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Council Again Rebuffs Organization That Used to Get Thousands : 2 Community Groups Denied Santa Monica Funds

May 29, 1986|ALAN CITRON, Times Staff Writer

Two Santa Monica community organizations that once received hundreds of thousands of dollars in public support came up empty-handed for the second time in two years as the City Council doled out money for social programs Tuesday night.

By a 5-2 vote, the council withheld funds from the Ocean Park Community Organization and the Santa Monica Mid-City Neighbors in its fiscal 1986-87 budget. The Pico Neighborhood Assn., another community group, was tentatively awarded $103,000.

Mayor Christine E. Reed said the decision was based on the fact that the Pico group is located in a more impoverished area. But Councilman Dennis Zane emotionally objected to the decision. He accused his colleagues of withholding funds from Ocean Park and Mid-City Neighbors because of their liberal political leanings.

"It's right, proper and justified to fund (all) of the groups," Zane said. "The amount of money we're talking about is not a budget-buster by any stretch of the imagination. What we've got is a political situation here."

Zane was supported by Councilman James P. Conn. Conn said neighborhood groups deserve funds because they encourage residents to participate in their community. Representatives from both organizations also asked the council to restore their funding, saying they has been badly hurt by the cutbacks.

But Mayor Reed, who had to surrender her gavel to Mayor Pro Tem William H. Jennings in order to silence Zane while she was speaking, said the charges of favoritism to one group over another were groundless. "You are really taxing the patience of this body," Reed told Zane. "I think this council has been very fair to every neighborhood. . . . I really do think that the public does not think funds need to be spent in this manner."

The decision came after a public hearing on the allocation of about $3.5-million in community services money. Most of the money will go to fund social services and housing rehabilitation, and a plan for dividing up funding for those groups was tentatively approved by a 7-0 vote.

But the discussion over the amount of money awarded to neighborhood groups fueled the hottest debate in the meeting that lasted past 1 a.m.

Funding of the two community groups was a top priority for Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, a political group that held the council majority from 1981 to 1984. The Ocean Park Community Organization started receiving funds in 1981. Mid-City Neighbors followed suit in 1983, which each getting about $90,000 annually.

The funding picture changed following the November 1984 elections, when a more moderate political group known as the All Santa Monica Coalition assumed the council majority and withdrew the money given to the two groups.

Zane and Conn, the two remaining Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights representatives on the council, urged their colleagues to rethink their position and give the Ocean Park and Mid-City groups about $66,000 each for paid staff members and outreach programs. When their effort failed, Zane and Conn accused the council of turning their backs on neighborhoods.

Councilman David G. Epstein disagreed, saying there are more effective ways to encourage residents to get involved in their community.

Councilman Alan Katz, who also voted against providing puiblic money for the two groups, said he would reconsider his position later, when the city is more certain of how federal funding cutbacks will effect its budget.

"All of the group are of equal value," Katz said. "But it's not responsible, for our July budget, to be making these kinds of allocations."

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