AFTER THE RIOTS: THE SEARCH FOR ANSWERS : Bush Hopes Seed Money Will Sow Roots of Peace in L.A.


The Johnson Administration sought to solve American urban problems with Great Society programs. The Bush Administration's showcase effort is known as Operation Weed and Seed, which was extended to riot-torn Los Angeles on Friday.

The central concept of the program is to weed out criminal elements and seed an area with social renewal programs in a coordinated campaign.

"It is a two-pronged strategy that first enables the community to take back the streets from gangs, drug dealers and violent criminals--and then provides stimulus and support for the neighborhood's grass-roots economic and social redevelopment," Atty. Gen. William P. Barr has said.

"The philosophy that underlies the program is that social programs must be closely coordinated and integrated with law enforcement efforts," Barr said.

Administration officials believe earlier programs have failed because they either involved just one of the two elements, or when both were present, they were not coordinated.

The weed and seed concept was first announced in March at an anti-crime summit in Washington by Barr's predecessor, Atty. Gen. Dick Thornburgh. It drew upon programs developed in Philadelphia by federal, state and local law enforcement officials and led to federally backed pilot efforts in Kansas City, Mo., and Trenton, N.J.

Barr has placed much greater emphasis on the program than Thornburgh, persuading the White House to make it the centerpiece of the President's anti-crime and urban revitalization efforts.

The Administration last month announced weed and seed grants to 16 cities that were supposed to serve as demonstration sites. But now the Los Angeles program, by virtue of its size, seems certain to provide the best test of whether Bush's strategy for renewal is any better than earlier Democratic efforts he has so harshly criticized.

The 16 other cities, including Santa Ana and San Diego, are to receive about $1 million each spread over this fiscal year and next. Los Angeles will receive about $19 million, apparently most of it this year.

The Los Angeles funding is much heavier on the seeding side, with all but $1 million going for social service and health assistance, presumably to show an immediate federal infusion. In earlier pilot programs, most initial funds went for law enforcement.

The grants to Los Angeles also differ from those made elsewhere because the funding does not hinge on Congress enacting enterprise zone legislation, which provides tax incentives intended to attract private investment in sagging areas. All but $100 million of the $500 million the Administration has proposed for the program nationwide in fiscal 1993 would require enterprise zones, a Justice Department official said.

Despite the Administration's upbeat view of the effort, it has not escaped criticism, including a warning by a White House drug office staff member.

In a March 6 memo, Marc Franc, a legislative analyst at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said many of the weed and seed dollars would be merely reshuffled funds.

"Many of these grants would be made with or without Operation Weed and Seed, something that will not be lost on congressional staff," Franc said. "They will be in a position to allege that this is nothing more than an election-year gimmick and involves no new money, but is merely a reallocation of existing funds."

A spokesman for federal drug czar Bob Martinez said Franc's memo was an internal document that represented one person's opinion and not that of the agency.

The pilot program in Kansas City has enlisted law enforcement, human service agencies and community organizations in both weeding and seeding activities, including demolishing dangerous buildings in a deteriorated neighborhood and creating incentives for development.

In Trenton, four elements are involved: A violent-offender removal program; a community policing program, in which officers work with residents to eliminate problems that foster crime; a program to provide alternative activities for high-risk youth and other community residents in schools after school hours, and a community revitalization and empowerment program.

In addition to Santa Ana and San Diego, cities designated for the $1 million federal backing are Atlanta; Charleston, S.C.; Denver; Philadelphia; Richmond, Va.; Washington; Boston; Chicago; Ft. Worth; Madison, Wis.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; San Antonio; Seattle and Wilmington, Del.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World