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Funding Sought for Day Laborer Hiring Center : Employment: Under the proposal, four cities and the county would each put up $15,000 to establish a site in south Whittier.


LA MIRADA — In a bid to appease business owners and community activists, the city of La Mirada has offered to put up $15,000 a year to create a center for day laborers and is asking the same from three other cities and Los Angeles County.

Last year, the City Council stirred up controversy when it passed an ordinance banning work solicitation in the city and called in immigration officials to round up workers who gathered at a local home improvement store.

"We realized that we didn't cure the problem," City Manager Gary K. Sloan said. "We took care of the symptom in that area, but not the root of the problem."

A plan suggested by community activists and a local task force calls for the county and the cities of La Mirada, Norwalk, Whittier and Santa Fe Springs to put up $15,000 a year to establish a site in south Whittier where day laborers may congregate to seek work.

The center would include such amenities as toilets and help for potential employers in filling out tax forms. Workers would not be required to show proof of citizenship or work permits.

La Mirada officials proposed that the South East Area Funding Authority run the program and the agency has agreed in principle, agency Executive Director Jane Buck said.

About six weeks ago, La Mirada Mayor Wayne Rew sent a letter to the cities and the county, through County Supervisor Deane Dana, requesting help setting up the center.

Dana's office supports the idea and helped find two potential sites for the center. Besides La Mirada's, none of the city councils or the Board of Supervisors has approved the plan or set aside funding, but members of each panel said the idea would be seriously considered.

"We haven't experienced (the day laborers) phenomenon in this city at all," said Donald R. Powell, city manager of Santa Fe Springs. "But we have supported projects like this. We would do it to be friendly with our neighbors."

The day labor center proposal was initiated by community activists who were angered by La Mirada's decision to outlaw "soliciting for work." Under the ordinance, passed in March, 1992, anyone asking for day work could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Day laborers moved their gathering site over the La Mirada city line into county territory. Community activists and a 20-member city task force, organized by the City Council, pointed out that the new law did not solve the problem.

"We told the City Council the ordinance was punitive," said Victor Ledesma, president of South Whittier's Community Coordinating Council and a member of the day laborer task force. "It was criminalizing people."

The group suggested a regional solution, he said.

Two buildings are being considered as sites for the center; both are near the intersection of Telegraph and Leffingwell roads. Proponents have suggested that either building could be used for a day labor center in the morning, then a youth activity center in the afternoon, Ledesma said.

In the meantime, day laborers continue to congregate near La Mirada Boulevard and Leffingwell Road, sheriff's Deputy Tom Ctibor said. Complaints about the workers have been rare, although about 20 men congregate there nearly every morning, he said.

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