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Publication Date: Friday, November 02, 2001

@4head:Day workers dissed

Center closes, future unclear Center closes, future unclear (November 02, 2001)

By Bill D'Agostino

Day laborers and supporters of the Los Altos day worker center were disappointed Tuesday night, as the Mountain View City Council declined to provide emergency help for the center before its Nov. 1 closing date.

Before the council meeting, over 70 workers and supporters marched from the day worker center on El Camino Real in Los Altos to the St. Joseph Church downtown. They held mass at the church and then came to city hall for the council meeting.

Last month the center-formed nearly six years ago by the St. Vincent de Paul Society as a place for day workers to meet employers-announced it had lost its lease, and would close on Oct. 31.

Before the center opened, workers and employers were meeting along El Camino Real in Los Altos and Mountain View, a system that annoyed local businesses. Without the center, that scenario seems likely to repeat itself.
A divided council

Marching in the crowd was Vice Mayor Sally Lieber, who told the workers "to keep fighting, because we're doing the right thing."

At the meeting, Lieber made a motion to have city staff come back with a proposal to offer financial assistance to the workers center.

It died by a 2-4 vote with Lieber and Council Member Mike Kasperzak in favor and the rest of the council-excluding Rosemary Stasek who was absent with the flu-voting down the motion.

Zoglin said she couldn't support the proposal because using city money to help residents seek employment wasn't among her top priorities.

Kasperzak noted that without the center, the city would be forced to spend money anyway, because they would have to enforce a no solicitation ordinance passed a few years ago (see sidebar, pg. ?).

After the failed motion, Zoglin made a new motion to have city staff work with the center to find a new potential site. That motion passed 4-2 with Pear and Ambra voting againstit. But center supporters felt it was far from what was needed to keep the center running.
Whose problem is it?

During the meeting, numerous council members expressed annoyance at St. Vincent de Paul for directing the problem toward the Mountain View council.

The problem is a regional one, Zoglin said, so until other cities step up the plate, Mountain View shouldn't be expected to at. Zoglin noted that many of the employers who use the center come from Los Altos and Palo Alto, not just Mountain View.

But St. Vincent de Paul leaders feel the city council is laying all the responsibility on them to find a solution.

"It's tough to have the city say it's St. Vincent's problem," said Steve Pehanich, the society's director. "We're here to help but it's got to be a joint effort."

Lieber worried that if Mountain View-where 65 percent of the workers live-didn't help, no other city would feel an incentive to. "Someone's got to make the first move," Lieber said. "If we make the first move, I am confident we can get Los Altos and Palo Alto to hear us."

Mayor Mario Ambra expressed frustration with St. Vincent de Paul leaders for saying the city has not done enough to help. Ambra reminded the crowd that last year the city offered up a city-owned site on Terra Bella Avenue.

Proponents of the center said the Terra Bella site would probably not be adequate since employers would not want to seek employees far away from El Camino Real.

Looking for new sites, new funding, new hope Looking for new sites, new funding, new hope (November 02, 2001)

Earlier in the year, the center had hoped to purchase a site on Old Middlefield Road, but without additional funding from outside sources, St. Vincent de Paul was unable to find the $1 million to buy the building.

Procuring new funding is difficult, Pehanich said, without support from the nearby cities because foundations want to see community support for a project before they give money.

Also, Pehanich said, some foundations don't want to give money without definite plans for a new site.

The center's current budget is estimated to be $172,000. "The largest variable in this budget is rent," Pehanich wrote in a letter to the city council. "Working together we should be able to reduce that expense especially given the current real estate market."

Despite the lack of support within the council, some hope for a short term solution may have come out of the center's highly publicized cries for help in the last few weeks.

In the days before the council meeting, two people called the center with possible sites for a makeshift, short-term center, Pehanich said. Although nothing is certain, Pehanich is hopeful a guardian angel will come to the center's aid soon so the workers can get back to having a safe place to find work.

However, Pehanich added, "The angel won't be the City of Mountain View."


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