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Stimulus Plan's Death a Sharp Blow to L.A. : Funds: City had expected $130 million and county $50 million from Clinton economic package to use on summer jobs for youths, low-income housing and other projects.

April 23, 1993|MARC LACEY and JAMES RAINEY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

While Senate Republicans were blocking President Clinton's economic stimulus package last week, the Los Angeles City Council was busy dividing up the spoils, producing a detailed list of local projects that would benefit from the White House largess.

On Thursday, as the plan's death became clear, the anticipation turned to anxiety. Los Angeles, a budget-strapped city recovering from a recession and riots, will not be getting $130 million after all.

The news was a blow to local officials who are eager to hire thousands of low-income teen-agers for summer jobs, provide shelter and services for the homeless and build a series of low-income housing units in riot-torn neighborhoods. Such projects, officials said, would put tens of thousands of people to work and boost the sluggish local economy.

Mayor Tom Bradley said in a statement Thursday that "the defeat of the economic stimulus package signals Republicans' continued hostility toward the needs of the nation's cities."

In Washington, Sacramento and the County Hall of Administration, officials expressed similar frustration. California stood to gain $1 billion, the largest share of any state. The package, killed Wednesday after a lengthy Republican filibuster, would have meant $50 million for county programs.

"This is a major loss for California," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) "The total impact of this for California was to produce 50,000 jobs. . . . (The defeat) leaves California cities no better off than we were before."

Several proposed California projects were labeled as wasteful pork-barrel spending by Republican senators. Among them were a proposed swimming pool in South-Central Los Angeles and ArtArk, a subsidized housing project in San Francisco that provides assistance to low-income artists.

"The Republicans, I think, have won a very hollow victory," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said. "They stopped these jobs. They stopped . . . programs for our youths to get them through a long, hot summer. They stopped highway programs, sewer programs and the community development block grant programs."

Los Angeles County officials said they stand to lose at least $50 million, along with untold millions more in funding for immunization and highway construction.

The cash-strapped county is facing a $1.6-billion budget deficit in the coming fiscal year, its largest in history. County officials are considering a 25% cut in services and have drafted plans for thousands of layoffs and the closure of all but one county hospital.

"It's tragic," said Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, who represents most of South-Central Los Angeles. "We were looking forward to summer jobs for our young people."

Burke said that with the state facing a fiscal crisis, the county is in desperate need of federal assistance. "We don't have anyone else to look to," she said.

In Los Angeles, the casualties include $49 million in community block grants that the council had divided up for two dozen neighborhood projects. More than $22 million would have gone to build 550 units of housing, ranging from low-income, single-family homes to apartments for the elderly.

A proposed senior citizen center in Wilmington--deemed one of the most needed in the city--had been scheduled to get $1.7 million in federal grants. It is now on hold.

"We were really disappointed that the package did not get through," said Anthony DeClue, assistant general manager of the city's Department of Aging. "I don't know about other projects but this (senior center) is absolutely needed. It's absolutely not pork barrel."

In addition, a movie theater planned for the Crenshaw-Baldwin Hills Plaza shopping mall will not get $1 million in city funds, and the city's oldest library, the Vermont Square branch in South-Central Los Angeles, will have to continue in its cramped temporary quarters in a mini-mall.

Deputy Mayor Mark Fabiani bemoaned the loss of the block grant money, saying that the division of the funds had represented a watershed in city politics, as suburban council members agreed to let all the funds go to needier neighborhoods.

"It was the first time the council had gone on record to concentrate the money in real areas of need," Fabiani said. "Unfortunately, because of the Senate action, it turns out to be just an academic exercise."

The city also would have received $26 million in transit money for buses and subway stations, $12 million to create a revolving loan fund for small businesses in the inner city and $39 million for summer jobs.

The loss of the summer jobs--a cutback from the 40,000 expected positions to about 9,000 openings--will be particularly damaging to the city, officials said.

"This program is our way of telling our young people that we care about them and they have a future," said Parker Anderson, head of the city's Community Development Department. "To devastate the program sends a real sad message to our young folks."

Despite the disappointment, officials said they have not written off Clinton's proposals.

In an attempt to salvage portions of the stimulus package, Feinstein said she will suggest that the Clinton Administration consider a scaled-back request of about $7 billion that would produce "hard jobs" in construction and public works projects.

The city's Washington lobbyists expressed hope that at least a portion of the summer job funding will be restored. Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) held out hope that the state's share would be revived.

"There is no way to measure the impact yet, because I don't concede that it has failed," Brown said. "It may be temporarily derailed, but I don't think it has failed."

Times staff writers Hector Tobar in Los Angeles, Glenn Bunting in Washington and Dan Morain in Sacramento contributed to this story.

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