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Los Angeles Daily News
Sunday, February 3, 2002


Kimit Muston

(Kimit Muston is a free-lance writer and frequent contributor to the opinion pages
of the Daily News.)

I want you to say ''Hallelujah!' Don't you?  Say it with me.  Hallelujah!  The city of Los Angeles has just been given part of a $17 billion gift from the federal government.  That's billion, with a ''b.''  Hallelujah!

The money comes from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which will give federal tax incentives worth $17 billion to businesses, stores and industries that agree to locate in community renewal zones in Los Angeles and other cities that have been awarded these grants.  Hallelujah!  A lot of good work can be done with $17 billion.

Of course, not a dime of any part of that $17 billion can be allowed to reach the San Fernando Valley.  Not to our little corner of Los Angeles, where one-third of the citizens of Los Angeles live.

We don't get grants.  We get to pay an extra $121 million (that's 1million with an ''m") in extra taxes every year to City Hall that we don't get back in services from City Hall.  But no grants.  It's just the way things have always been in Los Angeles.  We pay, they collect.  So don't be bitter.  Say hallelujah!

There are people in need in Los Angeles and that grant money will go a long way toward helping them.

It's not the city's fault that none of that help can reach the Valley.

You see, there is a requirement in the HUD proposal that the ''renewal zones'' be connected physically.  And since those sections in Panorama City and North Hollywood with unpaved streets, bad drainage, no public transport, no banks or business development, lousy street lighting and inefficient police protection don't physically touch similar neighborhoods in South Central, East Los Angeles or Watts, the disenfranchised citizens of the Valley will just have to stay disenfranchised. say hallelujah.

Besides, Mayor James Hahn has pledged to urge the city's lobbyists in Washington to report back to him on any steps that can be taken to avoid something like this happening in the future.

I wonder what those steps might be.  The two-step?  Maybe a little shuffle off to Buffalo?  I mean, how much more decisive do you want a mayor to be? He's asked for a ''report.''

Makes you wept to say hallelujah again doesn't it?

City Council President Alex Padilla, who is supposed to actually represent some of those Valley disenfranchised, has even urged the California congressional delegation to see whether it can find any
loose change in the sofa that might be sent to the Valley by way of compensation.

I feel another hallelujah coming on.  Or maybe it's just my lunch coming up.

HUD programs like this one are not created in a vacuum and not overnight.  Before the guidelines for such programs are written, they are passed around for comment.  When this particular program reached Los Angeles, I wonder whether anybody suggested, just suggested, that maybe there were some folks in the Valley in need of as much help as citizens of the basin.  Maybe more, since City Hall has been neglecting the Valley for 20 years. Did anybody mention to HUD that the way this grant was written excluded one-third of the citizens of Los Angeles from even being considered for help?  Evidently not.

If the mayor, past and present; if the council president, past and present; if the City Council, past and present, actually thought of the San Fernando Valley as part of the city of Los Angeles, then their voices would have been heard long before this HUD grant was awarded.  And the Valley would not have been cut out.

We are an afterthought. Still feel like saying hallelujah?

How dare they pit our poor against their poor?  How dare they abandon entire sections of the Valley for 20 years and then promise their best efforts to bring home scraps and the leavings to our community?  Our community, not theirs, by their decision.

The Los Angeles City Council's committee on redistricting has just announced it plans on recommending that the Valley be given an additional council seat.  I wonder whether it would be doing that if not for the secession movement?  The committee recommendations are to be presented to the City Council in March.  Right now the proposal is to put Councilwoman Ruth Galanter's district solely in the Valley - a place she disdains and where no residents have ever had the chance to vote for or against her.

If the Valley does not free itself from City Hall,  I'll wager you'll see a HUD grant for the Valley before you see true representation in City Hall.

The Lord helps those who help themselves.  Hallelujah, brother.