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Bush Lags in Fighting Recession, Seymour Says : Economy: Criticism comes at ‘town meeting’ sponsored by developer. Senator still supports President.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

U.S. Sen. John Seymour on Wednesday accused President Bush of waiting too long to take steps necessary to stimulate the nation’s recessionary economy.

The Republican senator from Anaheim expressed dissatisfaction with Bush’s leadership in tackling the nation’s economic problems during a “town hall” forum sponsored by developer Kathryn G. Thompson at one of her residential building sites here. Thompson, a member of Bush’s elite Team 100 top contributors in 1988, stunned local GOP leaders last week when she invited fellow Republicans to a breakfast with Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton.

However, Seymour said later in an interview that his appearance at Thompson’s side should not be interpreted to mean that he supports her encouragement of Republicans to evaluate presidential candidates outside the GOP.

“In no way, shape or form do I embrace or condone the invitation she extended to Clinton in Orange County,” Seymour said. “I totally disagree that was the thing to do.”

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He said he had arranged to participate in Wednesday’s forum before the controversy erupted.

Seymour said that while he shares Thompson’s impatience with Bush’s slowness in addressing economic problems, “I stop short at reaching outside the Republican family to resolve that issue. I believe you work within the Republican Party.”

Seymour’s press secretary, H.D. Palmer, added that Seymour is not considering shifting his support from Bush in the 1992 election.

Palmer said Seymour’s participation in Wednesday’s forum “has everything to do with economics and nothing to do with presidential politics in ’92.”

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Seymour is politically supportive of Bush and vice versa, said Palmer, noting that this fall Bush was host to a Los Angeles fund-raising dinner that raised more than $700,000 for Seymour.

Nonetheless, Seymour said he shares Thompson’s belief that Bush has dragged his feet in dealing with the recession, which has put many in the real estate industry out of work.

“As a result of mixed signals within the Administration, the course to take hasn’t been clear,” he told a group of building industry officials and construction workers who have seen new construction decline dramatically.

Seymour said he is encouraged by recent changes on Bush’s top staff. Moreover, he told the forum that when he spoke to Bush last Friday during the President’s visit to Ontario, Bush assured him that in January he will introduce an aggressive plan to revive the economy.

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“I believe we will see the leadership he demonstrated in the Persian Gulf War,” Seymour said. “He is concerned. He does care. . . . He realizes (the economy) won’t turn around by itself.”

However, Seymour added that he believes that the President’s action is belated. “I wish we would have had a growth package last spring,” he said.

Seymour said he advocates a number of moves to spur the economy, including reducing the capital gains tax and giving a tax break to those of moderate income.

Building industry representatives at the forum told Seymour that they need a greater source of construction financing. They also called for a speedup of federal funding for local transportation projects, something that Seymour told them Bush has also promised.

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Christine Diemer, executive director of the Orange County chapter of the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California, said the recession has caused a direct loss of 13,000 jobs in the building industry in Orange County since 1989, not including indirect losses of jobs in supporting businesses. She added that the number of residential building permits issued in the county has plummeted from 16,000 in 1989 to an estimated 6,000 in 1991.

Seymour said he wants to save “the American dream” of home ownership in part by “balancing” economic and environmental concerns. Referring to an estimated loss of thousands of jobs if the California gnatcatcher is added to the federal endangered species list, he complained that under the Endangered Species Act, “no consideration is required for the economic fallout.”

Seymour said he will push for economic considerations to be added to the Endangered Species Act when the legislation comes up for renewal next year.

The audience included a sharp critic of Seymour’s growth policies, Sal Chaidez, 62, who had been jogging by when he noticed the gathering and stopped to listen in.

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“Where is the balance?” Chaidez demanded of Seymour, scanning the rows of condominiums under construction in the Thompson development. “You should have seen this place before,” he said, motioning toward the hills.


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