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Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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Friday, January 29, 2010

When Arrogance Rules the Court

Mayor's Office pushes pet pool project over basic quality-of-life

Imperial Courts is a project in South Los Angeles. Public housing built back in 1944, it is a community desperately in need of help.

By definition, in Los Angeles the projects is a place in a tough part of town. It's a place where a significant fraction of the population is trying to survive on incomes at or below poverty level. It is a place with at-risk and low-income youth who desperately need healthy programs - both educational and recreational - to help them stay out of trouble and tool up for successful lives. It's usually a place where pride in ownership and pride in home is tough to come by because facilities are typically run down and ill-maintained due to lack of funding.

Imperial Courts is no exception.  So when the Mayor's office says that even in these terribly difficult financial times in Los Angeles he is channeling $5-6 million in recreational funding into Imperial Courts, you'd think the community would be overjoyed. So why, in an interview with KPCC's Frank Stoltz, was Imperial Courts resident Shawn Washington less than enthused? Because the funds are not going to improving the property, nor are they going to healthy programming for the community's youth.

The Mayor is going to build Imperial Courts a pool.

In a speech at Imperial Courts earlier this year, someone asked the Mayor if they could have a pool. Villaraigosa said 'yeah - sure You can have a pool.'

Washington's response?

"We do not need a swimming pool over here in the Imperial Courts housing projects. We need training, mentoring programs so that we can try to save some of these youngsters in our community. A swimming pool is just to be cool. We need jobs."

It really doesn't mater what a young man who grew up in the Imperial Court projects believes. When the King makes the court a promise, by darned, he's gonna keep it. Precious recreation funding is going to build the subjects of Imperial Courts a pool.

It doesn't matter if the surrounding community won't feel free or safe to access the pool, either.

To heck with things like best practices, and needs assessments, and quality-of-life. Those are things for modern politician-manager-types in towns where sanity, order, discipline, logic, fiscal responsibility, and the greatest good rule.

Sadly, they are not for Los Angeles, where arrogance continues to rule. Arrogance - and rule - is so entrenched in Los Angeles politics that if the public does become interested in this use of the few recreational dollars remaing in Los Angeles,  and the Mayor's office does react, you can expect that Imperial Courts will get renovations and programs -and- a pool, rather than just getting what they best need. Meanwhile, another community in need will be forced to do without.

After all, the King has made a promise.

Listen to Frank Stoltz's full report here.