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Tobacco Funds to Be Used for Sidewalks, Parks

Los Angeles will use the first installment of its multimillion-dollar windfall from the national tobacco settlement to improve wheelchair access to sidewalks and build parks, under a plan approved by the City Council Tuesday.

The council unanimously agreed to spend about $8 million it expects to receive in the first year of the 25-year settlement deal to build sidewalk curb ramps, which are required by federal law.

But a dispute arose over what to do with the remainder of the first-year money--more than $5 million. The council decided to use $4 million of those funds to build parks in poor neighborhoods.

That move defied the wishes of several public health officials, who asked the council to allow a task force to recommend how the money should be spent.

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In fact, the 1998 settlement with four major tobacco companies does not dictate how states are to use the money they receive. The $206-billion settlement was reached with 46 states to avert lawsuits that sought to recover Medicaid dollars spent to treat sick smokers. Los Angeles’ share of the agreement will total $312 million over 25 years.


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