Local Women Recognized for Service

March 26, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

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.

Nine women were recognized by Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia last week as part of her Women of the Year recognition.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Nine women were recognized by Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia last week as part of her Women of the Year recognition. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

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.

Commerce Installs New Council Members, Names New Mayor

March 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

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.

Election Totals Hold In Tight Commerce Race

March 12, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

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.

Oralia Rebollo was elected as one of the newest Commerce councilmember.

Oralia Rebollo was elected as one of the newest Commerce councilmember.

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.”

Hugo Argumedo, a former Commerce city councilmember, was elected to represent the city once again in this month's election.

Hugo Argumedo, a former Commerce city councilmember, was elected to represent the city once again in this month’s election.

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.”


Twitter @jackieguzman



Gas Rupture Prompts Street Closure in Commerce

February 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

Commerce Council Candidates ‘Face Off’

February 5, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

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.


Six city council candidates participated in a debate at city hall Monday.  (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Six city council candidates participated in a debate at city hall Monday. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

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.”


Twitter @jackieguzman


Suspect Sought in Commerce

February 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

Commerce Freeway Fatality

January 29, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

Commerce City Council Ballot Set for March Election

December 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Six candidates will vie for two City of Commerce Council seats in the March 2015 Municipal Election, the city has confirmed.

Councilman Joe Aguilar is not seeking reelection, making Councilwoman Denise Robles the only incumbent on the ballot, however, longtime former council member Hugo Argumedo has thrown his hat into the ring.

Robles, who is seeking her second term, has often been at odds with her colleagues on spending priorities and other issues, but she told EGP she is eager to continue representing the city where she has lived her entire life.

“…I think there are many things that [still] need to be accomplished,” she said, pointing out that she has worked hard to “establish relationships with business and the community.”

The city needs to attract more businesses to Commerce and more work on improving the city’s appearance is needed, she said, detailing her priorities for a second term if reelected.

Aguilar’s exit from the race has opened up opportunities for other candidates, including some who have been active in the city in various ways for years.

Aguilar  told EGP that at age 72, and after two terms on the council and three stints as mayor, he is ready to move on. He will continue his support of the city, but from another angle, he said.

“Being a councilmember takes a lot of time and I need more time for myself and my wife,” Aguilar told EGP. He said he needs to spend more time caring for his wife who has some medical issues.

However, he’s not leaving without first staking a preference in the race to succeed him, or perhaps replace Robles. He has publicly endorsed Sonia Rodriguez in the upcoming election.

Rodriguez is senior administrator of American and Ethnic Studies at USC and has served as a member of the city’s committee on Measure AA, charged with making recommendations on spending of revenue from the special tax approved by voters.

Aguilar said 51-year-old Rodriguez is  “very responsible” and committed to the city.

According to Rodriguez, she supports improving the city’s use of technology. She thinks Commerce should install more surveillance cameras around the city as a tool to reduce crime, and invest more in the city’s infrastructure.

She told EGP’s she’s “blessed” to have earned Aguilar’s endorsement and to have Mayor Pro-Tem Lila Leon guiding her candidacy.

“I believe in clean air, in clean water and educational purposes,” she said, adding she plans to go door to door to hear from residents what they want from the city.

Also on the ballot is John Soria who says he is a lifelong resident of the city. He works as a law enforcement technician with the Sheriff ‘s Department.

Soria told EGP he is running because he thinks it’s time for a change. He said he came to that conclusion after watching the ongoing fighting between current members on the council.

“I possess the ability to engage and be responsive to both our community and our council members in order to move our city forward,” Soria told EGP, citing his “extensive experience” acting as a liaison between the public and law enforcement personnel.

If elected, Soria said he would advocate “to enhance public safety, restore programs and services, and mitigate environmental impacts so as to safeguard the quality of life for our families.”

Oralia Rebollo, 35, was also born and raised in Commerce, and says she has been thinking about running for the council since 1998 when she took part in the city’s Student Government Day.

Rebollo is a 17-year Commerce employee, which she says has allowed her to see first hand that the city needs new initiatives to “help all our youth become successful and productive adults.”

“Some of my priorities, once elected, are establishing family based programs, promoting community health, improving air quality and strengthening the City’s relationship with the business community,” she told EGP.

Former Councilman Hugo Argumedo may have the most name recognition in the race. His decision to run again, after being forced to resign back in December 2010 as part of a plea bargain agreement made after he pled guilty to obstructing justice, was not unexpected, according to some city insiders who wanted to remain anonymous.

Prosecutors said Argumedo signed a false affidavit as part of a civil lawsuit between the city and former City Attorney Francisco Leal.

As part of the plea deal, Argumedo was prohibited from holding public office for three years.

When he resigned, Argumedo admitted “regret” over his actions, EGP reported at the time.

Argumedo was first elected to the city council in 1996. He cites among his accomplishments the opening of the Crown Plaza Hotel, the purchase of the Citadel Outlet stores, creation of the Education Commission, and the restructuring of the Commerce Scholarship Program.

In his biography, Argumedo says he is a strong advocate of community-based policing and Neighborhood Watch programs.

He has also been a member of the Model City Democratic Club of Commerce, the Commerce Sister City Association and the Rosewood Park Elementary School PTA.

EGP could not reach John Diaz in time for this article.

The election will be held on March 3, 2015.

City of Commerce Awards 54 Student Scholarships

August 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

(City of Commerce)

(City of Commerce)

Fifty-four Commerce residents have been awarded scholarships grants ranging from $400 to $5,000 as part of the city’s Annual Scholarship Program. The recipients were recognized at an awards breakfast Saturday at the Commerce Hotel and Casino. This year’s recipients will be attending colleges across the country, according to the city.


Cincuenta y cuatro estudiantes residentes de Commerce recibieron becas que van de entre $400 a $5.000 como parte del Programa Anual de Becas de la ciudad. Los ganadores fueron reconocidos durante una ceremonia el sábado por la mañana en el Casino y Hotel Commerce. Este año los ganadores estarán asisitiendo a universidades por todo el país, de acuerdo a la ciudad.


Pictured (left to right): Commerce Hotel and Casino Operations Manager John Griffo, Mayor Pro Tem Lilia R. Leon, Councilmembers Denise Robles and Joe Aguilar and Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard with six of this year’s Commerce Scholarship recipients.

Man Killed in Illegal Street Race

July 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

A young man died today of injuries he suffered in a high-speed crash during an illegal street race in Commerce, and two other men involved in the accident were hospitalized with serious injuries, authorities said.

The three men were ejected from an Acura Integra when it struck a palm tree in the 5500 block of East Washington Boulevard around 10:40 p.m. Thursday, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“It was a street racing incident”, said sheriff’s Lt. Paul Hardy.

Isaac Garcia, 19, of Maywood died about 12:20 a.m. at a hospital, said coroner’s Assistant Chief Ed Winter. It was not immediately known if he was the driver or a passenger in the Acura.

The two survivors are hospitalized with serious injuries.

Witnesses told a videographer at the scene they believe the vehicles were racing at 90 miles per hour when the accident occurred. The second vehicle in the race left the scene, they said.

Hardy said the damage to the crashed vehicle was extensive. “It’s pretty catastrophic”, Hardy said.

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