Final ‘Push” Coming in ELA Cityhood Petition Drive

Only two thousand more signatures are needed to move forward.

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

Benjamin Cardenas, Vice-President of the East Los Angeles Residents Association (ELARA), says the petition drive kicked off in July to gather enough signatures to force a new financial analysis of East Los Angeles’ ability to sustain itself as an independent city, has so far accumulated more than seven thousand signatures.
“The petition drive is going along, it’s going very well,” said Cardenas in an interview with EGP. “We only need 9,200 signatures to authorize the comprehensive fiscal analysis by LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commissions).”

Cityhood petition drive got underway in July. (EGP Photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Cityhood petition drive got underway in July. (EGP Photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

About a year and a half ago an independent financial analysis estimated the costs of maintaining unincorporated East Los Angeles. Based on the findings of the Initial Financial Analysis conducted by Beverly Burr Associates, ELARA thinks East Los Angeles has enough of a tax base, from the more than 400 businesses in the area, to be financially viable and independent. According to ELARA, the study found that 17 million dollars are transferred out of the area to pay for county services elsewhere.  But, if East Los Angles were to incorporate, it could keep the majority of funds in the city to provide services to East L.A. residents and businesses.

ELARA believes that an estimated 11 million dollars is over paid by East Los Angeles for their services.

LAFCO must conduct a new financial analysis before East Los Angeles could vote to become a city.

“We are very confident [that the area can sustain itself],” said Cardenas. “Especially now that the governor [has] passed the new vehicle registration law that would provide funds to areas that want to become new cities,” he said.

Gov. Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 301 authored by Senate Leader Gloria Romero into law in early August. The measure makes it easier for funds to flow back to areas wanting to become cities.

Cardenas said their goal is to gather 11 to 12 thousand signatures, and that they are on track to do just that. They had collected 5,000 signatures as of Sept. 10, according to ELARA’s Web site. With just one more month to collect the 9,200 signatures needed to move forward, EGP asked Cardenas if they are running out of time. Cardenas said they’re organizing their final push, and he is confident they will reach their goal.

“Our volunteers will adopt a polling place,” said Cardenas about ELARA’s Election Day strategy to reach voters and get them to sign the petitions.

The signatures will be verified sometime in December. If they have the 9,200 signatures required, the fiscal study can begin in January, said Cardenas, adding that the study will take about nine months to complete and will be forensic in nature—“down to the penny.”

“What people have to remember is that by signing the petition, they are not saying yes or no to East Los Angeles becoming a city,” said Cardenas. “By signing the petition they are approving that the study be conducted, once the study is finalized, and the data revealed, then they can decide if they want it to become a city.”

The last time LAFCO completed a study of East Los Angeles was in 1974 when Richard Nixon was president. Since then, East Los Angeles has been carved up by surrounding cities.

Cardenas said he does not believe that the delicate state of the economy is a factor that residents take into consideration when signing the petition.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” said Cardenas. “They are not hesitant because of the economy but they do ask how government works and what it means to become a city.”

Cardenas also said despite the slow economy, he is sure the LAFCO study will prove East Los Angeles can sustain itself with its own revenues.

“We are confident that there are extra pots of money not yet identified,” said Cardenas.

East Los Angeles currently has 145,000 residents, about one third are believed to be undocumented. ELARA needs 25 percent of registered voters in East Los Angeles to sign the petitions to begin the LAFCO study. Any person registered to vote in East Los Angeles can sign the petition.

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October 30, 2008  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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