A “Promise Zone” for Los Angeles that President Barack Obama announced in January would be the beneficiary of federal funds for economic development is under fire for bypassing poorer residents in greater need of aid, and directly benefiting a nonprofit organization run by a prominent Obama administration donor.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the designated “Promise Zone” encompasses “immigrant communities around MacArthur Park and Koreatown, as well as upscale areas of Hollywood and Los Feliz,” but stunningly leaves out “communities south of the 10 Freeway, including areas of chronic poverty that drew worldwide attention after the 1965 and 1992 riots” in Watts and Compton.
Those bypassed communities have poverty rates around 21-39% higher than “communities within the Promise Zone, according to a Times analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.”
The White House has said these areas were left out because they wanted to “concentrate resources in communities where nonprofits or public agencies had already received one of the Obama administration’s signature urban renewal grants.” Critics said this ensured a self-selecting process where only a limited number of organizations and areas were eligible for federal aid. And in Los Angeles, the Times notes that “there was only one such group: the nonprofit led by Dixon Slingerland,” who is described as “a major campaign fundraiser for Obama and frequent White House visitor.”
Another White House official insisted that “many of the most impoverished areas of the country are not ready for a coordinated federal program like this because they don’t have the basic plans in place to benefit.”
According to the Times, “Slingerland raised more than $743,000 for Obama in the last two presidential elections” and has been to the White House 19 times since Obama took office.
Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA) is the daughter of Kenneth Hahn and the brother of James Hahn, and their family has represented inner city communities for over four decades. She reportedly “skipped the White House ceremony at which Obama announced L.A.’s selection” and commented that “it just seems like those that have keep getting… And those that never had don’t even have a chance.”