Tercer Anual de Invasión de Cómic en Commerce

October 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

COMMERCE – Los amantes de los superhéroes y cosplayers descenderán a Commerce este sábado para la última entrega de “Comic Book Invasion (Invasión de Libros Cómic)”, un evento gratuito, abierto al público lleno de emocionantes tallares, presentaciones, paneles y firmas de más de 30 artistas de cómics, escritores y cosplayers.

En su tercer año, el cónclave de libros cómic es una celebración de la cultura popular que rodea las novelas gráficas, según la Biblioteca Publica de Commerce, patrocinadora del evento.

“Los cómics y las novelas gráficas involucran historias interesantes y héroes que nos inspiran”, dijo el bibliotecario adolescente Erik Jackiw, quien junto al artista de cómics Javier Hernández, creador de la serie de cómics “El Muerto”, organizó el evento.

La asistencia al Comercio Comic Invasion crece cada año. (Archivo fotográfico EGP)

La asistencia al Comercio Comic Invasion crece cada año. (Archivo fotográfico EGP)

“Estos festivales permiten a los fans que hagan cosplay, se socializan y que conozcan a los visionarios creativos detrás de sus cómics favoritos”, dijo Erik Jackiw, agregando que es también una gran manera para que la biblioteca llegue a los lectores y muestre todas las cosas grandiosas que las bibliotecas de Commerce tienen que ofrecer.

El “Comic Book Invasion” de Commerce se llevará acabo el sábado 14 de octubre desde las 10 de la mañana a las 4 cuatro de la tarde en la biblioteca de Rosewood ubicada en el bloque 5655 de la calle Jillson.

Los vendedores de cómics y los artistas locales también estarán en el evento con mercancía para vender y el Centro para Adolescentes estará vendiendo comida para recaudar fondos para el club Pre-Teen (Club de Preadolescentes). También habrá pintura facial y un concurso de disfraces.

Para más información sobre el evento, llame al bibliotecario adolecente Erick Jackiw al (323) 722-6660.

Commerce Hit by Multiple Power Outages

August 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A downed power line prompted an electrical outage in the city of Commerce Wednesday morning, impacting as many as 2,700 Southern California Edison (SCE) customers, the city said in a news alert.

Power was out for several hours in areas around Bristow and Bandini parks and the Atlantic Library, the city reported. Residents and businesses in the area of Quigley and Harbor streets were also without power.

SCE confirmed the outages were related and caused by a downed power line on Triggs Street in front of Bristow Park, according to the city, which said the area surrounding the damaged power line forced the area to be cordoned off as SCE worked to repair the damage.

Service was returned to all customers before noon, the city said.

Residentes de East L.A. Temen Perder Casas en el Proyecto I-710

August 10, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Un plan propuesto para ampliar y hacer renovaciones a un segmento de la autopsita 710 (Long Beach) en el corazón de Los Ángeles podría terminar costándole a las familias sus hogares y dañar la salud de los residentes que viven cerca del corredor de trafico congestionado, según un grupo do propietarios enojados en el camino del proyecto de transporte.

Se refieren a las varias alternativas esbozadas en el Anteproyecto de Informe de Impacto Ambiental del Proyecto de Corredor I-710 (Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report for the I-710 Corridor Project, en íngles) para mejorar la ruta de conexión principal el movimiento de mercancías entre los puertos de Los Ángeles y Long Beach y los patios de ferrocarril en las ciudades de Commerce y Vernon y puntos más al este. Una de las áreas principales que las agencias de transporte estatales y locales han apuntado es el intercambio 710 e I-5 (autopsita de Santa Ana) a través de Commerce y del este de Los Ángeles.

La planificación para las mejoras de la autopsita ha estado en marcha durante años y los residentes en esas áreas han temido durante mucho tiempo el plan de Caltrans y Metro de tomar hogares en su vecindario para el proyecto, que podría ser el caso si la Alternativa 5 o 7 en el Draft EIR es finalmente adoptada.

Evelin Guzmán se mudó al vecindario adyacente a Commerce hace unos tres años y dice que puede que no pierda toda su propiedad, pero podría perder aproximadamente 30 pies del pequeño pedazo de tierra que llama a su patio trasero. (EGP foto por Carlos Alvarez)

Evelin Guzmán se mudó al vecindario adyacente a Commerce hace unos tres años y dice que puede que no pierda toda su propiedad, pero podría perder aproximadamente 30 pies del pequeño pedazo de tierra que llama a su patio trasero. (EGP foto por Carlos Alvarez)

Ellos han testificado en una reunión pública y han proporcionado un comentario escrito que desacredita cualquier intento de remover hogares, y están indignados de que “hayan sido ignorados”, dijo Juan Vásquez, maestro del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles y líder del Grupo de Vecindarios de Sydney Drive.

El grupo se formó hace unos dos años y sirve como un refugio local para los residentes que desean expresar sus preocupaciones o proponer cambios en el vecindario.

“No estamos siendo representados” en este proceso, dijo Vásquez quejándose durante la reunión del grupo la semana pasada. “¿Por qué es que cuando se planea un nuevo proyecto tiene que afectar al este de Los Ángeles?”, dijo con enojo. “No es justo”.

Hay varias otras alternativas enumeradas en el borrador de EIR, pero las alternativas 5 y 7, si elegidas, tendrían el impacto más grande en los residentes en la impulsión de Sydney Drive en el este de Los Ángeles no incorporado, donde docenas de hogares podrían ser programados para ser removidos.

 

Mientras Vásquez vive en Sydney Drive, no se verá directamente afectado, pero le dijo a EGP que no quiere que ninguno de sus vecinos pierda su hogar, ni quiere que se construya una pared para separar su casa de la autopsita.

En una reunión poco asistida el jueves pasado en la casa de Vásquez, los residentes enfatizaron que lucharían para mantener a los residentes de la impulsión de Sydney Drive de perder todo o parte de sus hogares.

Evelin Guzmán se mudó al vecindario adyacente a Commerce hace unos tres años y dice que puede que no pierda toda su propiedad, pero podría perder aproximadamente 30 pies del pequeño pedazo de tierra que llama a su patio trasero.

“Es un espacio pequeño para mis hijos”, dijo Guzmán, señalado a la pared que separa la autopsita de su patio trasero.

Mientras que perder el área de juego de sus hijos es una preocupación, Guzmán dice que ella está más preocupada por la salud de sus hijos, explicando que su hija Katelyn fue diagnosticada recientemente con asma y los cambios propuestos en las alternativas 5 y 7 la pondrían en un mayor riesgo de enfermedades relacionadas con la contaminación. Eso haría difícil para que ella permanecerá en su casa, dijo Guzmán.

Carlos Ibarra y su madre Modesta pueden enfrentar el mismo destino que Guzmán. Ibarra dijo a EGP que sus padres han vivido en Sydney Drive desde 1974, y cada pocos años los funcionarios de transporte proponen planes para reestructurar la autopista y los planes siempre llaman a despojarlos de parte de la tierra en la que se sienta su casa.

“Siempre hay unos metros aquí, por esto y aquello”, pero “nunca es suficiente”, dijo con frustración.

Vásquez le dijo a EGP que, a lo largo de dos años, los residentes en el este de Los Ángeles no incorporado han tenido proyectos de transporte onerosos que confían en ellos sin el aporte de la comunidad.

Dijo que los residentes deben informarse sobre lo que está sucediendo en el vecindario, y agrego que él quiere que la supervisora del condado Hilda Solís – su única funcionaria local elegida directamente – se reúna con los propietarios y escuche preocupaciones.

“Nos hemos tratado de comunicar con ella y siempre nos contesta un representante” de su oficina, pero no ella, dijo Vásquez. “La ex supervisora Gloria Molina estuvo más involucrada, nunca vi a Solís en ninguna de las audiencias públicas”.

Drive desde 1974, y cada pocos años los funcionarios de transporte proponen planes para reestructurar la autopista y los planes siempre llaman a despojarlos de parte de la tierra en la que se sienta su casa, dijo Carlos Ibarra y su madre Modesta. (RGP foto por Carlos Alvarez)

Drive desde 1974, y cada pocos años los funcionarios de transporte proponen planes para reestructurar la autopista y los planes siempre llaman a despojarlos de parte de la tierra en la que se sienta su casa, dijo Carlos Ibarra y su madre Modesta. (RGP foto por Carlos Alvarez)

Mientras Vásquez expreso su disgusto con Solís, otros residentes creen que finalmente se reunirá con ellos.

Ernesto Rodríguez, de 71 años, ha vivido en el vecindario desde 1950, y le dijo a EGP que cree que Solís es una mujer con integridad.

“Su historial es el de la gente”, dijo Rodríguez. “Ella se preocupa por la gente y la comunidad”, dijo, lo que implica que él cree que en última instancia tomara un paso al frente en sus nombres.

En marzo de 2015, Solís presentó el Movimiento 22.1 a Caltrans y a la junta de Metro, de la cual es miembro, solicitando que los diseños de autopistas minimicen los impactos mientras maximizan los beneficios de la comunidad.

 

Solís le dijo a EGP por correo electrónico que está profundamente comprometida con una mejora de la calidad de vida, la reducción de contaminación del aire y la reducción de la congestión del tráfico con poco impacto negativo para la comunidad.

“Mi responsabilidad es asegurar que todos tengan un asiento en la mesa para ayudar a informar la decisión final”, lee el correo electrónico de Solís.

La supervisora aún tiene que aprobar cualquier alternativa en particular, pero dijo que favorece “un enfoque equilibrado y comprensión de los beneficios”, agregando que “pesar todos los impactos es absolutamente crítico”.

Por ahora, residentes como Vásquez, Guzmán, Ibarra y Rodríguez continúan informando a sus vecinos de Sydney Drive sobre cómo las propuestas de transportación I-710 bajo consideración podrían cambiar sus vidas por completo.

“Me involucré para ser una voz para mis vecinos”, dijo Vásquez, explicando que “es desalentador a veces cuando tenemos estas reuniones y sólo 15 personas asisten”.

Vásquez le dijo a EGP que seguiría de casa en casa para que la gente sepa que tiene que unirse en contra de las alternativas en el I-710 Draft EIR que podrían cambiar sus hogares y vecindarios.

Una audiencia pública está programada para el miércoles 23 de agosto en el Commerce Senior Center (el Centro para Mayores de Commerce) ubicado en el bloque 2555 de Commerce Way, en la cuidad de Commerce desde las 6 a 9 de la tarde.

“Estaré allí”, dijo Vásquez mientras caminaba por el vecindario y entregaba folletos de reunión a los residentes.

Fondos No Suficientes Para Evitar el Daño de Camiones

July 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

COMMERCE – Un proyecto de ley firmado recientemente por el gobernador Jerry Brown hará poco para aliviar las preocupaciones de salud sobre las emisiones de vehículos tóxicos a lo largo de algunas rutas de camiones de gran tráfico en la región, y en cambio plantea preocupaciones en las ciudades a lo largo del corredor 1-710 dado a que no hay suficiente dinero en la legislación para aliviar el impacto de los cambios para hacer las normas de emisión de camiones menos estrictas.

El Proyecto de Ley Senatorial 1 (SB1), firmado por el gobernador a fines de abril, eleva los impuestos sobre el gas y las tarifas de vehículos para generar fondos para arreglar la acumulación de carreteras en desuso. El alza del impuesto de gas comienza el 1º de noviembre, mientras que el aumento de la cuota de registro de vehículos toma fuerza el 1º de enero de 2018. Se espera que las medidas recauden $5,2 mil millones en 10 años.

Sin embargo, para ciudades como Commerce, una disposición del proyecto de ley que exime a la mayoría de los camiones diésel de los requisitos de reducción de emisiones en el futuro por cerca de dos décadas esta aumentado las banderas rojas.

La exención se añadió a la factura en el último minuto para obtener el apoyo de la industria de camiones por el aumento del combustible diésel y los derechos de matrícula, de acuerdo con grupos ambientalistas que han criticado la legislación como no lo suficientemente duro.

De acuerdo con el Director de Comercia de Servicios Públicos y Servicios de Desarrollo, Maryam Babaki, los residentes locales verán el beneficio financiero mínimo de la firma de SB1”, dijo Babaki, agregando que el cambio de política aumenta el riesgo de los residentes de problemas de salud.

Mientras que el proyecto de ley dará lugar a fondos muy necesarios para reparar las carreteras del estado, Babaki le dijo a EGP que no proporciona alivio a las ciudades industriales más pequeñas pobladas como el de Commerce. Grandes ciudades como Los Ángeles verán los mayores beneficios.

Cities along I-710 corridor say SB1 makes truck emission rules less stringent, increasing the health risk to local east and southeast Los Angeles County residents. (EGP photo by Carlos Alvarez)

La autopista 710, un importante corredor de movimiento de mercancías entre los puertos de Los Ángeles y Long Beach y los ferrocarriles de Commerce y puntos más al este, ha sido identificado como un punto de contaminación en gran parte debido a los humos de los camiones diésel. (EGP foto por Carlos Alvarez)

Los fondos que generan no beneficiaron la salud de residentes, advirtió Babaki.  

Según los ecologistas, la reducción o disminución de las normas de emisiones afectará a los residentes que viven cerca de las principales rutas de camiones, manteniendo alto el riesgo de cáncer, problemas cardiacos, asma y otras enfermedades pulmonares.

La autopista 710, un importante corredor de movimiento de mercancías entre los puertos de Los Ángeles y Long Beach y los ferrocarriles de Commerce y puntos más al este, ha sido identificado como un punto de contaminación en gran parte debido a los humos de los camiones diésel.

Según la Junta de Recursos del Aire de California, los camiones diésel representan el 2 por ciento de los vehículos, pero emiten el 30 por ciento de los principales óxidos de nitrógeno que forman una nube. El informe de Impacto Ambiental para el Proyecto del Corredor I-170 que en 2013, 182,000 vehículos pasaron por el corredor I-5, I-170 y I-60, de los cuales 20,000 eran camiones.

Mientras que las preocupaciones de salud de los residentes locales no deben tomarse a la ligera, la SB1 tampoco provee financiamiento adecuado a las ciudades con menor población para hacer reparaciones de carreteras o para mitigar las consecuencias de las reglas de camiones porque usa una fórmula de financiamiento basada en la población. Con cerca de 13,000 residentes, el ingreso de Commerce será pequeña en comparación con ciudades como Los Ángeles, a pesar de que la ciudad está afectada de manera desproporcionada por el tráfico a lo largo del corredor.

“Ciudades como Commerce tienen el mayor número de millas de camiones”, dijo Babaki. “Ellos tienen que pagar por el mantenimiento y la reparación de estas carreteras de sus propios presupuestos, mientras que obtener sumas muy pequeñas para hacerlo”.

“Es un doble golpe”, dijo Babaki.

Babaki comparó SB1 con la distribución de fondos de transporte a través de la Medida M, que también utiliza una fórmula de financiamiento basada en la población. Commerce contribuye $16 millones en impuestos al año, pero sólo recibe 350.000 dólares de Metro, de acuerdo con Babaki.

“Las pequeñas ciudades industriales se privan de su parte justa debido a su pequeña población”, dijo Babaki. “En cualquier momento la distribución se basa simplemente en la población, en lugar de numero de millas, o la parte de los ingresos aportados, las pequeñas ciudades como Commerce sale perdiendo”.

Babaki dijo que los funcionarios de la ciudad han expresado sus preocupaciones a los legisladores estatales en vano.

“La práctica y las leyes de distribución basadas en la población han sido muy difíciles de cambiar”.

Trade Off For Funds Not Worth Added Harm From Trucks

July 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

COMMERCE – A bill recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will do little to alleviate health concerns over toxic vehicle emissions along some heavily-traveled truck routes in the region, and is instead raising concerns in cities along the I-710 corridor that there is not enough money in the legislation to alleviate the impact of changes to make truck emission rules less stringent.

Senate Bill 1, signed by the governor in late April, raises gas taxes and vehicle fees to generate funds to fix the state’s backlog of crumbling roads. The gas tax hike starts Nov. 1, while the vehicle registration fee increase takes force Jan. 1, 2018. The measures are expected to raise $5.2 billion over 10 years.

For cities like Commerce, however, a provision in the bill that exempts most diesel trucks on the road from future emissions reduction requirements for close to two decades is raising red flags.

The exemption was added to the bill at the last minute to gain the support of the trucking industry for the higher diesel fuel and registration fees, according to environmental groups who have slammed the legislation as not tough enough.

According to Commerce Director of Public Works & Development Services, Maryam Babaki, local residents will see minimal financial benefit from the signing of SB1, but will see a slowing of the movement to achieve zero emission trucks.

“This provision is one of the biggest drawbacks of SB1,” Babaki said, adding the policy change increases residents’ risk of health problems.

While the bill will result in much needed funds to repair state’s roads, Babaki told EGP it fails to provide relief to smaller populated industrial cities like Commerce. Large cities like Los Angeles will also see greater benefits.

The added pool of money is not worth the trade off to residents’ health, Babaki warned.

According to environmentalists, reducing or slowing emissions standards will affect residents who live near major truck routes, keeping their risk of cancer, heart problems, asthma and other lung diseases high.

The 710 freeway, a major goods movement corridor between the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the rail yards in Commerce and points further east, has long been identified as a pollution hot spot in large part due to the fumes from diesel trucks.

According to the California Air Resources Board, diesel trucks account for 2 percent of vehicles, but emit 30 percent of key smog-forming nitrogen oxides. The Environmental Impact Report for the I-710 Corridor Project states that in 2013, 182,000 vehicles passed through the I-5, I-710 and I-60 corridor, of which 20,000 were trucks.

While local residents health concerns are not to be taken lightly, SB1 also fails to provide adequate funding to smaller populated cities to do road repairs or to mitigate the health consequences of the trucking rules because it uses a funding formula based on population. With about 13,000 residents, Commerce’s share of revenue will be small compared to cities like Los Angeles, even though the city is disproportionately impacted by traffic along the corridor.

“Cities like Commerce have the largest number of truck traveling miles,” Babaki said. “They have to pay for the maintenance and repair of these roads from their own budgets, while getting very small sums to do it.”

“It is a double whammy,” Babaki said.

Babaki compared SB1 to the distribution of transportation funds through Measure M, which also uses a population-based funding formula. Commerce contributes $16 million in taxes annually, but only receives $350,000 from Metro, according to Babaki.

“Small industrial cities get deprived of their fair share due to their small population,” Babaki said. “Anytime distribution is merely based on population, rather than number of miles, or share of contributed revenue, small cities like Commerce get shortchanged.”

Babaki said city officials have voiced their concerns to state legislators to no avail.

“The practice and the laws of distribution based on population have been very difficult to change.”

Ex-entrenador de Natación Condenado por Agresión Sexual de un Niño

June 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

COMMERCE – Un entrenador de natación que trabaja para la cuidad de Commerce se declaró sin concurso la semanada pasada por haber asaltado sexualmente a una niña en un centro acuático de la cuidad y fue sentenciado a seis años de prisión.

Steven Matthew García, de 28 años, se declaro sin concurso por un acto lascivo sobre un niño y de un delito menor de exposición indecente. Como parte de su condena, él debe registrarse como un delincuente sexual de por vida.

Según los fiscales, García acarició a la victima de 7 años de edad en un salón de empleados en el centro acuático y la amenazó con no decirle a nadie.

Las acaricias se produjeron en algún momento entre octubre del 2016 y enero del 2017.

Cuando García fue arrestado en enero, el administrador de Commerce en ese tiempo, Jorge Rifa calificó la conducta como “reprobable”.

Dijo que la cuidad “tomo medidas inmediatamente que llevó a la detención de García” por los investigadores del sheriff.

“Esta supuesta conducta no es representativa del calibre y el profesionalismo de los empleados de Commerce que continúan brindando un servicio publico excepcional todos los días”.

Election Marks New Era for Commerce

June 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The swearing-in of two new council members marked a new era for the City of Commerce, but talk of “change” and “moving forward” was not enough to convince some residents that more harmonious political times are ahead.

Leonard Mendoza, John Soria and incumbent Ivan Altamirano took the oath of office Tuesday during a crowded city council meeting. The three received the top votes in the June 6 election, each securing a four-year term while ousting longtime Councilwomen Lilia R. Leon and Tina Baca Del Rio.

“It’s time for unity, it’s time for change,” said Altamirano upon being sworn-in. “My promise is to really listen.”

For years, the Commerce City Council has been divided with at least one member behind the dais on the outs. Recently, that lone wolf has been Councilmember Hugo Argumedo, who was the target of a failed campaign started by Soria to remove him from office.

On Tuesday, the newly formed council appeared to pledge to make past political infighting a thing of the past now that Commerce residents have voted for change.

Ivan Altamirano, John Soria and Leonard Mendoza take the oath of office during Tuesday’s Commerce council meeting.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Ivan Altamirano, John Soria and Leonard Mendoza take the oath of office during Tuesday’s Commerce council meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“It was important to give residents a choice,” said Mendoza, referring to the 10 candidates on the ballot. “You wanted to give other people a chance,” he told the crowd.

The nomination of Oralia Rebollo as mayor and Altamirano as mayor pro tem, however, left some in the audience feeling the council is likely to remain divided.

Sandra Cornejo, a longtime resident and wife of a former Commerce councilman, told EGP that by ignoring rotating traditions and skipping over Argumedo who was next inline for one of the council’s top two positions, the new council showed they are still divided 4-1.

“I don’t understand why they didn’t give [mayor] to Hugo [Argumedo],” Cornejo said. “That’s not right, it’s going to cause problems.”

Carmen Marquez has lived in the city for decades and says she has “seen it all” over the years, including councils that didn’t always get a long, but now hopes things will be different moving forward.

“I would like to see things stay positive,” she told EGP Tuesday. “Focus on good decision making,” she advised the council.

During the city’s final vote tally last week, longtime resident Javier Hernandez congratulated Soria on his win, then asked him to not “forget to work together” with his new colleagues.

Hernandez, one of a dozen or so residents in attendance, told EGP he was content with the results.

“At least we got two out,” he said, referring to Baca Del Rio and Leon. “They ran the city down the wrong road.”

Altamirano doesn’t buy that characterization and told EGP residents didn’t give the incumbents a fair shake, arguing that many projects now in the works took years to execute.

In the end, residents were “not seeing results and it was too little too late,” Altamirano said.

For years, Baca Del Rio, who was first elected in 2005, was nicknamed “Teflon Tina,” a reputation forged from winning reelection after being recalled and surviving another recall attempt despite controversy over her Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) filings.

Leon was first elected to the council in 1998 but did not seek reelection after her first term. Years later she again ran for office, winning reelected in 2008 and 2013. She too defeated a recall attempt in 2009. She is credited for founding the city’s annual college fair.

Outgoing councilwoman Tina Baca Del Rio, pictured third from left, was recognized by the new Commerce city council. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Outgoing councilwoman Tina Baca Del Rio, pictured third from left, was recognized by the new Commerce city council. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

On Tuesday, both women were recognized for their years of service to the city. Councilmembers and local dignitaries called the two “mentors” and credited them for their successful efforts spurring economic development in the city and for major street improvements.

Leon, 68, said she was going to enjoy retirement but continue to stay involved in the community.

“You need to be involved, not just during election time,” she advised residents.

Argumedo chose to recall a more positive time in his often-bumpy relationship with Baca Del Rio, telling the story of why he first appointed her as one of his commissioners.

“As you can tell we have a long history,” he jokingly said. But “I saw something in you.”

A tearful Baca Del Rio thanked Argumedo for the appointment that catapulted her political career.

“I wouldn’t be here now because I didn’t see that in myself [back then],” she told Argumedo.

Baca Del Rio told EGP she was not surprised by her loss, admitting she hadn’t really campaigned, instead deciding to leave the outcome up to fate. She says she’s ready to dedicate more time to her family.

“You don’t have to like what’s going on here,” she told residents, referring to the election results. “All I can say is give them a chance.”

With over 1,700 ballots submitted, City Clerk Lena Shumway said the election saw a 97 percent increase in participation.

“There were more absentee ballots than votes at the polls,” she added.

The final count was: Mendoza, 522; Soria, 508; Altamirano, 475; Tina Baca Del Rio, 450; Jaime Valencia, 440; Denise Robles, 423; Johncito “John” Peraza, 406; Lilia R. Leon, 390; Sylvia Muñoz, 345; and Charlie Calderon, 208.

The newest council members thanked residents for their support and vowed to keep the city moving forward.

“Come tomorrow my sleeves will be rolled up and ready to work,” Soria said. “I didn’t make campaign promises, only long term promises.”

“I made a lot of commitments, these commitments are going to keep me busy the next four years,” echoed Mendoza.

Altamirano told EGP he was relieved, humbled and grateful for his victory. He received just 25 more votes than the next candidate, Baca del Rio.

“I’m sad to see them go but I’m looking forward to creating new beginnings with a council that is full of vision.”

Election Could ‘Shake Up’ Commerce City Council

June 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A contentious election that had candidates accusing each other of spreading misleading information and engaging in dirty campaign tactics appears to have ended with two longtime Commerce city council members being ousted from office.

Councilwomen Tina Baca Del Rio and Lela Leon were trailing Wednesday in the unofficial vote count. According to the city clerk, 179 provisional votes still needed to be verified and tallied.

Elections results aren’t official until certified by the city council, according to the city clerk.

If the numbers hold, Leonard Mendoza, a school district painter, and John Soria, a law enforcement technician, and Mayor Ivan Altamirano, the third incumbent up for reelection, will fill the three seats up for grabs.

Leonard Mendoza, pictured left, currently holds the highest number of votes in the Commerce City Council race.  (EGP photo archive)

Leonard Mendoza, pictured left, currently holds the highest number of votes in the Commerce City Council race. (EGP photo archive)

Without any endorsements and self-funding his campaign, Mendoza was at the top of the vote count with 440 votes, according to the unofficial election results. Soria was in second with 437 votes, while Altamirano received 424 votes to come in third. Baca Del Rio was in fourth with 391 votes, while Leon received 343 votes.

With the totals between the 11 candidates so tight, the top three rankings could still change when the final tally is released.

But on Wednesday, Mendoza was ready to claim victory.

“I think this election spoke loud and clear that us residents wanted change, we want to take our city back from the special interests,” Mendoza told EGP. “It was important to come in first to send that message.”

Mendoza first became involved in city affairs when an I-710 Freeway expansion project threatened to displace families in 240 homes in the Ayers, Bandini and Bristow Park neighborhoods. Since then, he has publically advocated against the Union Pacific Railroad, Vernon Power Plant and the now-shuttered Exide Technologies plant as environmental justice issues.

Commerce City Council challenger John Soria with councilmember incumbents. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Commerce City Council challenger John Soria with councilmember incumbents. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Soria, who unsuccessfully ran two years ago, had the endorsement of Councilwoman Oralia Rebollo and Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia. Soria did not shy away from the spotlight after his loss, convincing the city attorney and council to pursue legal action to oust one of the victors in that race, Councilmember Hugo Argumedo who had been prohibited from holding office for three years after being convicted on a corruption charge. After the three years was over, Argumedo ran to regain his seat and won.

The courts found Argumedo could remain in office, a decision that could wind up costing Commerce money if Argumedo prevails in a lawsuit against the city for its role in that effort.

Throughout the campaign, Soria accused the other candidates of engaging in personal attacks in campaign flyers filling up voters’ mailboxes. Last week, his campaign released video of two men allegedly distributing negative campaign flyers without the required Fair Political Practices Commission disclosure of the name of the committee paying for the mailers. When approached, the two men admitted to being hired by a local church.

“It is a shame to see a Christian church involved in the attack of my family and the illegal defamation of my name. This issue should be investigated by the appropriate authorities,” Soria said in a press release.

At one point, the city clerk’s office sent a letter to residents alerting them to complaints about robocalls alleged to have misleading information about the vote-by-mail process. The office cited Election Code Section 3017, which allows voters to designate someone to return their ballot to the city clerk – the city’s election official.

In a sign of urgency, the message was shared last week in an official city emergency Nixle alert.

Mendoza says he ran a clean campaign and was not behind hit pieces that included attacks on Soria, Altamirano and even a former public information officer not running for office.

Baca Del Rio, who has been on the council since 2005, was accused last year of 24 violations of the Political Reform Act, including accusations that she illegally transferred campaign funds into her personal bank account and failing to file contributions and campaign statements in a timely manner. The councilwoman reached an agreement with election regulators that reduced the number of charges and fines against her. Baca Del Rio repeatedly denied she misappropriated campaign funds.

Less than two months later, Altamirano agreed to pay a $15,500 penalty for violating five counts of the Political Reform Act over failing to timely file and disclose financial activity on campaign statements and for voting on matters the FPPC concluded he had a financial interest in. During his campaign, Altamirano repeatedly asked voters to elect him and the other two incumbents, claiming the trio has brought positive changes to the city.

“I’m sad about the potential of losing my colleagues ,but also…ready to work with everyone,” Altamirano told EGP Wednesday, adding he’s worried projects will not move forward as quickly under new leadership.

“I really don’t know what will happen, I’m leaving it in God’s hands,” he said.

Mendoza compared the city election to the 2016 presidential race, with voters electing outsiders over career politicians.

“I think we sent out a message,” he said. “If you are honest, work hard and run an informative campaign you don’t need endorsements,” he said. “Voters will see you are running for them.”

 

Sheriff’s Substation Is the Answer to Many Questions

May 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As a member of the Commerce City Council and the current Mayor, I have been involved in discussions both internally and externally regarding significant issues relating to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s services in our City. The challenge that we have faced, along with our neighboring cities of Maywood and Cudahy, is that all the Sheriff’s personnel that work and respond to calls in our City are dispatched from the East Los Angeles Sheriffs Station, which is located approximately 2.8 miles away at the corner of Mednik and 3rd Street. On average, according to dispatch personnel at LA County, Officers spend up to anywhere between one and one-half hours to two hours each day traveling to and from the East LA Station to the City of Commerce. What this means is that we lose 20% of each officer’s workday when they travel to and from the Station. This equates to a loss of services to Commerce of approximately $1.5 million dollars per year! If an officer is required to attend a meeting held at East Los Angeles Station or deal with a mechanical malfunction during his/her shift, even more time is lost with travel time to and from the Station.

Our goal is to improve and enhance public safety while not incurring any additional annual operating costs. The proposed Substation in the City of Commerce would place the officers’ primary reporting location in Commerce. The time saved on travel to and from East LA would result in immediate deployment of officers within the City of Commerce and more immediate deployment in our surrounding Cities of Maywood and Cudahy. Officers dispatched to Maywood and Cudahy would travel our City streets to get to their destinations and therefore provide an additional deterrent benefit to the City.

Mr. Stinnett raised questions about the City’s ability to provide funding for the proposed Substation and to also have sufficient funds available to address the critical issues at Veteran’s Park. Let’s examine the facts. The preliminary discussions would have the City make a one-time payment for the land needed for the Substation. The land, which is part of a 10-acre site on the corner of Telegraph and Washington Boulevard, is owned by the Successor Agency to the City’s redevelopment agency, which took ownership of the property when the State Legislature decided to dissolve redevelopment several years ago. The City would purchase the land from the Successor Agency at the same square foot price that the other portion of the 10-acre parcel is being sold for: approximately $2.8 Million. So where will the $2.8 Million come from? As many in the City know, the 26 acres of land located along Interstate 5 freeway, across from the Citadel will be sold along with the 10-acre parcel at the corner of Telegraph and Washington Boulevard. The combined sales price from these properties will be $36 Million ($26 Million + $10 Million). The City will receive 7% of the $26 Million gross sale proceeds, which equals approximately $1.8 Million. This money has not been earmarked in any of the existing City budgets. Assuming there is no other funding sources for the Sheriff’s Substation land, the net difference between the City’s portion of the sales proceeds ($1.8 Million) and the Sheriff’s Station land purchase price ($2.8 Million) would leave a shortfall of $1 Million. This is a relatively small price to pay for the safety and security of our families and businesses! Also, with the proposed Sheriff Substation, in just over a year and a half, the City would make up the investment by recovering the lost services (approximately $1.5 Million per year).

But that is not the whole story. The City will be exploring a potential for having the land transferred to the City at no cost. The Redevelopment Dissolution Law authorizes redevelopment agency land that is used for “governmental use” to be transferred to a city, at no cost. The City of Commerce has had some properties transferred to it under this law. The City Council will be asking the State Department of Finance to allow the transfer of the Substation land to the City at no cost because the proposed Substation will be an important government use that will benefit Commerce and the entire region.

In closing, I would like to thank the Sheriff and his executive staff who have shown tremendous support, have outlined the benefits of having a Substation in Commerce and are working hard to help make this proposed Substation a reality. While the process is by no means complete, we are at the forefront of having a state-of-the art facility being built in our Model City, at a very strategic location for our residents, our business community and the region. It will send a strong message to those who might challenge the law in our City, that in Commerce, we will respond immediately. While we know the Substation will result in a much greater level of policing efficiency and deployment of existing officers, it is difficult to calculate the full impact that such a level of police presence, literally blocks away from our homes and businesses, will have on our safety. The local job opportunities that will be provided to our residents, local union members and our Veterans, are also important considerations.

In my humble opinion, the proposed Sheriff’s Substation in the City of Commerce may be one of the most important long-term initiatives that we, as Councilmembers and as a community, will undertake. My ultimate goal is to continue taking action that allows the City of Commerce to keep being the “Model City” – the safest city to live in, work in and play in, in all of Southern California.

 

Ivan Altamirano is mayor of the City of Commerce.

 

Sheriff’s Substation Proposal Raises More Questions than Answers

May 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Commerce Mayor Ivan Altamirano recently encouraged Commerce residents to contact East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station Captain Chris Perez, who Altamirano said would enthusiastically share the benefits of a proposed Sheriff’s substation.

The proposed substation would be on a 10-acre property valued at approximately $10 million, the sale of which is in negotiations between the City of Commerce Successor Agency and a joint venture that includes The Commerce Casino and The Citadel Outlets. The portion of land for the substation would be purchased by the City from the joint venture group with one time funding sources anticipated from the sale of this and another property.

When I called the Station to talk to Captain Perez, I instead spoke briefly with Lieutenant Smitson who said, “To my knowledge there aren’t a lot of specifics at this point because it’s very early in the process.” Smitson’s statement highlights the speculative nature of the proposed substation.

Despite this non-committal statement from Sheriff’s personnel, a pending real estate transaction, and what can only be described as theoretical follow up real estate transaction, I find it surprising that Altamirano has disclosed multiple details about the proposed substation. He has described a 20,000 square foot building with an onsite fueling station that will house more than 150 employees, some of whom will include City staff.

In addition, Interim City Administrator Matt Rodriguez, who is also a retired Sheriff’s Lieutenant, has stated that the construction and ongoing facility maintenance costs would be borne by the new property owners.

This raises a lot of questions. Is the City planning to purchase land from the successor agency or the Casino-Citadel joint venture? Does it make sense to purchase land for a substation that hasn’t been approved, much less considered by the City Council?

Given that The Commerce Casino and The Citadel Outlets are major campaign contributors, are there any conflicts in what appears to be a complex series of commercial real estate negotiations and transactions?

Rodriguez stated that the station would also serve Maywood and Cudahy. Are the costs being borne solely by the City of Commerce? In talking to officials in both cities, responses ranged from not knowing about the proposed substation to it being a “done deal.”

To best evaluate the City’s needs given the $7 million contract in place and an environment in which violent crime is down and property crimes are up, the most important question is how will this proposed substation improve law enforcement service to the City of Commerce?

Will this substation improve response times? How will it do so? Will there be Sheriff’s Deputies on tactical alert to respond to emergent incidents? If so, how much more will it cost and how will it differ from the current response times we experience with deputies that currently patrol Commerce’s six square miles?

Add to that this substation proposal has not appeared on a City Council agenda. While it’s unclear whether any laws have been broken, this approach is highly unusual and lacks the appropriate level of transparency given the millions of dollars that may be circulating between the City and joint ventures sponsored by local business interests that also happen to be heavy contributors to Commerce elected officials, including Altamirano who is up for reelection on June 6.

Commerce has a critical need to catch up on long neglected street and road improvements, as well as to identify major funding needed to replace the Veterans Park Recreation Center is sinking into the landfill over which it was built. With so many other pressing needs, the City Council needs to assess fiscal priorities before committing millions to what appears to be a solution in need of problem.

Jason Gardea-Stinnett is a fourth generation Commerce resident, community advocate and the former Commerce Public Information Officer. He has over 25 years of experience in local government, public utilities and community advocacy.

 

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