Sunday, November 02, 2008

OK, Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn: Can you answer this about Prop. A, the $36 Parcel Tax a Year -- Money Expected to Prevent Children from Joining Gangs & to Curb the Violence?; Harbor Area residents Are Confused: Please Give Us a Response by Monday So We All Know How to Vote!?

By Diana L. Chapman

It looks pretty clear to me that Prop. A, the parcel tax measure expected to provide $30 million to suppress gang violence, will go down in flaming defeat because of confusion about whether it will help the Harbor Area at all -- and because of our roller coaster economy.

While Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn has lead us down a rosy path making me, and perhaps you, believe money would filter here (she had my vote) that has now become questionable.

Recently in the San Pedro magazine, a reader spelled out clearly that the money will be under complete control of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who will no longer provide money to the Harbor Area, because there's not enough crime here and there aren't enough gangs to focus on. Our numbers just aren't big enough. That's complete idiocy.

He should tell that to LaTerian Tasby, a 17-year-old San Pedro football and basketball player, who had turned his life around when he was shot to death, allegedly by Hispanic gang members, at a party last fall.

Or perhaps he should tell that to Cheryl Green, 14, who was shot down in the Harbor Gateway while standing on a street corner, many believe because was African-American, also allegedly killed by Hispanic gang members.

With the whole media press corps racing to the area, the mayor and councilwoman showed up with big smiles and promises that they would provide much more funding to rebuild the area and work toward providing many more facilities for the youth. Since Cheryl's death was categorized as a hate crime, and perhaps LaTerian's too, it seems there should be much attention paid to this area so the violence -- and in particular -- hate crimes do not increase. Taking away our funding could lead to horrific defeat when it comes to gangs. The mayor's decision in my book is like someone pulling a finger out of a dike. And then what will happen?

What the lack of funding here means is simply this: Our efforts to keep youths in San Pedro out of gangs that date back for six generations will fail miserably. With Toberman House, the Boys and Girls Club and other agencies like it no longer getting funding for our area to recruit the kids away from gangs, I fear a complete retreat where our youth will join as their only support systems begin to collapse and fail.

I called Janice's chief-of-staff, Courtney Chesla Torres, last week to quiz her on this subject. The mayor and his gang czar, Jeff Carr, have completely eliminated Wilmington, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway and San Pedro from the City's seven gang reduction zones. Even worse, I heard the Councilwoman's office in the Harbor Gateway will be shut down starting Monday (that's 11/3) due to budget cuts, although I have yet to confirm this.

Now, where are those people supposed to go for representation? Is this in fact the same area that both officials swore-up-and-down would see more facilities and have more help to avoid these horrendous crimes, such as the Cheryl Green killing?

When I first heard about the mayor's plan to create a gang reduction area -- and that it didn't include the Harbor Area -- I was angered by the failure of the mayor's office to realize cutting us out of the picture could send our kids spiraling downward. As a volunteer who works with kids, I see the suction cups gang members have. Even when kids don't want to join, they do, because if they don't, they are scared they'll be killed. Right now, they have options. Soon, they may not.

At the minimum, under the mayor's plan, they will have a lot less throughout the Harbor Area-- and I don't want to give him money from Prop. A if its not coming here at all. Why should we?

I don't want to be mean, but what does the mayor think will happen once the funding here dries up? Courtney and I called each other back and forth, enough for her to tell me via a message that the money was necessary to enlarge the reduction zones to include our area. But if the funds go directly to the mayor, how do we know for sure? That was another strategy the mayor pulled off. He put all the anti-gang monies under his control.

As a huge supporter of the measure, I settled down a bit after Courtney's answer until the weekend came and my husband, who has argued with me back and forth about Prop. A, showed me a very confusing message in the San Pedro Business Journal published by the San Pedro Chamber.

The chamber supports Proposition A, the $3 a month parcel tax on property in Los Angeles, which is expected to provide many anti-gang programs, including after school activities, to keep youth out of gangs. But the chamber's endorsement came with an asterisk: "While this measure is supported by the San Pedro Chamber, the Board wishes to express its concern that at this time there does not appear to be any funds earmarked for the gang problems in the Harbor Area. It appears that the Mayor's Office will have full control of the funds."

Now that truly scares me and would make me vote against the measure -- as all of Los Angeles should work together toward halting gang violence rather than slicing us up into little pies; I invite Janice to respond this concern immediately so we all know how to vote.