L.A. Finance Dept. Keeps List of ‘Illegal Pot Shops’ Quiet

June 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

A list of more than 800 potentially illegal medical marijuana dispensaries was not shared with the Los Angeles Police Department and other officials responsible for shutting down such shops, city officials said during a Los Angeles City Council committee meeting Monday.

The city Office of Finance has a list of 972 medical marijuana dispensaries registered to pay taxes to the city, but the police department and other city officials who reported to the Budget and Finance Committee meeting Monday appeared not to be using the list for enforcement purposes.

An overwhelming majority of the businesses registered with the city could be illegal under Proposition D, approved by voters last year. The measure limited legal dispensaries to a list of 135 that registered with the city prior to September 2007 and placed restrictions on their operation.

Authorities have shut down Club 58 in Highland Park.  The dispensary was located next to a women’s health center.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Authorities have shut down Club 58 in Highland Park. The dispensary was located next to a women’s health center. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The city has the names and addresses of the dispensaries, and since the measure went into effect, the city has collected $2.1 million from medical dispensaries that renewed their tax certificates, finance officials told the Budget and Finance Committee.

“Okay, we have a significant disconnect here guys,” said Krekorian, after verifying with finance officials that of the 972 business tax certificates on file, no more than 135 could possibly be for legal dispensaries.

Krekorian then asked finance officials if they could “provide your list of names and addresses to the Police Department and the City Attorney’s Office so that they can compare it against the Prop D compliant list and begin enforcing against the more than 800 operations that are illegal?”

“I’m struggling to deal with how it is that we’re not staying more ahead of the curve in the enforcement of Prop D,” Krekorian said.

In February, EGP reported that the city attorney was at the time pursuing legal action against more than 70 marijuana dispensary operators it believed to be illegal. Confusion over who could legally operate a marijuana dispensary and where it could be located, seemed to allow many new operators to fly under the radar, reported EGP staff writer Jacqueline Garcia.

Resale permits issued by the State Board of Equalization further confused the situation, wrongly leading some dispensary operators, and the property owners who leased them space, to believe that they could open for business.

“There is no way to track when dispensaries open,” Fredy Ceja, spokesperson for Councilman Gil Cedillo told EGP in February. “Illegal dispensaries are usually observed by staff observation or driven by community complaints,” he said, when asked if the councilman was aware of the “Club 58” dispensary that had opened in Highland Park next to women’s health clinic, and whether it was legal?

Authorities have since shut down Club 58.

Senior Lead Officer John Pedroza previously told EGP that LAPD officers visit suspicious dispensaries and if they see something wrong they follow up. “Distribution is still against federal law but state laws don’t know what to do,” Pedroza said.

Four months later, it appears not much has changed in how the illegal operators come to light.

LAPD Capt. Anne Clark previously told the panel the number of illegal dispensaries is “forever a moving target.”

The police department is relying on senior lead officers to do counts of the potentially illegal dispensaries within their beats, according to Clark.

Building and Safety officials also told the panel they had been unsure if they could get access to the Finance Office’s list of businesses registered as pot shops, so it would be difficult for them to respond to a request to map the location of potentially illegal dispensaries.

The Finance Office’s list of registered medical marijuana dispensaries is “publicly available information,” Councilman Bob Blumenfield, another member of the committee, pointed out.

“It’s stuff that ultimately we want to see up on the web with all of our open data movement, so I don’t see any legal reason why you can’t just turn around and hand it to him,” Blumenfield said.

The committee Monday officially instructed the Finance Office to forward the list to the Police Department and the City Attorney’s Office.

Councilman Mike Bonin, who sits on the committee, also requested a copy of the list, while Krekorian said he plans to post it on his website.

The panel also recommended the Finance, Police and Information Technology Agency officials explore the idea of “crowd-sourcing,” which would involve asking the public to help identify dispensaries in their communities, potentially using the city’s existing 311 phone app.

The city needs all the help it can get, Krekorian said.

“We’re playing whack-a-mole here,” he said.

The Budget and Finance Committee’s recommendations will now go to the full City Council for a vote.

Breves de la Comunidad

June 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Boyle Heights

El miércoles el concejal José Huizar anunció una recompensa de $50.000 para obtener información que lleve al regreso seguro del niño Edwin Vargas, 2, de Boyle Heights supuestamente secuestrado por su padre Abraham Vargas, 27, quien no tenía custodia del menor.

La policía dijo que el niño fue llevado de la casa de la madre en 1000 Lorena St el 23 de mayo por Vargas, quien habló de tomar al niño a México. Vargas fue descrito como hispano, de 5 pies y 6 pulgadas y 180  libras. Edwin es de unos 2 metros de alto, con cabello y ojos castaños.

El 6 de junio, la policía consiguió una pista de que un hombre que encajaba con la descripción de Vargas fue visto cerca de la calle Cuarta y Soto en una moto de estilo BMX. Se cree que se ha afeitado la cabeza y crecido una barba de chivo.

Quien tenga más información sobre su paradero se le pide llame al (323) 342-8900.

 

Este de Los Ángeles

El domingo por la mañana los bomberos apagaron un fuego en una oficina de una tienda 99 Cents dijo un supervisor. El fuego fue reportado a las 3:02 a.m. en la tienda localizada en el 3611 East Cesar Chávez Ave, dijo el oficial de LAPD, Rey Dong.

Los primeros bomberos en llegar le dijeron a los despachadores que vieron fuego que salía de la estructura, dijo Dong. Alrededor de 20 a 25 bomberos apagaron las llamas para las 3:33 a.m.. El caso esta en investigación dijo Dong.

 

Los Ángeles

Desde el 2006, la asociación entre Kaiser Permanente Operación Splash y el Departamento de Recreación y Parques de la Ciudad de Los Ángeles ha proporcionado a más de 100,000 niños y sus familias con el acceso a las temporadas extendidas de natación, clases de natación gratuitas y entrenamiento de salvavidas ‘júnior’.

Este verano, la Operación Splash volverá a llegar a más de 15.000 niños y sus familias. Este año, Operación Splash presta apoyo a 46 piscinas en la ciudad de Los Ángeles, incluyendo piscinas en el Distrito 1 en Glassell Park y Highland Park y del Distrito 14 en la preparatoria Franklin y Boyle Heights.

Para mas información sobre estas piscinas llame (323) 906-7953 o escriba a citywide.aquatics@lacity.org

Children Injured By Falling Tree

June 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

 Four children were taken to the hospital Sunday with minor injuries they suffered when a tree branch fell on them at a Montecito Heights church, authorities said.

It happened about 2:05 p.m. at 3170 N. Pyrites Ave., said Katherine Main of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

One child’s injury was considered more serious than the other three and that victim was taken to a hospital by paramedics, while the other three were taken to a hospital via basic life support ambulance crews, Main said.

An online search showed the address of the incident to be that of the Iglesia Cristiana Filadelfia.

Commerce Commercial Fire

June 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

One person was injured June 15 in a fire at a commercial structure in Commerce that slowed traffic on the adjacent Santa Ana (5) Freeway.

The fire was reported at 12:08 p.m. at 5901 Telegraph Road, according to a dispatcher with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

It was knocked down by 12:32 p.m., the dispatcher said.

The unidentified victim was taken to a hospital for treatment of unspecified injuries, he said.

The blaze was visible from the Santa Ana Freeway, causing some slowing of traffic, according to the CHP.

Gatto Proposes Hit-and-Run Alert System

June 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, proposed last week the creation of a statewide “yellow alert” system — modeled after the Amber Alerts for abducted children  — to help catch hit-and-run drivers.

Assembly Bill 47 calls for law enforcement agencies to use the Emergency Alert System to circulate bulletins with descriptions of vehicles involved in a hit-and-run collisions that result in deaths or serious injuries.

“The public is almost always needed to catch those who leave fellow citizens dying on the side of the road, and AB 47 will allow us to do so promptly, before the perpetrator can get away and cover up the evidence,” Gatto said.

Nationwide, less than half of all hit-and-run offenders are caught and according to Gatto, the rate falls to about 20 percent in Los Angeles.

In Denver, a “Medina Alert” was created in 2012 in the memory of Jose Medina who died in a hit-and-run. Of 17 cases in which Medina Alerts were issued, 13 hit-and-run cases were solved, officials said. The system is now being instituted across Colorado.

The Los Angeles City Council voted last month in favor of a resolution to back state legislation that would create such alerts for hit-and-runs.

“We will no longer tolerate these heinous crimes, these cowardly acts,” the resolution’s author, Councilman Mitch Englander, said when the council voted.

State Finds Exide Permit Application Lacking

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An operating-permit application submitted to state regulators by the Exide battery-recycling plant in Vernon was deemed to be deficient Tuesday, and company officials must amend the application within 30 days or potentially lose their ability to handle hazardous materials at the site.

The deficiency notice from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control is the latest trouble to arise for the Exide plant, which has been under fire from state and local regulators for more than a year. DTSC also sent the company deficiency notices in 2011 and 2012.

“Exide Technologies has had three chances to submit a complete permit application that demonstrates the company can safely operate and close the facility, and each time Exide has fallen short,” DTSC Acting Director Miriam Barcellona Ingenito said.

Thomas Strang, vice president of environmental health and safety at Exide, said the company will amend its application.

“Exide is committed to working collaboratively with the department to provide the additional information required to complete the permit application on a timely basis,” Strang said.

DTSC came under heavy criticism last year when it revealed that the battery recycling plant has been operating under a temporary permit for 32 years, and is the only facility in the state not fully permitted. The department has stepped up enforcement of the plant amid concerns that emissions of arsenic and lead from the plant have created a health crisis for people living or working near the site.

Located at 2700 S. Indiana St., Exide is one of only two lead-acid battery recycling plants west of the Rockies. In operation since 1922, the plant recycled 23,000 to 41,000 batteries daily until it closed in mid-March to install equipment upgrades aimed at reducing air emissions to meet state and local requirements.

Under pressure from state regulators and neighboring communities, Exide recently appointed Strang to help lead the installation of the emission-control equipment, and named Charles Giesige as the company’s new vice president of recycling operations. Strang and Giesige “will develop policies and programs to enhance environmental compliance,” according to Exide.

According to the DTSC, Exide’s permit application failed to provide cost estimates to ensure the company could safely clean the site after it closed. It also failed to describe the amount of lead-contaminated waste that will need to be removed from the site if the factory is shuttered permanently, either of its own accord or by state regulators, in the future.

The application also did not include a safety assessment of waste tanks — including some that could overflow during an earthquake — and failed to describe all rooms where waste is handled, according to the state.

The battery plant has been targeted by area air-quality regulators for more than a year. Testing earlier this year found elevated levels of lead in the yards of 39 homes near the plant. The plant was forced to temporarily shut down last year due to arsenic emissions, and the AQMD sued the company in January alleging numerous air quality violations.

In May, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that the plant violated federal limits on lead emissions on more than 30 occasions between September and April, even as the company was closed for construction. Exide officials said recent emission troubles were the result of the construction going on at the site to upgrade the facility.

According to Exide, its operations are “critical” to the environment because battery recycling keeps toxic materials out of landfills, which promotes environmental sustainability. Used batteries that are not recycled become hazardous waste, the company said.

Exide said it will spend more than $5 million on upgrades at the Vernon facility over the next two years, bringing its total investment since 2010 to more than $20 million.

LAUSD Board Urged to Restore Funding

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Los Angeles Unified School District teachers and union officials urged the district Tuesday to restore salary cuts and positions as part of its proposed $6.8 billion budget for the upcoming school year.

The Board of Education heard from 30 speakers ahead of a vote expected next week on the 2014-15 budget proposed by Superintendent John Deasy.

Before the meeting began, United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher said the district falls below the national per-student average for nurses, librarians and social workers.

“The superintendent’s budget does not do nearly enough to restore those key positions,” Fletcher said at a rally outside LAUSD headquarters.

District officials are in contract negotiations with UTLA, and two weeks ago, offered a 2 percent raise for all teachers for the current school year, with another 2 percent increase next year.

The union, which represents 35,000 teachers and other staff, rejected the proposal. It has been seeking a 17.6 percent salary increase over several years.

Deasy declined to comment because of ongoing negotiations with the union, but he told CBS2 the district is trying to support UTLA and other labor partners.

About 50 people attended the UTLA rally waving signs that read, “Fight for the schools L.A. students deserve.”

Alex Caputo-Pearl, UTLA president-elect, said teachers need to fight for a fair budget.

“Right now we need to fight for the schools that L.A. students deserve, the class-size reduction we deserve, the staffing we deserve, the direct service that students deserve and the restoration and pay raise that educators deserve,” Caputo-Pearl said.

On Sunday, California legislators approved the new state budget for fiscal 2014-15, which included $61 billion for K-12 — a big increase from previous years — as well as an additional $4.75 under the Local Control Funding Formula. The new budget raises, on average, per-pupil spending by about 10%.

Teachers and UTLA officials want state-funding increases to be used to restore previous cuts to salary and staff.

A vote on the district’s budget is set for next Tuesday.

Eastside Senator to Head State Senate

June 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, was officially elected this week president pro tem of the state Senate, becoming the first Latino to hold the post since 1883.

De Leon is scheduled to succeed Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, on Oct. 15. Steinberg announced his support of de Leon months ago, and this week’s vote was widely viewed as formality.

The son of a single mother from Mexico, de León grew up in the Logan Heights barrio in San Diego.

Ultimately, it was his work as a union organizer for the California Teachers Assoc. that landed him in Los Angeles.

De León, accepting the position, said he has a tough job ahead him. He said one of main focuses will restoring the faith of the public in its leaders, particularly the senate which has been rocked by corruption scandals involving three of his Democratic colleagues, two who are facing criminal charges and one member who has already been convicted.

He called creating good paying jobs a top priority.

“As always, job one must be jobs,” de Leon said. “That means continuing to provide fiscal stability, promote innovation, invest in our physical and digital infrastructure and remove barriers to growth. It also means continuing California’s global leadership in demonstrating that economic growth and environmental protection are mutually dependent, not exclusive.

“But most of all, we must also make sure we are continuing to invest in the primary jobs engine of the innovation economy — public education,” he said.

Mayor Eric Garcetti hailed de Leon as a “champion for local communities and neighborhoods throughout California.”

“I know Senator de Leon and I will work closely together to deliver L.A.’s fair share from Sacramento, creating good jobs and improving communities along the L.A. River and beyond,” Garcetti said.

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) said “Senator de León will fight hard for education, the environment, civil rights, and working families. He called de León a “principled leader of great integrity,” who is perfect for the job.”

What Democrats Can Learn from Cantor’s Loss

June 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

David Brat, the man who unexpectedly defeated Eric Cantor in a recent Republican primary, is an ideologue. That should be a source of encouragement for candidates on the populist left — but not for the reasons you might think.

Brat is a professor whose college chair is endowed with libertarian money and ran a campaign rife with tea-party slogans. Yet it would be wrong to minimize Brat’s victory, like Hillary Clinton did, as solely the result of his across-the-board opposition to immigration reform. That theory deflects attention from the populist side of Brat’s campaign, thereby minimizing a movement that presents a potential threat to Clinton and a number of other Democrats.

Brat made Cantor’s Wall Street ties a key campaign theme by tapping into a frustration with corrupt Washington politics that spans the political spectrum. “I’m an economist. I’m pro-business. I’m pro-big business making profits,” Brat declared on the campaign trail. “But what I’m absolutely against is big business in bed with big government. And that’s the problem.”

04-cantor-and-company-out-of-business-cartoon

It’s no wonder that reporter Ryan Lizza described Brat in The New Yorker as “the Elizabeth Warren of the right.” When Brat says “the Republican Party has been paying way too much attention to Wall Street and not enough attention to Main Street,” he echoes the Massachusetts senator’s theme that “the system is rigged for powerful interests and against working families”— and the argument progressive Democrats are making about their party’s dominant wing.

That’s why Brat’s candidacy doesn’t belong in the standard tea-party basket. Cantor more closely fit this mold, with his fiery tea party-like rhetoric belying the fact that he was very much part of the Beltway elite, a Republican apparatchik, and a friend of the corporate class.

When Brat called Cantor out — “the crooks up on Wall Street and some of the big banks…they didn’t go to jail. They are on Eric’s Rolodex” — the underdog garnered enough votes to win a race against a top dog.

His mix of messages comes as no a surprise to people like me who track polling data on economic issues. It’s been clear for years that anti-corporate populism appeals to voters across the political spectrum.

Inside-the-Beltway consensus thinking tends to dismiss voices on both the left and the right as unimportant to the political process. The mythical “truly undecided centrist voter” — that legendary creature situated precisely halfway between the Republican and Democratic parties on key issues — has led the political class to ignore the electoral power of ideological voices.

Many Democrats are making the mistake of embracing the same pro-corporate positions as their Republican opponents while losing touch with what’s happening back at home.

Far-right media personalities, including Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, gave Brat a tremendous leg up among conservative-populist true believers, stoking their enthusiasm and fueling both organizational efforts and turnout.

The left has its voices, too, and insurgent Democratic politicians shouldn’t be reluctant to rely on them just because they’re afraid that the “in crowd” in Washington will marginalize them. As Brat’s victory shows, distancing yourself from the in crowd can pay off.

Ideology has gotten a bad name from members of both parties who would rather push a Washington-corporate consensus than have a real debate on the issues and principles that should drive our nation’s decision-making.

What will happen if Republicans like Brat, with their anti-immigrant populism, face off against Democrats like Elizabeth Warren imbued with a populism grounded in economic justice? We might finally have a real debate about how to break the corporate stranglehold on politics and the economy.

 

Richard J. Eskow is a fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future and the host of The Zero Hour, a nationally syndicated radio show. Distribited via Otherwords.org.

 

Blame Cantor, Not Immigration

June 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Talk about being kicked to the curb. A little-known, under-financed tea party challenger crushed seven-term Congressman and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in an unusual primary loss.

As Washington insiders struggled to make sense of the Virginia Republican’s stunning political upset, they seized on the fact that Cantor’s opponent had run on opposition to the GOP leader’s supposed support for “amnesty.” Many journalists and pundits rushed to declare that Cantor lost because of his support for immigration reform. Therefore, they concluded, immigration reform is dead.

Not so fast. Cantor didn’t lose because he supported immigration reform. Cantor lost because of his inaction on immigration reform, plus several strategic errors. His defeat can teach the Republican Party a good lesson — if it’s willing to face facts.

Cantor never became a strong supporter of immigration reform, and certainly didn’t distinguish himself as a leader on the issue. He voted against the DREAM Act, which would have helped young undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children become citizens. As majority leader, he blocked votes on even minor immigration bills.

Sure, Cantor talked about the need for reform. But it was just talk. Voters probably decided they’d had enough of him talking out of both sides of his mouth on this issue and others, and that’s why they booted him out of office.

Polls show that voters in Cantor’s district support immigration reform. In a survey by Public Policy Polling, 72 percent of voters in his district said they supported immigration reform. A strong majority (84 percent) said they wanted Congress to fix immigration this year. Other polls by both liberal and conservative groups found similar results. So Cantor can’t blame his loss on the immigration issue.

In fact, if Cantor had shown more leadership on immigration, he might not have suffered a resounding loss to David Brat in the primary. Other Republicans who are bigger supporters of immigration reform won their primaries. For example, Senator Lindsey Graham easily defeated his challengers in South Carolina. Graham is one of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” who crafted an immigration reform bill last year.

If it wasn’t really immigration, why did Cantor lose? It’s no mystery. Cantor lost because he ran a lousy campaign and was out of touch with his district. He failed to take his opponent seriously until late in the race, which was a big mistake. Tending to party business all over the country, he spent big bucks on steak houses, charter flights, and luxury hotels while his opponent built a grassroots movement.

By contrast, Cantor rarely went to his district much and avoided Town Halls. One poll found that 63 percent of voters in his district disapproved of his job performance.

Cantor’s loss doesn’t mean that immigration reform is dead. At most, it may only be dead for now. So many Americans of all political affiliations support reform that it’s only a matter of time before it happens. The problem for Republicans is that the longer they let the issue drag on, the more it will hurt them with voters.

True, Cantor’s opponent is no doubt excited that he won on an anti-immigrant platform. However, this one House race doesn’t provide a successful roadmap for the national GOP.

Until Republicans become willing to team up with Democrats on immigration, they’re doomed to looking at the White House from the outside.

“Pain can be a good teaching tool sometimes,” Mario H. Lopez, a Republican and the Hispanic Leadership Fund’s executive director, told the Associated Press. “It may take another White House beatdown before some folks understand what kind of cliff they’re walking over.”

Lopez is right. No candidate can win a national election without Latino voters and independent voters — and both of these groups back immigration reform.

If Eric Cantor wants to understand his loss, he should take a good look in the mirror. His primary results were a vote against him, not against immigration reform. The sooner House Republicans accept this truth, the better off their party and the country will be.

 

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City. Distributed via OtherWords.org.

 

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