Growing up with a cousin with Down syndrome helped Commerce Councilwoman Oralia Rebollo understand the many challenges people with disabilities face.
Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca del Rio watched as close family members lost their fight against cancer, making her an advocate for cancer awareness.
Commerce’s mayor, Lilia Leon works closely with women who have suffered domestic violence, helping to empower them to make the transition to independence.
Lea este artículo en Español: Regresa la Feria de Salud de Commerce
Three different causes, all recognized in the same month. October is Down Syndrome, Breast Cancer and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
For the three women on Commerce’s City Council the issues are close to their heart and part of the reason they voted with council colleagues to allocate funding to bring back the Commerce Health Fair taking place this Saturday at Rosewood Park after a seven-year hiatus.
The city’s once annual health fair was cut in 2008 due to budget restraints, according to Commerce Media Specialist Herlinda Chico.
“Before, it was a large fair with prizes, raffles and a petting zoo,” said Chico, but this year the public event will have a larger focus on activities and resources focused on breast cancer, Down syndrome and domestic violence.
The city is collaborating with several local organizations to offer a variety of services, including flu shots, mammograms, Zumba, health information, healthy snacks and craft tables. Some of the services require health insurance information but could under certain guidelines be free.
The city council approved $3,500 to help pay for the health fair, according to the city’s finance director, Vilko Domic.
Kicking off the event will be the Abilities Walk—a 30-minute walk around the Rosewood Park starting at 8:30am. The walk is open to everyone, not just those with Down syndrome, according to Eduardo Saucedo, Commerce’s social services coordinator and event organizer.
“We want to focus on the ability and not the disability of an individual,” he said.
According to the National Down Syndrome Society, one in every 691 babies in the U.S. is born with Down syndrome, making it the most common genetic condition.
With proper help, however, people with Down syndrome are living longer and are more integrated into society. In 1910, children with Down syndrome were only expected to survive to about age 9, but now, with all advances in clinical treatment, up to 80% of people with Down syndrome reach the age of 60; some live even longer.
Schools in Commerce are operated by the Montebello Unified School District. According to the District, in 2013-2014 nearly 3,200 students in grades Kindergarten to 12 had some type of disability.
During her 2014 election campaign and since, Rebollo, who works in early education, has said she wants Commerce to collaborate more with agencies that provide programs and services to residents with special needs.
Under her leadership, she told EGP, the city has expanded the number of hours for Adaptive Swimming lessons. “Water therapy is one of the best forms of exercise and activities for most children and adults with special needs,” Rebollo said.
In July, Commerce sent two buses of residents to the Special Olympics World Games hosted by Los Angeles. The councilwoman said she was “incredibly proud” of the community for their sportsmanship and support of special needs athletes.
“My ultimate goal is to establish a citizens’ advisory commission on disabilities. Ideally, we will select residents with special needs or who are involved with the special needs community,” she told EGP in an email.
Breast cancer awareness will be heavily promoted during Saturday’s health fair with information and early detection exams. Commerce has secured a mobile mammogram unit to provide free mammograms to women over 40 who register in advance. An experienced physician’s assistant will be on hand to oversee the process and to answer questions.
“Exams are free for those who qualify” under the state-funded Every Woman Counts program eligibility guidelines, said Chico. The city has also secured a $1,000 donation from the Commerce Hotel and Casino to pay for the exam for women who do not qualify for the state program, but cannot afford the $100 cost of the service.
If anything is found during the exam, a free follow up consultation will be provided, Chico said.
Every year, over 200,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer. It is the most common cause of cancer-related death among Latinas, according to the American Cancer Society. Breast cancer can be cured more than 95% of the time with early detection, which is why mammograms are so critical, the American Cancer Society states.
Domestic violence education and awareness are equally important, says Mayor Leon, not just for the victims, but also to help the public understand the issue and to spread the word that help is available.
“People will see the pamphlets and sometimes it is not even for them, but for a family member, a friend or a neighbor,” said Leon.
She told EGP she got involved with the issue in the late 1980s while working at Centro Mental Health, where she met people suffering from different forms of domestic violence and abuse.
“[Domestic violence] doesn’t have to be physical, it’s also mental,” she said. “There’s some men, and in cases women, who think ‘I can do whatever I want with you’ and mistreat their significant other,” Leon explained.
Abuse is a repetitive pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate partner, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
These behaviors cause physical harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what he or she wish or force the person to behave in ways they do not want.
The city hopes the health fair will help educate and get people talking about how to prevent domestic violence, which also claims the elderly and children among its victims.
Commerce’s Public Safety and Community Services Department will be offering services to those experiencing domestic violence, pointed out Leon.
In partnership with East Los Angeles Women’s Shelter, the city will collect makeup and toiletries, such as shampoo, body wash and toothpaste, throughout the month of October to donate to survivors of domestic violence. Donations can be brought to the health fair or dropped off in collection bins at the city’s four libraries, park facilities, city hall and the senior center.
Participating organizations include Club 51, a support group for parents with children with Down syndrome; ENKI, providing mental health services; the American Cancer Society; Victims Assistance which helps anyone who may be in danger of domestic violence; and Walgreens, which will be administering immunizations to anyone with health insurance: some people may qualify for a free flu shot.
People are encouraged to wear the colors associated with the various causes: pink to support breast cancer, purple for domestic violence and yellow and blue for Down syndrome. The health fair will run from rom 9 a.m. to Noon at Rosewood Park, located at 5600 Harbor St.
To pre-register for a mammogram, call Herlinda Chico at (323) 722-4805 ext. 2370. For more information about the health fair, call (323) 887-4460.
A small breathing machine in his hands and on the verge of tears, Javier Hernandez asked Commerce city officials to explain why they had not do something sooner to stop the lead contamination flowing from a controversial batter-recycling plant in Vernon to Commerce homes.
“We are here to demand a speedy clean up of our area,” Hernandez, speaking in Spanish, told the council during its bimonthly meeting last week. “I have to use this oxygen machine to sleep for the rest of my life,” he desperately added.
As previously reported by EGP, Commerce officials were caught by surprise when they recently learned that at least one city neighborhood is among the areas state regulators believe to be contaminated with lead from the now shuttered Exide Technologies plant in Vernon.
Concerned about the exposure, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) was asked to attend the city council’s Sept. 8 meeting and to explain their findings to the council and residents.
In March, Exide was forced to permanently close down over its illegally handling of hazardous waste, violations that had exposed hundreds of thousands of people in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles and several Vernon-adjacent Southeast cities to dangerous levels of cancer causing levels of lead and arsenic.
On Aug. 20, DTSC announced the contamination area was larger than originally believed, and that new wind pattern modeling had determined that Commerce should be added to the soil sampling target zone. Five to 10,000 properties on the north side of Commerce could be contaminated with lead from the battery-recycling plant, according to state toxic chemical regulators.
Gina Solomon, MD. MPH, deputy secretary for Science and Health with California Environmental Protection Agency, Cal EPA, described lead as a type of poison that could cause anemia, abdominal cramps, seizures, kidney damage. It can also lead to neurological and birth defects.
“Lead doesn’t really [ever] go away,” she explained.
Solomon said that while the investigation is ongoing, she “strongly” discourages allowing children to play in the dirt and people gardening with the soil in their backyards.
“People can also take off their shoes or wipe them well on the entrance mat” to prevent tracking the contaminated soil inside their homes, she suggested.
Mayor Pro-Tem Tina Baca del Rio told the audience she’s worried because DTSC at first said Commerce was not impacted. “Now they say we are but we don’t know to what extent,” she said.
Councilwoman Oralia Rebollo told DTSC’s representatives she is very disappointed that they are not moving faster with their investigation and that they had not yet even notified the Montebello Unified School District (MUSD) about the potential contamination at schools in Commerce.
“You won’t have a draft [of your action plan] until October, that means you will not start sampling until December,” Rebollo said in frustration. “That’s not quick enough.”
DTSC Site Project Manager Su Patel said testing is being delayed due to a lack of available funding, but once they get started they would move quickly to test the large number of properties.
She said the agency would need help from the city to identify and contact property owners.
Which area is contaminated? asked Baca del Rio. “We need to know, to create some relief,” she said.
While Patel was reluctant to specify an area, a map provided by DTSC shows possible contamination in and around the Bristow Park neighborhood.
The focal point should be our schools, we need to highlight any problems around our children, Councilman Hugo Argumedo told DTSC.
Patel said DTSC has been in contact with MUSD and is doing its best to make sure everyone is informed.
“Fix it! Figure out who’s doing the damage,” Baca del Rio told state regulators.
“We are aware we are not the only [contaminated] community, but this community is my priority, as it is the priority of the council,” she said.
Hernandez told EGP he’s tired of hearing promises that the problem will be fixed. He was very upset that the doctor focused on a general study about the impact of lead on children and did not included local statistics in her presentation.
“How is it possible that we allow these people to come in and let them talk to their benefit?” he said. Hernandez wants more than talk, he wants a speedy cleanup.
But according to Solomon, they are still in the very early stages of the investigation in Commerce.
Hernandez’ situation highlights the complexity of identifying with certainty the source of the contamination, at least how it got to where it might be found. Hernandez told EGP he worked for 35 years at a painting company near Exide, and blames the battery recycling plant for his asthma.
Solomon said the agency would like to hear from people like Hernandez and former Exide employees so they can test them for lead, pointing out that most of Exide’s workers did not live in Vernon. She said in cases like Hernandez, who worked nearby—they could have unwittingly spread the contamination to their homes.
“They usually come with lead on their shoes, clothes, inside of their car,” Solomon said. “It is an important issue for them and their families” to consider.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will conduct a DUI/Driver License Checkpoint in the city of Commerce Friday.
The checkpoint will take place between 6 p.m. and 3 a.m. at an undisclosed location, according to LASD.
Drivers caught driving impaired will be arrested and face jail time, fines, fees, DUI classes and other expenses that can reach over $10,000. According to LASD checkpoints reduce the number of persons killed and injured in alcohol or drug-related crashes by up to 20 percent.
Leaked fuel from a big rig involved in a crash and a subsequent crash involving four vehicles has closed all but one southbound lane of the Golden State (5) Freeway north of Indiana Street Monday in East Los Angeles, according to the CHP.
All lanes were reopened a few hours later.
Authorities Wednesday released the name of a man who was shot and killed in Commerce.
The attack in the 5100 block of Astor Avenue took place about 8:50 p.m. Tuesday, said sheriff’s Homicide Bureau Lt. Steven Jauch, adding that the man was found lying in front of his house with an upper-chest wound and was pronounced dead at the scene.
He was 25-year-old Ernest Ramos, coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter said this morning.
Witnesses told homicide detectives that three men walked up to Ramos as he stood in front of his home, and one of them shot him, said Deputy Mike Barraza. The three then ran southbound from the site and fled in a vehicle that headed south on Astor Avenue.
A motive for the shooting was unknown, and no suspect information was immediately available. Anyone with information on the shooting was urged to call the Sheriff’s Homicide Bureau at (323) 890-5500. All tips can be made anonymously.
The City of Commerce had joined a long list of communities affected by lead contamination from a Vernon-based battery recycling plant permanently closed in March for hazardous waste violations.
The disturbing news was announced last week by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), which said it used wind pattern modeling to add Commerce to the soil sampling target zone. Five to 10,000 properties could be contaminated with lead from the Exide Technologies plant, according to state toxic chemical regulators.
Exide’s troubling history of toxic chemical air emissions and hazardous waste violations has sparked outrage and protests in an area that runs from Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles and several Vernon-adjacent Southeast cities.
Commerce City Administrator Jorge Rifa told EGP said they are in the “very early stages” of understanding the “scope and extent” of the damage in Commerce, but said city staff and the city council will do everything within their jurisdiction to address the problem.
“We are working really hard and the council is very concerned,” Rifa said. “This is something new for all of us … We don’t want to overstate or play down the problem.”
Like Vernon, Commerce is also an industrial city, the biggest difference Commerce has over 13,000 residents compared to about 200 Vernon residents.
News that toxic pollution from Exide had made its way to homes in Commerce caught many in the city by surprise.
City Planner Jose Jimenez told EGP he attended a public meeting in Boyle Heights Aug. 13 and there was no discussion of possible lead contamination in Commerce.
Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca del Rio attended last week’s meeting and told EGP she was taken aback by the news.
She said Vernon needs to revise its policies regarding the types of businesses is allows to operate in that city because they not only impact Vernon, but other communities as well.
Del Rio said she is committed to working on the issue with representatives from all the affected areas.
Last Friday, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who represents Commerce, issued a statement demanding the immediate cleanup of contaminated properties and for DTSC to not spend more time on site testing.
“This contamination is now more widespread and my first concern is with the immediate health of citizens in the City of Commerce, especially our most vulnerable, such as pregnant women and young children who may come in contact with contamination in their yards or at the playground,” Garcia said.
“The continued testing is expensive and continues to only reaffirm what the scientific models show to be the likely spread of the contaminant,” she added.
But according to DTSC spokesperson Sandy Nax, additional testing is needed to identify the locations of lead deposits and concentrations before cleanup can begin.
“Testing also helps with prioritizing cleanup of properties with the highest contamination,” he told EGP.
The northern part of the Union Pacific Railyard is believed to be most affected, Rifa said. The city council has schedule the issue for discussion at its Sept. 8 meeting. DTSC will brief the council on the results of their findings and answer questions, he said.
In the meantime, Garcia’s office reported that DTSC is working on a letter/email that in the next few days will be sent to residents in the impacted area.
“This letter/ email will just explain what is currently going on and what the next steps are,” states Garcia’s office.
With the information being so fresh, city staff told EGP many residents and business owners may not yet be aware of the latest findings.
“I haven’t heard from any business owner” as of yet, Deputy City Administrator Fernando Mendoza told EGP.
“In talking with our Environmental Health and Safety team, we haven’t received any notification from a regulator about possible effect on our business,” Commerce-based Unified Grocers spokesperson Paul Dingsdale told EGP. “We would not anticipate any issues, based on our team’s review.”
Eddie Tafoya, executive director of the city’s Chamber of Commerce Industrial Council, told EGP Tuesday they had only just recently heard the news and are still getting caught up on the issue.
While many in the city expressed surprise over the latest DTSC pronouncements, Commerce is not new to the controversy. In 2013, the city council sent a letter to Vernon requesting they close the plant, but according to Rifa, they never received a response.
The issue could be tricky for Commerce, which also has a large industrial base and is home to one of the busiest railyards in the country, two known sources of pollution.
Unlike Vernon, however, residents in the city have a strong history of pushing environmental concerns, such as pushing to stop trains from idling near homes and most recently a ban on idling by large trucks in order to decrease the harmful effects of diesel emissions to residents and workers in the city.
Baca del Rio said she is expecting to get funding as soon as possible to clean the contamination. “Just because we are minorities that doesn’t mean [big corporations] can come and pollute our city.”
Garcia said she is committed to work with Commerce, residents, the advisory board and DTSC to keep the public informed about “this hazard and the health screenings needed” to move the community forward.
Due to privacy and confidentiality concerns, DTSC will not release information about private property owners and residents, including who is being tested or the results, stated Garcia.
Rifa encouraged those who may be concerned to visit their doctor and to be tested for lead. Following other simple directions, such as removing shoes before entering a house, also makes sense, Rifa said.
“The test will show whether the level is above the Centers for Disease Control’s acceptable limits, and whether medical attention is needed,” said Rifa.
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is still testing the blood-lead levels of residents near the Exide facility. Those interested can sign up for the testing at www.bloodleadtesting.com or by calling toll-free:1-844-888-2290.
Fuming over news that as many as 10,000 homes could be contaminated with lead spewed from the now closed Exide Technologies plant in Vernon, hundreds of people on Thursday demanded state regulators immediately begin clean up of what could turn out to be the biggest “environmental clean up and public health disasters in California history.
“If you can’t handle the problem get out of the way and let federal government step in,” insisted Terry Cano, a resident of Boyle Heights whose home was found to have higher than safe levels of lead but has not yet been decontaminated.
“I don’t care where it came from, just clean it up,” she said angrily during a public meeting of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) community advisory group in Huntington Park at the Salt Lake Park Community Center.
DTSC revealed just over a week ago that the agency had expanded soil sampling for lead to a larger geographical area and the tests revealed much higher numbers of property contaminated with the toxic chemical than previously believed.
“We have preliminarily estimated the number of residential properties potentially affected could be five to six thousand, or as high as nine to 10 thousand,” Lee said. “It is certainly a large extent of impact.”
Angry residents living within the contamination zone — from Huntington Park, Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, East Los Angeles and other communities near the former lead-battery recycling and smelting plant packed — packed the advisory committee meeting and loudly demanded the state agency admit its failures and speed up the clean up.
DTSC will use $7 million it received from the state Thursday to swiftly clean homes with lead levels above 1,000 parts per million, agency Director Barbara Lee told the loud crowd Thursday.
The state’s money will be added to the $9 million Exide was forced to place in a community trust fund as part of an agreement to avoid federal criminal prosecution for its illegal handling of hazardous waste.
Lee said half of the funds would be used to conduct additional testing in the expanded zone, which will now include Commerce as well as Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park.
The comments struck a nerve with Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia who represents Commerce.
“We don’t need testing, we just need to clean up,” she said. “Three million [dollars] should not be going to testing!”
Several members of the community advisory committee, which is supposed to be providing input and oversight for the clean up process, also expressed distrust in DTSC’s ability to handle the cleanup.
“We don’t want you to be sorry,” a visibly agitated Teresa Marquez said. “Its time for the governor to know, its time for Obama to know.”
It’s time for California to declare a state of emergency and for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to step in and coordinate a mass evacuation from homes, some speakers said.
Exposure to lead has been linked to learning disabilities and birth defects. Children are especially at risk because they play in the dirt, according to health and environment experts.
The $9 million Exide set aside was to pay for the cleanup of 219 homes north and south of the plant. So far, lead-tainted soil has been removed from 146 homes. An additional 146 homes were tested in an area beyond the initial scoping area to determine the extent of Exide’s contamination.
Media reports have placed the cost between $150 million to $200 million. According to Lee, DTSC is working to secure funds for the expanded residential cleanup.
DTSC Chief of Permitting Rizgar Ghazi explained the cost to clean up the Exide plant site would cost the company $26 million.
“Leave Exide the way it is, use that money to clean up the community,” demanded Miguel Alfaro of Boyle Heights. “Leave the building up as an example of your lack of enforcement.”
A DUI/Drivers License Checkpoint in Commerce led to 12 arrests including two motorists driving under the influence
Over 2,500 vehicles drove through the checkpoint and 1,748 drivers were stopped, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Arrests included one drivers suspected to be under the influence of drugs another suspected of being under the influence of drugs and alcohol and one illegal possession of narcotics. Other arrests included allowing an unlicensed driver to drive, 8 motorists driving with a suspended or without a license.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), checkpoints have been showsn to lower lower DUI deaths and injuries.
El sábado por la mañana voluntarios limpiarán las calles de Commerce para recaudar dinero para diferentes causas, desde equipos deportivos a programas para adolescentes de la ciudad, y al mismo tiempo demostrando su orgullo cívico en el proceso.
Alrededor de 200 voluntarios ganarán $100 cada uno por limpiar graffiti, recortar árboles y recoger la basura de algunas de las calles más concurridas y dañadas de la ciudad, según Steve Craig, presidente y CEO de Craig Realty Group, propietario y operador de las tiendas Citadel Outlets y anfitrión del Quinto Día Anual de Limpieza en Commerce.
Read this article in English: Commerce; Cleaning Up for a Cause
El dinero se destinará a algún equipo u organización designada por el voluntario, siempre y cuando ellos trabajen las horas requeridas de 6am a 1pm.
El supervisor de deportes de la ciudad de Commerce Frank García esta encargado de la coordinación de voluntarios jóvenes para la limpieza el sábado. Él le dijo a EGP que el dinero que ganan los voluntarios en muchos aspectos los beneficia directamente, a través de programas juveniles y equipos deportivos.
Vanessa Pérez con el Centro de Adolescentes en Commerce está de acuerdo.
“Muchos niños [de Commerce] son de familias de bajos ingresos y no pueden pagar los $250” que cuesta el campamento de una semana en el norte de California, explicó. “Así que esto es una gran ayuda para nuestra recaudación de fondos”, permitiendo que más niños asistan, le dijo a EGP. El centro inscribió a 15 voluntarios para el sábado.
El entrenador del equipo de natación Kevin Larson dice que los programas acuáticos de la ciudad enviarán un equipo de voluntarios como lo hacen cada año. “El dinero que recibimos, lo usamos para viajar”, le dijo a EGP.
Larson apoya al programa de limpieza, viéndolo como una forma de ayudar a la ciudad, mientras que este incentiva a la juventud local.
Esa fue la idea de Craig cuando propuso por primera vez el evento en 2011. Dijo que su objetivo era motivar a las generaciones más jóvenes – la generación del milenio- para que cuiden su comunidad.
“Nuestra esperanza es que los jóvenes participantes se vayan con un mayor sentido de orgullo por su ciudad y el deseo de hacer una contribución positiva a su futuro”, agregó.
Desde entonces, el programa ha crecido de un pequeño grupo limpiando cerca de Citadel Outlets a un esfuerzo de toda la ciudad con muchos programas de jóvenes y negocios locales donando su tiempo, trabajo y materiales.
Aunque los negocios y los individuos son bienvenidos a participar, sólo los voluntarios vinculados a los grupos locales y organizaciones ganarán la donación de $100 por su participación, de acuerdo con Traci Markel, directora de marketing de Citadel.
“Las empresas que donan tiempo o trabajo recibirán reconocimiento público y las gracias de parte de la Ciudad de Commerce en la reunión del consejo, y un agradecimiento en los anuncios de pantallas LED de Citadel Outlets”, agregó.
Los voluntarios limpiarán las calles cercanas a Citadel Outlets, en los vecindarios cercanos, así como frente a las tiendas y estructuras públicas.
Se llevará a cabo limpieza de césped, extracción de maleza, recorte o eliminación de árboles muertos, limpieza de escombros de los desagües de caminos y pintura en las aceras de las calles.
A principios del verano, Craig llevó a un equipo de inspectores de la ciudad para identificar calles en alta necesidad de reparación.
El martes, el Concejo de la Ciudad aprobó hasta $15,000 para ayudar a cubrir el costo de $30,000 para el trabajo de estiércol liquido y redefinición de líneas en la carretera de la Avenida Camfield al lado norte de Citadel. El consejo mencionó que el trabajo aborda algunas de las necesidades de infraestructura en el Plan de Gestión de Pavimento de Commerce, y proporciona un beneficio importante para la ciudad.
Ben’s Asphalt, que ha trabajado con la ciudad antes, donará el trabajo y proporcionará los materiales a costos directos. Citadel cubrirá el costo restante.
Markel dijo que el trabajo de estiércol liquido y redefinición se llevará a cabo durante dos fines de semana consecutivos, a partir de agosto 8-9 y concluyendo en agosto 15 y 16.
Es realmente maravilloso ver a un líder empresarial local reunir a la comunidad en conjunto para invertir de nuevo en la ciudad, dijo la alcaldesa de Commerce Lilia R. León.
“Cada año, Steve Craig predica con el ejemplo—recoge una pala y trabaja duro junto a nuestros adolescentes locales en proyectos que limpian nuestras calles”, dijo León. “A través de este evento no sólo vemos mejoras estéticas en la ciudad en que vivimos y trabajamos, pero un cambio en la mentalidad de nuestros jóvenes ciudadanos”, añadió.
Otros patrocinadores locales incluyen Hillyard, Waste Management y Servicios CAM.
Todavía se anima a los voluntarios a inscribirse. Los jóvenes voluntarios individuales de 18 años y menos, y organizaciones de jóvenes estarán coordinados a través de la Ciudad de Commerce. Las organizaciones y los equipos se seleccionan en base a quien llegue primero.
Para obtener más información, póngase en contacto con García vía email a: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Los negocios locales, voluntarios adultos, y cualquier persona interesados en donar para el Quinto Día Anual de Limpieza en Commerce deben contactar a Traci Markel en email@example.com.
For the third year running, the Commerce City Council has approved a new fiscal year budget that’s not only balanced but also has a small surplus.
The council July 7 voted unanimously to approve a 2015-2016 General Fund budget of $56 million that includes some added spending for popular programs as well as funds for one-time capital outlays. A decision on approximately $10 million on other operating budget expenditures – including the use of $1 million in Measure A and $6 million in transportation funds was delayed pending additional information.
Higher than initially anticipated revenue bumped the city’s surplus to $414,000, more than the $250,000 initially projected. City councilmembers, however, voted to use $301,000 of the revenue for a variety of expenditures ranging from adding a second Citadel Job Fair to adding a part-time library literacy clerk and Aquatorium Fitness Center attendant. Also approved was $9,800 to pay for an additional day of pre-school program at each park; $6,000 to cover traveling expenses for the girls’ soccer team; $15,000 for adaptive aquatics swim lessons; $10,250 for the Water Polo entry fees/expenses; $2,000 to expand the Halloween program to include Dia de los Muertos and $4,000 for Commerce’s boxing program.
City Administrator Jorge Rifa said his budget priorities were focused on four spending areas for the upcoming fiscal year: public safety at the Citadel; reorganization of the community services department to enhance code enforcement; a fair pay and benefits package for city employees; and re-allocation of water lease revenues from the General Fund to the Water Utility Fund.
In Commerce, the libraries are a major source of civic pride and an important community resource. Library Director Beatriz Sarmiento told EGP that adding a part-time literacy clerk was greatly needed and will go a long way to help the department run more smoothly. “It’s like an office job, that person will have to answer phones, help the public, help plan events and be at the [library] counter when needed,” Sarmiento said.
Mayor Lilia Leon thanked city staff for months of hard work preparing the budget. Leon said the combination of meetings and workshops and feedback from the different departments heads helped identify revenue and highlight what is most needed and wanted in the community.
“I appreciate all the department heads for bringing up the needs and coming together and making sure we can provide” as much as possible, Leon said.