A coalition of women's organizations charged Tuesday that Rebuild L.A. Chairman Peter V. Ueberroth has formulated an agenda that ignores women's concerns and provides them only token representation on the organization's board.
Leaders of the coalition of more than 40 organizations--ranging from the Rosa Parks Sexual Assault Crisis Center to the Junior League of Los Angeles--said they want full integration of women and women's issues into Rebuild L. A. The coalition mailed its demands to Ueberroth Friday.
"The disgraceful and disrespectful failure of Rebuild Los Angeles to include anything other than a token number of women is symptomatic of an agenda which ignores the realities of effective reconstruction," said Abby J. Leibman, coalition chairwoman and managing director of the California Women's Law Center.
Rebuild L. A. spokesman Fred MacFarlane said that more women will be added to the Rebuild L. A. board, but declined to say how many or when. Women, he added, have an important role in the urban reconstruction group; four of Rebuild L. A.'s seven task force directors are women.
But only 10 of the 50 members of the Rebuild L. A. board are women, Leibman said. More than 42% of the families living below the poverty line in Los Angeles County are headed by women, she said.
A position paper distributed by the coalition contends that women--particularly those from the city's poor neighborhoods--have been systematically excluded from the city's decision-making process. Unless women's issues are "made central to the work of (Rebuild L. A.), we are destined to repeat the failures of the past and we will have little, if any, future to offer our children," the paper says.
"Women are the primary wage earners in the areas of Los Angeles which need to be rebuilt," Leibman said at a Mid-Wilshire news conference. "That simple fact ought to drive the rebuild effort, forcing it to focus on economic empowerment and development, child care, housing and transit."
Instead, Leibman argued, "the reverse seems to be true. We see men setting an agenda which will make sure that men have jobs, men get training and men get loans and financial assistance. Those priorities are not only wrong because they are biased, they are wrong because they do not reflect the economic and social realities of poverty in Los Angeles."
Tuesday's news conference marked the most vocal effort to date to pressure Ueberroth on the issue of women's representation on the board. Last month, Mayor Tom Bradley also called for the appointment of more women--specifically Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina.
MacFarlane noted that the women's coalition was only one of several new groups that have aired their concerns recently about Rebuild L. A. Indeed, representatives of Latinos, labor and other interests have demanded increased representation on the board.
Ueberroth has said that the board, when completed, will have about 62 members.
"We have been meeting with a wide array of community groups since May 1," MacFarlane said. "These groups are all important and we stand ready . . . to meet with them. . . . We're committed to this outreach effort to find those groups who want to work hard and be part of the solution."
Among the organizations in the Women's Coalition are the American Jewish Congress, Chicana Service Action Center, Hollywood Policy Center, Coalition for Women's Economic Development, Driveby Agony, Parents of Watts, Public Counsel, the Vermont-Slauson Economic Development Corp. and the Young Women's Christian Assn.
The coalition cites six primary concerns it believes should be the focus of Rebuild L. A.: economic empowerment, economic development, child care, urban and transit planning, eradicating racism and sexism and making the criminal justice system more sensitive to the needs of women and children.
"We ask that the development of all programs to help in the rebuilding effort ensure that there are opportunities for women in these programs," said Jean T. Conger, executive director of the Los Angeles Women's Foundation, a nonprofit group whose goals include promoting economic independence and self-sufficiency for women.
Conger said that Rebuild L. A. leaders should insist that new jobs be equally accessible to women and men--in part through the provision of child care--and that efforts be made to ensure the safety of women from sexual harassment.
Angela Oh, an attorney representing Women's Organizations Reaching Koreans, said she had been at two meetings at which Ueberroth had spoken to Asian community groups and was unclear about what he plans to do.
"He is a person with a record of considerable achievement, but he doesn't have a record of being inclusive," she said. "That's why we're so anxious to know what his vision is."