Knife Wielding Suspect Arrested In El Sereno

August 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Police arrested a suspect Wednesday, who allegedly chased another man around with a knife and tried to attack arriving officers.

Officers found a man with a knife but no victim about 10 a.m. at Valley Boulevard at Del Paso Avenue, said Officer Mike Vallejo of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Station.

“He was arrested for battery on a police officer for attempting to strike the officers,” Vallejo said.

Officers did not know whether the victim, who took off before they got to the scene, suffered any wounds or why he was targeted, Vallejo said.

The suspect’s name was not immediately released.

Hollenbeck Police Offer Anti Auto Theft Tools to Residents

August 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

 Steering wheel locks and license plate security screws will be distributed to people living or working in the Hollenbeck Division through the station’s H.E.L.P, Hollenbeck’s Effective License Plate and Auto Theft Prevention Program, which received funding from the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council and the LAPD Hollenbeck Area Police Advisory Board.

The steering wheel locks will be free to local residents with a valid driver’s license and vehicle registration, according to Hollenbeck Community Relations Sergeant Minh Nguyen.

About 1,000 residents in the Hollenbeck area have been victims of auto-related thefts so far this year, according to police.

The station is located at 2111 E. First St., L.A.  90033. For more information, call Nguyen at (213) 793-0747.

Sinkhole Repair Underway in Eagle Rock

August 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Work on a sinkhole in Eagle Rock that has posed a problem to motorists for a couple of years is now underway.

According to Councilman José Huizar’s office, the sinkhole is located 3/10th of a mile east of Figueroa Street on Colorado Boulevard. Repairs will includes the removal and reconstruction of 700 lateral feet of the damaged roadway and sub-base, and take place between 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; parking will be restricted in the area. Completion is expected sometime next spring, according to Huizar.

For more information, call the Bureau of Engineering at (213) 978-0329 or Huizar’s Northeast Office at (323) 254-5295.

Former Partnership for LA Schools CEO Running for State Superintendent

August 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Pledging to give the state’s students “the education they need to succeed,” Marshall Tuck, the former president of charter school operator Green Dot Public Schools and most recently the Partnership for LA Schools, has announced his candidacy for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in the 2014 election. 

In a letter to supporters, Tuck said that while at Green Dot Public Schools and the Partnership for LA Schools, founded by former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, he too often “saw how Sacramento’s education bureaucracy stifles innovation and blocks progress instead of leading the way…”

August 29, 2013 Issue

August 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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Better Regulation of Marijuana Shops Needed, Says Boyle Heights Group

August 29, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

Boyle Heights became ground zero this week in the local battle to regulate and bring medical marijuana dispensaries under control.

It appeared to be the reason behind a special visit to Boyle Heights Monday by consultant Michael Colbruno, a partner at the Milo Group of California, Inc., and the follow up to his meeting with Assembly Speaker John Pérez regarding legislation on cannabis regulation in the state.

Members of Resurrection Church Neighborhood Watch gave Michael Colbruno, pictured right, a tour of medical marijuana dispensaries in Boyle Heights. (Courtesy of Resurrection Church  Neighborhood Watch)

Members of Resurrection Church Neighborhood Watch gave Michael Colbruno, pictured right, a tour of medical marijuana dispensaries in Boyle Heights. (Courtesy of Resurrection Church Neighborhood Watch)

“He [Perez] stated that I had to come witness the problems in L.A. and particularly in Boyle Heights,” Colbruno, an advocate for marijuana dispensaries, told EGP.

According to Pérez’s spokesperson John Vigna, the visit was intended to be educational and to show Colbruno the unintended consequences of legislation that allows dispensaries to operate, and the resulting issues residents have to live with day in and day out when they are located in their neighborhoods.

Pérez is not currently working on any particular legislation to regulate medical marijuana, and a bill, AB 473, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, chair of the public safety committee, is not moving forward this year, according to Vigna.

AB 473 proposes to create a division within Alcoholic Beverages Control to regulate the production, transportation and sales of medical marijuana, according to Ammiano’s webpage.

On Monday afternoon, Msgr. John Moretta of Resurrection Church and Boyle Heights resident Sal Martinez, who also serves on the LA County Probation Commission, and members of the Resurrection Neighborhood Watch program led Colbruno on a tour of the medical marijuana dispensaries in the Boyle Heights area.

Of the 8 dispensaries stopped at, according to Martinez, only one had a security armed, in direct violation of rules set by the city of Los Angeles in 2010 pertaining to security at the dispensaries, including requirements for security guards, closed-circuit cameras, as well as those regarding location restrictions.

Some of the unpleasant, and possibly criminal, conditions Colburn and others found on Monday included chairs lined up in alleys behind dispensaries that served as patient waiting areas, a small shopping plaza that reeked of the of the smell of marijuana coming from one pot shop. Two men who appeared to be underage were observed entering one of the marijuana facilities on Indiana Street.

Following the tour, Colbruno briefly attended the neighborhood watch meeting where he had a chance to hear directly from residents, as well as speak on what has been effective in other parts of the state.

Colbruno, who represents two dispensaries in the San Francisco Bay Area, said he was warned by Pérez that the dispensaries here are “out of control” and upsetting to local residents.

“We visited eight dispensaries and after the first two I could see that the problem was unlicensed, unregulated and un-enforced dispensaries. We found them next to schools and youth organizations, something that you would never see in the Bay Area. We also saw numerous dispensaries clustered together,” said Colbruno, who had to leave the meeting before the discussion really got underway.

Members of the Resurrection Church Neighborhood Watch, a volunteer group that keeps an eye out for crime in one part of Boyle Heights, for the most part seems opposed to the use of marijuana for medical purposes altogether, seeing it instead as an immoral business profiting at the expense of the area’s youth.

Teresa Marquez, a grandmother and local activist, at the Neighbhorhood Watch meeting made light of the use of marijuana as medicine. She said she has seen 10 different pain specialists and not one has ever offered her a prescription for pot.

Neighborhood Watch member Frank Villalobos, lead architect of Barrio Planners, pointed out that beside being a nuisance to residential areas, the pot shops also pose a planning and land use problem. He said there are currently no parking requirements for the dispensaries, yet traditional medical facilities are required to have a minimum of 4 parking spaces for every 1,000 square-feet of space they operate.

“The one [dispensary] across from Roosevelt [High School] doesn’t have any parking… ‘M&M store’ sounds like a candy store,” Villalobos said. He said in some medical marijuana dispensary operators are offering to pay rent above the commercial market-rate to be able to open up.

Moretta said some commercial property landlords seem to favor medical marijuana tenants. He cited an example of a shopping center on the 1300 block of South Soto Street where some of the shop owners signed a petition asking the property owner to evict the marijuana dispensary because the odor from the shop was hurting their businesses. The owner refused, and told them they could move if they didn’t like it.

While the group didn’t seem to narrow down a message for a letter Moretta said he wants to write to Pérez, they all seemed concerned that the dispensaries seem to be proliferating without anyone to stop or regulate them, and it’s taking a toll on the community.

One dispensary is right behind the Variety Boys & Girls Club, Moretta said. Another is near Stevenson Middle School, Martinez added.

“Its like the Wild West—it’s unacceptable,” Moretta told EGP following the meeting.

Hollenbeck Senior Lead Officer Oscar Casini speculated that a lot of the pot shops were setting up shop in the area hoping to get grandfathered-in before the laws change.

Casini, who said he worked a while back with LAPD’s Vice Division, said the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in Hollenbeck is almost equal to the number of liquor licenses in the division.

EGP was unable to verify the claim.

The problem, which has taken root in other neighborhoods as well as Boyle Heights, has been the failure of city officials to take control of how it will regulate the facilities.

According to Colburn, the difference between cannabis dispensaries in Oakland and Boyle Heights is “truly night and day.”

“Oakland got out in front of the issue with zoning amendments, taxations and fees, regulation, limiting the number of licensed dispensaries to four, limiting patients to eight ounces and six mature and twelve immature plants and restricting on-site consumption,” he said. “The system works so well that it has the support of city and county officials, neighbors and businesses. We saw a dramatic decrease in the number of drug dealers on the street once the dispensaries opened. They are also clean and fit in beautifully with their surrounding areas.”

He said L.A. has allowed the unregulated and unlicensed dispensaries to run rampant and that is hurting the legal and licensed operators and patients who truly need their medicine.

“They need to use the power of zoning laws, the city attorney, the Board of Equalization, the D.A. and the U.S. Attorney in cracking down on illegal, unlicensed dispensaries,” he said.

In 1996, California voters approved Prop 215, known as the Compassionate Use Act, which gave cancer, AIDS and other chronically ill patients the right to grow or possess marijuana for medical purposes. Senate Bill 420 was signed into law in 2003 and clarified the compassionate Use Act, establishing the medical marijuana program.

The city of Los Angeles has attempted to regulate and even ban medical marijuana dispensaries. Last year, Councilman Jose Huizar, who lives in and represents Boyle Heights, tried to pass a ban on all new medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. The “gentle ban” only lasted about three months before it was overturned by the city council.

Earlier this year, Angelenos approved Proposition D that is supposed to regulate and tax medical marijuana dispensaries and limit the number of these businesses to 135, the number that had registered for licenses prior to suspension of new dispensaries in 2007. Prop D also stipulated that in residences, where there were three or fewer patients and/or caregivers, cultivation of the product for patients’ personal use is permissible. A business tax of $60 for each $1,000 gross receipts was also included in the proposition.

In May, the State Supreme Court upheld individual cities’ right to ban dispensaries, and federal law continues unchanged, classifying marijuana as an illegal substance.

In June, the city attorney sent 1,716 letters to landlords and owners of “medical marijuana businesses” ordering them to cease operations.

On Sept. 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws. According to NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), a marijuana law reform advocacy lobbyist group, the hearing comes following the approval of the medical use of marijuana by 20 states, and two states legalizing it for recreational use.

What do you think? Tell us at www.EGPnews.com 

 

Elected Officials Target ACA Myths at Local Senior Forum

August 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Montebello resident Patricia Lazalde is seventy-five-years-old and both her blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are high. She says having good health insurance and health care will be important for the rest of her life. Yet, like many at the Montebello Senior Center Tuesday, she doesn’t know much about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or whether it will impact seniors like her.

That lack of information has fueled many myths about what the new health care law will mean to seniors on Medicare, according to AARP Associate State Director Julie Bates, one of several speakers at a seminar hosted last week by Congresswoman Linda Sanchez and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia at the Pico Rivera Senior Center.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Políticos Locales Derrumben los Mitos Acerca de la Reforma de Salud

Over 100 seniors attended an Affordable Care Act Seminar at the Pico Rivera Senior Center last week to learn how the law will affect them. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Over 100 seniors attended an Affordable Care Act Seminar at the Pico Rivera Senior Center last week to learn how the law will affect them. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“Lack of access” is the biggest challenge facing local officials and organizations like AARP that are trying to dispel the myths and get the correct information out to seniors, Bates told EGP.

Both Sanchez and Garcia represent local east and southeast communities, including Montebello and Pico Rivera. The senior focused seminar on the Affordable Health Care Act is part of their effort to get their constituents better informed.

“ACA is one of the most important pieces of health care legislation in the last 60 years,” Sanchez told the 100 or so people at the event. “It’s about making Americans healthier and protecting our seniors.”

AARP’s Bates told EGP that seniors at the seminar wanted answers about ACA and for their concerns to be addressed. AARP is a national organization that advocates for and provides services to people over the age of 50.

Signed into law in 2010 by President Barrack Obama, ACA, also referred to as Obamacare, requires all residents to have health insurance. The goal is to make health care more affordable and accessible by having everyone participate, including the young and healthy. Those who opt to not sign up for health insurance will face fines, which grow larger every year the person remains uninsured.

Under the new law, people cannot be turned down for health coverage based on their prior medical history. Premiums will be based on age, zip code, household size and income instead of health status, gender, pre-existing health conditions or tobacco use.

“Everyone who wants health insurance will be covered,” Garcia explained.

California was one of the first states to establish a health insurance exchange: Covered California is a state sponsored marketplace of private insurance companies where individuals, families and small businesses can shop for affordable coverage. Some people will qualify for subsidies based on their income, and those subsidies will help them cover the cost of the insurance. Enrollment in Covered California plans will begin Oct. 1; coverage start Jan. 1, 2014.

For seniors with Medicare, however, the start of ACA should bring few unwanted changes. Bates told seniors at the seminar that ACA will actually improve their Medicare coverage by decreasing prescription drug and preventative care costs and adding new wellness benefits guaranteed under the new law.

While those at the seminar left feeling better informed, many seniors still have little information.

At the Montebello Senior Center, Luz Nieto, 62, told EGP she didn’t know much about the health reform act but became concerned when she heard from a friend it would cost her thousands of dollars in mandatory premiums; one of the many myths Rep. Sanchez told EGP they have tried to correct during seminars like the one in Pico Rivera.

Many of the seniors we’ve talked to didn’t know that ACA doesn’t cut Medicare payments to doctors or that it’s adoption will help extend Medicare’s solvency, Sanchez said.

“The misinformation that was spread to seniors about how the ACA affected Medicare was really dangerous,” she said.

For those over 65, the act improves Medicare benefits and eliminates the “doughnut hole” that had seniors paying high amounts for prescriptions, Bates told EGP.

“Medicare is not going away,” Bates said. “Medicare was strengthened through the Affordable Care Act and benefits were improved for everyone else.”

The transition for low-income seniors with Medicare or Medi-Cal should be seamless, Bates said. “Seniors will see no change whatsoever in their delivery of service. Medicare-Medi-Cal will be a passive enrollment change, even their insurance cards will remain the same,” she said. Seniors can even continue to see their doctor of choice, she added.

Ellen Lee, a Montebello resident in her 80s, told EGP some seniors don’t understand what’s going on because they simply can’t read or lack access to a computer.

“Everything requires technology nowadays,” Lee said. “Some people are just limited.” Lazalde told EGP she thinks that for many of her fellow seniors the topic is too political or personal for them to talk about.

Bates said that is why Covered California has a telephone hotline that people can call to ask questions or enroll in a health plan, and it’s available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Mary Nykoluk, 68, said health care costs are not just a concern for seniors, but everyone on affixed income. “We are all on limited income,” Nykoluk said. “I know people who greatly depend on obtaining their services.”

ACA will lower health care costs and most importantly, 30 million more Americans will finally be able to get health care coverage, Sanchez told EGP.

Sanchez said seniors she’s talked to were relieved to learn that over the next ten years the average Medicare recipient will save over $4,000 and those in the “donut hole” will on average save over $16,000 due to ACA.

But with new programs there is often new paperwork and forms to be filled out, and that has Nykoluk worried about more elder abuse and fraud. It’s a sentiment echoed by 65-year-old Eva Herman who said a clinic once took advantage of her and signed off on a bunch of services she never authorized.

“They take advantage of seniors all the time,” agreed Nykoluk.

It is a concern that Sanchez says heath officials are working on.

One of the ongoing arguments against ACA is that it is forcing young people to subsidize health care for the elderly, a claim Sanchez disputes.

“Improved services that seniors will receive would not be offset by other groups but rather by savings in Medicare, by cutting waste, preventing fraud, and making Medicare more efficient,” she said.

Lazalde told EGP she thinks younger people, even if they are not purchasing insurance for themselves, need to know about Medicare and Medi-Cal changes because they often fill out the forms for their elderly parents.

“The struggle is how do you get the young folks informed, because at the end of the day they are the ones that may be helping others,” agrees Assemblywoman Garcia who noted she had to deal with getting her retired parents insured.

Garcia told EGP that she and Congresswoman Sanchez are planning to visit community colleges to reach out to young people so they too can become better informed.

Sanchez says she has been reminding recent graduates and their parents that thanks to ACA, they can stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26.

While Lazalde is happy with her current health plan, she told EGP she will take a look at the Covered California marketplace because she knows her younger siblings could benefit from shopping around.

Garcia told EGP she knows there are still issues to be worked out and many people to be informed as the health care program rolls out.

“It’s still a work-in-progress,” she said. “This is not something that will be done on October 1st, we are going to be dealing with this for the next couple of years.”

 

For more information about Covered California visit coveredcalifornia.com or call, (888 )975-1142. For information about the Affordable Care Act visit healthcare.gov.

 

Grupo de Vigilancia Vecinal Quiere Mejor Regulación de los Dispensarios de Marihuana

August 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

¿Cómo podría ser una regulación mayor y uniforme sobre la marihuana medicinal en California? ¿Qué funciona y que no ha funcionado? Ese parece ser el propósito de una visita especial a Boyle Heights que tomó lugar el lunes.

Michael Colbruno, consultor y socio de Milo Grupo of California, Inc., llegó a Boyle Heights esta semana tras reunirse con el presidente de la asamblea estatal John Pérez con respecto a legislación sobre la regulación de la marihuana medicinal en el estado.

“Él me dijo que yo tenía que ser testigo de los problemas en LA y en particular en Boyle Heights,” Colbruno dijo a EGP.

Según el vocero de Pérez, John Vigna, este fue un viaje educativo destinado a mostrarle a Colbruno, un defensor de los dispensarios, las consecuencias no intencionales de las leyes que permiten que los dispensarios funcionen, y los problemas con que tienen que lidiar los residentes a diario.

Pérez no está trabajando en crear legislación para regular la marihuana medicinal, dijo Vigna. También explicó que la legislación AB 473, por el asambleísta de California Tom Ammiano, se está elaborando y no se someterá a un voto este año.

AB 473 propone la creación de una división del departamento estatal de Control de Bebidas Alcohólicas (ABC) para regular la producción, el transporte y la venta de la marihuana medicinal, según la página web de Ammiano.

El lunes por la tarde, Colbruno acompañado por miembros del grupo Grupo de Vigilancia Vecinal (Neighborhood Watch) de la Iglesia Resurrección, dio un recorrido por los dispensarios de marihuana medicinal en Boyle Heights. Después de la gira, Colbruno asistió a la reunión del grupo donde habló con y escuchó directamente de los residentes.

Colbruno, que representa a dos dispensarios en la zona de la bahía de San Francisco, dice que fue advertido por Pérez que los dispensarios aquí estaban “fuera de control” y eran una molestia para los vecinos del barrio.

“Visitamos ocho dispensarios y después de los dos primeros se podía ver que el problema eran los dispensarios que no tenían licencia para operar, no estaban regulados y no se les aplicaba la ley. Los encontramos junto a escuelas y organizaciones juveniles, algo que nunca se ve en el área de la bahía. También vimos numerosos dispensarios agrupados juntos”, él dijo

Monseñor John Moretta de la Iglesia Resurrección y Sal Martínez, un residente local quien es miembro de la junta de la Comisión de Libertad Condicional del Condado de Los Ángeles, y otros acompañaron a Colbruno para ver las condiciones externas de los dispensarios.

De los 8 dispensarios donde se detuvieron, sólo uno tenía un guardia de seguridad, según Martínez. Una ordenanza aprobada en 2010 por la ciudad de Los Ángeles, había establecido varias normas como guardias de seguridad, cámaras de circuito cerrado, y restricciones de ubicación.

Algunas de las condiciones desagradables, y posiblemente contra la ley, que Colburn y otros encontraron el lunes incluyeron sillas alineadas de atrás de los dispensarios que funcionaban como áreas de espera para los pacientes y una pequeña plaza comercial que apestaba al humo de la hierba debido a un dispensario. En otro caso, se observó a dos jóvenes que parecían ser menores de edad, que entraron a un dispensario de marihuana medicinal sobre la calle Indiana.

Colburn se fue de la reunión para dirigirse al aeropuerto antes que la discusión se puso muy en marcha.

Los miembros del grupo Vigilancia Vecinal de Resurrección, una organización de vigilancia contra crimen en una parte de Boyle Heights, parecían en su mayoría oponerse al uso de la marihuana como medicina por completo y describieron a los dispensarios como negocios inmorales que hacen ganancias al detrimento a los jóvenes de la zona.

Teresa Márquez, activista local y abuela, minimizo el propósito de los dispensarios diciendo en la reunión que ella ha visto 10 especialistas en dolor, y ninguno le ha ofrecido una receta de marihuana.

Frank Villalobos, un arquitecto local, señaló que además de ser una molestia a las zonas residenciales, las tiendas de marihuana también representan un problema de planificación y uso del suelo. Actualmente no hay requisitos de estacionamiento para estas tiendas, mientras que los edificios médicos tradicionales están obligados a tener 4 espacios de estacionamiento por cada 1,000 pies cuadrados.

“El [dispensario] frente a [la preparatoria] Roosevelt no tiene estacionamiento… ‘tienda M & M’ suena como una tienda de caramelos”, dijo Villalobos.

Él agregó que en algunos casos los dispensarios de marihuana medicinal ofrecen alquilar un espacio comercial por encima del precio de mercado con el fin de abrir sus puertas.

Según Moretta, los terratenientes comerciales parecen favorecer a los inquilinos de marihuana medicinal frente a otros inquilinos. Él citó un ejemplo de un centro comercial en la cuadra 1300 de S. Soto Street, donde algunos de los dueños de los negocios crearon una petición y pidieron que el dueño de la propiedad expulsara a la tienda de la marihuana ya que causaba que todos los negocios tengan el olor a marihuana. El dueño respondió diciéndoles que ellos se pueden ir del lugar si no les gusta, dijo Moretta.

Moretta mencionó que quería escribir una carta a Pérez, y aunque el grupo no formuló un mensaje formal para Pérez, todos parecían preocupados de que los dispensarios parecen estar proliferando sin nadie que los detenga.

Un dispensario ahora esta detrás de Variety Boys & Girls Club, dijo Moretta. Otra esta cerca de la secundaria Stevenson, dijo Martínez.

“Es como el oeste salvaje—es inaceptable”, Moretta dijo a EGP después de la reunión.

El policía Oscar Casini, que esta encargado de relaciones con esta parte de la comunidad en la división Hollenbeck, especula que muchas de las tiendas de marihuana se están estableciendo con la esperanza de obtener derechos adquiridos antes de que las leyes cambien.

Casini dijo que él trabajó para la división de investigación de vicios hace un tiempo, y en aquel entonces el número de dispensarios de marihuana medicinal fueron casi igual al número de permisos de vender licor en Hollenbeck.

Según Colburn, la diferencia entre los dispensarios de marihuana en Oakland y Boyle Heights es “verdaderamente día y noche.”

Oakland anticipó los problemas y estableció reglas de zonificación, tasaciones e impuestos, regulación que solo permitió un total de cuatro dispensarios en la ciudad, y otros detalles.

“El sistema funciona tan bien, que cuenta con el apoyo de los funcionarios de la ciudad y del condado, vecinos y empresas. Vimos una dramática disminución en el número de traficantes de drogas en la calle una vez que los dispensarios abrieron. También son limpios y se adaptan perfectamente con sus alrededores”, él dijo.

Los Ángeles ha permitido a los dispensarios sin autorización a correr a rienda suelta y esto está perjudicando a los operadores jurídicos y con licencia, y a los pacientes que realmente necesitan su medicamento, dijo Colburn.

“Tienen que usar el poder de las leyes de zonificación, el abogado de la ciudad, la Junta de Igualación, al Fiscal del Distrito y el Fiscal de EE.UU. para tomar medidas enérgicas contra los dispensarios sin licencia e ilegales”, Colbrun dijo.

Actualmente California permite el uso de marihuana medicinal para pacientes de cáncer, SIDA u otras enfermedades crónicas, pero el gobierno federal aún lo considera una droga ilegal.

Durante años, la ciudad de Los Ángeles ha intentado regular los dispensarios. A principios de este año, los angelinos aprobaron la Proposición D, que tenía el fin de regular los dispensarios de marihuana medicinal, cobrarles impuestos y limitar el número de este tipo de empresas a 135—el número original que han operado desde septiembre de 2007.

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Commerce Put on Notice for New Probation Facility

August 29, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Nearly two years after the state passed legislation to reduce its prison population, local residents and employers may soon have unwanted visitors with the recently announced proposal to construct a probation facility in Commerce. The so-called AB 109 facility will not be a detention center, but would provide parolee services such as drug testing and counseling programs.

Update: Commerce No Longer Option for New Probation Facility

The state legislature passed the Public Safety Realignment Act, AB 109 in October of 2011 to meet a federal court order to reduce the overall prison population. Earlier that year the U.S. Supreme Court found the quality of health care provided to California prison inmates unconstitutional.

The AB 109 legislation sets up a new form of supervision of released felons in addition to the traditional forms of parole and probation. The new system, the Post-Release Community Supervision, requires the Los Angeles County Probation Department to monitor eligible parolees. Inmates, whose state convictions include violent offenses as well as those found to be high-risk sex offenders or mentally disordered offenders are not eligible for the community supervision program.

At the last Commerce City Council meeting on August 20, City Administrator Jorge Rifas outlined his concerns regarding new plans by the Board of Supervisors to locate a new probation facility in the city. The proposed location of the facility is 2266 Davie Avenue in the northeast section of the city.

Rifas said in his presentation the facility will house 39 probation officers and will service between 1,950 and 2,500 monthly visits from local parolees. Rifas met with Supervisor Gloria Molina’s staff prior to the meeting to receive initial information on the proposal. Rifas said the facility is designated to service parolees in a seven-mile radius of the west San Gabriel Valley.

“We’re very concerned about this,” Rifas told the council. “I find this unacceptable.”

Rifas stated the addition of a new probation facility, along with a current array of local rehabilitation-based facilities such as the Salvation Army Bell Shelter and the Dorothy Kirby Center creates a “disproportionate impact of parole, incarceration type, confined institutions in our community.”

He said he does not believe the county took the unique nature of Commerce into consideration. He referred to Commerce as a regional center of employment with over 55,000 employees at local businesses including the Citadel Outlets, Costco and the Commerce Casino. He stated that the new facility would be 500 to 1,000 feet away from the employee parking lot at the Commerce Casino. Rifas pointed to the a free shuttle service between the Citadel and Union Station downtown as evidence that Commerce is a local tourist attraction.

While AB 109 is written to prevent violent and serious offenders from inclusion into the community supervision program, Rifas said based on his conversations with Jim Wolak, station captain of the East Los Angeles Sheriffs station, there is still much to be concerned about.

He said according to Wolak, the eligibility requirement for AB 109 status only relates to the nature of the parolees’ current conviction and does not take into account any previous offenses. As a result, some AB 109 parolees may have previous violent felony convictions.

What is clear is that most of the parolees who will visit the center will have an active history of narcotics abuse and theft. In an area within close proximity to large parking lots at the Citadel shopping venue and other high-traffic destinations, there is concern that any increase in small crimes can produce larger consequences for the business community. In addition to the safety of residents, Commerce is also responsible for maintaining a consumer friendly environment for its business community.

At the conclusion of his report, Rifas reaffirmed his opposition to the proposal. “The nature of our city is an industrial community, “ he said. “Do we need this?”

“Jorge I think the word is not need. It is ‘Do we deserve it’?” responded Councilwoman Tina Baca Del Rio. “What have we done?”

Upon learning of the proposal in June, Rifas informed the County that the designated area has a zoning restriction against such a facility. However, because the County is implementing a statewide program, it has a higher pubic purpose. This allows the County to supersede any local restrictions.

The Council agreed to send a letter of opposition to each member of the Board of Supervisors.

“The City has notified Supervisor Molina’s office that we are adamantly opposed to the location of this facility in our community,” Rifá told EGP Wednesday in an email statement.

The email also cited the additional concern of an adult bookstore located 270 feet away from the building, which could act as a magnet for criminal activity.

According to city staff, county officials “notified Commerce that the proposed land use first needs to go before the Los Angeles County Planning Commission before it can be considered by the Board of Supervisors.”

On Wednesday, Molina spokesperson Roxane Marquez told EGP in an email that a site for the facility has not yet been selected and the supervisor’s office is working with the community to explore all options. “Sup. Molina has yet to take a position – and she won’t do so until she’s finished vetting all information and is satisfied that she’s heard from the community,” Marquez said.

 

 

 

 

 

Contamination Survey Around Exide Begins Today

August 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) on Tuesday announced that dust and soil sampling around a major battery recycling facility in the City of Vernon will begin today.

The Exide Technologies plant, part of an international corporation that is the biggest recycler of lead batteries in the world, was temporarily shut down earlier this year due to concerns over contamination leaking into the ground and into the air.

Exide, under supervision from DTSC, will collect the soil and dust sampling on properties adjacent to the plant and in the immediate community.

The samples will be taken from properties located next to Exide, and all within Vernon city limits, according to DTSC Media Information Officer Russ Edmondson. The samples will be analyzed for lead, arsenic and other toxic chemicals known to increase the risk of cancer and neurological and other health issues.

Additional testing will be conducted in October, and will include some nearby communities outside of Vernon.

The testing is being conducted as part of a cleanup plan that stems from an order that DTSC imposed on Exide last April, according to DTSC. The agency hopes to use the results to learn more about the cumulative health effects of Exide’s past practices and to help shape future regulation of the facility, according to DTSC.

“We want to bring assurance to the community that if contaminants from the facility are in their yard, Exide will clean them up,” said Brian Johnson, Deputy Director of DTSC’s Hazardous Waste Management Program.

Vernon Mayor Michael W. McCormick told EGP in a written statement that the city is pleased with DTSC’s announcement.

“The City of Vernon’s Health and Environmental Control Department remains committed to assisting our state and regional air, water and toxic substances oversight authorities in any way possible to protect the health of workers and residents in Vernon and our city’s nearby communities,” McCormick said.

While the almost exclusively industrial City of Vernon has only about 100 residents, over 50,000 people from neighboring communities work in the city daily. Neighboring residents praised DTSC’s decision to shut down Exide, but expressed anger that it had been allowed to operate so long without needed licenses or adequate oversight.

A judge, agreeing with an Exide appeal on the grounds that it had already remediated most of the hazards, overturned the closure order and allowed Exide to reopen until a full hearing of DTSC’s order is later held this year.

Earlier this summer, Exide held 8 public hearings on the contamination issue. 100,000 residents were notified in the affected areas that included Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles, and the cities of Commerce, Huntington Park and Maywood. Many residents at those meetings demanded the permanent closure of the facility that has been previously cited for excessive lead emissions.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles City Council have also spoken out against Exide and vowed to hold the company responsible for the public’s health and safety.

The company filed for bankruptcy in June, and any settlement agreement will have to be approved by a bankruptcy judge.  Hearings on the company’s operation are scheduled to start up again on Sept. 3, 4, and 5.

Dust sampling will begin today, while soil sampling will begin on Oct. 1; the findings will be submitted to DTSC by Nov. 15.

 

For more information, call DTSC at (800) 728-6942 or visit www.dtsc.ca.gov. 

 

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