"We cannot allow the West Ward to go back to the way it was," Mayor Sal Panto said.
To that end, council adopted a resolution Wednesday asking the Lehigh Valley's Harrisburg delegation for its support.
Weed & Seed is a nationwide crime prevention and community revitalization program. It exists in 16 other communities across the state, and was established in Easton 11 years ago.
Here's how it's meant to work: police and prosecutors come into a neighborhood and try to reduce criminal activity, through things like undercover operations and a more visible police presence. (That's the "weed" part.)
Then community organizations step in and focus on anti-drug, education, public health and education for people in the neighborhood. In other words, the seeds that could make the neighborhood better.
In Easton, Weed & Seed has a budget of about $200,000, and gets most of its money from the state. Corbett's office has said that although the governor supports Weed & Seed, the program needs to be cut because of a larger budget crisis.
State Rep. Bob Freeman (D-136), who attended Wednesday's meeting, the decision to cut funding for a crime prevention program "shortsighted," given the amount of money Corbett wants to spend on corrections.
"I think it’s making a difference in stabilizing that neighborhood and bringing new life back to it," he said.
Freeman said there's still hope for the program. It's possible legislators can convince the governor to roll Weed & Seed into a different funding category, one that already includes things like the Main Street and Elm Street programs. However, he noted that those programs are also seeing their funding cut back by almost 50 percent.
Lisa Walter, chief of staff for state Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24), told city council her boss has "always supported the program, and knows that Easton has a really good program."
Panto said he met with police and Weed & Seed's director recently, and pledged that "some semblance" of the program will remain in the city. It's also possible Easton could get federal Weed & Seed money. In the past, the feds have turned the city down, but the mayor said that won't stop Easton from applying again.
Panto said he's tried to make the city's case recently in Harrisburg and in Washington.
"We can understand cuts," he said. "But when you eliminate programs completely, it’ s hard for communites to adjust to that."