60 Freeway Westbound Lanes Now Open

December 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Firefighters converged last Wednesday on the 60 Freeway and Paramount Blvd bridge near the Montebello Mall. This morning, all but a steel beam remains of the southern half of the Paramount Blvd bridge. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

The westbound lanes of the Pomona (60) Freeway were reopened to traffic today, three days after both directions of the key route were closed when a gasoline tanker burned underneath a huge overpass.

And concrete repairs on the fire-scarred eastbound lanes may be dry enough for traffic by 5 p.m. today, said Caltrans spokesman Patrick Chandler.

Earlier in the day, Caltrans officials had said both directions would not reopen until Sunday evening.

Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol reopened the road towards Los Angeles at about 11:07 a.m. Motorists were reportedly encountering dust from the emergency bridge demolition.

All of the southern half of the Paramount Boulevard overpass had been removed by sunrise today, leaving only a temporary steel beam that was suspended above eastbound freeway lanes to support a key fiber communications conduit.

Contractors continued to grapple with the fiber line buried in the northern half of the damaged structure, above the westbound freeway lanes, Chandler said. Workers today began tearing out enough of the northern side of the overpass to allow the critical fiber line to be daylighted, and then shifted over onto another temporary beam.

See related story: 60 Freeway Shutdown by Tanker Truck Fire Could Reopen On Saturday

The north half of the overpass will be torn down during overnight closures on the westbound 60 starting at 11 p.m. Sunday, Chandler said. The eastbound 60 will remain open during the 11 p.m.-5 a.m. closures, but with two lanes blocked off for safety.

On the freeway itself, other crews today repaired about 1,000 square feet of damaged concrete lanes of the eastbound 60, after the last overpass debris had been carted off. The concrete pavement, poured in the early 1960s, had been baked into destruction by incredible temperatures from the 8,800 gallons of gasoline that burned.

The driver of a double-tanker truck noticed his rig on fire as he travelled east on the 60 last Wednesday, and stopped beneath the only overpass on a two-mile-long stretch of freeway.

A preliminary investigation indicated the truck’s brakes may have overheated, causing the fire, CHP Officer Vince Ramirez said. The truck was apparently operated by Cool Transports of Colton.

The freeway remained closed from Rosemead Boulevard on the east to the Long Beach (710) Freeway on the west, although some local traffic was allowed to use the 60 in East Los Angeles today.

EDITORIAL: Instead of Serving the Poor, They Served Themselves

December 16, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

So now the Los Angeles City Council wants to seize power of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles.

What makes the City Council think they can do a better job of keeping track of the public housing authority’s budget and expenditures than HACLA commissioners appointed by the mayor?

Don’t get us wrong; a dramatic change needs to take place at the agency charged with providing federally subsidized housing to some of the city’s neediest residents. We’re just not sure that the city can claim some moral authority or greater expertise when it comes to keeping track of spending by city agencies and departments.

City Controller Greuel’s audit of the housing authority is just one in a long line of audits of city departments that have shown huge deficiencies when it comes to spending taxpayer and ratepayer money.

Audit of other city departments have found favoritism, nepotism, improper use of city equipment, autos and telephones, as well as other forms of financial waste and mismanagement.

The problem is that there is an attitude among some of the people elected or appointed to represent us, and among some government employees, that they are in their positions not to help the public, but to help themselves.

Unless strong ethic rules are put in place and vigorously enforced, there will be those who will continue to take advantage of their position in order to enrich themselves, rather than live up to the trust tax-payers have afforded them.

Main Street Small Businesses Stand with Occupy Wall Street

December 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Main Street small businesses like mine are part of the 99 percent who have suffered in the Great Recession.
There are few business owners in my acquaintance — I should say no business owners in my acquaintance, from convenience store owners to construction businesses to dentists, who have not felt the effects of the financial meltdown.

We have struggled to retain our employees in the face of declining revenues while our fuel costs and health insurance costs have risen precipitously. We have found our lines of commercial credit curtailed. Many of us have dipped into our home equity to keep our businesses afloat in the face of reduced commercial lending. Many of us have had to lay people off — one of the worst things a small business owner has to do.

As we discount our prices in an effort to keep business coming in, our bank fees increase, our rents rise, and (if we’re lucky) our mortgages stay fixed even as our equity shrinks. It is no wonder that we feel solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.

Those at the top of the financial chain who share direct responsibility for this recession have not been held accountable. They have not suffered the losses they have visited on millions of small businesses across America. While Main Street struggles to cover costs, make payroll and stay in business, Wall Street continues to bank record profits. The salaries at the top haven’t declined; the bonuses appear to keep rolling in. Those at the top of the heap appear untouchable.

It is little wonder then that public resentment grows over income disparity. It grows over the mantra leaders in the financial industry repeat ad nauseam in their efforts to dodge the blame they so deserve. “It wasn’t the banks’ fault,” they protest. “You don’t understand.” And then, in attempts to shift the blame, “What about the borrowers who took out those mortgages they couldn’t afford? What about Fannie and Freddie? Why is everyone blaming us? We’re doing God’s Work!”

Attention Bankers: We’re blaming you because you are indeed responsible for turning our economy into a casino, for gambling with our futures and for continuing to stand in the way of real solutions — and because you haven’t been called to account.

The fact is, small business will not fully recover until housing recovers — and Wall Street and the banks are standing squarely in the way of that recovery. Housing affects every aspect of our economy, from the unemployment rate to construction and real estate to consumer confidence.

But the housing market can’t recover until we force the banks to face reality and write down mortgages to market value. They’re not going to do it on their own, they’ve proved that already. They’re sitting on vast numbers of foreclosed homes, destroying entire communities rather than taking a write-off. There has been little improvement or basic accountability in the foreclosure process.

Politicians, meanwhile, can’t seem to find the political will to force the issue and fix the housing market. Could that have anything to do with the huge piles of campaign cash and independent expenditures Wall Street pours into our elections?

Until small business owners see some accountability at the top, until we see that our pain is shared by those who created it — the bankers and the CEOs — we will stand in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.

Schackner owns Foley-Waite Associates, a custom woodworking business in Bloomfield, N.J., and is a leader in the Main Street Alliance small business network. She has been a small-business owner for 34 years. © American Forum.12/11.

We’re Not Even Paving a Road to Nowhere

December 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The term “American transportation policy” is an oxymoron. The United States has no policy regarding the nation’s transportation networks, no strategic plan, and no capacity to carry one out.

We harbor only competing special interests.

That’s why talk of high-speed rail to soften highway and airport congestion is fools’ gold. It can’t happen.

To build railroads you need a powerful lobby. There once was one as our nation sent tracks rushing across the West. Great rail tycoons badgered Congress for tasty subsidies to expand their holdings and to thus unify the nation. No more. Railroads now make money from moving freight, not passengers. People aren’t profitable.

In Europe, Japan, China, India, and elsewhere, it’s different. Great bureaucracies drive the transportation agenda and populations applaud convenient rail service. They even acquiesce to being taxed to pay for it.
Not here. We believe that rail and bus transit should pay for itself.

Plus there is strong corporate opposition to rail. Automakers and oil companies have no lust to see their customers siphoned off to trains. Neither do airlines, plane makers, or airport authorities. Each of these opponents will mount a bitter lobbying campaign to derail plans for modern U.S. rail systems. It’s reminiscent of how they did in the trolleys.

This means Washington leaves transportation policy to the cash-strapped states. Through a patchwork of meager efforts, we get an extra highway lane here, a new airport concourse there, and a smattering of inadequate responses to the national traffic scourge. In the end, the federal government always agrees to pay for some of it.

Meanwhile, our highways and bridges are decaying. The gas tax, both state and federal, is no longer sufficient to keep up their repairs.

This is a serious matter due in large part to the Republicans’ refusal to increase taxes on anything. Forget new rail lines. We can’t even maintain the infrastructure we’ve got.

It was different in the 1950s and 1960s, the Interstate’s heyday. Then, there was money to be made on highways. Automakers drooled over the Defense Transportation Act, which authorized all those new roads. So did oil companies and road builders. And it was all written off politically as defending us against attack by the Russians. President Eisenhower said so.

But trains? Never. No American company even builds rail cars today. And precious few lay tracks. Much greater political clout now lies with the “Not in My Backyard” forces than with builders. Or with the “Not with My Tax Dollars” crowd. Consequently, modest highway and airport upgrades are very likely to be the only successful projects in the foreseeable future, despite the mounting evidence that we have to act swiftly to halt climate change.

Still, just because Washington has no plan, money, or muscle to upgrade transportation doesn’t mean that everyone else is paralyzed.

Coach USA, the U.S. subsidiary of a British transportation company, is sending out new long-distance bus routes like kudzu. So are many other lines. Intercity fares of $25 have become standard, and not just on the “the Chinatown buses” that zip between New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and the nation’s capital.
It’s all very informal and you have to climb aboard at a curb somewhere, not at a terminal, but the numbers are growing fast.

Such stopgaps won’t solve our highway and airway congestion. But they’re a clear sign of how nature fills the vacuum when government fails to act.

OtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative, and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. otherwords.org

Big Business Tax Holidays Are Bad for Small Business, Bad for America

December 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

If small business owners decided to stop paying our fair share of taxes, we’d be sent to jail. Big business tax dodgers want Congress to reward them with a tax holiday.

The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce strongly opposes legislation in Congress that would reward U.S. multinational corporations with massive, unwarranted tax discounts to bring back hundreds of billions in U.S. profits they shifted offshore to avoid paying taxes in the first place.

So called “Repatriation Tax Holidays” are nothing more than unfair, anti-American giveaways to big businesses that have lobbying and political donor clout in Washington, D.C.

Rewarding big business for anti-American and anti-competitive behavior, which undermines small business, is not the way to lead America back to prosperity and economic leadership. And it’s sure not the way to create American jobs. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, between 1999 and 2008, U.S. multinational corporations reduced their domestic employment by 1.9 million jobs; they increased their employment overseas by 2.4 million jobs.

Small businesses care about America, our communities and our families. We care that our government has the funds to keep our roads and transportation working, educators preparing our next generation, and resources to defend our country. We create most of America’s new jobs.

We don’t have millions to spend on lobbyists for the purpose of securing undue and unwarranted favoritism. It is time to end, not extend, the double standard for big businesses, which employ thousands of lobbyists, accountants and attorneys for the purpose of not paying their fair share of U.S. taxes.

To make matters worse, many of these big businesses are profiting from big federal government contracts – contracts paid for by taxpayers. Big businesses receive unfair cost advantages that make it harder for small businesses to compete and win federal contracts. And they systematically rob the United States of tax dollars by shifting their U.S. profits offshore through tax havens and other anti-American tax dodging.

We should not reward this behavior. We should stop it.

Studies have shown that a similar supposedly “one time” 2004 repatriation tax break did not achieve positive results. It did not produce promised U.S. jobs or increased investments in research and development, or reduce our deficit. Instead, big firms paid out more dividends and engaged in stock buy-backs, increased their executive compensation and increased their stockpile of money offshore.

Rather than helping America, another big-business tax holiday will continue to undermine America’s economy and reinforce the offshoring and anti-American tax strategies employed by big multinational firms. The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that the tax breaks under consideration would cost the U.S. Treasury nearly $80 billion over ten years.

Big business tax-dodging schemes are grossly unfair to America’s Main Street businesses. We’ve seen the shrinking small business share of business receipts over the last decade. A report published by the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, Development in Women-owned Businesses, found that between 1997 and 2007, publicly-held firms (companies whose stock is publicly traded), which represent only 3 percent of all firms in the U.S., dramatically grew their percent of total business receipts from 55 percent to 64 percent. During this same period, private firms lost a wrenching 9 percent market share.

That was before the economic meltdown, which devastated small business. The continued growth of big business squeezing out revenues-based market share growth has as its roots the many and growing advantages big businesses secure through Congressional influence every year.

Tax breaks, tax havens, tax holidays, bailouts and all the other unwarranted privileges afforded big business must stop. America can’t afford to keep treating Main Street businesses like second-class citizens.

It’s time to restore American values, including holding big business accountable for paying their fair share of taxes to support our domestic economy and infrastructure.

The U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce demands that Congress stand up for Main Street American businesses who must compete in a marketplace that is already skewed against us. Our lawmakers should reject a new tax giveaway for big business. They should tell America’s big businesses to stop their tax dodging through offshore tax havens – and just bring the money home!

Margot Dorfman is CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce™, representing 500,000 members nationwide. A copy of this article previously appeared in The Hill.

WEEKEND Art Event: Pacific Standard Time at LA Plaza and The Getty

December 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Celebrate art in Los Angeles with two exhibits this weekend.

LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is presenting Lasting Legacies of the Chicano Art Movement Dec. 17 to 18 during the Pacific Standard Times Downtown Weekend.

Attend the two-day celebration of the contributions of Chicano art in LA with cultural activities, art workshops, print-making, conversations with the artists and music inspired by the Chicano art movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

LA Plaza’s LA Starts Here! exhibit comes to life as Chicano artists and friends give voice to a place in time, and connect visitors with the Chicano art movement’s impact on LA history.

LA Plaza is located at 501 N. Main St, L.A. 90012 (across from Olvera St). For more information go to http://www.lapca.org, or call (888) 488-8083.

Members of the Los Angeles Free Music Society testing Pyramid Headphones, 1976. Photograph (c) 1976 Fredrik Nielsen, All Rights Reserved.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Getty Center presents In Focus: Los Angeles, 1945–1980 in conjunction with the region-wide Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A initiative.

The exhibition includes 30 photographs from Museum’s permanent & from artists whose careers are defined by their association with the city, and runs through May 6, 2012.

The Getty Center is located at 1200 Getty Center Dr. LA, 90049. Admission to the Getty Center is free; parking $15. Shuttle access only. For visitor information, see information on planning a visit or call (310) 440-7300.

December 15, 2011 Issue

December 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

L.A. Controller Releases Scathing Audit of Housing Authority

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

City Controller Wendy Greuel released a sharply critical audit on Tuesday of the city’s low-income housing authority and its “reckless” spending of taxpayer money.

Lea esta nota en ESPAÑOL: Auditoria Cáustica de la Autoridad de Viviendas es Liberada por la Controladora de L.A.

The audit of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles found deep flaws in the agency’s travel policies, Greuel said. Commissioners and other staff used agency money to pay for the travel of non-staff members and repeatedly spent far above allowed amounts on meals without documenting what was consumed and who was present at the lunches, the audit found.

Greuel, an announced candidate for mayor, said former Housing Authority CEO Rudolf Montiel, who was fired in March, was directly to blame for the abuses. However, she said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa also shares responsibility since he appointed the commissioners who oversee the agency.

“The mayor’s office appoints the commissioners and has oversight over those commissioners, and clearly they needed to be minding the store better,” Greuel said. “This was an agency that felt no one was watching.”

Villaraigosa’s press secretary, Peter Sanders, declined to address claims the mayor should have monitored commissioners’ lax travel policies before Greuel began auditing the agency but noted that Villaraigosa took immediate action when the matter came to his attention last spring.

“To restore trust in the agency, the mayor has appointed a majority of new commissioners, including a reform-minded chairman,” Sanders said.

“We welcome greater city oversight of HACLA and will work with City Council in addition to state and federal officials on how to best accomplish that,” Sanders added.

Villaraigosa, who is on a 10-day trade mission to Asia, also recommended that the commission name Los Angeles Housing Department General Manager Douglas Guthrie as interim chief executive officer of the agency. The board unanimously approved the recommendation on Tuesday afternoon.

The Housing Authority oversees and places residents in about 75,000 federally subsidized affordable housing units and the city’s federally funded Section 8 housing program. The Los Angeles Housing Department is funded by the city’s budget and is focused on housing code enforcement, renter and landlord complaints, and the city’s rent stabilization program.

According to Greuel’s report, employees were found to have “double-dipped,” paying for expenses with agency purchase cards and later being reimbursed for those same costs.

In one case, a public safety official at the agency was approved to drive to a conference in San Diego. Instead, the official used Housing Authority funds to pay for airfare without prior approval. Butler also left the conference early to fly to Chicago, charging the Housing Authority for a hotel night that was not used.

In another incident, former HACLA Board Member Maria Del Angel paid costs for other travelers who were not HACLA staff and for whom executive approvals were not provided, Greuel said. Del Angel served as the representative of public housing tenants, and lived at Estrada Courts prior to her current residence at the Pico Gardens public housing complex.

In total, Greuel found the agency spent about $300,000 per year on travel during 2009 and 2010, a 300 percent increase over travel expenses in 2006.

Councilman Dennis Zine, who is running for city controller, said the audit showed that illegal actions may have taken place and that some agency employees should be singled out for investigation and terminated.

The District Attorney’s Office has launched an investigation of the situation.

Greuel began her audit a few months after KCET-TV Channel 28’s “SoCal Connected” and CBS2/KCAL9 reported last March on the large travel expenses.

Greuel called the audit alarming, saying that it was “the tip of the iceberg.”

A seven-month follow-up investigation by KCET, which aired two weeks ago, found that HousingAuthority employees also spent thousands of dollars on posh lunches, work meetings and incentives such as clothes and electronics. The Los Angeles Times also reported that the housing commission approved a $1.2 million severance and settlement package for Montiel, who had alleged he was fired by former commissioners for blowing the whistle on their illegal spending, and ordering them to pay back those funds.

Commissioners said at the time that they fired Montiel because they had lost confidence in his ability to lead the agency, following reports he tried to evict tenants who led a protest in front of his home.
The reports spurred Greuel this week to announce plans for an expanded top-to-bottom audit of the Housing Authority.

The scandals also caused interim CEO Kenneth Simmons to resign his position with a request to return to his number two position with the authority.

On Tuesday, City Council members grilled the agency’s recently resigned interim CEO Ken Simmons about the audit’s findings.

Responding to an angry Councilman Bill Rosendahl, Simmons responded, “It wasn’t my initiative, sir. I don’t approve of it. I don’t agree with it.”

Simmons said the spending detailed in the audit did not include any federal funding that goes to subsidize rentals for residents or to build new housing. Instead the money came from close to 20 nonprofits that aid in the Housing Authority’s work.

Council members agreed the council should have more authority and oversight of the agency. Council members Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti introduced a motion asking the federal government to change regulations or pass necessary legislation to give the city direct authority over the Housing Authority.

Newly appointed commission chair Mitchell Kamin agreed the city should have more oversight of the agency and called for commissioners to be subject to investigation by the city Ethics Commission.

EGP News reports used in this story.

Residentes de CD-14 Califican sus Comunidades de Interés

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

La Comisión de Redistribución de los Distritos de la Ciudad de Los Ángeles el martes se reunió en Boyle Heights donde escucharon testimonios por los residentes y los dueños de negocios del Distrito No. 14 del Concejo (CD-14) acerca de cuales deberían ser los límites nuevos a través del proceso de redistribución.

La comisión de 21 personas tiene la obligación de dibujar los nuevos límites de los 15 distritos del concejo antes del 1º de marzo de 2012, y los mapas finales deben ser adoptadas por el consejo de la ciudad el 1º de julio de 2012, como lo requiere la Constitución de la Ciudad.

La audiencia de la Comisión para CD-1, que incluye Lincoln Heights, será el 7 de enero. Foto de EGP por Gloria Angelina Castillo

La reunión del martes en el Centro de Jubilados de Boyle Heights es una de las 15 audiencias públicas que realizará la comisión en cada distrito del consejo.

Durante la audiencia los residentes dijeron lo que les gusta y que no les gusta de los límites del distrito actual. Algunos se quejaron que barrios, como Rose Hills, y los corredores de negocios, como York Boulevard, actualmente están divididos entre distritos.

Ryan Ballinger, propietario de The York en Highland Park, dijo que el frente de su negocio está en un distrito, mientras que la parte de atrás se encuentra en otro.

Gema Márquez dijo que Highland Park debe estar en solo un distrito, pero Jesse Rosas dijo que quiere que Highland Park siga en los distritos CD-1 y CD-14, subrayando que no quiere arriesgar perder el compromiso a la reapertura del Museo Southwest por el Concejal Ed Reyes. Reyes es concejal de CD-1 pero actualmente cumple con su último mandato y ya no puede ser reelegido. José Huizar actualmente representa CD-14.

Varios residentes de Boyle Heights hablaron en favor de tener vínculos más estrechos con el centro de Los Ángeles (Downtown). Juaquin Castellanos dijo que CD-14 parece haber sido deliberadamente estratificado por ingresos. “Nosotros no somos el Este de Los Ángeles, debemos recibir todo lo que el Centro está recibiendo. Debemos ser la clase media…” él dijo a la comisión.

Mientras que Teresa Márquez no estaba totalmente a favor de que Boyle Heights sea agrupado al centro de la ciudad, ella dijo que los latinos ahora están segregados y que esto es un perjuicio ya que tienen un bajo nivel de participación ciudadana.

Varios propietarios del centro dijeron estar a favor de continuar bajo CD-14 y el liderazgo de Huizar.

Sin embargo, Richard Zaldivar dijo que el centro no tiene nada en común con el Noreste. “[El Centro] le quita la voz y el voto a la gente de la zona Noreste de Los Ángeles. Esto es ridículo, el Distrito 14 debe ser, desde el Norte al Sur, todo lo que esta al Este del Río de Los Ángeles”, él dijo.

En enero, después que las reuniones se acaben, la comisión realizará una gira por la ciudad para observar las cuestiones planteadas durante las audiencias públicas, de acuerdo al Presidente de la Comisión de Redistribución Arturo Vargas.

Al considerar los nuevos límites de los distritos, la comisión debe tomar en cuenta los cambios de población indicados en el Censo del 2010, pero también deben cumplir con varios requisitos legales, entre ellos: la Principal de Población Igual para garantizar “una persona, un voto”; la Cláusula de Protección Igual de la Constitución de los EE.UU. que declara que raza no puede ser utilizado como un factor predominante; la Ley de Derechos Electorales de 1965 que prohíbe la manipulación de los distritos para beneficio de los funcionarios; y los Criterios Tradicionales de Redistribución tales como la contigüidad, la compacidad, los límites existentes, y las comunidades de interés.

Una vez que los mapas sean creados, una segunda ronda de audiencias regionales se llevarán a cabo para solicitar comentarios del público, dijo el Director Ejecutivo de la Comisión de Redistribución Andrew Westall. Estas reuniones se llevarán a cabo a finales de enero y a principios de febrero y es probable que la reunión de CD-14 será en el Noreste de Los Ángeles, él dijo.

Los mapas aprobados se mantendrán en vigor hasta después del censo de 2020.

La próxima audiencia cercana será para CD-1. La reunión se llevará a cabo a las 11:00 am el 7 de enero de 2012 en la Iglesia Italiana Católica de San Pedro ubicada en 1039 N. Broadway, 90012.

Para más información visite http://redistricting2011.lacity.org/ o llame al (213) 922-7740

Auditoria Cáustica de la Autoridad de Viviendas es Liberada por la Controladora de L.A.

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

La Controladora de la Ciudad de Los Ángeles Wendy Greuel el martes liberó una auditoria crítica de la autoridad de viviendas de bajos ingresos y de sus gastos “imprudentes” del dinero de los contribuyentes de impuestos.

Read this story in ENGLISH: L.A. Controller Releases Scathing Audit of Housing Authority

La auditoria de la Autoridad de Vivienda de la Ciudad de Los Ángeles (HACLA) encontró graves deficiencias en las políticas de viajes de la agencia, dijo Greuel. Los Comisionados y el personal utilizaron el dinero de la agencia para pagar viajes de personas que no son empleados y en repetidas ocasiones superaron las cantidades permitidas para comidas sin documentar lo que se consumió y quien estuvo presente para las comidas, encontró la auditoria.

(Izquierda a Derecha) El Concejal Tony Cárdenas, la Controladora Wendy Greuel, y el Concejal Dennis Zine dijeron que la auditoría reveló inadmisibles costos excesivos que podrían ser criminal. Foto de EGP por Gloria Angelina Castillo

Greuel, quién es candidata para la alcaldía, dijo que el antiguo presidente de la autoridad Rudolf Montiel, quien fue despedido en marzo, fue directamente culpable de los abusos. Sin embargo, también dijo que el Alcalde Antonio Villaraigosa también comparte la responsabilidad ya que él nombró a los comisionados que supervisan la agencia.

“La oficina del alcalde nombra a los comisionados y mantiene supervisión sobre los comisionados, y claramente tenían que estar cuidando la tienda mejor”, dijo Greuel. “Esta es una agencia que sentía que nadie los estaba mirando.”

Villaraigosa, quien se encuentra en un viaje comercial de 10 días en Asia, ha recomendado que Douglas Guthrie, el administrador general del Departamento de Viviendas de Los Ángeles (una agencia municipal), sea nombrado como el director ejecutivo interino de HACLA. La junta aprobó por unanimidad la recomendación el martes.

La Autoridad de Vivienda supervisa aproximadamente 75.000 unidades de vivienda con subsidio federales y con fondos federales del programa de Sección 8. El Departamento de Vivienda de Los Ángeles está financiado por el presupuesto de la ciudad y se centra en la aplicación del código de vivienda, quejas por inquilinos y propietarios, y el programa de estabilización de alquileres de la ciudad.

Según el informe de Greuel, en un caso un oficial de seguridad pública de la agencia fue aprobado para conducir a una conferencia en San Diego. Pero en vez, utilizo los fondos de la Autoridad de Vivienda para pagar boletos de avión sin autorización previa. Él empleado se fue temprano de la conferencia para volar a Chicago, y cobró a la Autoridad de Vivienda una noche en un hotel que no se utilizó.

En otro incidente, la ex miembro de la junta Maria Del Ángel cobro a HACLA los costos de otros viajeros que no eran personal y para quien no se obtuvo primero aprobación ejecutiva, dijo Greuel. Del Ángel fue representante de los inquilinos de vivienda pública, y vivía en Estrada Courts antes mudarse a Pico Gardens.

En total, Greuel encontró que la agencia gastó cerca de $300.000 por año en viajes durante 2009 y 2010, lo cual es un aumento de 300 por ciento en los gastos de viaje comparado a 2006.

El Concejal Dennis Zine, CD-3, que se postula para ser el próximo controlador, dijo que la auditoria mostró que podían haber acciones ilegales y que algunos empleados de la agencia deben ser seleccionados para investigación y ser despedidos.

La Oficina del Fiscal del Distrito ha puesto en marcha una investigación de la situación.

Greuel comenzó su auditoria pocos meses después que el programa “California Connected” de KCET-TV Canal 28 y los noticieros CBS2/KCAL9 informaron el marzo pasado sobre los gastos inflados por comisionados de HACLA.

Miembros del Consejo acordaron que el ayuntamiento debería tener más autoridad y supervisión de la agencia. Los miembros del Consejo Jan Perry y Eric Garcetti presentaron una moción pidiendo que el gobierno federal cambie los reglamentos o apruebe legislación necesaria para darle autoridad directa a la ciudad sobre la Autoridad de Viviendas.

El recién nombrado presidente de la junta Mitchell Kamin acordó que la ciudad debe tener una mayor supervisión de la agencia y pidió que se investiguen los comisionados por la Comisión de Ética de la Ciudad.

EGP agregó información a esta nota.

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