Candidates hoping to win one of two open seats on the Monterey Park City Council shared their commitment to safety, bringing business to the community and discussed the challenges the city faces during a candidate forum held last week.
The Pasadena chapter of the League of Women Voters and Soroptimist International of Monterey Park/Rosemead hosted the event that took place at city hall on Jan. 29.
For the most part there were few differences between the participants, which included Joe Avila, a handyman; Peter Chan, a business owner; Hans Liang, a deputy probation officer and Larry C. Sullivan, a retired businessman.
Saying he’s “not afraid to stir the pot,” Avila said he hoped to address the concerns of everyday people living in the city: “When I see wrong I am compelled to fix it.”
Chan spoke about his involvement in the city and pledged to work on things like keeping the library open longer and beautifying the city. “I would like to see a very safe city for everyone to live in,” he said.
Sullivan also spoke about his local involvement, noting that if elected he would be devoted to the job, be prepared for council meetings, and look for ways to keeps costs down and create a realistic budget. “I will always take responsibility for my decisions,” he said.
Liang said his work as a probation officer and past collaborations with the city on safety issues make him an ideal candidate. “I have the experience needed to maintain the highest level of safety here in the city,” he told the audience.
All of the candidates were asked whether they have business interests in Monterey Park that would prevent them from voting on city issues. Business owner Chan emphasized that his business is located outside of the city while Avila said his work as a handyman would not present any conflicts.
Facing a tight budget and a fall in revenue, the current city council and staff have in recent months discussed the feasibility of contracting with the LA County Fire Department for fire and paramedic services as a way to reduce costs. The controversial proposal sparked anger in the community, particularly among some of the elderly who expressed concern about response times. When asked if they would consider such a change, all of the candidates were unanimous in their response: “No,” they said. Chan said switching to the county would not save money and Sullivan questioned why a report on the issue had not been shared with the public.
Concerns about traffic prompted questions about how to bring some improvement to local streets. Liang suggested the city look into traffic control software. Avila suggested encouraging residents to use alternative forms of transportation.
And in the area of development, while Sullivan, Liang and Chan expressed support for the proposed marketplace project off the 60 Freeway. Avila said he did not care to bring big corporations to the city.
Candidates were also asked what they thought should be done in regards to a lawsuit filed against Monterey Park over a police-involved shooting last January outside a Carl’s Jr. restaurant near East L.A. College. An investigation found no fault on the part of the officer.
Chan said, based on what little he knows about the case, the city should settle out of court to save money. Sullivan and Liang said they did not want to take a side without knowing all the facts, while Avila said settling out of court is akin to admitting guilt.
As for the biggest challenges facing Monterey Park faces, for Avila it’s street cleaning, while public safety is the number one issue for Chan.
Sullivan said he believes the city needs to get its finances in order. Liang said budgetary issues are his major concerns and said the city must find ways to increase its revenue.
The only heated debate of the evening came during the presentations by the candidates for city treasurer.
Seemingly attempting to tie his opponent to the public corruption scandal in a nearby city, business owner Stephen Lam accused his opponent, incumbent city treasurer Joseph Leon, of failing to pay back money for health care premiums that were mistakenly paid to current and past elected officials.
“As our city and state begin to recover from the recession and in the wake of scandal in the city of Bell, it’s important now more than ever that we elect city leaders who are fiscally responsible and have the experience,” said Lam, who pledged not to accept a salary or benefits if elected.
“I know firsthand what it takes to balance budgets, cut waste and do more with less,” Lam said. “I’m running for treasurer because I care about the future of Monterey Park and want to see the city prosper.”
Defending himself against the accusations, Leon told the crowd that while the city attorney did find that the city had provided elected officials with more health benefits than the law allows, “… it’s agreed by everyone that no elected official of Monterey Park did anything wrong, lies are being spread and I want to get that cleared up tonight.”
Leon added that after the counsel voted to change the benefits in accordance with current interpretation, he made sure he was in compliance and offered in writing to pay back any money that may be legally owed, but claims he never heard back from the city.
Leon then asked the crowd to put themselves in his position.
“What if your employer said they may have made a mistake in the health benefits they have provided you, that goes back several years, and now wants you to pay for their mistake?” he asked.
The candidates running for city clerk included Jeff Schwartz, a chess instructor, who talked about his previous encounters with city council and his involvement with city issues.
“I’ve fallen in love with Monterey Park many times over the years,” Schwartz said. “One of my goals is to protect our votes with paper ballots and responsible oversight with electronic voting systems.”
Attorney Vincent Chang said he wants to make sure city services are convenient for all residents. “I’m running for the position of city clerk because I believe this is the best position to serve the residents of Monterey Park,” said Chang.
Neal Alvarez told the crowd that his previous work as the in-house manager for the Los Angeles County Music Center prepared him for the position of city clerk.
“This job is not an advocacy job,” Alvarez said. “My place in this job is to take you and your opinions.”
Monterey Park’s election will take place on March 5.
For more information about the election visit http://www.ci.monterey-park.ca.us/
“Happy New Year” was heard throughout the streets of Downtown Monterey Park last weekend at the city’s Lunar New Year Festival, which included vendors, food, entertainment and carnival rides.
Residents bought decorations and Chinese red envelopes to hand out as gifts. Others hung their wishes on a Chinese Wishing Tree hoping to have their wishes come true during the Year of the Snake.
The Year of the Snake will officially begin on Sunday, Feb. 10.
A postal worker accused of chasing an 11-year-old girl into a park restroom and choking her after she laughed at him was charged Wednesday with two misdemeanor counts.
Daniel Villasenor, 55, pleaded not guilty to one count each of cruelty to a child and assault on park property.
Villasenor allegedly became angry after two children taunted him at Bristow Park in Commerce and chased the girl, who ran into the women’s restroom, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
He allegedly choked her inside a supply room adjacent to the restroom before two city workers told him to stop, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Several witnesses verified that they had seen the postal worker become angry and choke the girl, according to Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. Rich Pena.
Villasenor was arrested nearby and has remained jailed since then.
He was “placed in an emergency non-duty, non-pay status” pending an investigation, the United States Postal Service said in a statement. The agency has declined to comment on whether it had received complaints about Villasenor prior to this incidence.
Prosecutors were asking that Villasenor’s bail be set at $15,000.
If convicted, he faces up to a year in county jail, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Three new alternatives have been added to the Montebello Hills development project, two of which would include a mixture of retail and housing space on the 488-acre property off the 60 Freeway.
Former Montebello City Administration and current city consultant Larry Kosmont at the Montebello city council meeting on Jan. 9 updated the city on its economic development projects, including the proposed Montebello Hills community, the Costco expansion and the Monterey Park Market Place.
Opponents to the project said they were caught off-guard by the presentation, which they said was disguised in the city council agenda.
“This is really just an invitation for everyone to dive into the dialogue that’s going to happen in Montebello,” Kosmont told the council.
Kosmont, whose real estate and economic development consulting firm Kosmont Companies is advising the city on several of its development projects, said three new alternatives would be added to the plans for the Montebello Hills project.
Originally, the project called for 1,200 single-family detached and attached homes to be built on 174-acres. The other 314-acres would be used as open space including a federally protected habitat reserve, a public park and accessible trails.
One of the new alternatives (6) does not include a retail site, but would change the ratio of single-detached homes and single-attached (condominium or townhouse style) homes to 49% and 52% respectively. Kosmont Companies says the ratio is much closer than in previous alternatives.
The two other alternatives, 7 and 8, would each include an 87,000-square foot neighborhood retail shopping center that would be anchored by a grocery and drug store.
Of those two alternatives, 7 would have the same number of homes as previous alternatives, but the size of each lot would be smaller. The ratio of detached to attached homes would also change to 51:49.
Alternative 8 would maintain the same lot size as previous alternatives but would reduce the number of homes in the proposed community to 1,072. The ratio would also change to 51.5% of those homes being single-family detached and 48.5% single-family attached homes.
Adding retail locations could potentially bring new sales tax driven revenue to the city, especially in light of the elimination of the redevelopment agency funding and constraints on revenue that the city faces, Kosmont said.
“[The alternatives] may not stick when the council makes its decision, but it’s fair to get that alternative evaluated along with the others,” he added.
The presentation drew reactions from both supporters and opponents to the project.
Montebello resident and realtor Felipe Acuna expressed concern that the project has yet to get underway and urged the council to take action. “I fail to see why this project has taken so long to flourish,” Acuna told council members.
A resident opposed to the development said living on top of oil wells is incompatible with life and that the city needs to preserve the open space for future generations.
Resident Jacqueline Carr said the project would make Montebello a better city for future generations.
Another resident proposed that the city use the property for a retail site instead of a residential area.
A majority of the speakers, many of them business owners and members of the local chamber of commerce, some of them residents, said the development would provide many benefits to the city, which has struggled to overcome large deficits in recent years.
Resident Linda Strong, chairperson for the Save The Montebello Hills Sierra Club Task Force, however, told EGP that had the community been made aware that the project was going to be discussed, opponents would have been out in greater force. She called Kosmont’s presentation little more than a “dog and pony show.”
“Unfortunately nobody from our group was notified … [but] it appears a whole lot of folk in the chamber of commerce were so notified,” said Strong during the public comment portion of the meeting. “Someone could have given us a call and alerted us.”
Mayor Pro Tem William M. Molinari also expressed concern that the item was listed on the council agenda as an “Economic Development Update.”
“It could have listed the projects so folks that had an interest in any of the three projects that were covered this evening could have been made aware,” said Molinari, adding it was obvious that some residents were notified but there was no general notification to the community.
“This project is far too important to the future of this community not to make sure that we be as transparent as possible,” Molinari said. “I don’t think it was fairly presented on this week’s agenda.”
According to the presentation, Kosmont will continue to update the city on the project including the environmental impact evaluations of the three new alternatives as required under the California Environmental Quality Act.
The next steps for the project will be to analyze the drafts of the alternatives and to circulate the amended draft environmental impact report for public comment. From there the firm hopes to prepare a final environmental impact report while completing a development agreement between the city and the project’s developer, Cook Hills Properties.
The firm hopes to send the project to the city council for consideration by the end of 2013.
Margaret Eiser, a Montebello resident and member of the task force told EGP that she hopes the community becomes involved and informed on the project.
“People need to know that it is not a done deal,” said Eiser.
Nobody asked Roberto Romo of Bobby’s Auto Parts if he wanted a parklet in front of his shop on York Boulevard, but he isn’t complaining.
The owner of the 25-year-old business says he was invited to planning meetings on numerous occasions, received phone calls and letters in the mail, but didn’t attend until a meeting congregated on the sidewalk outside his shop. That’s how he found out the parklet was coming to his doorstep.
“It’s good, hopefully people will use it,” Romo told EGP in Spanish, agreeing that maybe it could be good for business when people sit down and look up at his shop and remember they need windshield wipers or another item.
The York Boulevard parklet, which opened last Saturday, is the first of four parklets or mini parks, being built as part of a pilot project in Los Angeles Council District 14 (CD-14). Two parklets are planned for downtown, including one in Councilman Jose Huizar’s district that will open this morning (Feb. 7 at 9 a.m.) with a ribbon cutting at LA Café, located at 639 S. Spring St. A second parklet on Spring Street, in Councilwoman Jan Perry’s district, will open at a later date.
The fourth location in CD-14 will be in El Sereno on Huntington Drive, with a grand opening celebration scheduled for Feb. 16.
The parklets are part of a pilot program involving residents, local organizations and businesses, the LA Dept. of Transportation and CD-14. The mini park spaces are intended to encourage pedestrian and bike traffic on commercial corridors, following a trend in other major cities like San Francisco, Boston and New York.
“Put simply, parklets help us support communities in being communities,” said Huizar in a written statement. “They encourage a more local, pedestrian experience where people take the time to sit, relax and enjoy one another’s company while also supporting local businesses.”
Steve Cancian of Living Streets LA, who worked with Huizar’s office to create the Improvement Vision and Action Plans for York Boulevard and Huntington Drive, said the York Blvd. community worked to create “its own hub with Highland Park character.”
“Residents carefully chose a location at the crossroads of their neighborhood and created a design that captures the history, nature and artistry of Highland Park,” Cancian said. “This is a perfect example of how residents can take action to improve their own neighborhoods – just what Councilmember Huizar hoped to inspire when he initiated this project.”
The York parklet features mosaic glass tile designed by artist Cathi Milligan of the Glass Studio. The new mini park was sponsored by the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce, the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, LA Conservation Corps, LADOT and local residents and business owners who attended and sponsored meetings, according to Huizar’s office.
The parklets are the result of a motion introduced by Huizar and Perry in 2011 that also directed city departments to develop a long-range plan to support parklets throughout L.A., according to Huizar’s office.
The York parklet cost $30,000 to create and will be maintained by the Highland Park Chamber of Commerce.
During the Feb. 2 ribbon cutting, Huizar announced a deal had been reached to create a park on an empty lot at York and Avenue 50, just a block away from the York parklet. The future park is part of the York Vision Plan and would be paid for using $2.85 million in Proposition 84 funds. According to Huizar’s office, after the sale is complete, community meetings will be held to allow residents to give input on the park’s design.
A project to demolish the Soto Street Bridge that links El Sereno, Boyle Heights and Lincoln Heights to improve traffic flow is picking up after years of delay. The local historical society opposes the plan, and says there are other ways to improve the flow of traffic in the area.
The project dates back to 2002, but went off track due to a lack of funding.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Plan Demolerá el Puente de la Calle Soto
On Monday, 40 to 50 people attended a “community briefing” on the project held at Huntington Drive Elementary School in El Sereno, according to Cora Jackson-Fossett with the Department of Public Works’ Public Affairs Office.
Monday’s meeting consisted of a welcome, introductions, a power point presentation and a question and answer session, Jackson-Fossett said.
Constructed in 1936, the Soto Street Bridge was a joint venture between the city of Los Angeles and the Pacific Railway System, however the tracks were removed in the early 1960s.
Called the “Soto Street Bridge over Mission Road and Huntington Drive Project,” the plan calls for demolishing the bridge that Caltrans has deemed to be “obsolete” to improve traffic, increase safety and beautify the neighborhood, according to the project’s objectives.
The bridge, consisting of one lane in each direction, extends between Supreme Court and Turquoise Street, and links to Mission Road, Soto Street, Huntington Drive North, and Huntington Drive South. The project would improve north and south traffic along Mission Road and Huntington Drive North, according to planners.
After demolishing the bridge, intersections with signal lights would be built at Mission Road and Soto Street, and at the existing intersection at Huntington Drive North and Huntington Drive South, according to the project presentation.
For local street accessibility, two access roads would be built. Landscaping would also be added to beautify a median area between Mission Road and Huntington Drive North.
The environmental studies, a California Environmental Quality Act and a National Environmental Quality Act, were approved last decade (2004 and 2003), but the project was stalled due to lack of funding, Jackson-Fossett said.
The El Sereno Historical Society is opposing the project saying it would destroy a historic bridge, that traffic efficiency could be improved by replacing existing stop signs with traffic lights and seismic retrofitting would cost less than demolishing the bridge.
The City of Los Angeles, Department of Public Works Bureau of Engineering, Bridge Improvement Division initiated the multi-agency project, according to Councilman Jose Huizar’s office. The $13.1 million project will be funded by the Federal Highway Bridge Program Grant, City Matching Funds Prop G and Prop C, and a Metro grant.
According to Jackson-Fossett, the project contract could be awarded in June 2013, with construction possibly beginning in Fall 2013. Construction is scheduled to be completed by Fall 2016.
Two to four more community briefings will take place before construction begins, she said. A website containing the project information will be created in upcoming weeks, but in the meantime, those interested in learning more or submitting comments can call Councilman Huizar’s El Sereno Office at (323) 226-1646; Cora Jackson-Fossett in the Public Affairs Office at (213) 978-0333; or George Huang of Bureau of Engineering at (213) 485-2057.
El Sereno Historical Society’s arguments against the project are posted under the tab “Trains and Tracks” at www.ElSereno90032.org
There is a bridge on Soto Street at the entrance to Lincoln Heights and El Sereno that links those neighborhoods to Boyle Heights, which as far as we can remember has never had a recognizable name, or recognizable good purpose for that matter.
It’s an ugly bridge that becomes a two-way narrow roadway where Soto St. and Huntington Drive North and South meet, and does little to enhance traffic through the area.
For most of its 77 years, the bridge has been edged by weeds and cement abutments, creating an eyesore, unlike many of Los Angeles’ more aesthetically pleasing historic bridges. The lower part of the bridge is a labyrinth of cement where motorists often get confused as to which lane will get them to Huntington Drive, North Broadway or Mission Road.
Now there is a plan afoot to demolish the bridge as to eliminate the confusing mix of streets underneath the bridge. We believe this decision would improve traffic flow through the area, which is often used as a bypass or shortcut to downtown Los Angeles or points east when freeways near the area are jammed.
An added benefit from the bridges demise is the planned landscaping that will surely enhance and beautify the area which up to now has been impossible due to the concrete barriers that compose the bridge’s under girth. Removal of the bridge will help the area feel more like a community, rather than an abandoned industrial site.
Planning for the project started in 2002 but was halted due to funding restrictions. Now there is a chance to move forward, and forward the city should go.
Why any group of residents would be against the project is beyond us. Just because a bridge is old doesn’t mean it’s worth saving.
We say, give us flowers and greenery and clean traffic lanes, and do away with the ugly old Soto Street Bridge.
This year I came up with the best Valentine’s Day gift ever for my wife and daughter. It’s inexpensive and, unlike a bouquet of flowers, should last beyond their lifetimes. They’ll love it! I can’t think of a better way to express how much I love them.
Rather than chocolates or jewelry, I am going to join a One Billion Rising rally to end the violence against women that has shattered lives and torn the fabric of societies around the world.
A billion women — one out of every three on the planet — will be raped or beaten sometime in their lifetime. That’s one billion moms, sisters, daughters, and friends violated, one billion lives shattered, one billion hearts broken, and one billion reasons to rise up and put an end to this violence.
On February 14, rallies around the world are giving a billion women, and those who love them, an opportunity to dance, speak out, and say, “Enough!” There are many ways to make a difference, but here in the United States we have a 32-year-old obligation that I’m focused on: Senate passage of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
This landmark international agreement affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world, including the rights not to be raped or beaten. But ours is one of only seven countries — including Iran, Sudan, and Somalia —that haven’t ratified this treaty.
This accord offers countries a practical blueprint to achieve progress for women and girls by calling on each ratifying country to overcome barriers of discrimination. Around the world it has been used to reduce sex trafficking and domestic abuse, provide access to education and vocational training, guarantee the right to vote, ensure the ability to work and own a business without discrimination, improve maternal health care, end forced marriage and child marriage, and ensure inheritance rights.
Although the Obama administration strongly supports its ratification and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has voted in favor of it twice with bipartisan support (in 1994 and 2002), it has never been brought to the Senate floor for a vote. It’s time to change that.
Why? Joining this convention would continue our nation’s proud bipartisan tradition of promoting and protecting human rights. Ratification requires two-thirds of the Senate to stand together. The good news is that in this time of tight budgets, it would cost us absolutely nothing.
Ratifying it would strengthen the United States as a global leader in standing up for women and girls around the world. Unfortunately today, our diplomats who speak out to end violence against women are too often told that since we are not part of the women’s treaty, we should mind our own business. Under the leadership of Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton, we ratified similar treaties on genocide, torture, and race.
Finally, bringing it to a full Senate vote would open up important conversations. While American women enjoy opportunities and status not available to most of the world’s women, few would dispute that more progress is needed. A Senate vote would provide an opportunity for a national dialogue on how to address persistent gaps in women’s full equality regarding closing the pay gap, reducing domestic violence, and stopping human trafficking.
This is something that I know my wife and daughter would love. So I’m speaking out to end violence against women. It will be the very best Valentine’s Day gift ever.
Don Kraus is the President and CEO of GlobalSolutions.org. Distributed via OtherWords.org.
As of January 26, based on the Librarian of Congress’s authority to “interpret” the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it’s illegal to unlock your cell phone and switch to a different service plan without permission from your current provider. This is just another example of an old problem. In all areas of our lives, we’re subject to “contracts” to which (in legal theory) we’re equal parties, but which in fact are boilerplate from the party with the real bargaining power.
Roderick Long, in “How Inequality Shapes Our Lives,” (C4SS, Jan. 9, 2013), describes the general phenomenon:
“Suppose you forget to pay your power bill … What happens? Your provider disconnects you, and you’ll probably have to pay an extra fee to get service reestablished. You also get a frowny face on your credit report. On the other hand, suppose that, for whatever reason (internet glitches, downed power lines after a storm, or who knows), you suffer a temporary interruption of service from your provider. Do they offer to reimburse you? Hell no. And there’s no easy way for you to put a frowny face on their credit report.”
The same principle applies to most contractual “partners” in our daily lives, such as landlords and employers. Our relationship with them is governed by contracts written by them, on terms primarily to our disadvantage, and with general clauses empowering them to change the terms at will — on a “take it or leave it” basis. “These aren’t merely cases of some people having more stuff than you do. They’re cases in which some people are systematically empowered to dictate the terms on which other people live, work, and trade.”
The employment contract is especially fundamental. Although in legal theory you’re an equal party to a contract by which you sell your labor to an employer, your de facto relationship amounts to a kinder, gentler version of the old master-servant relationship. In this, as in every other theoretically equal relationship, the party which can afford to walk away from the table dictates the terms of the contract.
The cultural reproduction apparatus of corporate state capitalism is heavily invested in producing a citizenry that sees this as natural and inevitable. If challenged, most people will argue that something called “economies of scale” require an efficiently run society administered by enormous, hierarchical institutions mandating such a one-sided relationship.
But in fact it’s neither natural nor inevitable. In every case, these unequal relationships result from the deliberate application of human power. In every case, Long argues, the state intervenes to limit competition between suppliers of capital, employers of labor, distributors of proprietary information, and landlords, so that workers’ bargaining power is reduced and they must accept a wage less than their full product as a condition for employment, and pay rents and prices far out of proportion to cost of production. In every case,
the state intervenes on the side of capitalists, landlords and employers, putting them in superior bargaining positions from which they can dictate terms of contract with workers and consumers.
Too many libertarians on the political and cultural Right instinctively identify with employers, landlords, and service providers on this issue. They are fundamentally wrong-headed to do so.
The proper position for any genuine advocate of freed markets is not to defend everything that’s called “property” or “contract,” but only justly acquired property and valid contracts. Contracts whose terms reflect systematic state intervention in the market on behalf of privileged classes are incompatible with genuine free market principles.
Our strategy on the free market Left should be to encourage everyone to look at the man behind the curtain, and to see through the corporate state’s claims to be natural and inevitable.
An important common thread running through our critique of all these unequal power relationships masquerading as contracts is the concept of the adhesion contract. The adhesion contract is any contract which binds unequal parties, and whose terms are dictated almost entirely by the stronger party at the expense of the weaker.
Opposition to adhesion contracts is based on the principle, central to contract law, of “meeting of minds.” How many of the contracts you sign in your daily life — EULAs, shrink-wrap or click-wrap contracts, credit card agreements, telephone service plans, website terms of service — are dense, lengthy boilerplate written up by the other side’s lawyers, which you perfunctorily check off or click without reading? And the company and its lawyers are fully aware that nobody reads those terms, or cares what they state, or has any intention of abiding by them.
It’s a long-standing moral principle that agreements made under duress are not binding. We need to adopt a far more critical attitude toward — to question the legitimacy of — both the so-called “contracts” that bind our daily lives, and the authority of the parties that claim our obedience and compliance. The system depends on willing acquiescence and obedience by the majority of its subjects. Kill off the little boss in your head that tells you to obey, and you kill the system.
Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org).