Following 24 hours of heated debate over federal stimulus funding that is earmarked for improving the 14th Street skatepark in Long Beach, Congresswoman Laura Richardson released a statement to the LBPOST.com with her stance on the hot issue in her jurisdiction.
"Local officials from the City of Long Beach and other municipalities from across the nation, including Republicans, have refuted Senator Coburn’s report," reads the statement. “The grant funding for the Long Beach Skate Park project was not submitted through my office, and specific projects are not individually approved by Congress. However, as a member of the Long Beach City Council for six years, I personally witnessed the benefits of skate parks in our community."
Richardson called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act an "extraordinary measure" and listed many potential community benefits that will arise from the project.
"Although skate parks are not traditional ‘brick and mortar’ projects, they do need concrete supplies, they do need individuals to build them, residents do use them and neighborhoods are improved by them eliminating vacant blighted lots," she said.
Meanwhile, back at the actual skate park in question, it was just a normal Wednesday afternoon for the regulars who frequent the park every day. By 4:00pm, skaters whizzed by within inches of each other as they practiced and perfected techniques on the ramps and rails.
"It can get crowded here any day of the week," said Ray "Old Skool" Olson, a 14th Street regular with 26 years of skating experience. "You have some of the best skaters in Long Beach come to this park because of the community here."
It's that community that keeps many coming back to the skate park, and away from other lures surrounding the area.
"If it wasn't for the park, I'd be in these streets getting shot or something," said Deshan Rivera, 26. "People who might be enemies are family here."
After the park was included on Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn's report of 100 unnecessary projects that will receive stimulus funding, controversy has swirled around the tiny, one-block park. The White House offered a rebuttal, as did Councilmember Robert Garcia and the City Manager's office. Some LBPOST.com commentors have argued that local projects such as this should be locally funded, and that while a worthy cause, the park should not be footed by the stimulus.
But through it all, the kids who show up at 14th Street continue to skate. They were there today, and they'll be there tomorrow. No matter what.
Photo (above): Chris McNealty, 21, flies off a ramp and kickflips over a large box at the 14th Street Skate Park. "We need bigger ramps so [skaters] can advance their skills," he said. Photo by Russell Conroy
Photo (bottom): Ray "Old Skool" Olson talks technique with two youngsters atop one of the 14th Street skate park ramps. "Look at the diversity here," Olson said, pointing to skaters of all ages and descents. "You don't need to be some special dude [to skate here]. All you have to do is be passionate about skateboarding." Photo by Russell Conroy
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