Law enforcement officers will be out in force over the Fourth of July weekend, on the lookout for motorists driving while impaired or otherwise violating traffic laws.
The California Highway Patrol’s “maximum enforcement period” began Wednesday at 6 p.m., and will continue through 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
“All available officers will be out on the roadways for enhanced enforcement efforts, and (will) be available to assist motorists in need,” said CHP Southern Division Chief Dan Bower.
Officers will look for motorists who are driving drunk, but will also focus on reducing problems caused by aggressive
drivers, Bower said.
“Aggressive drivers often commit multiple moving violations, in addition to speeding,” Bower said.
“This combination often results in needless traffic collisions, with serious injuries,” Bower said. “CHP’s goal is to eliminate this behavior through education and enforcement, ultimately saving lives.”
Funding for the increased enforcement program was provided by a grant from the state Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Other local police agencies are also using the grant to fund stepped up enforcement activities over the holiday.
“The Fourth of July weekend … means trips to the beach, pool parties, and barbecues,” the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, it could also mean drunk driving, traffic collisions, injuries and deaths.”
Authorities urged motorists to follow common-sense guidelines:
—designate a sober driver before leaving home, and give that person your keys;
—wear your seatbelt, as this is your best protection against an impaired or aggressive driver;
—use public transportation, if possible; and
—if you become impaired, don’t get behind the wheel.
“Impaired drivers place other drivers – and pedestrians – at risk of being involved in a traffic collision,” the LAPD said.
“Driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or higher is illegal in every state,” police said. “Call 911 if you see a possible drunk driver on the road.”
A lot of splashing was going on Tuesday at the newly renovated pool at Eugene A. Obregon Park in East Los Angeles, that re-opened in time to give some relief from this week’s sweltering summer heat wave.
“What a great way to kick off the summer—by celebrating the renovation of the Obregon Park Pool,” said Supervisor Gloria Molina, in whose district the park and pool are located.
“As we know, this pool is a vital community resource which provides healthy recreation. And, I can already see East L.A.’s very own Olympic hopefuls!”
As part of the day’s festivities, a number of youth participants in the park’s diving and synchronized swim classes demonstrated their water skills to the delight of onlookers.
Los Angeles County spent $3.6 million to renovate the 25-yard, six-lane pool built in 1969. Upgrades include an ADA-compliant pool building; family changing room; refurbished dressing rooms, showers and office, and a new pool lift.
The pool will be open for both recreational swim times, and swim instruction for all levels. Diving classes are also offered at the Obregon Park pool, located at 4021 E. First St., LA 90063. For more information about swim times and classes, call (323) 260-2377 or visit the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation page online at http://parks.lacounty.gov/
There are several other nearby county pools open to the public this summer, including:
—Atlantic Avenue Park Pool: 570 S. Atlantic Blvd., LA 90022. Call (323) 260-2341 for more information.
—City Terrace Park Pool: 1126 N. Hazard Ave, LA 90063. Call (323) 260-2376.
—Ruben Salazar Park Pool: 3864 Whittier Blvd., LA, 90023. Call (323) 260-2378.
Pool hours vary slightly from park to park but all of them are open M-F from 9:30 a.m. to 11:55 a.m. and from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Weekend hours are from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The pool at E. Obregon Park is also open M-W from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00p.m. and the City Terrace Park Pool Park pool is open Th-Sat from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The Ortiz family doesn’t remember the exact date it first went up, but matriarch Hermila Esparza Ortiz recalls her son didn’t ask permission to begin an elaborate mural located on the southern wall of their factory in East Los Angeles.
A few years ago, she and her late husband, Ramiro Ortiz Rosales (Sr.), returned from vacation and found a towering temple paying homage to the Mexican Chichen Itza pyramid had been painted on an exterior wall of La Fortaleza Inc., their tortilla factory on North Ford Boulevard.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: ‘La Fortaleza’ Significa ‘Familia’ en esta Tortillería
It seems it was not unusual for their oldest child David to surprise them with projects while they were away, Hermila told EGP. Today David is president of the family-owned business.
Over the years, the once vacant dirt lot with a heavily graffiti-marked wall has been transformed into something of a local landmark enjoyed by residents and commuters making the sharp turn off the Cesar Chavez exit of the 60 to 710 North freeway off-ramp.
“Indios Voladores de Papantla” (an ancient Mesoamerican ceremony still performed today), a woman making tortillas with a metate and comal (grinding stone and griddle), giant parrots, a UFO with an alien inside, and most recently an image of the God of Maize deity have been painted and a fountain installed at the location.
“Those were David’s ideas,” Hermila told EGP, jokingly adding he deserves all the credit.
The mural has gone up piece by piece over the last decade. David says he plans to expand the mural along the factory’s northern wall, where the 710-Freeway is being widened. He recalls how one year his sons spent Father’s Day plating bushes and plants to beautify the spot.
The mural’s beginnings were simple enough. Years ago, La Fortaleza had a graffiti problem, so the late Ramiro Sr. hired an artist to paint a mural along the Ford Boulevard side of the building to keep away vandals. It worked, but the southern wall continued to be hit by graffiti.
So David, with help from the factory’s employees, decided to create the image depicting the Chichen Itza temple, which today extends beyond the building’s roof. He found his inspiration during a trip to Cancun, Mexico, close to where the real temple is located.
“I am very proud of my ethnicity, I speak English and Spanish,” David told EGP. “Everyone has a chance, not like before,” he said, explaining he’s also proud of being American.
While East Los Angeles has a large concentration of Mexican immigrants, the mural has an educational component for multiple-generations of children who don’t have ties to Mexico and are unaware of their rich heritage, David said.
Ramiro Jr., the company’s vice president and David’s younger brother, says the graffiti stopped when David got involved.
“It adds to the community, I think they respect what he’s done back there,” Ramiro Jr. said. “It is our heritage. We are hard working people we have a long history. One of the greatest cultures ever was the Aztec culture and I think sometimes we forget that we come from a very distinguished background.”
They sometimes get the impression their third party inspectors see the mural as unprofessional, but Ramiro Jr. said “I think it’s a part of who were are, and of course, where we are.”
“People get off the freeway and yell, ‘I love it!’” David said.
The only complaint was taken care of years ago when a neighbor said the tortilla maker was too sexy, so he made his own tortilla maker to replace the original.
24-year-old Joseph Valdivia, an employee at La Fortaleza, grew up in the area and said the mural has been a part of the landscape for long as he can remember.
“It’s not something [people] see every day… There’s a spaceship on top of a tortilla factory!,” he explained, inviting people to come by and take a look.
The UFO is possibly the least stereotypical element of the mural in East LA, where Virgin Mary murals and Aztec Calendars are a more common theme. The UFO is made of an old metal machine and sits on the edge of the roof. La Fortaleza has engineered some of its own equipment, according to David.
The UFO is just one of several three-dimensional elements in the mural.
People often misunderstand it’s meaning, David said.
The alien and the UFO located near the temple are not meant to imply an alien civilization built the pyramids. “I say that’s nonsense, what the prehistoric cultures did is to be admired, and it rivals anything that is out there, the pyramids in Egypt or any other civilization,” Ramiro Jr. said.
There’s subtle political messaging, but it’s very subtle,” he explains.
The UFO element was added during the large immigration marches in downtown Los Angeles several years ago, he said. “Well, that’s an alien right? We’re all human beings,” David said, adding the term “illegal alien” is offensive.
They have the advantage of being a family-owned and run business that can set its own priorities and business atmosphere. For the Ortiz family, that means embracing their culture, not leaving it behind, and a willingness to work hard.
Four of the eight Ortiz children, sons and daughters of Mexican immigrants, currently run la Fortaleza. Their mother Hermila is from Jalisco, their father was from Nayarit. The couple met in the 1970s when they both worked at Ruiz Produce: Ramiro Sr. operated a small tortilla machine and Hermila was a cashier.
Ruiz Produce, at the time located at 1st Street and Gage in East LA was owned by Trinidad Rosales, who raised Ramiro Sr. as a single mother, according to the family.
“It was a small shop and they sold tamales, menudo, carnitas and tortillas to local residents,” Hermila said.
They moved twice as the demand for tortillas grew —to Whittier, and to Soto Street next to Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, buying out two failing family busineses (Guerrero and La Fortaleza) along the way — before buying the warehouse on Ford Boulevard where they’ve been headquartered for the last 15 years.
Their facility, where the historic Melmac Dishware sign still hangs above the silos, has been upgraded over the years.
While the Ortiz famiy did not choose the La Fortaleza name, which translates to “The Fortress” or “The Strength” they kept it because they liked it. It has taken on the meaning of “family” for them, according to Ramiro Jr.
La Fortaleza makes corn and flour tortillas, as well as tortilla chips. Ramiro Jr. estimates 250,000 bags of corn tortillas are made daily in the 24-hour facility. Corn tortillas are 80 percent of their products, though the company has also cooked up some unique creations for clients: Examples include bean, fish, garlic, Chia, nopal, chipotle and tomato basil flavored corn and flour tortillas.
“We are here to give our customer the best product possible, and our customer is the person who enjoys our product,” David said. “That’s what we are all working toward, to bring something to make people enjoy a meal—and that’s one of the great pleasures of life.
The factory has a small counter, manned by David’s uncle. However, because La Fortaleza caters almost exclusively to chain restaurants and wholesale distributors, they don’t really have a store, which is why Ramiro Sr. was never interested in using the factory’s walls for self-promotional murals, his sons said.
However, a flag with the La Fortaleza logo and Facebook symbols were recently added to the mural, reflecting a social media campaign launched by the company earlier this year. Other businesses in East Los Angeles are also trying to catch up with the use of social media, according to social media consultant Javier Guillen of goEastLos.
David says they care deeply for their 90 employees and are like a big family, even celebrating holidays together, such as the Guadalupe Torch procession, which in 2008 they had the honor of carry the traveling relic, David said.
He recalled how employees helped put out a fire that damaged part of their factory a few years ago, and how when his father passed away suddenly three years ago, the employees held a street procession with music, like they do in Mexico.
According to the family, their business’ success really comes down to keeping the labor intensive aspect of making traditional tortillas: cooking and grinding their own corn.
“I always tell them [my children] that they need to thank God that we are very blessed with work, and that it the most important thing: That we have work,” Hermila said, reflecting on how far the Ortiz family has come since first coming to the U.S.
“We never asked ourselves ‘when are we going to be rich?’ We always just wanted to work. And I tell them, do not be greedy, if it comes, good. It hasn’t come, but we have to be happy with what we have.”
Monterey Park residents for the second time have handily defeated a fire union backed ballot measure that if approved would have allowed the transfer of the city’s fire service operations over to the Los Angeles County Fire Dept.
On Tuesday, Measure FF was defeated 64.1% to 35.8%, according to city officials, who on Wednesday said that it was unlikely that the few remaining ballots to be counted would make much of a change in the final official vote count.
The defeat comes following an often-heated campaign that had both sides accusing each other of misinforming the public about the cost and impact the transfer would have on the city.
Measure FF would have amended the city’s municipal code to allow and direct the city council to negotiate a contract with the County to take over operation of Monterey Park’s fire department. The city is one of only a few small cities in the county that still runs its own fire department.
Backers of the measure, including the Monterey Park Firefighters Association, claimed the city would save $30 million over 10 years by transferring fire and ambulance service to the county, but opponents said the high cost of converting would significantly reduce that number, and the city would be left with an inferior level of service.
Councilman Peter Chan, who endorsed the measure along with councilmen Anthony Wong and Hans Liang, told EGP Wednesday that the election went the way he expected.
“The results are a reflection of the consensus that the residents want to keep their own fire department and ambulance services,” he said.
With accusations of scare tactics by both sides, Chan told EGP the city must now “heal the wounds” following the passionate campaign.
“Now that the election is over we need leave everything behind us and do what’s good for the city,” said Chan.
Residents voted against two similar measures 15 years ago that would have approved a transfer and funding for the move to the county. The July 2 Special Election cost the city $100,000.
Following a lengthy discussion on the pros and cons of contracting with an outside firm to pursue a possible sale of the city’s water system and water rights, that at times had city staff repeating information already given, Bell Gardens city council members voted to hold off on making a decision until their next council meeting.
The city’s aging water system has become a financial burden rather than an asset, according to City Manager Philip Wagner who told council members last week he thinks, “It’s time to seriously look at getting out of the water business.”
The city’s purchase of the water system that provides 30 percent of the city’s water was financed in the early 1990s using bonds. Additional bonds were later secured to fund improvements to the system, bringing the water system’s outstanding debt to about $6.1 million.
“I no longer believe it is an operation the city should be in,” Wagner told the council.
The debt service on the bonds is costing the city $593,000 a year, and that’s beginning to “burden the General Fund” which is already facing a $1.1 million deficit, Wagner said.
The city has not increased its rates for 19 years and state mandated costs and maintenance to the aging infrastructure led the city manager to recommend to the council that it either consider a “tremendous” raise in water rates to its customers or selling the system to an investor-owned utility company like the one that services the remaining 70 percent of the city’s water utility customers.
Bell Gardens staff recommended to the council that they approve a contract hiring a consulting firm to help the city determine the feasibility of selling off its water utility system and water rights. The agreement would also retain the team for three years to help in the sale of the system and rights separately or as a package, should the city decide to go in that direction.
The council heard a brief presentation by the potential consulting team, after which Mayor Pro Tem Sergio Infanzon asked whether this meant that the city had decided to sell the water system and rights, or whether the city had any other options.
“How objective can the process be when there’s a financial incentive to sell,” he asked.
Councilman Daniel Crespo expressed concern that if an outside company is brought in to take over the water system, it could potentially increase water rates to a level that some residents “cannot afford.”
But according to Wagner, they are eventually going to “have to look at raising rates because the cost for us to produce water is much more expensive than what we’re charging the consumer.”
Without a rate increase, the city would have to pay for maintenance required to upgrade the system using the city’s General Funds or face an increase in their overall liability.
The consulting team pointed out that they have never seen another system with 19 years of flat rates.
Councilwoman Priscilla Flores echoed Crespo’s concerns, and asked if there is a way to limit how much rates could be increased. The 30 percent of city residents, who get their water from the city-run utility and have not had a rate increase since 1994, are currently being subsidized by the other 70 percent of water customers, according to Wagner. The city also spends about $20,000 a month on maintenance on top of the $500,000 it pays annually on its bond debt, Wagner said.
“That’s a good part of our deficit,” he said. “So either way we will have to come back and address the water rates because it’s bleeding us.”
According to city documents, the sale of the system and rights is expected to generate enough money to pay off the outstanding debt, recoup the city’s investment and potentially repay a portion of subsidies previously paid by the General Fund. If approved, the analysis of the water system would be completed within six weeks.
Mayor Eric Garcetti concluded his first day in office Monday by meeting for three hours with constituents in the hopes of setting a tone for an open-door style during his administration.
Garcetti moved from one sparsely furnished office to another like a doctor meeting with patients, talking with about a dozen constituents and checking the pulse on a variety of issues that included a contentious mixed-use development in Boyle Heights, homelessness and potholes.
In one room, Garcetti listened as representatives of the Midnight Mission, a homeless services provider and shelter, said city officials should work with Los Angeles County officials more on the disproportionate number of homeless people in the city’s downtown area.
In another room, he provided a “Street Paving 101” lesson to 39-year-old Mario Bonilla of Panorama City who complained of a severe pothole in his street.
Garcetti explained the way in which the city prioritizes repairs, saying more expensive, severe potholes don’t get as much attention as milder damage that can still be salvaged. Garcetti added there is a proposal by Councilman Joe Buscaino to issue a $3 billion bond to pay for citywide street paving projects.
Garcetti then met with members of Comite de la Esperanza, a group looking to preserve Wyvernwood, a large apartment community in Boyle Heights with thousands of residents.
Garcetti told them they have a strong ally in Councilman Jose Huizar, who on Tuesday was appointed to lead the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee.
He described various options they have for negotiating with the developer, Fifteen Group, which is proposing to demolish the apartments to build new ones, as well as construct retail and office space.
An aide said the people who met with Garcetti submitted requests and were picked randomly.
Garcetti told reporters who crowded into the mayor’s quarters Monday and observed some of the meetings, that he plans to hold these “office hours” once a month, having conducted them every two weeks as a councilman for the 13th District.
“I want people to know I’ll be accessible,” Garcetti said. “You don’t have to be a campaign donor. You don’t have to be a member of an association. We’re all equal in this city.”
In other business this week, the mayor’s office on Wednesday announced that former Councilwoman Jan Perry will oversee the creation of the city’s new Economic Development Department, the mayor’s office.
Garcetti appointed Perry as the interim general manager of the department, which is being created to fill a void left by the state-mandated dissolution of the Community Redevelopment Agency.
No recommendation was made as to who will permanently lead the new office, but Perry is being charged with getting it “up and running” and firing on “eight cylinders,” said mayoral spokesman Yusef Robb.
Garcetti said Perry’s work “revitalizing downtown and South Los Angeles” are examples of the “kind of leadership and expertise” he wants to make the department “into a true economic engine” for Los Angeles.
Perry said she shares Garcetti’s “passion for revitalizing neighborhoods and improving the quality of life” for Los Angeles residents.
After a failed bid for mayor, Perry endorsed Garcetti over Wendy Greuel in their run-off battle.
In an effort to increase transparency as part of a set of good governance reforms undertaken since nearly being disincorporated in 2011, the city of Vernon has redesigned its website to make information more accessible to the public and to improve its relationship with surrounding communities.
City Manager Mark Whitworth told city council members earlier this week that he had instructed the city’s IT department to construct a website that would be more user-friendly for anyone wanting information about the city.
“In Vernon its sometimes hard to think beyond the city’s 5.5 radius, but this is a website that is approachable to anyone across the globe,” Vernon spokesperson Fred MacFarlane said.
Jared Miller, one of the city’s IT programmers who helped build the new website, said they needed to improve efficiency to keep up with the increase in activity on the city’s website.
“The old website wasn’t built for the new Vernon and we needed one that was,” Miller said.
The city saved money by having Vernon staff build the new site rather than contracting out for those services, according to staff. The new website allows more customizing and connects to other city software, which allows each city department to manage its own information without relying on IT or a webmaster.
It also allows users to easily search and find links to important documents and information needed to conduct businesses in the industrial city. New pages include information about public meetings, including dates, contact information, member bios, agendas and minutes.
Miller said they are working to add a tracking portal and a way for the public to sign up for electronic emergency alerts and online bill payments.
The city clerk told the council he hopes they would eventually use the website to store documents electronically, which have been piling up in boxes for years.
President and CEO of the Vernon Chamber of Commerce Marisa Olguin told the council that she was excited to see the city “providing access and resources to the community and for other companies that want to move into the city.
“This is a complete overhaul of our city,” she said. “Now they are able to see the cost benefits and the efficiencies that are here.”
John Van De Kamp, Vernon’s reform monitor, said “enormous” progress has been made in the past six months on the recommendations made by him and Sen. Kevin De Leon in response to accusations of wrongdoing by former city officials.
“As an outsider, someone who wants to deal with the city and find out about it, its terrific,” he said, referring to the improved website.
He told city council members he was curious to hear what they though about the changes, but as is often the case, council members expressed no public opinion during the meeting.
Adding video to the website would be a tremendous asset for the city, said MacFarlane, explaining it could be used to convey messages to the public.
“Vernon, [with it] having been in the news a lot in the past two years, this portal is your window out to the world and everybody’s else’s window into it,” MacFarlane said.
The new website can be viewed at www.cityofvernon.org.
Children in families that depend on school breakfast and lunch programs during the regular school year could go without enough to eat this summer, but a federally subsidized meal program could make a big difference for students in Montebello Unified and other school districts, including Los Angeles Unified (LAUSD).
Now through July 29 or Aug. 2, depending on location, MUSD will provide breakfast and lunch to low-income children in the district, which includes Montebello, Bell Gardens and Commerce, as part of the Seamless Summer Option food service program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The program is aimed at reducing food insecurity — a term referring to the experience of people who at various times during the month are not sure where their next meal will come from — and is open to children under 18 years of age.
No paper work is required to participate in the program, according to MUSD Superintendent Cleve Pell.
Some schools will serve both breakfast and lunch, others just lunch.
Schools serving both include Rosewood Park Elementary in Commerce, and in Montebello, Greenwood Elementary and Montebello Intermediate School. Breakfast is served between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Lunch is served at all 18 MUSD school sites between 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.
“As one of the youngest of seven siblings who was raised by a single mother, my brothers and sisters and I benefited greatly from the Summer Food Program,” MUSD Board of Education President Hector Chacon said in a statement announcing the program. “I understand first-hand how programs such as these play a pivotal role in feeding school children whose families are struggling financially during these tough economic times.”
For more information on this program, contact MUSD Nutrition Services at (323) 887-7978.
To learn about LAUSD’s summer food program, go to http://home.lausd.net/ or call (213) 241-2993.
MUSD dates, locations and serving sites:
Now – July 29, 2013
Bell Gardens High School, 6119 Agra Street, Bell Gardens, CA 90201
Montebello High School, 2100 W. Cleveland Avenue, Montebello, CA 90640
Schurr High School, 820 Wilcox Avenue, Montebello, CA 90640
Applied Technology Center, 1200 Mines Avenue, Montebello, CA 90640
Rosewood Park School, 2352 S. Commerce Way, Commerce, CA 90040
*Breakfast also served
Greenwood Elementary School, 900 S. Greenwood Avenue, Montebello, CA 90640
*Breakfast also served
Vail High School, 1230 S. Vail Avenue, Montebello, CA 90640
Now – August 2, 2013
Bell Gardens Elementary School, 5620 Quinn Street, Bell Gardens, CA 90201
Cesar Chavez Elementary School, 6139 Loveland Street, Bell Gardens, CA 90201
Montebello Park Elementary School, 6300 Northside Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90022
Suva Elementary School, 6740 E. Suva Street, Bell Gardens, CA 90201
Wilcox Elementary School, 816 Donna Way, Montebello, CA 90640
Winter Gardens Elementary School, 1277 S. Clela Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90022
Bell Gardens Intermediate School, 5841 Live Oak Street, Bell Gardens, CA 90201
Eastmont Intermediate School, 400 S. Bradshaw Avenue, Montebello, CA 90640
La Merced Intermediate School, 215 E. Avenida de La Merced, Montebello, CA 90640
Montebello Intermediate School, 1600 Whittier Boulevard, Montebello, CA 90640
*Breakfast also served
Suva Intermediate School, 6660 E. Suva Street, Bell Gardens, CA 90201
A battery recycling plant in Vernon that was temporarily shut down by state environmental officials can remain open while administrative hearings about the company’s operation continue, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled on Tuesday.
The Exide Technologies plant was shut down April 24 in response to an order from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, citing health risks from arsenic emissions.
The company, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of lead-acid batteries, then filed for bankruptcy protection, saying it needed the supply of lead from the recycling plant to maintain its profitability.
On June 16, citing irreparable harm to the company, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin ruled that the plant could reopen. At a follow-up hearing on Tuesday, Lavin issued a preliminary injunction, upholding the initial ruling and allowing the plant to continue operating – noting that the company had made reductions in pollution generated at the facility.
The company employs about 130 people at the Vernon facility.
Some residents and elected officials representing the surrounding area have blasted the operation, contending it put people’s health at risk.
Last month, the county Board of Supervisors instructed its attorneys to prepare a report on legal steps the county could take in an effort to prevent toxic emissions from the plant.
Supervisor Gloria Molina, who led the effort, said the county will continue pushing to ensure that pollution from the plant is controlled.
“I recognize Exide’s due process rights, however, Exide has failed to comply with its obligations to operate a safe facility,” Molina said.
“Today’s ruling isn’t the end of the story – we will ensure that the regulatory agencies maintain their vigilance, and to protect the public’s health and safety, we will continue to explore all of our legal options,” she said. “It is my hope that as administrative actions continue, the authorities will uphold their order to shut down Exide for good.”
The company, which says it has reduced emissions by more than 70 percent since 2010, plans to work with the community to resolve the issue, according to an Exide statement issued last month.
The agency ordered Exide to find ways to reduce that risk, suggested installing wet electrostatic precipitators and set a deadline of Sept. 1 for a report back.
There’ll be lobbying in Sacramento and around the state this week to try to stop a bill (AB 1407) that critics say is a telecoms industry attempt to take away the Public Utility Commission’s authority to adopt a program that meets the needs of communities. According to advocates for LifeLine, the discounted phone service for seniors, the disabled and others, the CPUC has been doing fine and moving toward making mobile phones part of the program. According to the Utility Action Network’s organizing director Ana Montes, that’s just what the body should be doing.
“We say the Commission has been doing its job for the first time in a long time,” she declared. “They’re moving it along at a pace that we feel is appropriate.”
Some people have been trying to label the federal LifeLine program “Obamaphones,” after uncovering what they say is duplication and waste in the program. Defenders say the charges are overblown and that LifeLine phones are invaluable in low-income communities.
Priya Sawheny, who works with disadvantaged residents of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District as organizer, Central City SRO Collaborative, said she’s against any interference with a program that puts phones in the hands of people who need them for more than just medical emergencies.
“Not having a phone can mean the difference between life and death,” she said. “I certainly don’t think those are the parameters of LifeLine. It definitely extends to, you know, getting in touch with your family and trying to get a job, because those are all parts of moving on. This is a very tough community to live in.”
Ana Montes said the attacks on LifeLine stem from a big effort by some companies to market mobile phones to low-income communities and, she said, the system in effect didn’t properly track who was actually subscribing to the phones.
“There were some issues. They weren’t as bad as it’s being touted,” she declared. “And some of the stories we’ve heard are so inflated; they’re just not true.”
Montes praised CPUC Commissioner Catherine Sandoval and said there’s no need to take LifeLines out of the Commission’s control.
“What we’re seeing in California is, we’re seeing a Commissioner who is actually going out and collecting input from consumers as she directs this proceeding on what a California wireless LifeLine program should look like,” Montes stated.
California is considering creating a program more robust than the federal LifeLIne wireless program, requiring carriers to offer more minutes and access to local 911 service.