Viajeros Deben Anticipar Retrasos de Tráfico en I-710 Hasta Octubre

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Los viajeros que utilizan la autopista de Long Beach (I-710) para viajar a través de las ciudades al sudeste del Condado de Los Ángeles durante los fines de semana deberían reconsiderar sus planes de viaje durante los próximos meses, sugirió Caltrans, el Departamento de Transporte de California.

Lea esta nota EN INGLÉS: Travelers Should Expect Weekend Traffic Delays On I-710 Through October

Para las próximas 10 semanas, con la excepción del fin de semana del Día del Trabajo (2 a 5 de Sept), secciones de la autopista I-710 se cerrarán al tráfico como parte del proyecto de rehabilitación del pavimento de larga vida (The Long Life Pavement Rehabilitation Project.)

Los cierres de 53 horas de la autopista desde Bell a Downey comenzaron la semana pasada, y los cierres incluirán cierres totales y parciales para las próximas nueve semanas. Cierres completos de la autopista están programadas para el viernes a medianoche hasta las 6 de la mañana del sábado, y de nuevo el domingo por la noche, desde la medianoche hasta las 6 de la mañana del lunes, informó Caltrans.

Cuando la carretera vuelva a abrir al tráfico los sábado a las 6 de la mañana, habrán barreras que guiarán a todos los conductores para pasar a la parte norte de la autopista. Esto permitirá que los equipos de construcción en la dirección sur de I-710 y los automovilistas compartan la autopista durante todo el fin de semana con un número reducido de carriles disponibles.

El cierre se extiende desde la autopista Glenn Anderson (I-105) conector a I-710 hacia el norte a Atlantic Boulevard, en las ciudades de Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, South Gate y Downey, de acuerdo con Caltrans.

Cierres adicionales extendidos de la autopista durante el fin de semana están programadas para: el 12 a 15 de Agosto otra vez el 19 a 22 y el 26 a 29 de Agosto; el 9 a 12, el 16 a 19 de Septiembre, y el 30 de Septiembre hasta al 3 de Octubre; y el 7 a 10 y 14 a 17 de Octubre.

Se les aconseja a los conductores a buscar rutas alternativas, y respetar las leyes y reducir la velocidad cerca los equipos de construcción. Para más información visite www.dot.ca.gov/dist07

Boundary Changes Transform Local Districts

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

*UPDATE: These maps were approved on August 15, 2011*

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission is scheduled to vote Monday on the Preliminary Final Maps for the state’s Congressional, Senate and Assembly Districts. The vote comes following a 14-day public review period, which some have complained is little more than window dressing, since the Commission is widely expected to approve the maps.

Though not yet formally approved, several veteran local elected officials did not waste any time announcing their intentions to run for a redrawn district similar to the one they currently represent.

On July 29—the same day the commission approved the final preliminary maps—US Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, who serves the 34th Congressional District, announced she will be running for the redrawn 40th Congressional District, which she said  “includes the southeast communities I have proudly represented for many years.”

“I look forward to running for re-election and asking my constituents to grant me the honor of continuing the level of constituent service and representation that they have come to expect from me and my office,” Roybal-Allard said in a written statement.

Congressional Districts

That same day, US Rep. Xavier Becerra, who currently represents the 31st Congressional District, announced he will run for the new 34th district that includes Boyle Heights and Northeast and Downtown Los Angeles, much of the area he currently represents.
US Representative Grace Napolitano—whose district has been dramatically redrawn but not renumbered—announced Aug. 2 that she will seek an eighth term representing the 38th Congressional District.

But another elected official also has his eye on the 38th Congressional District. On Tuesday, State Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) announced his intention to challenge Napolitano for the seat. Calderon’s 30th Senate District has been moved west, and no longer includes any of the cities he currently represents.

His campaign denies, however, that the change to his current district has anything to do with his run for Congress. “Senator Calderon’s decision to run for Congress has nothing to do with the impact of redistricting on his State Senate seat. He is running for Congress to be a champion for economic development at the federal level for the community that he has represented for nearly a decade in the legislature. He will go to Congress with a laser focus on creating jobs in the Gateway Cities and San Gabriel Valley,” said Derek Humphrey, Calderon’s campaign consultant.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Redistribución Transforma los Distritos Locales

Accompanying story: State Redistricting Looks Good for Local Latinos, Says Public Policy Exec

Last week, US Representative Judy Chu, now in the 32nd District, said she wants to continue representing the “San Gabriel Valley Communities” in the redrawn 27th District.

In EGP’s coverage area, the Congressional and Senate Districts have made whole or kept whole most communities.

For example, the 40th Congressional District includes all of Vernon, Unincorporated East LA, Bell Gardens and Commerce. The 34th Congressional District will have Boyle Heights and all of Northeast Los Angeles (Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park, Cypress Park and Mount Washington). The 38th Congressional District encompasses all of Montebello and the 27th Congressional District includes the entire city of Monterey Park.

Similarly, State Senate Districts keep communities and cities together. The 24th Senate District includes all of Unincorporated East LA, Boyle Heights and Northeast LA. The 32nd District keeps Montebello together, while the 22nd District includes all of Monterey Park. The 33rd Senate District includes Vernon and Bell Gardens.

At the state level, however, the City of Commerce’s representation has been fragmented, including one leg in the 32nd Senate District and the other in the 33rd District.

And while the new boundaries of the local Assembly Districts unify Unincorporated East LA, they divide Commerce into three districts (53rd, 58th, 63rd), and divide Montebello in three districts (51st, 49th, 58th). Boyle Heights is also divided into two Assembly Districts, with the majority of the community in the 53rd District along with Vernon, and a smaller portion, mainly the Hazard area, in the 51st District that also includes East LA and Northeast LA.

State Assembly Districts

Assembly Speaker John Perez’s 46th District has been renumbered and the boundaries significantly changed, and the majority of the communities he represents now in the 53rd District. He picks up Korea Town, but loses Little Tokyo, said Perez’s aide John Vigna.

Perez thinks the Citizen’s Redistricting Committee had a tough job to do, and worked hard—especially in soliciting input from Californians, Vigna added.

Maria Blanco is one of the 14 citizen commissioners redrawing the state’s political maps. “This is the first time in California’s history that redistricting has been done in the light of day for the public to witness,” Blanco told EGP in a written statement, adding she cannot comment on specific boundary changes until after the commission votes due to possible litigation.

Blanco noted that the Commission’s discussions and decisions are part of the public record and are archived on the Commission’s website in videos and transcripts at www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov.

“I believe that when the voters created the Citizens Redistricting Commission they did so to take partisan politics out of the process and replace it with fairness and objectivity. The Commission has certainly delivered that,” she said.

The commission has the option to reject the maps and is still accepting public comments up until its vote on Aug. 15, however, as Blanco explained, the law prohibits changes to the final preliminary maps, which she expects the commission to adopt.

All the congressional and assembly seats mentioned earlier are up for a vote in the June 2012 Primary and Nov. General Election. Only one senate seat in EGP’s Coverage area is up for election—the new 33rd District that now includes areas currently represented by Senators Kevin De Leon (22nd District) and Ron Calderon (30th District).

The transition to the new maps means some incumbents who are not termed-out will be forced to run in a new district with new boundaries and population, said Jaime Regalado, Executive Director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs. “The vast majority of incumbents don’t like to be in new district unless it’s the majority that elected them,” Regalado said.

State Senate Districts

The Commission’s numbering of Senate districts was designed to constructively address the transition to new boundaries in what is known as the “deferral issue,” Commission spokesperson Rob Wilcox told EGP.

“That is when people scheduled to vote in 2012 (those living in existing odd numbered [Senate] districts) are assigned to a new [Senate] district that does not vote until 2014 (even numbered districts),” he said.

The preliminary final maps can be viewed at the Commission’s website at www.wedrawthelines.ca.gov. Readers interested in submitting comments can email votersfirstact@crc.ca.gov or fax at (916)-651-5711.

State Redistricting Looks Good for Local Latinos, Says Public Policy Exec

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Accompanying story: Boundary Changes Transform Local Districts

The state’s preliminary final maps for the eastern portion of Los Angeles County look good for Latino elected officials and preserves seniority for Congressional representation, Jaime A. Regalado, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs told EGP on Tuesday. He was responding to a question on what impact the proposed new Congressional and State Senate and Assembly districts will have locally.

The boundary changes and renumbering have impacted all local districts and as a result, elected officials are staking claims to the districts that have the majority of their current geography and constituency.

Jaime Regalado

Regalado said the maps (provided by EGP) “look good for Latino officials—those who are incumbents and new ones running,” particularly in EGP’s coverage area. “Elsewhere the commission might have problems, like in the San Fernando Valley and San Diego County…” he said.

Regalado said the new maps do not put either Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who will run for the new 40th District, or Congressman Xavier Becerra at a “competitive disadvantage,” since each is strong in their respective areas. Both are senior members of Congress.

“The worry was that they were going to be shoved into the same district to run against each other, and of course that would have been unfair to one or the other and the constituents as well,” Regalado said.

However, the race for the 38th Congressional District could wind up being very competitive, according to Regalado.

(Left) The redrawn 38th Congressional District includes Montebello, South El Monte, Pico Rivera, Whittier, Santa Fe Springs, Norwalk, Cerritos, Artesia and other cities. (Right) The current 38th Congressional District includes Montebello, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs Norwalk, Pomona, Hacienda Heights, La Puente, and stretches over to Diamond Bar and Pomona.

Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, who currently represents the area, and State Sen. Ron Calderon have both announced their intentions to run for the seat.

The redrawn 38th Congressional District includes large portions of Calderon’s current senate district, which may be to his advantage, but Napolitano has been there for well over a decade, “so it sets up an interesting match up of two well known elected officials that happen to be Latino running for a west San Gabriel seat,” Regalado told EGP.

Regalado also noted that Labor issues might separate the two candidates.

“Labor has supported both in the past but they consider Ron [Calderon] a more business-friendly Democrat than a labor-friendly Democrat. So it would be interesting to see if Labor gets involved at all. In a family-fight, so-to-speak, like that, Grace Napolitano has probably been closer to Labor issues than Ron Calderon,” Regalado said.

At the Assembly level, Assemblymember Gil Cedillo (45th District) is termed out while Mike Eng (49th District) and Assembly President John Perez (46th District) all have time remaining on their tenure.

He said the new 33rd Assembly District, which includes Vernon, Huntington Park, Maywood, Bell, Cudahy, and South Gate, will likely include a reform campaign, since all of those areas are “troubled, poor working class, Latino cities [and] heavily immigrant.”
The southeast cities need economic revitalization and job creation, but also political reform and civic engagement, he said.  “So we’ll see who steps in,” Regalado said.

The local senators—Kevin De Leon (22nd District), Ricardo Lara (50th District), Ed Hernandez (24th District)—all have time left before term limits take them out of the running.

Read this story IN SPANISH: La Redistribución de Distritos Locales se ven Prometedores para los Latinos, dice Analysta de Políticas Públicas

Legal challenges to the maps are expected. “MALDEF and the Latino Redistricting Coalition might feel that an additional couple of districts in the geographies we’re talking about—South of East LA and East of East LA—can eek out an additional one to three seats,” Regalado said.

Former Housing Commissioner Del Angel Focus of D.A. ‘Inquiry’

August 11, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has confirmed that it is conducting an inquiry into whether a former Los Angeles housing commissioner has violated conflict of interest laws.

Deputy District Attorney Max Huntsman said his office is looking into whether former Housing Authority of Los Angeles Commissioner Maria Del Angel voted on matters related to the Estrada Courts Resident Management Corporation (RMC), a non-profit branch of the public housing development, while still an RMC board member. One of Del Angel’s adult sons is a longtime employee of the organization, and some housing authority residents allege she voted to approve funding that would benefit her family. Her son is not a target of the inquiry, according to the D.A.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Ex Comisionada de Viviendas Esta Bajo Examen por el Fiscal del Distrito

“It’s my understanding that at one time she [Del Angel] did serve on the RMC board, many years ago, but not at the same time that she served as a [HACLA] commissioner,” said HACLA spokesperson Eric Brown.

The Estrada Courts RMC was founded 23 years ago with the purpose of advocating for residents and social service programs in the Boyle Heights community. Since 1991, the RMC has received contracts and funding from HACLA and other sources to provide a variety of services, including: landscaping and clean up, construction to replace all water and sewer lines, childcare training and childcare services, unit-to-unit moves, school readiness services for parents and children, and security for Estrada Courts, Pueblo del Rio, and San Fernando Gardens. Today the Estrada Courts RMC is a $4 million dollar corporation, according to the organization’s website.

Last year, residents of the Pico Gardens housing project told EGP that they believe Del Angel has on several occasions violated conflict of interest laws related to the RMC. They also accused her of orchestrating her “emergency transfer” from Estrada Courts to their public housing development as a way to upgrade her housing accommodations.

Huntsman did not confirm whether the housing transfer was part of the inquiry, but said, like other residents, Del Angel is entitled to ask for a transfer. She cannot, however, use her position to get a more favorable contract or nicer unit, he said.

Del Angel and HACLA, at the time, denied the charges.

An investigation by CBS 2 reporter David Goldstein earlier this year, however, thrust Del Angel and other commissioners into the limelight for “double dipping”—asking for reimbursements for expenses charged to credit cards for which they had already received per diem compensation.

Goldstein’s report led to on-going investigations by Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel and the District Attorney’s office focusing on the alleged misappropriation of public funds.

The inquiry was opened in March and Del Angel is one of three HACLA commissioners whose conduct is being reviewed, Huntsman told EGP. Former Commissioner Beatriz Stotzer and current Commissioner Margarita Garr are also part of the inquiry.

Stotzer resigned after it was revealed that Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development were looking into possible conflict of interest violations related to her ownership of Section 8 Housing and her work as a HACLA commissioner.

“We are waiting on the D.A.’s investigation” to decide if action should be taken regarding Garr, the only commissioner under scrutiny still on the board, Rachel Kruer with the mayor’s office told EGP on Tuesday.

An inquiry is not a criminal investigation, stressed Sandi Gibbons, Public Information Officer for the D.A.’s office. “It is a review to determine if a criminal investigation will be opened,” she said.

Del Angel could not be reached for comment.

Since the allegations of wrongdoing surfaced, four board members have either resigned or were not reappointed by the mayor.

The city council has confirmed two of the mayor’s new appointees, Kimberly Freeman and Dennis Hernandez, and is scheduled to consider a third nominee, Mitchell Kamin on Aug. 17. An appointment to replace Del Angel, as a resident member of the commission is still open. The mayor’s first choice, Isabel Ayala, a 50-year resident of Ramona Gardens, has bowed out from consideration due to family issues, according to Kruer.

Perhaps responding to criticism from local stakeholder groups angry that Mayor Villaraigosa had “rushed” to make new appointments without input from housing residents as “promised,” the mayor’s staff last week interviewed a candidate proposed by Union de Vecinos, a member of the L.A. Human Right to Housing Collective.

Twenty-six-year-old Daisy Lopez, a Pico Gardens Resident, was interviewed on Aug. 4.

Lopez told EGP by email that she was nervous and didn’t want to do it at first, but was moved by the support of her fellow residents. She said she is interested in not only representing herself, but all public housing residents in the policy decision process.

Lopez has a Bachelors Degree in Liberal Studies, with a minor in Spanish. She has lived at Pico Gardens all her life, and is currently an after school teacher at Para Los Niños and as a child attended Second Street Elementary, Hollenbeck Middle School, and Roosevelt High School. She served one year as the secretary of Pico Gardens Resident Advisory Committee.

Commerce Fights ‘Blighted’ Image With Clean Up Effort

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The lightly-traveled industrial street behind the Citadel Outlets in Commerce is where seventeen-year-old Nicholas Lucero usually practices his driving.

But last Saturday at 7am, Lucero, who would usually be sleeping, was practicing his street sweeping skills in the name of civic pride.

He was part of a group of 30 or so “volunteers” from the local church, the boy’s water polo team and the city’s teen center, who came out to clean up Telegraph Road and Smithway Street, as well as several smaller cross streets.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Ciudad de Commerce Combate Imagen ‘Deteriorada’ Con Esfuerzo de Limpieza

While not exactly the local park or a community center, the commercial corridor where the outlet and the Commerce Casino are located, is the first thing many people see when they arrive in the City of Commerce.

By coming out to brighten up the streets, Lucero feels he is helping his city, while at the same time raising some money for youth programs at his church, St. Marcellinus.

“It’s for a greater cause,” Lucero said.

Citadel owner Steve Craig is looking to get rid of the “blighted” image often associated with the industrial city, and offered to give each organization $100 for every volunteer taking part in the clean-up.

On Saturday, twelve members of Commerce’s boy’s water polo team were out raising money for a trip to a tournament in Hawaii. It was a challenge that they had no problem taking on. “We’re used to working in a team,” said their coach Luis Flores.

Commerce boy's water polo team pitch in to clean up streets around the Citadel Outlets.

While the poor economy and ever-tightening city budgets have only recently begun to highlight the important link between city services and businesses in municipalities across the nation, the role of businesses are never far from the minds of Commerce’s residents.

Revenues from the Commerce Casino and the Citadel Outlets make up more than half of Commerce’s city budget, with budget decisions often being made while tracking sales tax numbers coming in from the two entities.

Meanwhile, Commerce’s residents enjoy a litany of free or low cost city services and recreational programs that even after budget cuts would be the envy of residents in Beverly Hills, city officials have said. According to Councilman Robert Fierro,“businesses are the reason why we exist, why we have our top notch programs.”

St. Marcellinus and Teen Center youth volunteers pitched in last Saturday to clean up the streets around the Citadel. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

And that is why several of the council members and a few top city officials were at the clean up on Saturday, “getting a little sweaty,” he added.

The clean up is officially part of the city’s “Keep Commerce Beautiful” program, but Fierro said it is also a message to businesses that “they are not alone,” and the city council, made up of residents, is interested in a closer partnership with the business community.

One of the city’s tighter partnerships is with Craig, whose development and management company, Craig Realty Group, specializes in retail outlets.

Not only does he have big plans for the Citadel, which he says is not only growing, but doing extremely well in a tough economy, Craig has also signed on to be the developer of a major redevelopment project on Telegraph Road.

Craig got a “wakeup call” when the California Travel and Tourism Commission rejected his application to locate Los Angeles’ first “California Welcome Center” in Commerce. According to Craig, the commission said the area was in a “state of decline and blight, and is not a representation of California.”

Clean up in progress at last Saturday's all day clean up of the area surrounding the Citadel Outlets.

Though they attract 10 million people a year, many of them visitors from around the world looking for a good deal on name brand consumer products, it has not been easy to convince others that this incorporated industrial city near East Los Angeles is a tourist destination.

With the nearby railroads and industrial park setting, things like graffiti, potholes, and the occasional wayward shrubbery only add to the blighted image. Craig says he has been doing his own cleanup of the surrounding streets for several years now, but this is the first time there was a concerted “public-private partnership” between businesses and the city.

Though the 6.6 square mile city has a relatively small population at 12,000 residents, it is also home to more than 1,600 businesses and 41,000 people who come to work there.

Craig says an urban area like Commerce may not be as “pristine as Napa,” but it does not mean that the city, which has infrastructure that makes it integral to international trade, is not an important destination.

He thinks the city can overcome its image, possibly by putting up some decorative elements to “soften the edges” of the industrial city, and make others see that Commerce can be “well-scrubbed” and “well-manicured.”

EDITORIAL: The Poor Will Get Poorer

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The world is in a panic over the downgrading of the US economy to AA+ from AAA+.

A rush to sell stocks is hitting stock markets around the globe, but as usual, the decisions by some stock buyers don’t always make perfect sense.

While those dumping stocks are worried about the US economy, they have run to stash their funds in US Treasury Bonds, which seems a little counter intuitive doesn’t it, or so many economists are telling Americans.

What these economists fail to understand is that to most Americans and the rest of the world, a AA+ rating is far better than what many Americans were left with after the last recession, which, by the way, many of those same Americans don’t believe ever ended.

We believe that much of the chaos in the markets has been some time in coming, and Standard & Poor’s downgrade of US credit was only the trigger that led to the stock market free fall.

Americans are only too aware of the unemployment numbers, local and federal government revenue losses, and our elected officials seemingly inability to counteract the country’s poor economic state.

The Congress’s handling of the debt ceiling, and its failure to fix the US economy, continues to leave many, including many of our elderly, in a very precarious state, financially and emotionally.

We believe the stock market will eventually recover much of its losses, because the reality is the largest investors won’t settle for long for the puny earnings from US Treasury bonds.

This latest market crash has also served as a good way to divert attention from the fact that during our elected officials in Washington D.C. have again made sure that the country’s ultra rich will still not have to pay a penny more in taxes to help reduce the US deficit, while blaming the poor, including the working poor, for the country’s financial woes. They continue to push an agenda that includes measure that are likely to leave our poor and middleclass even poorer, and with an insufficient safety net.

But what’s wrong with that? As long as the wealthy eventually loosen their purse strings, and start circulating the wealth among themselves again.

Shredding the Safety Net

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

America’s wealthy,
That’s for sure;
Why then pauperize
The poor?

There’s widespread poverty in America today, though it’s sometimes hard to see how bad it is.

Real estate development techniques and zoning rules, plus a healthy dollop of discrimination, force most poor people to live and work in neighborhoods many of us don’t often visit.

“As a rich guy, let me tell you I haven’t seen any poor people around my gated community,” quipped Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert in a recent segment. He also skewered a report from the right-wing Heritage Foundation that portrays U.S. poverty as a misnomer since so many poor Americans own both microwaves and refrigerators.

But poverty is a major problem in the United States. About 15 percent of the population lives below the official poverty line, which at $22,350 for a family of four is pretty destitute to start with, and median family income is declining.

In some ways it’s actually better to live in a poor region of the country because prices there are lower. In other ways, rich regions are preferable because there are more jobs. But because of income segregation, poor kids are pretty likely to attend crummy schools no matter where they live.

Luckily for the poor, some presidents try to make a difference. Thus, over the decades we have built the programs that constitute the U.S. safety net. Examples include welfare (currently known as “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families”), public housing, unemployment compensation, food stamps, Medicaid, heating assistance, earned income tax credits, and subsidized school lunches.

But now, the safety net is tattered. States and the federal government, for want of adequately taxing the rich, are broke. Services for the poor are getting decimated.

Safety net expenditures help us maintain our shaky claim to being a civilized nation. That claim was once important to Americans. Now, however, our president and Congress not only support waging wars of conquest abroad but also shredding our safety net at home. As a result, homelessness is on the march, unemployment is epidemic, and obesity rages in low-income quarters where cheap, unwholesome food is all that many citizens can afford.

This helps explain why James Verone recently got into the news. He’s the guy from North Carolina who passed a bank teller a note demanding one dollar. Upon receipt thereof he sat down to await the police. Duly carted away he explained that he badly needed health care and had to go to jail to get it. Being a nonviolent offender, he will likely be released soon as his state closes its prisons to free up cash, and thus will once again be allowed to die at his own convenience.

With so many people impoverished, you might think that this would be a self-correcting political problem. The rascals responsible for this problem are easy enough to spot. We can just vote them out, right?

But that’s not so easy. Voting is constantly being made harder for the poor. Many states have tightened voter identification requirements, effectively levying poll taxes, while others have increased the inconvenience of registration. In many places, a criminal record may disqualify you for good. Besides, if you’re poor or struggling to feed a family, you often have higher priorities on Election Day. Like working.

And so, while our major corporations are squirreling away hordes of cash, much of it overseas, the ranks of poor Americans are growing. Republicans prefer to protect the rich. President Barack Obama hasn’t gotten around to ending the wars he inherited, and has started new ones. Serious cuts therefore have to come from “services,” and that means from you-know-whom. As long as the poor remain invisible and voiceless (a likely prospect to say the least), homelessness and hunger will continue to grow. Aid agencies might as well distribute beds that fit into old cars.

OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. http://otherwords.org

Immigration Chaos

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The presence of illegal immigrants in the United States continues to generate ineffectual political initiatives, from employment verification mandates to referendums against in-state tuition access.

These fail to resolve the underlying causes for the presence of illegals, such as the arbitrary (see the immigration lottery), expensive, and humiliating immigration process (and I speak from experience). They also tend to ignore what happens to the individuals caught in the bind — the supposed deportation process — as though they’ll just disappear from America.

Last month, however, the Center for Immigration Studies released a lengthy report, “Deportation Basics: How Immigration Enforcement Works (Or Doesn’t) in Real Life.” This report is particularly revealing because CIS scholars tend to oppose “current, high levels of immigration,” in favor of a “low-immigration, pro-immigrant” vision.

Despite the apparent low-immigration, pro-immigrant contradiction, CIS scholars deserve credit for at least addressing the touchy deportation subject. In doing so, they present the thinking of those who sincerely believe stricter enforcement of the prevailing laws is the way to go, and they are perhaps the most prominent organization with that perspective.

That perspective, though, is fraught with confusion and prejudices, and it begs for a rebuttal.

The author uses a pseudonym, “W.D. Reasoner,” which seems unnecessary, but he notes that he is a retired government employee with many years of experience in immigration administration. Presumably, that allowed him to observe what he admits is a cumbersome and dysfunctional process of deportation.

That description leads to his and CIS’s most important confusion. Despite the abject failure of federal officials to curb illegal immigration — about 11 million live here — even with multiple agencies on the job, he wants to divert more Justice Department resources to them. The call for expanded budgets goes to show how these agencies have an incentive to maintain the problem, not end it.

Reasoner notes at least 20 required forms to initiate an immigration charge, greater than one-year backlogs for hearings (which only 41 percent of defendants attend), and a scarcity of detention space. This fecklessness matches that of the E-Verify program, where even U.S. Customs and Immigration admits 54 percent of unauthorized workers receive approval for employment. Yet, he does not call for legislative changes, nor does he acknowledge that they are fighting a futile battle.

Reasoner also points to a “significant review and restructuring” of another agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This has been going on for nearly two years, and its claim to success is the cancellation of many contracts, but total spending has continued to climb.

Reflective of the entire report, the term “alien,” which legally refers to any non-citizen, appears throughout. Even jargon such as “alienage” arises — whatever that means. Offensive to many, “alien” dehumanizes immigrants and promotes a fallacious us-versus-them mentality that undergirds the report.

This collectivist mentality manifests itself with repeated calls for the dismissal of due process “trappings” in immigration disputes. Apparently, benefit of the doubt and presumption of innocence are less relevant when someone may be born outside of the country.

Additionally, the supposed adverse impacts of illegal immigrants on health and social service systems merit mention, while their cultural and economic contributions do not. Contrary to popular perception, illegal immigrants are not heavy users of welfare, and the majority pay income taxes. Cato Institute research also suggests that legal status would enable higher wages and greater tax contributions.

The irony is that what Reasoner describes as “thousands of productive hours” toward deportation are a waste of time, and they divert our attention from real problems. Already Puerto Ricans immigrate to and work in the United States without impediment. And any Cuban that arrives here receives permanent residence status within one year. Do we lose sleep at night over that reality?
Of course not; nor should we — just as we would not seek to impede someone moving from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. Far from being a plague, migration elevates human prosperity and helps to hold governments in check.

I remember a visit to Ellis Island, the place where so many people without documentation once found welcome in the United States. Sadly, millions of people now assume grave risks to immigrate illegally, and they testify to a legal route that no longer greets immigrants with open arms.

Fergus Hodgson is a policy advisor with The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org).

From Our Readers: No to ‘City of East Los Angeles’

August 11, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

As a voter in each election of unincorporated East Los Angeles County, I want to inform our voters and homeowners in East Los Angeles that the movement to convert East Los Angeles into a city is still active. On previous occasions this movement has failed with the resounding no vote of voters who have said no to the idea of making East Los Angeles an independent city.

Read this opinion piece IN SPANISH: OPINIÓN: No a Ciudad Este de Los Ángeles

Related opinion piece: From Our Readers: Say Yes to the City of East Los Angeles

… Allowing East Los Angeles to become a city is not a good practice of democratic citizenship because it has the potential to create an experimental arena for political corruption as has occurred in the infamous City of Bell. East Los Angeles doesn’t want to replicate the case of the City of Bell!

Separately, as a country we are confronting an era of imminent terrorism and insecurity and our community of East Los Angeles needs to remain safe. If East Los Angeles becomes a city, it would have to subcontract with the same Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department and California Highway Patrol that watch over our roads and highways. Similarly, this eminent city would have to subcontract enforcement agencies for traffic control and animal control. Furthermore, the potential city would have to be responsible for maintaining the streets, transportation routes, parks and recreation centers, waste and solid waste management, land use through zoning codes and building permits, and promotion of economic development—to only mention a few services.

And the most ironic is that it is precisely in our own East Los Angeles that we have the official headquarters of the California Highway Patrol, East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles County Fire Department. These entities are already providing high quality service to East Los Angeles under the jurisdiction and leadership of Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Definitively, with the current economic situation and the eminent threat of terrorism and insecurity, it’s not a suitable time to seek to confuse our predominately Latino electorate with the idea of East Los Angeles becoming a city.

There is no reason and rationale to pay attention to certain special interest groups and career politicians that only look out for their salaries and seek to make themselves the first Mayor of East Los Angeles. Many businesses and homeowners are willing to fight to stop this plan of political ambition and experimentation.

East Los Angeles deserves the best, not a failed political experiment. Future voters at the polls say No to becoming a community with less and precarious services, on top of the imposition of higher property taxes that come from being a city. Looking at the sidewalks and main corridors of unincorporated East Los Angeles is enough to compare the quality of service to the City of Los Angeles. …That’s why we voters and homeowners and businesses should not put East Los Angeles in danger! Don’t let East Los Angeles become a city!

Martha Jimenez

East Los Angeles voter

Montebello Officials Work to Allay Suspicions

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Montebello officials on Wednesday night discussed closing the books on two “mystery bank accounts” that have led to investigations by the district attorney’s office and the state controller’s office.

City officials who now believe there was no “double payment” of a forgivable loan to a restaurant developer – as was speculated in recent months – were expected to make a presentation to the city council last night and recommend that the two accounts be closed. The meeting occurred after EGP press time.

The city itself launched an investigation into both of the accounts, in particular an account opened with Union Bank of California, after finding what seemed to be two transfers of nearly a million dollars each made from the city’s bank account to developer Hank Attina’s bank account.

City officials, who have released a report complete with backup documents, now say that based on documentation and conversations with authorized bank officials, there were no irregularities.

Rather, the double listing of the transfer was due to an error made during an initial transfer of $1 million, in which the wrong account number was written on the transfer slip. The money was bounced back to the city, which then re-issued the money to Attina’s development company bank account.

According to the city, Attina received only the $1 million that was agreed upon in a 1999 development agreement, rather than the $2 million that was speculated. Attina was expected to bring a high-end dining establishment, as well as construct an office building in a strip mall adjacent to the Montebello Town Center.

At the time, the agreement mired in controversy by residents who felt the million dollar forgivable loan was excessive. There were also accusations that Attina had received the contract because of his close ties to city officials, including a friendship with City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman.

However, city officials believe the investment has since paid for itself, resulting in an Applebee’s restaurant and an office building. Officials and council members have said their friendly association with Attina was merely a reflection of relationships built when active members of the community get to know each other better.

According to the city staff report, the second account opened with Banco Popular was used to administer a HUD loan, though “there may have been a better way to have accounted for and processed the required HUD payments, than through the Banco Popular account initially established for the [Redevelopment] Agency funded revolving loan program,” according to the report by top city officials.

Officials say both “specific purpose” bank accounts should have been closed when they were no longer needed, but as long as they were opened, they should have been accounted for in the city’s financial ledgers.

Both accounts had originally been flagged by the current finance director and reported to city council members in internal “pass through” memos.

Staff’s planned recommendation on Wednesday included returning positive amounts that remained in the account back into the city’s general and redevelopment fund accounts.

Meanwhile, the city is hoping to settle the issue in the eyes of potential lenders in the financial market, who they hope will lend Montebello the cash it needs to continue operating past September, when, lacking a reserve fund, the city is expected to run out of money.

Interim City Administrator Larry Kosmont says negative press about this issue and others have the potential of scaring away lenders. He believes lenders may start to come around after learning more about the issues that have fueled “overzealous” news coverage by media emboldened by the Bell salary scandal.

Kosmont says he knew as little as others before signing on to become an interim city administrator, but has come to feel that news coverage about the bank accounts, possible bankruptcy, and FBI investigations of the city have been “overblown.”

Kosmont says there are still real problems in how the city has been run that need to be fixed. “I see neglect and some sloppy practices both in accounting and practices, but no corruption… There was some level of turnover, a lot of political warfare.”

He believes the bank accounts became an issue partly because of bad accounting practices, which he says can be fixed by adopting better financial principals and guidelines, as well as hiring better qualified accounting staff, consultants and advisors.

“Staff shortages, turnovers, some prior skill sets may not have been what we needed… we had some consultants that were less than qualified or under performed. I think all of these things added to the mix of what went wrong,” he said.

He says the city is trying harder to prevent reoccurrences of the widespread public distrust that has been directed at city hall. “I don’t know why items get either clouded or not dealt with under this administration. We are making every attempt to deal with things on a timely and transparent basis. There is nothing to hide. We are out there with all our blemishes,” he says.

He feels the “budget was well explained” and the fact that they have provided “every staff report, whether we have the money or not,” shows that their actions are consistent with their promise of more transparency.

The city’s report on the two bank accounts can be downloaded at the city’s website (http://www.cityofmontebello.com) under the “agendas” link button. The city can also be reached at (323) 887-1363.

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