The Monterey Park City Council, by a split vote, recently decided not to apply for a grant that would help develop child care programs. Soon after that, at least one other San Gabriel Valley city announced that its council would seek the state funds.
That the tiny community of Industry would compete for the $25,000 grant while Monterey Park would pass up applying for it has irked some members of Monterey Park's Child Care Task Force.
'Slap in the Face'
"Personally, it seemed like a slap in the face," said task force member Elaine Beridon. The 2-2-1 vote two weeks ago not to seek the grant was especially troubling, she said, because at the same meeting the council declared 1989 as the "Year of the Family."
Mayor Barry L. Hatch and Councilwoman Patricia Reichenberger said their opposition to the grant stemmed from the inability of Councilwoman Judy Chu and city officials to provide enough information about how the $25,000 would be used.
"I'd rather know more information, because I don't want the residents coming after me for having supported something that might end up biting us on the rear end," Hatch said.
The debate over whether Monterey Park should have applied for the grant highlights a central problem in the community, said Chu, who voted in favor of it.
Because of the city's large number of newcomers from Asia, Monterey Park has unique child care problems, she said. "You have a lot of immigrants who work lots of long hours. There's a pressure to work to make ends meet."
These new immigrants, she said, come from a tradition that used extended families in caring for children. But in America, the children are left to care for themselves, resulting in neglected children who sometimes fall prey to gangs and to alienation.
Although Chu said "it's very difficult to second-guess the motivations" of the council members who opposed the grant, she said the council needs to understand how the lack of day care "impacts people in this community."
Chu, who pushed for the establishment of the task force last fall, said "a lot of cities are doing something. We're falling behind if we don't do something."
Patterned after a similar task force in Pasadena, the Monterey Park group was created to help the council define what child care problems exist and what the solutions might be. The loosely formed task force has been composed of representatives from education, child care, business and industry.
Also supporting the application for the grant was Councilwoman Betty Couch. The grant, said Chu, would have been used to assist the task force in hiring staff or consultants who could assist in creating a citywide plan on child care. The task force is scheduled to present such a plan to the council this spring.
Resident Clifford E. Sharp questioned the need for the city's involvement in child care. Before the council took its vote, Sharp said many women are working to provide a second income for their household, and, he said, "their income goes to put a Mercedes in the garage."
Government today, he complained, supports "cradle-to-the-grave" care. "But where is it going to stop? Are we going to be furnishing mechanics for that Mercedes?" Sharp also questioned the concept of the grant, which city officials said would come from a pool of about $250,000 to be distributed among eight cities.
Reichenberger, who was instrumental in creating a senior citizens task force, said that the seniors group has operated fine without applying for grants or requiring any money from the city.
One problem with the child care grant, she said, stemmed from the state's requiring 25% in matching funds. This, Reichenberger said, would be costly, even if it came from in-kind contributions of office space and city staff time.
"We know we have problems with seniors and with children. But we do have to be careful about how we spend city money," she said.
Despite their opposition to the grant, Hatch and Reichenberger said their misgivings shouldn't be interpreted as opposition to the task force. Hatch did say, however, that he "is somewhat opposed to the government taking control of raising America's children."
If there was a lack of information on how the money would be used, Chu said, it resulted from the short amount of time the city had to apply for the grant. The city, she said, found out about the grant in early January and would have had to file its application by the end of the month.
In stating why he abstained, Councilman Christopher Houseman cited his concern that Antoinette Fabela, the interim chairman of the task force, had a conflict of interest because she owns the L.A.U.G.H. Day Care Center. Fabela, a member of the Garvey School Board, disputed the notion of any possible conflicting interest. "I'm licensed for 30 children, ages 2 to 5, and I cannot possibly house the entire city of Monterey Park's children," she said.