The Commerce City Council presented Eastern Group Publications, publisher of the Commerce Comet and this newspaper, a commendation for “more than 35 years of service to the residents and stakeholders of Commerce and the East Los Angeles area.”
The council, on the recommendation of Councilman Ivan Altamirano, presented the commendation to EGP during its April 7 council meeting.
“EGP’s efforts have cultivated public enlightenment by providing fair and accurate reporting of news and events throughout the region,” states the commendation.
Publisher Dolores Sanchez thanked Altamirano and the council for the recognition, and said the newspaper remains committed to covering local news and issues and positive stories, not just political exposés.
Sanchez said the Comet and city officials might not always agree on issues, but they are both committed to Commerce residents.
“Commerce feels like home,” Sanchez concluded.
A broken sprinkler sent 1,000 gallons of water spewing into a one-story commercial building in the City of Commerce Monday morning, a Los Angeles County fire official said.
The flooding was reported at 5720 Union Pacific Avenue around 12:40 a.m., said Los Angeles County Fire Department Dispatch Supervisor Ed Pickett.
Firefighters spent 2 1/2 hours vacuuming up and pushing out the water, Pickett said.
A coalition of southeast cities is working to change their streets one pedal, one foot at a time, reaching out to bicyclists and pedestrians who travel through their cities.
Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Vernon and now Maywood are hosting free, informal bike rides where they hope to obtain feedback from residents to help them create a master pedestrian/bike plan for the region.
“Nearly all our neighboring cities already have [bike] plans,” but “none of us have a plan in place,” said Chau L. Vu, public works director for Bell Gardens – the city spearheading the initiative.
The cities are applying for Active Transportation Program (ATP) grants to pay for a study that would ultimately be used to pursue infrastructure funds for bike paths, new sidewalks or traffic roundabouts.
The application process calls for outreach to the community, which the cities are doing during 6-mile long bike tours organized by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. Each tour features a discussion on how to make streets safer and travelable for cyclists and pedestrians.
A ride was held Thursday place today at 1p.m., taking off from Bell Gardens High School. Riders discussed how walking and biking can support the goal of creating a healthier region.
“Our communities have been historically under-resourced,” said Mark Lopez of East Yard Communities – which was scheduled to moderate Thursday’s discussion.
During a bike ride last month in Cudahy, participants said more bike lanes and wider sidewalks are what’s needed, said Bryan Moller, policy and outreach coordinator for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.
“Many [bicyclists] said they currently don’t feel drivers pay attention to them,” Moller said. “People don’t feel safe.”
About 25 bicyclists ranging in age from 21 to 60 took part in the ride along the Los Angeles River, stopping along the way to discuss how to improve access to the river and downtown L.A. for southeast cyclists and pedestrians.
“We just want to get a gauge” of the needs in the region, Vu said. “These meetings are giving residents an opportunity to express the type of problems or safety issues they face.”
Commerce Public Work Director Maryam Babaki told EGP she is excited about the health benefits that such plans could bring.
“Encouraging biking and walking reduces a community’s dependence on automobiles, brings vitality and allows the residents to become more active, as well as participatory in their communities,” she said. “It also reduces air pollution and creates an equitable transportation network for all regardless of age, physical ability or income.”
“These are cities with huge numbers of bicyclists and people who use public transportation,” Moller pointed out.
The cities say before now they did not have the resources to fund the cost of developing a master transportation plan for the region, but that could change if they receive an ATP grant.
The application is due in June and award recipients should be announced by the end of the year.
“Here in the southeast, we all have similar demographics, we are so close to each other…it makes sense to work together,” said Vu, adding that “Some of our residents work in the rest of the cities and vice versa.”
4-10-15: Story updated to reflect ride already took place. Headline Changed.
For nearly three decades, legislators across the state of California have been recognizing women who have made a difference in their district.
Last Friday, Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia recognized nine women from the 58th district, which spans through the cities of Artesia, Bellflower, Bell Gardens, Cerritos, Commerce, Downey, Norwalk and Pico Rivera.
Celebrated in the month of March as part of Women’s History Month, the tradition dates back to 1987 when the California Legislative Women’s Caucus presented the first Women of the Year awards. All state legislators now take part in highlighting the accomplishments of women from a variety of backgrounds, from teachers and pharmacist, to city employees and business owners.
“We should be celebrating” women all year, said Garcia during the event held at the Southern California Edison headquarters in Downey.
Among the nine honorees were three local women: Marilyn Thompson from Bell Gardens, Carmen Marquez of Commerce and Shushma Patel of Montebello.
Thompson is a teacher at Bell Gardens Intermediate, Garcia’s alma mater. She was recognized for her work in the classroom and coordinating efforts to organize leadership camps and trips to the state capital for her students.
Thomson said humbly she considers what she does a part of the job.
Marquez, a retired teacher with over 35 years working for the Montebello Unified School District, was recognized for her past work on various committees in the city of Commerce and with groups such as the California Association of Bilingual Educators.
“We don’t do everything alone, we are all connected,” said Marquez at the event. “I brought my village with me,” she added, before recognizing the people who have helped her feel confident about what she does.
Patel owns an independent community pharmacy and serves as the chairperson for the Indian Pharmacists Association of California Advisory, serves on the board of the Montebello Rotary Club and routinely provides free counseling to the community. After receiving the award, she told the audience she enjoys giving back.
Other honorees included: Veronica Bloomfield (a historian) of Artesia; Sandra Espinoza-Perry (owner of a child care center) of Bellflower; Mae Lovgren (president of PTA) of Cerritos; Alison Elaine Kirby (English teacher) of Downey; Dr. Linda Lacy (president of Cerritos College) of Norwalk; and Lizet Olmos (city employee) of Pico Rivera.
The Commerce Council Chamber was filled to capacity Tuesday for the council’s annual reorganization and the installation of the two newly elected members of the council.
City employee Oralia Rebollo was sworn-in by City Clerk Lena Shumway. Pico Rivera Councilman Bob Archuleta administered the oath to Hugo Argumedo, a former city councilman.
Rebollo and Argumedo replace Councilman Joe Aguilar, who opted to not seek reelection, and Councilwoman Denise Robles who came in third, failing her reelection bid.
Aguilar was on the council for 8 years, Robles for one four-year term.
Aguilar and Robles were presented with certificates of recognition for their community service from the Montebello Unified School District, Sen. Tony Mendoza and Assemblywoman Christina Garcia, as well as a proclamation on behalf of the City of Commerce.
Lilia Leon was voted in as Mayor and Tina Baca del Rio as Mayor Pro Tem.
The meeting was followed by a celebration, open to the public, at the Senior Center.
The final tally of votes in the City of Commerce Monday did not change the outcome of the tight race for city council, with former councilman Hugo Argumedo remaining in first place and political newcomer Oralia Rebollo coming in second, beating out incumbent Denise Robles by 59 votes, to claim one of two seats up for election.
Counting of the remaining provisional and vote-by-mail ballots Monday was repeatedly delayed by technical issues with the city’s voting machines, but in the end, Argumedo had received 599 votes, Rebollo 556 and the defeated Robles 497.
Lea este artículo en Español: El Total de Votos en Commerce No Cambian Resultados
Via email, Robles told EGP it has been a privilege serving the people of Commerce for the past four years. “Learning, growing, and establishing relationships was all part of the experience that I will carry with me as I continue,” said the one-term councilwoman who was first elected in 2011.
Argumedo’s past troubles did not seem to weigh heavy in the minds of voters—he was barred from holding office for three years after pleading guilty to signing a false statement during a civil lawsuit involving the city. Argumedo campaigned on his past record on the council and his part in bringing improvements and revenue generating developments to the city while in office.
Argumedo told EGP he is humbled and honored by the overwhelming support from the community.
“I want to make sure that we move our city forward, and for me, it is important not to leave the residents behind,” he said after the final vote total was announced at City Hall. He said his priorities are to restore some of the programs that have been eliminated and to pay closer attention to the needs of seniors.
During his campaign he openly criticized the city council for raising program fees then failing to reduce them when the city’s budget improved, and for “enriching themselves with higher salaries.”
Rebollo was endorsed by Mayor Tina Baca Del Rio and Councilmen Ivan Altamirano and Joe Aguilar. Together with Councilwoman Leila Leon they often composed the majority in 4-1 decisions, with Robles casting the lone dissenting vote on issues before the council.
Whether the loner distinction will be passed on to Argumedo remains to be seen. During the campaign he said he was hoping to work with Robles, but on Monday said he is willing to work with all the members on the council.
“The voters have spoken and we have to respect them, they are the ones who decide who will represent them,” he said.
Longtime Commerce resident Javier Hernandez was among the small group of people watching the ballot counting in person Monday afternoon: The count was also televised on the Commerce City Channel 3. Speaking in Spanish, he told EGP he has high expectations from the new council members.
“Now I’m relying a lot on the new councilman, Argumedo, because [the current] council members are not doing their job properly,” he said, referring to their raising of their salaries and higher fees for activities, which the council reversed days before the election.
He said the council should focus on restoring education, safety and senior benefits in the city, “because they removed a lot of activities.”
The two newly elected council members will be sworn in during the next council meeting on Tuesday March 17, according to Commerce Media Specialist Jason Stinnett. “We will also be honoring outgoing Councilmembers Joe Aguilar and Denise Robles that evening.”
A Southern California Gas Co. crew exposing a 2-inch service line in Commerce so it could repair a minor leak ended up causing a larger rupture today, prompting a fire department response but causing no evacuations or injuries.
The larger leak was reported just after 2 p.m. in the 5600 block of East Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Randall Wright said.
The flow of gas was shut off about 2:45 p.m., according to Gas Co. spokeswoman Denise King. The original leak was caused by tree roots and while a crew exposed the line, some hard soil fell on the plastic main, causing a larger break, King said.
Service to one industrial business was interrupted but was expected to be restored later today when repairs to the line were completed, King said.
Avenida Esteban Torres was closed between Olympic Boulevard and Union Pacific Avenue as a result of the break, Wright said.
The fire department initially said the main was a large-diameter line, but King said it was relatively small, as the gas company’s lines range in diameter from 1/2 inch to 36 inches.
A few dozen people showed up at Commerce City Hall Monday for a debate between the six candidates vying for two non-partisan, citywide council seats in the March 3 election.
Councilwoman Denise Robles is the only incumbent in the race since Councilman Joe Aguilar has opted not to seek reelection.
The discussion was moderated by Margo Reeg of The League of Women Voters and hosted by the Commerce Industrial Council, the city’s local chamber of commerce.
More a question and answer forum than a debate, each of the candidates patiently and respectfully waited their turn to speak. For the most part, they agreed the most pressing issues in the city are job creation, deteriorating infrastructure and services for residents, in particular the cost of the city’s resident activity card and program fees.
Each of the candidates agreed it is time to consider rolling back fees that were raised during the city’s budget crunch during the Great Recession and the state’s taking away of redevelopment money.
John Soria is a law enforcement professional at the East Los Angeles Sheriff’s Station where he deploys officers to the city. “Being a young man with a single parent, I depended upon those resources,” he said. The three-tier fees for the cards now—ranging from $10 to $60, an “excessive” amount, make it difficult for low-income families to afford them, he said.
Oralia Rebollo has worked for the city for 17 years. As a teacher and employee, she has seen first hand the importance of keeping programs for low-income families intact. She wants the city to create a commission to address the city’s children with special needs. “We have a growing population of children with special needs and we need to help them and their families,” she said.
The council was scheduled to revisit fees Tuesday, and several of the candidates said it was “too bad it took an election” for them to move on the problem.
“No action was taken pending staff analysis,” media spokesman Jason Stinnette told EGP via email Wednesday.
Lea este artículo en Español: Candidatos para el Ayuntamiento de Commerce se Enfrentan
Incumbent Robles said it’s important to consider the types of programs the city offers. She is troubled that a city with such a large industrial base has a 16% unemployment rate, double the rate in the county and state. She wants Commerce to offer more job and skills training programs. “We need to help the community obtain the skills for the jobs available” that are now filled by people from outside the city, she said. If reelected, she said she would work with businesses to create more job opportunities for Commerce residents.
Sonia Rodriguez, a USC education administrator and city commissioner, advocated for education and more technology, including access to high speed Internet throughout the city. She sits on the Measure AA advisory committee and said it has given her a better understanding of how managing the city’s traffic and infrastructure improvement needs are important to the city’s future growth.
John Diaz is a city operations engineer and on the planning commission. He said his main concerns are traffic, potholes and deteriorating sidewalks. He said the city is in a better financial position to make improvements, such as the Washington Street Widening Project.
Former councilman and computer network technician Hugo Argumedo repeatedly touted the many projects completed while he was in office. If elected, he said he would work to finish projects like the Telegraph Road development to attract more business and jobs to the city. He too criticized the city’s raising of residents’ fees, and questioned why the council has not reversed the fees.
“Residents approved the AA measure, [a half cent sales tax increase for infrastructure and public safety], but there is no money for services,” he said, implying the tax should have freed up money in the General Fund for other areas.
The only topic where the candidates differed was on whether a recent decision by the city council to raise their own pay 35% was appropriate. It was one of the few areas where the usually quiet audience reacted strongly to the candidates.
Rodriguez, who has been endorsed by Councilman Joe Aguilar and Mayor Pro Tem Lilia Leon, defended the council’s action, noting that they put off pay increases for seven years as the city struggled to recover from the recession. “When you look at that amount for the time they have served, it is a fair increase.”
The city council is legally allowed to raise its pay 5% a year; they approved the hike for the full seven years.
Robles cast the lone vote opposing the increase and said Monday that the council has to work in the community’s interest and not just their personal interests, drawing applause from the audience.
Candidates pointed out that all city’s employees had forgone pay raises, but no other employees or administrators had received such a large increase, and certainly not for the entire time they had gone without.
Argumedo, concurring with Robles, said the $374 monthly increase, when added to other benefits, such as monthly $500 car stipend in “a 3.5 square-mile city” is “excessive.”
“If elected, I’ll bring my own car,” he said, getting cheers from the audience.
“Just because the law allows it, it doesn’t mean you have to do it,” said Soria. Money should go where it’s most needed, like seniors and educational programs, he added. “If our current council has the authority to approve a 35% increase for themselves, then there should be resources within our city budget to restore these programs for our residents,” he said.
Diaz,without explaining why, agreed with the increase. Rebollo said the approval has already happened and she’s not sure yet if was a good or bad decision.
Rebollo and Diaz are running as a slate. Both have been endorsed by Mayor Tina Baca del Rio and Councilman Ivan Altamirano. Diaz also has the endorsement of Mayor Pro-Tem Lilia Leon and Rebollo has Councilmember Joe Aguilar’s endorsement.
After the debate, Argumedo told EGP the Telegraph Road project is important to the city because it will help the Commerce Casino — which generates over 50% of the revenue in the city’s budget — and the Citadel Outlets which are both on Telegraph. “If these businesses are not successful, the city would be impacted immediately,” he said.
As for his being forced to resign from the council in 2011, Argumedo told EGP he wants clarify that “it was a mistake of me signing a document without the proper legal advice,” and he believes people understand.
Several debate watchers told EGP they found the forum interesting. They said the new council must be composed of members with integrity.
“We need the youth to step forward,” said Eddie Espinoza, adding he already has his “two favorite candidates.”
Without divulging her favorites, Sally Navarro said some of the candidates appear to have good backgrounds. “We want qualified candidates who understand the city,” she said. “The city needs a lot of help.”
A search was conducted in the Commerce area early Tuesday for a car thief.
The suspect, a male, fled in the stolen blue Honda Civic after a short vehicle pursuit that ended near the Citadel shopping outlets, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy said.
The pursuit began in East Los Angeles, where the vehicle was originally reported stolen around 4:55 a.m., the deputy said. The pursuit ended near Telegraph Road after the stolen vehicle crashed into one or more other vehicles, according to reports from the scene.
California Highway Patrol is investigating the circumstances the death of a woman who was struck by a vehicle on the southbound Santa Ana (5) Freeway in the City of Commerce, a CHP officer said Monday.
The fatality was reported about 11:15 p.m. Sunday on the southbound Santa Ana Freeway just south of the southbound Long Beach (710) Freeway, according to CHP Officer Francisco Villalobos.
A Fredrickson,Virginia resident driving a 2013 Hyundai sedan was southbound in the No. 2 lane at about 65 mph approaching Triggs Avenue when a 37-year-old woman walked onto the southbound freeway from the Triggs Avenue on-ramp directly into her path, and the driver could not avoid her, CHP Officer E. Zorrilla said.
The woman was pronounced dead at the scene, he said. Her name was not released pending notification of relatives.
The Hyundai driver was not injured, Zorrilla said.
All lanes of the southbound Santa Ana Freeway were reopened to traffic at about 1:15 a.m. Monday.
The incident remained under investigation and anyone who may have witnessed it was asked to call the East Los Angeles CHP office at (323) 980-4600.