Once Ella Hill's leaders prove that the center has fully returned to its original mission, it can consider expanding to serve other populations in the neighborhood, or even seek a plan to detach further from the city.
The mayor's spokesperson, Nathan Ballard, did not respond to an e-mail containing detailed questions, and his aide, Dwayne Jones, did not return several phone calls. But Smith said during a later lunch interview at the Fillmore Café that he agrees with Mirkarimi's idea.
"There are so many programs out there that say they're doing something on paper, but they're really not doing it," Smith said. "They're running ghost programs. So what I've been saying at Ella Hill since I got there is, 'We will do exactly what we said we were going to do.'<0x2009>"
In the meantime, Smith is determined to prove that Ella Hill's history has only just begun. The mural of Lefty Gordon outside the center received a fresh coat of paint recently, and the color pops. The sidewalk is being repaved and new handrails installed. The walls inside are clear of the aging posters and letter board that hung there a few months ago.
Before heading off to his board meeting, Smith teasingly asks an adolescent boy meandering in the center's entryway for 75 cents. The boy's always hitting him up for pocket change.
"I don't got any," the boy responds.
"You don't have any," Smith corrects.
Smith suddenly realizes what time it is.
"Hey, why isn't this guy in school?" he wonders aloud.
At that moment, only the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center was asking the question. *