By City News Service
A portion of Los Angeles was one of five "promise zones" chosen to receive millions of federal dollars aimed at combating poverty, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced today from Washington, D.C.
The Los Angeles zone includes communities in East Hollywood, Pico- Union/Westlake, Thai Town, Little Armenia and Koreatown, according to the mayor's office.
Mayoral spokesman Jeff Millman said the city likely will transfer the funds to nonprofits and other groups involved in anti-poverty efforts in those communities.
Garcetti was in Washington, to attend President Barack Obama's announcement. The mayor was scheduled to return to Los Angeles tonight.
"This is a historic victory for Los Angeles," Garcetti said. "This gives the city of L.A. and its partners the opportunity to make real change in the lives of so many Angelenos who need it most by creating opportunity and strengthening our neighborhoods."
The choice of communities drew criticism from South Los Angeles-area City Councilman Curren Price, who said he was disappointed to see "the city's poorest communities excluded once again."
"South Los Angeles struggles with the highest concentration of poverty in the city, with more than one out of three households living below the poverty rate, a rate nearly 10 percentage points higher than any other region in the city. And yet our community will not benefit from this investment of up to a half a billion dollars," he said.
"I urge federal officials, as well as our mayor as he lobbies Washington for more funding, to reconsider their selection process now and moving forward."
Councilman Bernard Parks also urged Garcetti to expand the grant to South Los Angeles communities.
"Although, many parts of the city of Los Angeles have needs and challenges, it defies logic that most of the city's population that lives south of the Santa Monica freeway is not a part of or given any consideration to receive these new funds," he said.
The city became eligible to apply for the promise zone program after a local nonprofit, Youth Policy Institute, secured three anti-poverty grants from the federal government, according to Garcetti's office.
Parks placed the blame on the Youth Policy Institute, saying "it is very unfortunate" that the nonprofit, which got $30 million in grants to apply for program on behalf of the city "did not take a broader approach."
Now it's up to Garcetti to "create a broader and more equitable distribution to ensure the true goals of promise zones are realized," he said.
City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell -- whose 13th District Garcetti represented before he became mayor -- said today the funding would benefit areas in his district, including parts of Hollywood, East Hollywood, Westlake, Little Armenia, Historic Filipinotown and Koreatown.
"I am thrilled and appreciative that President Obama has chosen these areas to be included in this community building initiative," he said. "It validates what Mayor Garcetti and I have known for a long time, that considerable investment will provide that key ingredient to lift these neighborhoods up to the level our constituents deserve."
In an email following the announcement, Garcetti urged the public to submit ideas to his city website at http://www.lamayor.org/ for how the money should be used.
The funds likely will be used toward increasing access to affordable housing; education, college and career preparation programs; transportation and getting rid of "wasteful and duplicative government programs," according to the mayor's office.
As a promise zone city, Los Angeles also will get special preference when applying for other federal grants, access to assistance in applying to those grants and potentially tax incentives for businesses in the zone.
The other promise zones announced by President Barack Obama today are in San Antonio, Philadelphia, southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Obama first discussed his Promise Zone Initiative in last year's State of the Union address. Today's announcement will coincide with the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson's "War on Poverty." The event comes a day after a 13-member panel called the Los Angeles 2020 Commission released a set of findings that focused on poverty as one of the persistent threats facing the city.
The report points to the 40 percent of Angelenos living in "what can only be called misery," with 28 percent earning poverty wages and the rest unemployed. It also points to "chronic budget deficits" preventing city government from providing quality public services and paying the salaries and benefits of its city employees.
"L.A. is treading water and there is a serious prospect of decline," former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor -- who chairs the panel -- said at a downtown news conference Wednesday.