Veteran Councilmember Bernard C. Parks is serving his third term as a Los Angeles City Councilmember for the Eighth Council District, but recently he joined Councilmember Curren Price of the Ninth
District in his dismay of the recent distribution of the Promise Zone Grants.
“I am totally disappointed at the local decisions to limit the ‘Promise Zones’ to areas that exclude most of the poverty pits that exist in the city of Los Angeles, specifically South Los Angeles,” he said.
“I don’t think that we as a city have done business in the past. [However] I commend the president for creating such an intense and long-term revitalization program with laudable goals of reducing poverty through job creation, increasing economic activity, improving educational opportunities, improving public safety, and leveraging private capital which covers significant local strategies such as transportation, housing.”
Parks represents over 250,000 people and was appointed chair of the Budget and Finance Committee where he has implemented prudent fiscal policies in tough financial times that have steered the city clear of bankruptcy.
However, like Price and others whose districts were ignored in the distribution of the Promise Zone funding, he can only watch to see what transpires.
Parks spoke to the Sentinel during an exclusive interview last week to share his dismay over the grants that will not include his Eighth District or improvised South Central Los Angeles and Watts. Five neighborhoods — Hollywood, Little Armenia, Koreatown, Westlake and Pico-Union were the recipients of Los Angeles Promise Zone funding.
“Unfortunately many people were not aware that the grant was being promoted, so it appeared like it was a single source. One organization applied for it, one organization set the makings and parameters of the grant and one organization administered it,” Parks told the Sentinel.
Parks has implemented many programs to enrich the South Los Angeles area including the Prevention Intervention and Education (PIE) program at Crenshaw High School. The PIE program works to bridge the gap between Black and brown students through various school assemblies and noteworthy speakers. Parks has also created an annual Youth Jobs and Career Fair where at least 20 youths were interviewed for jobs during its first year.
Although many parts of the city have needs and challenges, it defies logic that most of its population that lives south of the Santa Monica Freeway is not a part of, or given any consideration to receive the new funds.
Parks outlined, high foreclosure rates, high unemployment figures and underemployment issues, lack of available jobs, low rates of pay, comparatively higher crime rates than other parts of city and homelessness among many others.
Parks stated how very unfortunate it is that the Youth Policy Institute (YPI), which received over $30M in grants, did not take a broader approach.
Now that the Federal Government has allocated and is in the process of disbursing these funds, it is now in the hands of local leadership to create a broader and more equitable distribution to ensure that the true goals of ‘Promise Zones’ are realized.”
He says he doesn’t know if anything can be done now.
“I don’t know if anything can be done because there are such restrictions that the area has to be configured and has to be offered as part of the presentation. All of the poverty areas south of the Santa Monica freeway have been ignored,” Parks added.
“It’s a 10 year program, so the likelihood of renewing it in our lifetime is probably non and void. It’s looks like it’s a done deal, unfortunately it became public the day before the president announced it.”
Finally, Parks concluded, “We hear verbiage that every community will be included, but that’s inconsistent with the guidelines that were proposed.”