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Did Council Rake Valley Over Quake?

The Los Angeles City Council last Wednesday voted to slice a modest housing recovery pie three ways: $14.7 million to replace quake-damaged housing in the San Fernando Valley, $14 million for areas damaged by the 1992 riots, $18.3 million for projects citywide. An earlier proposal would have given a larger share of this funding, an additional $8.3 million, to the Valley, but it failed on a 6-6 vote.

This has led to an out-of-proportion dispute, one that feeds into a sense that the Valley has been robbed in terms of aid. (Wrong.) Wednesday’s vote has also led some Valley constituents to argue that their council representatives left town knowing a crucial vote was to be held. (Wrong.) And another version has Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas engineering the last-minute scheduling of the vote to deliberately exclude Valley members. (Wrong.)

First, Councilmen Joel Wachs, Zev Yaroslavsky and Hal Bernson each gained prior approval to miss the Aug. 17 meeting, well before the vote was scheduled. Ridley-Thomas did not sneak this onto the agenda. It was officially posted Aug. 12, five days before the council meeting. Yes, the council could have set the matter aside to allow the three Valley members to vote. (It should have.) But it’s also true that those Valley members could have done more to seek a postponement days before the meeting. (They should have.)

The issue can be resolved more amiably and fairly today when the council votes on whether to reconsider the way in which that pie was cut. (It should vote to reconsider.)

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However, the entire matter should be placed in the context of a dispute over less than seven-hundredths of 1% of the largest aid package ever assembled for a U.S. natural disaster. The lion’s share of that $12-billion total is rightfully being funneled to the Valley. This is hardly a reason to feel slighted. (But emotions aren’t always rational.)


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