Taxpayer Funds Sought for Non-Profit Following Mall Violence

Last week, we attended and recorded a KOAA and Gazette-sponsored Crime and Community Town Hall at The Citadel Mall. The Citadel Mall has seen a fair amount of violence over the past 2 years. The most recent incident was a Christmas Eve shooting that tragically left one young man dead following a fistfight at the mall.

The town hall panel consisted of Colorado Springs District 5 City Councilwoman Nancy Henjum, Men of Influence (MOI) leader DeAndre Smith, Mitchell High School Principal George Smith, Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) Chief Adrian Vasquez, and Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade. There were more than 100 people in attendance. Noticeably missing from the meeting was a representative for the CSPD’s Gang Unit.

Men of Influence (MOI) is part of ONEBODY ENT, a non-profit DeAndre Smith founded with his wife, Jennifer. The MOI website says they are “bringing local gangs together to open the lines of communication between all factions, to help prevent small problems from becoming street beef.  We serve youth and adults by helping to prevent criminal offenses and re-offenses through community outreach, mentorship, performing arts, and entertainment”.

Mayor Mobolade shared that 2023 crime data indicates crime is going down but a recent study shows there is an uptick in violent juvenile crime.  

According to the Common Sense Institute, violent juvenile crimes, including murder, have significantly increased and the blame is focused nearly exclusively on the lack of juvenile detention following an arrest. A lack of space and funding for some detention centers may be driving up juvenile violent crime, according to the study’s authors.

Mayor Yemi said community activation “requires our partnership as we try to work to address crime together.” Chief Vasquez emphasized that partnerships are important and that kids need a pathway out of criminal activity.

Meanwhile, Councilwoman Henjum said the city was safer than what we might perceive it to be, further throwing kerosene on the idea that the purpose of the town hall was to highlight a “partnership” between the Mobolade administration and MOI.

Mobolade agreed with Henjum that The Citadel Mall is safe. There was a large uniformed police presence of 10-15 officers at the town hall, though. The officers had the event secured and even blocked foot traffic down the event’s mall corridor. 

If the mall is safe, why did they require a heavily uniformed police presence at the town hall? In addition to the uniformed police, there were private security guards, as well. We’ve seen Mayor Mobolade attend events all over the city. He usually has 1 or 2 police officers with him, not 10!  

DeAndre Smith made multiple comments throughout the town hall about needing money for MOI. He said, “Money is very important.” He went on to mention needing teen nights and after-school programs. He said, “We have to put something else in front of them because they don’t have nothing in front of them no more.” He went on to ask, “So, how are we gonna get the money?”

By the end of the town hall, the purpose of holding such an event at the mall was clear. MOI’s DeAndre Smith’s appeals for financial support weren’t as subtle as the mentions about the “partnerships” from Mayor Mobolade and Chief Vasquez.

Everything became clear at the end of the town hall when Mayor Mobolade announced he would be pursuing federal taxpayer dollars to give to the ONEBODY ENT non-profit.

See the announcement here:

In this Gazette Candidate Q&A from May 2023, Mobolade specifically said he would, “Increase partnership with crime and violence prevention efforts like Men of Influence” when asked about how he planned to address concerns about the high rates of crime in Colorado Springs and public safety in general. 

The town hall appeared staged. Was its primary intention to announce the partnership between the City of Colorado Springs and MOI, as Mobolade had promised during his campaign?

There will be no measure of success for what this money does or doesn’t do. If the taxpayer funds awarded to ONEBODY ENT don’t result in less crime at the mall, the solution will be that they need even more money. It’s all very predictable.

To us, the MOI and ONEBODY ENT mission is a positive one. However, you’re being forced to give to them whether or not you agree with their mission. That’s wrong. It should be your right to donate or not. Forceful donation through confiscation of your earnings is an abuse of taxpayers.

Reach out to Mayor Mobolade and the City Council. Private non-profits should not receive your taxpayer dollars. Charity is your right. The government is clearly overstepping here.

Mayor Yemi Mobolade

Yolanda Avila

Lynette Crow-Iverson

Dave Donelson

Randy Helms

Nancy Henjum

David Leinweber

Mike O’Malley

Brian Risley

Michelle Talarico

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