Wave Editorial: Urban L.A. deserves a healthy slice of stimulus

Story Published: Feb 20, 2009 at 3:50 PM PST

With failing schools, unemployment that is in some areas near double the ever-rising national average, crumbling infrastructure, a severe lack of modern mass transit options, an acute health care crisis and a population on the wrong side of the digital divide, South L.A. and its surrounding communities appear to be an ideal target for a substantial portion of the $787 million economic stimulus package signed into law this week.

As President Obama traveled to Denver on Tuesday to affix his signature to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, our region was still reeling from recent ominous headlines, many of them reported first in the Wave: Another delay in construction of a light-rail line that would travel nar the Crenshaw District; millions in new cutbacks at Charles Drew University, as county officials struggle to revive the shuttered hospital once aligned with it; the threat of up to 2,300 teacher layoffs in an L.A. Unified School District that already has one of the highest dropout rates in the nation.

Those are just some of the issues we face locally, and on Tuesday President Obama said there was new money to address each one.

On public transportation, he pledged that a portion "of this investment" would go to fund "nearly 400,000 men and women [who] will go to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges ... upgrading mass transit and building high-speed rail lines that will improve travel and commerce throughout the nation."

Speaking on education, the president said part of the stimulus would go toward "building 21st-century classrooms, libraries and labs for millions of children," and would "provide funds to train a new generation of math and science teachers, while giving aid to states and school districts to stop teachers from being laid off and education programs from being cut.

As for health care, the billions will allow us to "take the long overdue step of computerizing America's medical records, to reduce the duplication and waste that costs billions of health care dollars and the medical errors that every year cost thousands of lives," said the president, not to mention "an historic commitment to wellness initiatives will keep millions of Americans from setting foot in the doctor's office for purely preventable diseases."

Does this not sound like the top echelon of a wish list that South L.A. political leaders have long mused about, only to watch helplessly over the last eight years as these billions were given instead to the richest Americans in the form of tax cuts?

As Democrats loyal to the progressive agenda laid out by the president since his days on the campaign trail, Congresswomen Maxine Waters, Diane Watson and Laura Richardson - who represent the large majority of historically Black L.A. - should be in a prime position to ensure that a healthy slice of these billions are steered toward urgent needs clearly in sync with the
administration's priorities.

Their responsibility is to deliver the change represented by this new financial commitment to these initiatives. As constituents, ours is to hold them accountable, and pay close attention to how our share of this largesse is spent in the coming months and years.

Posted by erniemixon on 02/22/2009
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