Timer Set for Challenges to East LA’s Fiscal Study

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

If Unincorporated East Los Angeles becomes a city, there is no guarantee revenue losses will not occur in the future, but the same can be said for the county, the state and the federal government.

That was the East Los Angeles Residents Association’s (ELARA) response to many of the questions asked during a community meeting they sponsored earlier this week. They also said many of the costs in a financial study were too high, and substantial sources of revenue were not included.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Llega la Temporada para Retar el Estudio de Fiscal del Este de Los Ángeles

Increases in fees imposed on businesses and property owners could be in the pipeline if the effort to incorporate the area is successful. But many of those fees are already imposed by the county, stakeholders just aren’t aware of them, former State Sen. Richard Polanco told a crowd of more than a 100 gathered at Garfield High School on Monday night.

ELARA members and consultants answered questions from the audience after a presentation, that lasted over an hour, on the CFA. EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

ELARA Vice President Diana Tarango said it’s a shame that she and other residents feel the need to leave the area to go shopping: “Don’t move, improve,” she said, eliciting applause from the audience.

Opponents to cityhood, however, question whether the incorporation process has been transparent, and continue to focus on what they believe is the inevitable reduction to public safety services such as the California Highway Patrol patrolling the area, and cuts to the number of Sheriffs assigned to East LA at a time when the state will begin to parole more inmates to save money.

Eddie Torres, a member of the East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, told EGP after the meeting that at least 20 public safety questions submitted by 6 or more members of the audience were “censored” from the discussion.

listens to Eddie Torres’ concerns. EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo”]City Terrace resident Martha Jimenez, charges the incorporation process is flawed, and says, according to her research, the State Controller and State Auditor should have been involved long ago.

However, Ron Mukai, a business owner whose family has roots in East LA going back to the 1920s, says the business community needs to get together and have a serious discussion about the proposed incorporation.

“People tend to get on at the last minute. People ignore the 20 things that came in the mail and all of a sudden they show up to the meeting and say, ‘what’s going on? How come you never told me anything?’ And I don’t want that to happen here, the stakes are too high for people to come in at the last minute when they don’t know what’s going on. Because then they are susceptible to punch lines and campaign slogans without any facts to back it up, and that’s going to hurt us and I don’t want that,” Mukai said noting examples such as past meetings with the MTA and the location of a proposed high school at Belvedere Park years ago.

Mukai also has concerns that unqualified candidates will run for the city’s first city council, and there won’t be enough resources to let people know they are unqualified. He is proposing East LA area business organizations meet to discuss incorporation issues.
Torres told EGP the East LA Chamber wants to host a community meeting as well, especially since Monday night’s meeting was “one-sided” and many questions were left unanswered, he said.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Yesterday, the Los Angeles Local Agency Formation Commission (LA LAFCO) acknowledged the receipt of the final East Los Angles Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis (CFA) that was released on Sept. 8.

The 30-day period, required by law, during which the accuracy of the CFA can be challenged by submitting a written request for a review by the State Controller ends at 5pm on Oct. 17.  A $25,000 deposit to cover the cost of the review must be included.

If no one requests a State Controller review, LAFCO has tentatively scheduled a public hearing on the issue for Oct. 26, which would be moved to Dec. 14 if a review is requested, according to the LAFCO staff report. During the public hearing, the LAFCO Commission could decide whether the City of East Los Angeles is feasible and could recommend that the County Board of Supervisors place incorporation on the ballot for a vote.

The updated analysis concludes the city would have a $9.8 million shortfall, instead of $11 million as originally stated, before taking into account about $19 million in revenue losses from vehicle license fees due to recently enacted legislation.

ELARA, the proponents of cityhood who paid for the study, has not confirmed whether it plans to solicit a review by the State Controller.

On Monday, however, they laid out their analysis of the study released on Sept. 8. They said the proposed city is financially viable, and outlined what they say are inaccuracies in the study, as well as other sources of revenue not included.

ELARA believes law enforcement costs has been over estimated by $2 or $3 million dollars, when compared to the actual costs in cities of similar size and rates of crime. They put the cost at $17 to $18 million, rather than the $21 million stated in the CFA.

They also said they could save $850,000 if the county continues to run Belvedere Park. The group also proposes that the County subsidize East Los Angeles’ libraries, as it does in 55 of the 88 cities in the County Library System.

ELARA also believes additional revenues can be found in fees, like parking tickets, and in grants, like Community Development Block Grants and Prop 172 funds that are earmarked for public safety.

The final CFA shows nearly $2 million more in estimated property taxes. ELARA says commercial properties may not have been completely accounted for in the study.

The groups’ revenue findings also assume their “legislative heroes will come through” and the city will receive more in vehicle license fees.

Assemblyman Charles Calderon, who was originally scheduled to attend the community meeting, was not at Monday’s meeting, but in Sacramento working on the vehicle license fee issue, according to ELARA.

The issue was not heard by the LAFCO Commission yesterday until after EGP’s press time, for updates visit EGPnews.com.

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September 15, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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