East L.A. Set for Grassroots Cityhood Campaign

As critical fiscal study gets underway, proponents re-focus their efforts to communicate benefits of incorporation.

By Paul Aranda Jr., EGP Staff Writer

On a hot Friday evening in unincorporated East Los Angeles last week, a group of local volunteers gathered to begin the initial stages of a critical grass roots campaign that could dramatically alter the future of the area.

In a way, the June 18 meeting of the East Los Angeles Residents Association offered a perfect display of how any and all efforts on the part of the East LA cityhood campaign would have to start in a less than ideal environment. Around 20 volunteers sat in a small dark makeshift classroom at the Eastmont Community Center where the lights were left off to cool down the room with no air conditioning. The room’s open windows allowed the sounds of nearby ice cream trucks and voices of local residents outside to drown out the small group discussion at times.

Undeterred by these inconveniences, the volunteers focused on their task at hand: organizing themselves to educate local stakeholders on the benefits of breaking away from the County to become an independent city.

As the primary proponents of the latest efforts to incorporate East Los Angeles, ELARA recently submitted the required incorporation applications to county officials. The Los Angeles Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) has initiated a Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis (CFA), paid for by ELARA. This study will measure the revenues within East Los Angeles to determine if it can provide sufficient services and a reasonable reserve during the first three years following incorporation, according to a preliminary report conducted by Beverly Burr Associates for ELARA. An Initial Fiscal Analysis report paid for by ELARA and completed in 2007, when by all accounts the economy was in better shape, concluded that the proposed city does have the revenues necessary to meet the provisions of the government code that the CFA will examine.

ELARA members have no doubt that the completed CFA will support their position that unincorporated East Los Angeles can financially survive and prosper as an incorporated city, and are wasting no time preparing for the next phase of their campaign to see it through.

As part of the incorporation process, ELARA volunteers canvassed the 7.5 square mile area and gathered over 11,000 signatures from registered voters — only 9,200 were required — to support the LAFCO application. Their next step is to turn those supporters into voters for cityhood.

With the vital economic study underway, the group is now focused on preparing local registered voters for what could be one of the most significant elections in recent history.

Since there is no definitive timeline for when the CFA will be complete, ELARA anticipates that the earliest cityhood can reach the ballots is March 2011, assuming LAFCO approves that next step. Given that timeframe, the group anticipates it has at least eight months to educate existing voters, and seek out new voters, on the benefits of incorporation for East Los Angeles.

ELARA Vice President Diana Tarango proposed a series of house meetings to personalize the message of incorporation.
“We need to talk to [residents] about cityhood,” Tarango said. “What does it mean?”

For Tarango, incorporation is about enhancing local services, such as street cleaning and trash pick up, through a personalized city government structure. Tarango said her active community involvement has caused many resident to mistake her for a government official. “They come to me because they think I’m Gloria Molina,” Tarango said.

Fellow ELARA member Raul Rubalcava requested that ELARA reach out to local business owners in the education process.

“Right now, there is no emphasis on the small business community,” said Rubalcava, adding that he has spoken to members of the East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce about Cityhood. Rubalcava said County officials are more interested in bringing in “big box stores” such as a Target to East Los Angeles.

“The status quo is not good enough,” he said on the local support of small business owners.

At the meeting, the group established several committees to develop community education strategies. A six-member communications committee was tasked to create a clear and concise message to prepare voters for a potential cityhood election. A youth outreach committee was also formed to focus on local schools and students. ELARA hopes this effort will create another communication channel, as students will be able to educate their family members on the latest cityhood effort.

The youth outreach committee will be bolstered with applicants for the ELARA Internship program. The internship will provide recent college graduates and high achieving high school graduates with an opportunity to assist the voter education efforts. Interns will actively participate in outreach events and attend ELARA board and committee meetings.

The internship requires a minimum commitment of 20 hours per week for 10 weeks. Anyone interested in the internship can contact Jazmin Garcia via email at jgarcia@cityhoodforeastla.org or via telephone at (323) 715-7160.

ELARA will now hold regularly scheduled meetings on the second Thursday of the month. For more information about ELARA meetings and upcoming events, contact ELARA director, Kristie Hernandez at kristie.hernandez@cityhoodforeastla.org.

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June 24, 2010  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


One Response to “East L.A. Set for Grassroots Cityhood Campaign”

  1. C.J. Salgado on June 25th, 2010 8:34 am

    See link below for a related discussion of the issues for ELA:


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