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Reagan ACTION Chief Attacks Valley Interfaith and Public Works By Scott Lind McAllen ON MARCH 22, a solemn group of priests, ministers, and laypeople filed into St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. Members of Valley Interfaith’s clergy committee, they were there to respond to attacks made on Interfaith and its organizer and on the Industrial Areas Foundation. Two tense days had passed since ACTION director Tom Pauken came to the Valley as President Reagan’s special emissary, to coordinate the administration’s response to the December freeze, which devastated the Rio Grande Valley’s citrus industry and left at least 20,000 farmworkers jobless. In February, Valley Interfaith had presented Reagan administration officials with a proposal for a $66.7 million public works project \(TO, provide jobs for more than 18,000 farmworkers in Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy counties. Meetings were arranged by U.S. Rep. Kika de la Garza between Interfaith and federal administration officials. Valley Interfaith representatives presented numerous letters of support from Valley public officials, businessmen, bankers, farmworker advocates, superintendents of area school districts, in favor of the project. Interfaith spokespeople clearly stated they viewed the public works project as an interim solution to the economic crisis. The jobs created would reduce an onerous strain on social service agencies, they said, and would pump close to $49 million in wages into the economy. Interfaith representatives presented the proposal to the White House cabinet staff, were told to rewrite it, did so, and came back to Washington. They said they received promising signs that at least a significant portion of the proposed project could be funded. “We’re pleased with the White House,” Valley Interfaith organizer Jim Drake said after the initial meeting. But, he added, “the Scott Lind is a reporter for the Valley Monitor. White House will have to do much more than what it has so far done. . . . We were able to get parties, that under any circumstances would not be listening to each other, to place hunger and near starvation above strict party politics.” At the same time, the voter registration campaign being conducted by Valley Interfaith was clearly a factor in the negotiations. “Since we’re not in either camp,” said Drake, “we’re able to engage in accountability. . . . We’re going to parade 25,000 new votes in front of them. From our point of view, we don’t care whether the vote goes to Republicans or Democrats.” But the balloon of expectation burst when Tom Pauken came to town. At a March 20 afternoon press conference at the Sheraton Inn outside of Harlingen, Pauken stated the Reagan administration’s preference for creating permanent jobs in the private sector, while encouraging “private sector voluntarism.” Pauken’s stated reason for coming to the Valley was to announce appointment of a local coordinator for the “Action Task Force” spearheading the Reagan administration initiative; he did so. He stated one local agency, Colonias del Valle, would receive the grants, amount unspecified, to set up one center and twelve food pantries this, three months after the freeze wiped out work opportunities. He announced that by “the middle of next week” he would make an important announcement on the private sector job initiative, the program itself unspecified. And there were odds and ends: help for some Vietnam veterans who relocate to areas with employment possibilities; a promised look into what the Farmers Home Administration and the Small Business Administration can do to provide loans. In short what he offered was nothing new. No one, however, expected Pauken to lace his pronouncements on the Reagan administration initiative with .public attacks on “Minsky-style” organizations. Valley Interfaith is affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation, organized in part by the late Saul Alinsky. Pauken stated that such organizations use “threats,” “manipulate the news media,” at times misinform the public, perhaps are more interested in political organizing than concern for the poor, and have “hidden agendas.” While his objections were framed carefully so as not to attack Valley Interfaith directly, the organization’s members regarded it as a direct attack. Pauken did, however, repeatedly single out Valley Interfaith organizer Jim Drake for criticism. He said: “I find it very ironic Mr. Drake comes to Washington speaking on behalf of the Valley when he came here from California. We don’t need a broker. . . . We’re not interested in self-proclaimed spokesmen who want to use tactics of threats and intimidation.” Drake graduated from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Subsequently, he worked with the Catholic Church’s Campaign for Human Development. Prior to coming to the Valley as Interfaith organizer, he worked with the agency on developing credit unions for pulpwood workers in Mississippi. During Pauken’s press conference, a contingent of priests, ministers, and laypeople stood somberly while Pauken made his attacks on “Minsky-style” organizations. But later that day, at a 7:30 p.m. meeting between Pauken and the Interfaith group, the pretense of decorum broke down into an angry battle, after Pauken accused Drake in front of a TV camera of being a “liar” for stating to another reporter that Pauken failed to show up at an 11 a.m. meeting with the group. Pauken said there was no meeting scheduled, although Drake said he had spoken with Pauken about the time and place of the morning gathering. Ofelia de los Santos, an Interfaith leader, said \(regarding Pauken’s atin the Valley has acted this way.” Drake said: “I think he [Pauken] is off his leash. He doesn’t sound like any Republican we’ve been dealing with for 12 APRIL 6, 1984