Open Letter to Ben Cardenas and the Unincorporated East Los Angeles Community

By Gloria Molina

Dear Mr. Cardenas:

I recently read your “Open Letter to East L.A. Residents” in the most recent edition of the Eastside Sun. In it, you brazenly, audaciously, and erroneously claimed “East L.A. has experienced 40 years of neglect” and “many of the current infrastructure projects you see today coincidentally began after our Cityhood movement started.”  To all these disingenuous assertions, I say: “¡Ya basta!”

You do not want to hear the facts. You never have. But East Los Angeles residents and Eastside Sun readers deserve them, not your slanted political agenda. I will present the facts plainly – without exaggeration or embellishment – so residents and readers may decide the truth for themselves.

YOUR CLAIM: There has been a “lack of meaningful economic investment” in East Los Angeles.

THE FACTS: The truth is quite the opposite. The Maravilla Redevelopment Area began in 1998 – far before the current incorporation movement started.

From it, we now see a Restaurant Row on César Chávez Avenue and a retail center adjacent to the East Los Angeles Civic Center, which includes a Denny’s, a Coffee Bean, and Juan Pollo, among others. We opened up the first Starbucks in East Los Angeles. The Whittier Boulevard Streetscape Project was designed in 2002, and funding became available for it in 2007 – again, before the incorporation movement began. Most recently, we are saving the historic Golden Gate Theatre building while simultaneously providing a much needed business amenity to the community.

YOUR CLAIM: East Los Angeles suffers from “less than ideal conditions.”

THE FACTS: In 1994, East Los Angeles suffered through 49 murders. Last year, we endured five homicides. So far this year we have experienced zero homicides to-date!  Countless public safety teams have been created to significantly improve the quality of life in East Los Angeles. These include Code Enforcement, Nuisance Abatement Teams, and Bar Abatements (which closed 12 problematic bars in the First District). Thanks to the Law Enforcement Task Force, crime in East Los Angeles is at an all-time low with homicides and assaults at record lows.

YOUR CLAIM: “Many of the current infrastructure projects you see today coincidentally began after our Cityhood movement started.”

THE FACTS: Your assertion is laughably false. I invite you to tour East Los Angeles to see capital investments made in the Union Pacific area via El Parque de los Sueños and the YWCA Child Care/Empowerment Center. Both projects provided much-needed services, and green space, to the Union Pacific area – and both were open to the public well before the incorporation movement.  Another example: City Terrace Park. It used to be controlled by a local gang. In 2000, it was completely renovated – and now the community enjoys both green space and programming for families. By the time I leave office, every park in East Los Angeles will have had major capital investments for residents to enjoy for decades to come. Have you visited the East Los Angeles Library and Civic Center lately, or the adjacent Belvedere Park and Belvedere Skate Park? This entire area used to be a neighborhood nuisance. Now it is a point of pride, a symbol of the East Los Angeles renaissance we have helped to usher in. Again, these projects were completed well before the incorporation movement. None required incorporation to get to goal. Neither did the significant increase in housing stock, nor the 2003 opening of Centro Estrella – the first center to serve special needs children directly in East Los Angeles. I would invite you to ride the Eastside Extension and one of your incorporation comrades can attest herself to the fact that the light rail line was planned many years before the incorporation effort. Of course, you could attest to this fact, too, since you were personally there when we opened the Eastside Extension to the public!

Ben, while I cannot please everyone, ask any constituent who is served by my office – or any resident throughout the First District – if the quality of life in East Los Angeles has improved in the past 19 years. I think you know the answer already because you continually have resorted to half-truths and outright lies to propel your incorporation dream. And it is a dream. You are living in a different reality – in denial.

As a supporter of incorporation in the 1970s, I joined the effort because it was organic and it was started by people who actually lived in East Los Angeles. But from the very beginning, the East Los Angeles Residents Association – which you spearheaded – misrepresented itself. Simply put, its members were not all East Los Angeles residents. All I ever asked of incorporation proponents was to be direct with residents and speak the truth. Instead, you perpetually made wildly false accusations. You lied.

I am very proud of the work that I have done to improve East Los Angeles. So be forewarned: Your lies will no longer go unchallenged.

Gloria Molina represents L.A. County’s first district.

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March 29, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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