East LA Cityhood Glamour Fades in Recession

ELARA asks for help to raise $110,000 for the Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis.

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this store incorrectly identified Assemblyman Charles Calderon as Senator Ron Calderon.

A year ago on the 4th of July, the East Los Angeles Residents Association (ELARA) with great fanfare and high hopes, kicked off a campaign to achieve cityhood for East Los Angeles.

The group successfully completed a petition drive in January of this year that authorized a Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis (CFA) to determine if the unincorporated area could survive financially as an independent city, and were given 45 days to raise the money to pay for the analysis.

Now, nearly seven months later, ELARA says their fundraising efforts—which have included menudo breakfasts and an East LA mural tour—still have a long way to go before they can pay the $134,710 needed for the study.

On Saturday, new ELARA President Ben Cardenas announced to supporters that the group has so far only raised about $25,000.

“We never really had an actual amount for the CFA, we didn’t really have an actual date and what ended up happening in the last month, month and a half, is LAFCO went out there, put out the bid, said ‘here it is we’ve got the consultants you need to come up with the money’ by June something,” said Cardenas. “That kind of hit us pretty hard because most of our fundraising efforts were grass roots. We knew the ball park figure would be around $100,000 but we didn’t have a date [as to when we had to have it|.”

On May 27, the Los Angeles Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) hired a consulting firm to perform unincorporated East Los Angeles’ Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis.

Oscar Gonzales, who was the ELARA president at the time, told EGP that the hiring of Economic & Planning Systems to conduct the study was exciting and the next step towards Cityhood.

ELARA soon learned they only had two to three weeks to come up with the money for the study. They secured an extension on that deadline that expires on July 22, Cardenas said. The association asked LAFCO to apply on their behalf for a loan from the State Controller, however the request was denied because there were no funds appropriated, according to Cardenas.

ELARA remains hopeful that Senators Gloria Romero (East Los Angeles), Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D- City of Industry), and others who have endorsed their efforts, will be able to get funds appropriated through the legislature.

“Obviously, we know the state budget is all messed up and this process is probably going to be nearly impossible, yet I pray every night that it takes place,” said Cardenas, adding there is probably only a one percent chance legislators will vote to foot the bill.

A Calderon staffer at the meeting said the senator has not received any calls from East Los Angeles residents asking for his support.

“We have an emergency here which is to come up with the money by July 22 or apply for an extension,” said Cardenas. “We feel we can get an extension... But I think the situation is very dire; if we don’t come up with the money, the CFA won’t take place. ”

ELARA passed out a script and asked those present to call 15 elected officials and ask for their financial support.

Cardenas said the good news is there is no expiration deadline for the petition signatures, so if the study bid deadline expires, LAFCO can still request new bids. If that happens, it is unlikely the Cityhood vote will make it onto the November 2010 ballot, but ELARA could continue raising money.

LAFCO Executive Officer Sandy Winger told EGP that it is unclear if there is an expiration date for the signatures and their lawyers are looking into what he described as a “gray area” in the law. He acknowledged that population changes in East Los Angeles could become an issue if ELARA takes too long to raise funds for the study.

Several people at the meeting offered fundraising ideas, but ELARA board members told them they should take the lead in fundraising.

ELARA Board Member Ana Mascareñas told EGP that all the board members are volunteers. She said the mural bus tour on May 30 raised a thousand dollars, the menudo breakfasts have raised several thousand dollars; the rest of their money is from donations.

Separately, ELARA has already raised $25,000 to pay for the initial independent fiscal analysis (IFA), and $65,000 to pay for the petition signature gathering effort, application fee and other expenses, said Cardenas. About $100,000 was spent before the petitions were even submitted in late December.

Cardenas attributes ELARA’s fundraising problems to the economy. Their network is “tapped out,” he said, but added that while grass root fundraising has been their focus, “all the cards are on the table.”

Gustavo Camacho, ELARA Treasurer, said donations so far are pretty much evenly split between businesses and individuals.

Camacho, who represents the Whittier Merchants Association, told EGP Cityhood will be good for business in East Los Angeles because county red tape makes renovations and opening a new business too expensive.

His view, however, is not shared by all the area’s business groups.

The East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce is opposing Cityhood on the grounds it will be bad for business. Interim past president Eddie Torres and Treasurer Hilda Serrano told EGP during a recent interview that businesses in East Los Angeles will be slapped with new taxes and more layers of bureaucracy.

Torres was also concerned that East Los Angeles residents have not read the initial fiscal analysis and are being misled by ELARA.

“The facts are, they have no facts. They have a perception of an economic study they paid for and everyone we’ve talked to thinks they’ve [facts] been misconstrued,” said Torres.

“They’ve gotten the signatures under the pretext of me telling you, the petitions signer, ‘we can have better services, we can have better parks, and we won’t raise taxes.’”

The comprehensive fiscal analysis will be much lengthier and Torres doubts most residents will read the document or be completely informed.

“I want the people to know what they’re getting themselves into,” said Torres, adding that ELARA is spreading hype.

Tax increases and eminent domain will come with Cityhood, according to Torres who says he is also seriously concerned Sheriff services will decrease.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina has taken a neutral position on East LA Cityhood, but urges caution about the permanent consequences of Cityhood and the information that ELARA is disseminating.

“Specifically, they claim-definitively-that taxes will not increase as a result of incorporation and that eminent domain will not be necessary in order to make an incorporated East L.A. financially feasible,” said Molina in a statement to EGP. “I feel strongly that until the Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis is entirely complete, it is premature to make these assertions which are very serious ones.”

Torres told EGP that an independent Town Hall on the topic would be greatly beneficial to residents who are uninformed about the details of Cityhood.

Cesar Jose “CJ” Salgado, a Cityhood supporter, said he would also like to see a Town Hall meeting to unite people based on local issues.

However, Cardenas told EGP that a Town Hall is not a priority at this point; ELARA needs to focus on raising money.

Participants in Saturday’s meeting tried to remain optimistic but acknowledged a ‘revolving door’ of volunteers who have come and gone. All signs indicate that for now, an extension may be the group’s only alternative.

ELARA will hold a fundraising meeting this Saturday, July 18, 9a.m. at the Eugene A. Obregon American Legion Post 804, located at 4615 Cesar Chavez Avenue, East Los Angeles, CA 90022.

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July 16, 2009  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

Comments

2 Responses to “East LA Cityhood Glamour Fades in Recession”

  1. Joe on July 19th, 2009 3:05 am

    If Mr. Torres wants facts, then he should request the county to provide the financial facts to demystify the facts from sheer speculation. Mr. Torres is wrong when he speculates about tax increases and eminent domain. How does he know this will happen? This is the same pretext (taxation) that was used in the last incorporation effort in 1974 -back then it was perhaps legitimate to say that property tax increases could increase if East LA incorporated. This is no longer true since proposition 13 in 1978, which sets the general-purpose property tax rate at 1 percent of assessed value, transfers control over property tax allocation to the state, AND REQUIRES TWO-THIRDS VOTER APPROVAL FOR SPECIAL TAXES!. In addition, proposition 218 requires two-thirds voter approval for special taxes, requires majority voter approval for general taxes, and requires parcel taxes to be enacted as special tax. Even if incorporation is successful (hypothetically), there is no way that the local government can just say we are raising taxes. That is NOT how it works. It requires 66 percent of the residents to vote for a higher tax, and if the residents do not want a higher tax, then they can just vote no. Plain and simple. As far as eminent domain, they are ways to avoid taking property.

    I wholeheartedly believe that the hardworking residents in East LA have the right to know how much money is collected from property taxes, sales and use taxes, vehicle license fees (this is the county’s revenues not counting federal and state revenues) AND how much of that money is being spent on the community. If the residents knew this information then we would quickly know whether or not cityhood is viable. Heck, if not for cityhood, then so that the residents themselves can demand the county to spend more of the money that is collected. The county can provide better services (like getting the garbage picked up early in the morning and not pass noon), improve and rehabilitate the schools, and provide economic development, etc.

    I’ll give an analogy. Any reasonable person who has a bank account knows how much he/she has in the bank, they know how much they get paid at work, and they know how much in bills they have to pay. i am sure that the county knows how much they collect and spend. Therefore, i just dont get it why the county is withholding this financial information and making inaccessible to the residents. Please provide the information! It shouldnt be that hard. The difference between a city and an unincorporated area is that the former knows how much money is collected, spent -or if it close to a deficit- and the latter has completely no idea what happens to the money. Thats the difference.

    Anyway, I think what Mr. Torres is referring to when he speaks about taxation is the business license tax, which is a tax on businesses in the city. Everybody needs to pay their fair share, like it or not, all levels of government dislike the free rider problem.

    Lastly, why should the residents themselves pay for a study, which the county will benefit? That doesnt make sense. Molina is 100% correct when she said that we need a Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis (CFA) to avoid any speculation. Why isnt the county pitching in funds to pay for this expensive study?

    Think about it.
    Paz

  2. ELA Kid on July 20th, 2009 10:53 pm

    Their is a conflict of interest with this article. First of all that Eddie Torres is part of the East L.A. Chamber of Commerce. He is actually the contact for an upcomming event called “Taste of East L.A”. On the flyer to this event EGP News is a Sponsor to the “Taste of East L.A.” event. So if they have a working relationship how can EGP stay objective? If you dont belive me look at the flyer.

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