By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The problem with the $168 million is that, even as a catch-all description of youth programs, it makes little sense. For example, Villaraigosas public-safety team threw in $2.5 million in expanded library hours. But library hours were expanded last year, not this year.
Should last years budget triumph be repackaged as a victory this year? And if so, why not count all the other library hours?
Forty percent of Villaraigosas anti-gang initiative will go toward the LAPD. And out of that total, $6.6 million represents police Chief William Brattons request for additional police overtime. But by lumping LAPD overtime in with city youth programs, Villaraigosa raised a red flag for Connie Rice, the civil rights attorney who urged council members to reject the LAPDs request for extra overtime after meeting with Villaraigosas team. I love Chief Bratton, but he should not get that money, Rice told the councils gang committee.
Rice released her own plan for addressing gangs earlier this year, calling for city officials to invest as much as $1 billion in wrap-around services for children in high-poverty neighborhoods. Villaraigosa echoed Rices report in his State of the City Address, by promising to team up with other law-enforcement agencies to focus on eight gang hot spots.
In reality, five of those eight partnerships were established between 1996 and 2003. Whats new is that the mayors budget will spread $3 million for prevention, intervention and re-entry programs across four of the eight hot spots.
So now Rice is in a bind. Team Villaraigosa artfully lifted the verbiage of her report embracing the notion of intervention programs while providing only the tiniest fraction of funding that she had sought. So in public, Rice alternates between praising Villaraigosa as a man who will one day be our nations president and criticizing elements of his gang plan, arguing that the new money is being spread too thinly to produce tangible results. Last week, for example, Rice said $3 million isnt even enough for one gang hot spot, let alone four.
Of course, Rice always has another card to play not as a city contractor, but as a lawyer. Speaking to the Police Commission in March, Rice pointed out that she could always bring another lawsuit against the city, one that demands that the city provide equal protection for low-income neighborhoods ravaged by gangs.
If successful, such a lawsuit could place yet another municipal program under court supervision. And at that point, that $168 million phony or not will look like peanuts.
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