Outside Lake Elsinore, there’s a dirt lot where ballfields should be.
In Pomona, an arts center wants to get children ready for kindergarten.
These are two of the projects that members of the Inland House of Representatives delegation hope receive money through a new program called Community Project Funding.
“These projects are transformative, innovative, and thoughtfully designed to improve the day to day lives of my constituents,” Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside, said in an emailed statement about his funding requests.
Rep. Pete Aguilar. D-San Bernardino, said the program is a transparent way to pay for important projects and for members of Congress to reclaim their constitutional authority.
“The Constitution is clear that Congress is the branch of government most closely connected to the people and should have the power of the purse,” Aguilar said by phone.
His office received about 80 proposals and hopes to receive more next year, when nonprofit groups have more time to prepare proposals, he said.
Rep. Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear Lake, said members of Congress best know what their constituents need.
“Part of our job is to know the needs of our district and evangelize for those needs in Congress,” Obernolte said by phone. “We know better than any faceless bureaucrat what’s best for our district.”
Community Project Funding, which applies to the upcoming federal budget, replaces the congressional earmarks process, which ended in 2011 amid mounting concerns over wasteful spending. One infamous earmark set aside $223 million for the now-defunct “Bridge to Nowhere” that would have rivaled the Golden Gate Bridge in size and connected two Alaska towns — one with just 50 people — despite an existing ferry service.
Safeguards built into the program are supposed to ensure money is spent wisely and with integrity. The program is limited to 1% of federal discretionary spending, House members are limited to 10 funding requests and for-profit ventures can’t receive dollars.
Lawmakers, who can’t have a financial interest in their wish-list items, also must provide descriptions of what they want funded, and their wish lists must be publicized. They also have to show community support for what they want funded.
If the dA Center for the Arts in Pomona receives the $120,000 that Rep. Norma Torres, D-Pomona, requested, it will help more children aged 0 to 5 years old experience arts-based education, said Margaret Aichele, executive director of the center.
“That would significantly increase our reach, and we would be able to supplement their programs with puppetry and music and art and dance,” Aichele said. “We don’t want to be presumptuous, because we don’t have the money yet, but it would deepen the connections with people we’ve already had the opportunity to meet and take us to the next level.”
The Lakeland Village ballfields have been unusable since 2010, said Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, a Lakeland Village resident. An unincorporated community, Lakeland Village is “very blue collar” and lacks nonprofit organizations or businesses “with deep enough pockets to help with the restoration costs,” he said via email.
Rebecca Esquibel, CEO of STUDIO 395 Foundation, the arts nonprofit group contracted to run the community center, said the center seeks “to be a place where local community meets and particularly kids can enjoy a safe environment and a place to have some recreation close by.”
“In this area, there’s not a whole lot of amenities for the community,” she said. “The ballparks would be a great addition to that.”
Here’s a look at some of the other items the Inland delegation wants funded.
- $800,000 to build at least four veterans homes for honorably discharged veterans in San Bernardino
- $700,000 for body-worn cameras for the Rialto Police Department. Rialto was one of the first agencies to use body-worn cameras to increase transparency and trust. The money would upgrade the system.
- $375,000 for mobile health care to give more access to low-income residents
- $2.5 million for the Eastern Municipal Water District to install sewer infrastructure in Quail Valley
- $1.5 million to build ballfields with artificial turf at the Lakeland Village Community Center outside Lake Elsinore
- $700,000 for City of Hope to buy a new CT scanner as part of a facility expansion in Corona
REP. DARRELL ISSA, R-VISTA
Issa spokesman Jonathan Wilcox said the congressman did not make any spending requests “of this nature,” although he has made requests for transportation funding.
- $2 million for improvements to Victoria Avenue in Highland
- $1 million to upgrade waste water treatment and replenish groundwater around Big Bear Lake
- $1 million for an improved basin to help protect Yucaipa from flooding, improve water quality, add trails and preserve open space for habitat
- $1.5 million to widen Pennsylvania Avenue in Beaumont
- $1.25 million for a wastewater treatment and groundwater protection project in Banning
- $1.5 million for the Inland Empire Technical Trade Center, a Riverside Community College District project to teach workforce skills
- $250,000 for the Path of Life Ministries Employment Pipeline. Path of Life is a Riverside-based homeless outreach nonprofit organization
- $175,000 to help the Moreno Valley-based Consortium for Early Learning Services expand child care
- $2 million to add new water pipelines, fire hydrants and water meters in Bloomington
- $2 million to upgrade a heavily used community recreation facility at Saratoga Park in Montclair
- $378,350 for culturally competent mental health services, substance abuse disorder treatment and diversion programs for juveniles in the criminal justice system through Rialto’s LOVE Program