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Decatur City Commission approves Child Friendly Cities Initiative local action plan


Decatur City Commission approves Child Friendly Cities Initiative local action plan

Decatur City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission, at its June 5 meeting, adopted the Child Friendly Cities Initiative local action plan.

Decatur is working with UNICEF USA. It is one of six cities participating in the Child Friendly Cities Initiative pilot program, aiming to be recognized as one of the first child-friendly cities in the country. The leadership team is made up of 28 high school students who have worked to create a local action plan for youth with various goals and ideas to implement.

The local action plan will launch in September and implementation of the plan will begin.

“In the 2023-24 fiscal year (and school year), the Local Action Plan outlines specific activities for the implementation period (one year) as well as additional project goals for years 2 and 3 (2024—25 and 2025-26),” Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Claire Miller wrote in a memo.

UNICEF USA will work with the city and students to develop evaluation measures for the outcomes and impact of the project activities. At the end of the implementation year in summer 2024, the city would be able to submit its application to UNICEF USA for recognition as a child-friendly city, Miller said.

The goals areas of the initiative include safety and inclusion, children’s participation, equitable social services, safe living environments, and play and leisure.

“In over 40 countries and, 3,500 towns and cities, UNICEF has launched the Child Friendly Cities Initiative to ensure that every child and young person has the right to be valued, respected, treated fairly, to be heard, to access social services, to be safe, to enjoy family life, play and to have leisure,” teen leadership team member Grace G-C. said.

She added that often, young people are overlooked in ways that adults don’t recognize. The CFCI teen leadership team gave her an opportunity to make an impact on the community.

“Speaking for everyone on this team, we have never felt like we are not being heard, we have never felt overlooked, and we have never felt like the work we are doing was performative. The CFCI leadership team has provided a meaningful opportunity to truly know that youth voices are being represented because in just 10 short months, we have already seen so much progress,” Grace said. “I am sure that with another year of this team in the implementation phase, Decatur will become a child-friendly city and a place that listens to all young people.”

The leadership team also developed their own priorities for what they would like to address within the city of Decatur. Their priorities included topics of equity, public safety, mental health resources, climate change, and public spaces.

During the meeting, leadership team member Eli Y. shared the five priority areas and goals:

– Increased trust with law enforcement: Organizing a police engagement event with community members including young people and exploring best practices as it relates to training on working with young people.

– Become a more equitable and inclusive city: Hosting a Black, Indigenous and people of color career fair, spirit week in the schools, and planning an international night out.

– Mental health and awareness: Improving mental health resources outside of school.

– Become a more environmentally conscious city: Implementing a city composting program.

– Improving public spaces: Planning for a new inclusive playground and a children’s festival.

In 2023-2024, the teen leadership team will connect with city staff, community partners and subject-matter experts to inform their work on implementing the local action plan.

“We look forward to working in partnership with the city commission and community to make an impact in our five priority areas,” Eli Y. said.

Mayor Pro Tem Powers added that this is meaningful work.

“This is work that our youth are bringing to us,” he said. “This is not simply to check another box. I just want everybody to know that we’re putting every ounce of effort that we have into making this a successful venture, because, I think as I said at the last meeting, we have to do right by our children.”

In other business:

– The city commission approved a second change order to its contract with Magnum paving for street repair and resurfacing. The change order increases the contract amount to about $1.5 million.

“Repairs are needed to fix numerous sidewalk panels damaged and dislodged by tree roots along West Ponce de Leon Avenue between Clairemont Avenue and Ponce de Leon Place,” Project Civil Engineer Jennings Bell wrote in a memo. “During construction, there will temporary closures to the sidewalk and vehicle lanes in the work area.”

The change order also includes two items the contractor has already completed. Additional repairs were made to the sidewalk and driveway apron at the Agnes Scott College entrance on South McDonough Street.

“Also, during milling operations on East Ponce de Leon Avenue, broken subsurface concrete prevented standard base patching in one lane between Sycamore Drive and Arcadia Avenue,” Bell said. “To minimize future reflective cracking, the contractor recommended using permaflex bridging as the most durable and feasible alternative for base patching of the roadway.”

– The city commission amended the personnel rules and regulations. The city worked with Slavin Management Consultants to conduct a salary survey in February. The consultant reviewed compression concerns and made recommendations to alleviate those issues.

The consultant recommended revising Decatur’s pay rules and personnel policies to allow for more flexibility in compensation related to hiring, rewarding and promoting employees, Assistant City Manager Teresa de Castro said. The policy will go into effect on July 1.

“The recommendation removes the two-pay step approval limit of the city manager in a 52-week period,” De Castro said. “The revised policy allows the city manager to approve salary increases for promoted employees that is commensurate to the increased responsibilities, rather than being limited to a one-step increase. This proposed change is consistent with the authority the city manager has when it comes to hiring a new employee. The revised policy also recognizes that the step increase increment for an annual earned salary increase may change in the future through budget processes.”

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