Man Arrested in Connection to Vernon Hit-and-Run

July 15, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

A 29-year-old man suspected of causing a fatal accident in Vernon and fleeing the scene was arrested in Alabama and sent back to California to face charges, authorities said Friday.

Guillermo Ortiz was arrested in Demopolis, Alabama, July 2 when police stopped him for an expired registration on his big rig, Vernon police Sgt. Brandon Gray said.

“During the course of their investigation, Demopolis Police Department officers learned of an outstanding arrest warrant for Ortiz as a result of his involvement in a fatal hit and run traffic collision in the City of Vernon,” Gray said.

Vernon police detectives brought Ortiz back to Southern California on July 8 and booked him into the Huntington Park jail, the sergeant said.

Ortiz was arraigned on July 12 and pled not guilty to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI, fleeing the scene of a fatal traffic collision and fleeing the scene of a non-injury traffic collision, Gray said.

Ortiz was being held on $235,000 bail in the North County Correctional Facility in Castaic, with a return to a Norwalk court scheduled for July 26, according to inmate booking records.

Oritz is accused of running a red light while westbound on 37th Street on Saturday, April 30, and colliding with a pickup truck with two men inside that was northbound on Santa Fe Avenue, Gray said.

The Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck became lodged underneath the big rig’s trailer. Ortiz is accused of unhooking the trailer from his cab and driving away, Gray said.

The driver of the pickup suffered moderate injuries. The passenger, 28-year-old Armando Murillo, of Pacoima, was pronounced dead at the scene, Gray said.

Communities Near Exide Put DTSC on Notice

June 25, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Only a few dozen people showed up last week for a meeting billed as a chance for residents to learn more about the process to clean up contamination at the shuttered Exide plant in Vernon, prompting several people to again criticize the Department of Toxic Substance Control for its “poor outreach.”

The low-turnout is just another example of DTSC’s failure to keep residents informed about the hazardous waste polluter, several speakers complained.

“There’s a long history of injustice in this whole Exide issue,” Mark Lopez, of East Yard Communities told EGP. “There is a continuance of frustration over the inclusion of the community and the inadequate outreach by DTSC.”

Excide Technologies, a lead-acid battery recycler and smelter, was forced to close down in order to avoid federal charges related to its long history of hazardous waste violations. They have been fined millions of dollars to pay costs associated with the clean up of toxic chemicals at their Vernon plant and contaminated properties in surrounding communities.

Dozens of residents from Huntington Park to Boyle Heights attended DTSC’s scoping meeting June 18 at Maywood City Hall.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Dozens of residents from Huntington Park to Boyle Heights attended DTSC’s scoping meeting June 18 at Maywood City Hall. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Before that process starts, however, DTSC must prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) to identify the potential impacts and mitigations expected to take place during the closure process.

Last week’s scoping meeting was a chance for residents in Maywood and other communities to tell state regulators what they want included in the report.

However, it’s the middle of graduation season and Bell Gardens High School, where many local families send their children to school, has their graduation ceremony tonight, so they are not here, Lopez pointed out.

“This could have easily been avoided had [DTSC] done their research on the community,” he said. “It’s DTSC’s job, they have the staff for outreach.”

It should not be so hard for people to get their voices heard, echoed Jessica Prieto of East Los Angeles.

According to DTSC, the agency has held six meetings in Boyle Heights and Maywood since Exide was closed.

Most people at the meeting are already informed and involved, and regularly attend meetings on Exide, said frustrated residents, accusing DTSC of not doing enough to reach out to the people who don’t already attend meetings.

“It seems like you are just going through the motions,” said Aide Castro, a Maywood business owner and aid to Assemblyman Anthony Rendon.

She wanted to know why local business owners like her, and the nearly 40 members of the new Advisory Board overseeing the plant closure were not notified about the meeting.

“I didn’t say anything [before the meeting] on purpose, to see if you would send it,” she said. “If we’re not receiving a flyer it’s hard to phantom the community outreach is being done effectively.”

According to DTSC, however, board members were given a list of meeting dates during their first meeting on May 28 and the scoping meeting was discussed in depth during the June 11 advisory group meeting. DTSC spokeswoman Tamma Adadamek told EGP the agency enlists the help of members of the Community Advisory Group to share information discussed at our monthly meetings.

Site Project Manager Su Patel said DTSC mailed the meeting notice to 2,700 area residents and that hundreds of others on the agency’s email blast received an electronic notice.

That’s why it’s always the same people attending the meeting, complained Maywood Councilman Oscar Magaña, That number is much too low given that as many as 375,000 people live in Boyle Heights, Commerce, East Los Angeles, Maywood, Huntington Park and Vernon.

“I’m sure you’ve heard enough from these people,” he told regulators; you have to do something different. “The schools are usually a great place to pass out information around,” Magaña said.

But in addition to mailing out and emailing information according to DTSC, representatives have called and visited the homes of dozens and dozens of residents in the area. Adamek added that the agency regularly updates their website with new information about the Exide cleanup and closure.

The agency also holds a conference call every two weeks with community leaders to share information on the project, she added.

Boyle Heights resident Doelorez Mejia attends nearly every meeting related to Exide. She said holding the meeting in the southeast city of Maywood shows DTSC is starting to listen to the community, but pushed the agency to do much outreach.

“Put yourself on the agenda of the local school districts,” she suggested.

Magaña also recommended DTSC reach out to environmental justice groups, especially those already involved with the fight against Exide.

“Those people have experience canvassing, I bet you they would be more than willing to help,” he said, prompting applause from the audience.

Many of the people living in the neighborhoods and cities surrounding Exide are undocumented and fear retribution if they speak out, said Lopez, who is community co-chair of the Exide Advisory Board. He believes some people fear they will be forced to move if DTSC or other agencies get wind that they live in homes with unpermitted improvements, such as converted garages.

“This has led everyday residents and organizations to step in and fill the role of organizing the community,” he added. “There have been some improvements by DTSC, but a lot of that has been a result of pressure from the community.”

In an email to EGP DTSC officials said all the comments and questions raised by the community are being considered.

“We are happy to have suggestions on how to better reach the community. We want them to be informed about the closure, and they know best how they can be reached,” said Adamek.

Residents have until June 29 to submit comments regarding the Notice of Preparation. They will get a second chance when the DEIR is presented sometime in September, as well as have a chance to comment on the closure plan once it is approved.

The agency said the first phase of closure will take between 19 to 22 months and will include removing equipment and contaminated soil and demolishing buildings “down to dirt.” That phase is expected to take place sometime in Spring 2016.

Firefighters Put Out Fire at Vernon Business

April 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Vernon firefighters helped by the Los Angeles County Fire Department battled a fire inside a wholesale electronic supply warehouse in Vernon, authorities said.

The blaze inside Hometronix at 3009 Bandini Blvd. was reported at 1:06 a.m. Wednesday, according to a Vernon Fire Department dispatcher. It took firefighters two hours to extinguish the blaze.

What caused the fire was still unknown. No damage estimate was immediately available.

According to Internet records, Hometronix sold electrical apparatus, equipment, wiring and construction supplies. Its annual revenues are reported as between $2.5 million and $5 million.

Vernon City Council to Be Dominated by Women

April 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

For the first time in Vernon history, women will soon be the majority on the City Council.

On Tuesday, voters elected Yvette Woodruff-Perez to succeed Councilman Richard Maisano who did not seek reelection.

Woodruff-Perez defeated Dennis Roberts 21 to 13, according to the unofficial election results. Thirty-five of the city’s 66 registered voters returned their vote-by-mail ballots, according to the city clerk’s office. One of the ballots was returned blank and has not yet been canvassed, said city officials.

The highly industrial city is home to 1,800 businesses, which include rendering plants and manufacturers. Since being founded in 1905, the city of Vernon has only had three female councilmembers: Woodruff-Perez becomes the fourth.

She will join Melissa Ybarra, elected during a recent special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of her father Michael A. Ybarra, and Luz Martinez who ran unopposed in her last election bid.

Voters also approved two measures on the ballot. Measure O will amend the city charter to clarify that during an election with multiple seats up for grabs, seats with unexpired terms will only be filled after the winners of all the full-term seats are decided. Those seats will go to the candidate with the next subsequent highest number of votes.

Measure P will allow the city council to fix the duties, tenure and compensation of officers by any means it deems appropriate.

Woodruff-Perez will be sworn-in during Vernon’s next city council meeting on Tuesday, April 21.

Vernon Councilmember Continues Family Legacy

March 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Vernon City Council welcomed a new member Tuesday.

Melissa Ybarra took the oath of office Tuesday; she will fill out the remainder of the term left vacant by the unexpected death of her father, Michael A. Ybarra in September. Ther term expires in 2017.

Councilmember Melissa Ybarra receives the oath of office during Vernon’s city council meeting Tuesday. (City of Vernon)

Councilmember Melissa Ybarra receives the oath of office during Vernon’s city council meeting Tuesday. (City of Vernon)

Ybarra, who ran unopposed, was elected Feb. 17, becoming the fourth member of the Ybarra family to serve in elected office in the City of Vernon since the 1930s.

“I plan on making a difference in the community that I have grown up in,” she said. “I plan on embracing some of the characteristics that my father, Michael Ybarra, had. I plan on serving this seat with honesty and integrity. I plan on questioning all that I do not understand,” she added.

 

Vernon Election Feb. 17

February 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Vernon residents will submit their vote-by-mail ballots Tuesday to elect a council member to fill the unexpired term of Michael A. Ybarra who passed away unexpectedly.

Ybarra’s daughter Melissa Ybarra is the sole candidate running for the seat that expires in 2017.

Voters can mail their ballot or drop it off at the city clerk’s office located at 4305 S. Santa Fe Ave, Vernon 90058 by 8p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17.

For more information, call the City Clerk’s office at (323) 583-8811 extension 546 or email cityclerk@ci.vernon.ca.us.

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