New Horizons forced to downsize

SOUTH GLENDALE — Faced with mounting financial troubles, the founder of New Horizons Family Center said Tuesday that the nonprofit will have to downsize in order to keep from shutting down altogether.

"I have to consolidate our operations to keep our doors open to the community to do what we do for the children," said Maria Rochart, who founded the center in 1996 to provide childcare and counseling to low-income families in South Glendale.

Rochart had resigned from her role as executive director in April, but recently reassumed the position after her replacement quit in protest of what she said were unhealthy work conditions and poor financial management. Multiple members of the organization's board of directors have also departed in recent months.

In addition to consolidating operations, the board of directors, of which Rochart currently serves as president, will also undergo a "revamping" as she works out the details of the downsizing, she said.

Rochart's announcement came on the same day that the center's long-delayed childcare facility on South Maryland Avenue was lumped with medical research monkeys that self-administer cocaine as an example of what Sens. John McCain and Tom Coburn considered to be wasteful federal stimulus spending.

In the report released Tuesday, New Horizons' "Children's Village" childcare facility ranked No. 34 in a list of 100 projects that the conservative lawmakers said were examples of wasteful spending that have done nothing but add to the federal deficit.

Last year, the City Council allocated $131,000 of Glendale's stimulus money to New Horizons for the $4.1 million new childcare facility on the 1200 block of South Maryland Avenue. The facility has also received an additional $210,000 in federal block grant funding allocated by the city.

In March, Rochart told city officials that the stimulus funds had been spent and the project was ready to break ground after years of delays and hundreds of thousands of city funds, but months later, the vacant lot sits unchanged.

On Tuesday, she said the additional project delays had been caused by a loss in planned donations during the economic downturn and that she is working with city officials to move the project forward.

"Whether the Children's Village will happen or not, that's a conversation that I am having with the city," she said.

According to McCain (R-Ariz.) and Coburn (R-Okla.), the report highlighted questionable stimulus projects that were wasteful, mismanaged and failed to create jobs.

"We owe it to all Americans that are paying taxes and struggling to find jobs, to rebuild our economy without doing additional harm, and to do it in a way that expands opportunities for future generations. Too many stimulus projects are failing to meet that goal," they said in the report.

The report also noted that the City Council's allocation to New Horizons came despite recommendations from city officials that plans to improve South Glendale Avenue and expand programs at the Verdugo Jobs Center were more consistent with the federal government's emphasis on shovel-ready, public infrastructure projects.

The City Council "may now be regretting that decision," the report stated.

City officials did not respond to requests for comment on the report.

Among the other 99 projects listed in the report was a program called "Effect of Cocaine Self-Administration on Metabotropic Glutamate Systems" at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina. The project calls for monkeys to self-administer cocaine and other drugs while researchers study their effects, according to the report.

The university has defended the program as having a major impact on how cocaine addiction and relapses are understood.

The White House has taken issue with the report, which it says is fraught with mistakes and mischaracterizations. It was a major point of contention last year for a similar report.

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