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Alarcon Will Lobby Gore on Tax Incentives

September 16, 1997|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Disappointed that a long-awaited revitalization plan for Pacoima and several inner-city communities won't kick in until 2000, Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon said Monday he plans to lobby Vice President Al Gore in person next week to start the program sooner.

"I will definitely mention to him that I'm disappointed that they can't expedite this program," said Alarcon, who represents the working-class, mostly Latino community of Pacoima.

Gore heads a federal panel that administers the so-called "empowerment zones" that provide tax credits for hiring local residents and business incentives for capital investments.

Although Los Angeles has not officially been selected for an empowerment zone, federal officials say the city is at the top of the list. But even if the zone is approved within the next six months, as expected, the key ingredient--the tax incentives--won't take effect until 2000 due to budget constraints.

City officials worry that the delay will cost the city valuable jobs and businesses that may close down or move to another city.

In addition to Alarcon's efforts, sources say city officials are trying to get Gov. Pete Wilson, Mayor Richard Riordan, Council President John Ferraro and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky to sign a joint letter urging federal lawmakers to hasten the start of the tax incentives.

Meanwhile, Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents parts of South Los Angeles that would be within the empowerment zone, said he is going to call on community leaders in his district to launch a letter-writing campaign to federal officials.

"A message needs to be sent to federal officials to expedite the tax incentives," he said.

Alarcon said the tax incentives are the "icing on the cake" and can play a vital role in keeping and attracting businesses to depressed areas like Pacoima.

Alarcon, a member of the Air Quality Management District, said he will travel to Washington next week to discuss air-pollution matters with federal officials. He said he plans to talk to Gore when he attends a Democratic party function Sept. 25.

The empowerment zones were created after the 1992 riots that followed the police beating of motorist Rodney King. But to the surprise of city officials, federal officials passed over Los Angeles for an empowerment zone.

Instead, the city was given a consolation prize: a federally funded Community Development Bank, which provides loans and other financial aide to blighted areas.

Under a budget agreement with Congress reached in July, President Clinton was able to get funding for additional empowerment zones. Federal officials have indicated that Los Angeles is one of the cities expected to finally get the empowerment zone it was denied three years ago.

But in order to stretch limited funds, federal lawmakers are holding off the tax credits until 2000.

The proposed empowerment zone for Los Angeles is a 20-square-mile patchwork that includes South-Central, Watts, East Los Angeles and Pacoima. Between 35% and 50% of the population in the zone live under the poverty level.

The empowerment zone would include a 2.4-square-mile area of Pacoima that has a population of 13,400, as well as Hansen Dam Recreation Area and San Fernando Gardens, a low-income housing project of 2,000 people.

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