Buscan Solucionar Brecha entre las Autopistas 710 y 210

March 1, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Funcionarios de la Autoridad de Transportación Metropolitana (MTA) del Condado de Los Ángeles el 24 de febrero dijeron que la agencia espera a finales de este año ponerle un fin a un debate de décadas acerca de cómo cerrar la brecha entre la autopista Long Beach (710) y Foothill (210)

Metro anunció que ha completado una larga fase de investigación sobre la congestión del tráfico en las autopistas cercanas y los caminos creados por la brecha, que se extiende desde Alhambra, donde termina la autopista 710, hasta Pasadena. La fase de alcance anterior también reunió datos sobre los patrones de tráfico y el uso de transporte público en el área del proyecto, que fue ampliado en comparación a estudios anteriores.

A finales de 1990, el estado estaba a punto de construir una carretera para cerrar la brecha cuando obtuvo la aprobación federal de Caltrans para un proyecto que luego fue derrotado en última instancia por una demanda, de acuerdo con los funcionarios de Metro.

Frank Quan, el director ejecutivo de Metro para los programas de las carreteras, djio que la agencia está considerando una amplia gama de opciones para aliviar los problemas causados por la brecha, no sólo una nueva carretera elevada. Él dijo que la agencia también está considerando una carretera subterránea, expansión de trenes y de bus, o una opción de doble de carretera y vía de ferrocarril. Quan dijo que mejorar las carreteras existente en la zona hace nada si las otras alternativas no están sobre la mesa.

“Estamos dando un nuevo enfoque, a partir de este con una pizarra limpia, estamos reorganizando el propósito y las necesidades de este proyecto”, dijo Quan.

Metro comenzará su nueva análisis alternativa y la fase de evaluación del medio amiente con dos reuniones de una serie esta semana.

La reunión de hoy, 1 de marzo, será de 6 a 8 pm en Ramona Hall Community Center, ubicada en 4580 N Figueroa St., Los Ángeles 90065.

Otra reunión, con información idéntica, será el sábado, 3 de marzo, y se llevará a cabo de 10 am a mediodía en la Biblioteca Pública del Este de Los Ángeles, ubicada en 4837 E 3rd St., Los Ángeles 90022.

Ambos lugares son accesibles usando transporte público. Niños son bienvenidos en las reuniones, Metro ofrecerá actividades para ellos.

Los residentes que no puedan asistir pueden ver la reunión en la Internet en la página web www.ustream.tv/channel/sr710envstudy.

Para obtener más información visite http://www.metro.net/projects/sr-710-conversations/upcoming-meetings/

Touring Teachers Learn About East L.A. History

March 1, 2012 by · 8 Comments 

When you ask tourists what they want to see when visiting Los Angeles, it’s likely the first sites that come to mind are the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Beverly Hills, Disneyland and other well-known attractions. Two weeks ago, however, teachers from around the country and from abroad had the opportunity to explore and learn a little about the history and development of a place in Los Angeles that is not mentioned in tourist brochures: unincorporated East Los Angeles.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Maestros Conocen la Historia del Este de Los Ángeles

The teachers were part of the Small Schools Network— an organization of educators from different academic areas working with students from diverse ethnic communities—which emphasizes that education is the most effective means to combat “prejudice with compassion, indifference with participation, and myth and misinformation with knowledge.”

Ofelia Esparza shared anecdotes about her work at the former Self Help Graphics & Art headquarters. (EGP photo by Marvelia Alpizar)

The Eastside Heritage Consortium and the Survey of Important Places in East LA (SIP-ELA), as part of an effort to eliminate the negative images of gang violence and blight that have long plagued the area, sponsored the tour.

The tour started off at Animo Jackie Robinson High School, where teachers watched videos on events related to the history of East Los Angeles, particularly during the vibrant and tumultuous 1960’s and 70s. They also listened to a presentation by filmmaker and educator Manuel Huerta, and Laura Dominguez, a historic preservation student at USC, who spoke about the sites included in the tour that they called “a heritage trail of ELA.”

“A tour like this has never been done in East L.A”, said Huerta. “There is a lot of history of activism and resistance that is particular to East L.A. There is also a huge artistic movement that has to do with music, muralism.”

The visit included places such as Laguna Park, which was renamed Ruben Salazar Park in honor of the Latino journalist who was killed by a Sheriff’s tear gas projectile while covering the Chicano Moratorium, an anti-war and civil rights protest on August 29, 1970.

Painter Paul Botello explains the meaning behind his mural “Wall that talks, sings and shouts.” (EGP photo by Marvelia Alpizar)

There, they observed a mural painted by Paul Botello, titled “Wall that talks, sings and shouts,” and listened to the explanation of it’s meaning by the artist.

“This mural in particular was inspired by the culture of my community,” said Botello. “I wanted to be able to educate people and share a positive image of a community that sometimes doesn’t have a positive image,” he said of his colorful artwork.

Other sites visited were the Maravilla Handball Court, the oldest court of its type in the County of Los Angeles that still stands, and the former headquarters of Self Help Graphics where Ofelia Esparza delighted audiences with anecdotes about her artwork and the history of the site.

“I’ve been here, but a long time ago, when I was a child,” said Rita Cortez, a religion teacher at Notre Dame High school in San Jose, CA. “I didn’t know anything about the history we have discovered. I think it’s important to the people because it gives them a sense of pride and identity.”

During the trip participants were able to see places such as the Anthony Quinn Library, built in the same place once occupied by the Academy Award winning actor’s home and the historic Golden Gate Theatre. They also visited the Whittier Boulevard Arch, a frequent site in movies and the entrance to a shopping district that years ago was the place for car cruising, and the Eddie Heredia Boxing Club, the gym where former boxing champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Oscar De La Hoya trained as a teenager.

“By doing academic projects, such projects also become agents of change, that is, by promoting life stories, cultural stories, we are doing social work while being part of the community, which is the most important thing,” said Dr. Yves Solis Nicot, academic coordinator of the Prepa Ibero, in Mexico City. “I think that this is also a learning experience we take with us, because it is a way to explain to a teenager in Mexico that it is no longer just important to send money [back to Mexico from the US], but that there is also a cultural link to be maintained that is as important as sending money back.”

The journey that lasted over two hours ended with a visit to the Mercado de Los Angeles, also known as “The Mercadito.” A mix of restaurants, stores and entertainers, the location gave the touring teachers an opportunity to enjoy the taste of Mexican food, as well as a little of the culture and traditions of Mexico still observed in Los Angeles.

“It was once in a lifetime chance to see something, a side of this part of Los Angeles that people don’t see,” said Molly Schen, co-director of the Facing History and Ourselves’ Small Schools Network.” I think people are afraid to go to East Los Angeles, but it’s a culturally vibrant place with a history we need to know.”

To get more information about the East L.A. heritage trail tour, contact Manuel Huerta at elaheritagetours@gmail.com

An earlier version of this story misspelled Molly Shen’s name.

Montebello Alumni, Parent Chosen for School Board Seat

March 1, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

A 36-year old parent and computer engineer was picked out of a field of 17 candidates to become the newest member of the Montebello Unified School District Board of Education Tuesday afternoon.

Paul Montoya will take over the seat left vacant by the death of board member Marcella Calderon. He will serve until Nov. 2013, at which point he will be required to run for election to serve out the remainder of Calderon’s four year term. Montoya was officially sworn in Wednesday morning. A ceremonial swearing-in will be held Thursday at 7pm in the district board’s meeting chamber.

The school board, saying it would be cost prohibitive to hold an election estimated to cost $150,000, decided to appoint a provisional member to the board.

Paul Montoya

Had the board members not appointed someone by March 1, an election would have been required, as it was in 1999 when Tom Calderon, the husband of the late Marcella Calderon, left his seat to move on to a position in the State Assembly.

Members of the community have 30 days from the date that a new board member is selected to petition for an election to be held.

At an interview session held this past Saturday, the 17 applicants who went up for the position displayed varying degrees of qualifications and political experience. The pool included former board members, volunteers in the PTA and other parent committees, MUSD employees, and those who have background in the political field or have worked for local politicians.

During his interview, Montoya said he has no “political aspirations.” He attended school in the district, volunteers in the surrounding community, and is the new parent of two young children.

“I have roots in this community, so I want to make sure my children have the best opportunities available to them,” said Montoya, who attended Joseph Gascon Elementary School, Eastmont Intermediate, and Schurr High School.

He feels a board member’s job is to provide oversight, as well as to serve as a bridge between parents and the district. “I think it’s important to have parents on this board that are able to transmit the values of community to the rest of the organization,” he said.

Montoya said he is concerned about students who are interested in school when they are young, but seem to lose motivation as they became teenagers. “It’s sad to see apathy in some of the students… Is it the schools, the teachers? … There are a lot of different things that come into it, but I think that if we provide the structure, the guidelines for them to expand and excel, and to not be limited in their dreams… I think it’s something this district can do effectively,” he said, pointing to the new Applied Technology Center high school which he called a “bold move” that was spearheaded by former board member Marcella Calderon.

While Montoya has not been directly involved in district activities, he says he watched his own parents get involved while he attended schools in the district.

Several of the board members appeared impressed by Montoya, but said they did not know him personally. For Board President Hector Chacon who nominated Montoya, this was a good thing,

“This individual said we’re here to serve, we’re here to advocate for students. I have no political aspiration. I’m just a new parent. I just want to be here to help,” said Chacon, who said during the meeting that he would not vote for a former board member.

Meanwhile, Board Member Gerri Guzman, who cast the only no vote against Montoya’s appointment, said, “I don’t know him, I’m sorry,” only to find out too late that he is the son of Elena Montoya, whom she knows as an actively involved parent.

When it dawned on her, Guzman jokingly said to Montoya’s mother, who was sitting in the audience, “How rare of you not to say anything.”

Board Member David Vela has met Montoya personally in a different context and like Chacon, also cast him as a representative for parents.

“This individual has been involved in the Montebello Unified, East LA area for years, in particular the [Joseph Gascon Elementary School] community,” Vela said. “He has also been a volunteer in the community around Eastmont, so as my day job working for another elected official, I was able to meet this person… I thought at the end of the day it’s a parent that cares about the children.”

Each of the applicants were asked four questions on Saturday: Why they want to serve on the school board, what they think is the mission of the board, what they know about the district, and what they could contribute if they became a member of the board.

Montoya said he felt that even if parents did their best to get involved, their efforts would be “limited as far as how much you can do by yourself,” whereas becoming a member of the school board would allow someone like him to do more.

Montoya also said that through his IT job with the Los Angeles County, he has gained experience as a public servant, witnessing “first hand the value of what we can provide to the community at large.”

Activists Eye ‘Crown Jewel’ for L.A.’s Urban Renewal

March 1, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

It’s contaminated, but they want it. The activists who fought back developers for the creation of the Rio de Los Ángeles State Park and the Los Angeles Historic State Park have their eyes set on a “crown jewel” of the LA River which a developer is currently interested in purchasing.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Activistas Fijan su Mirada en la ‘Joya’ para la Renovación Urbana de Los Ángeles

Anahuak Youth Sports Association and The City Project, long-time members of the Coalition for a State Park at Taylor Yard, and others want the parcel of land, which needs millions of dollars in remediation, to become part of the open space along the Los Angeles River.

It’s called Parcel G2 and is comprised of 44 acres currently owned by Union Pacific Railroad, and is located on the other side of the train tracks immediately adjacent to the Rio de Los Ángeles, not far from the new Sonia Sotomayor high school in Glassell Park.

The G-2 parcel is located west of the train tracks just on the other side of the Rio de Los Ángeles State Park in Glassell Park. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

The site on Kerr Street was a former rail operating facility and the soil and groundwater are contaminated from decades of rail use. The land is part of an ongoing Coastal Conservancy feasibility study for future habitat restoration, water quality remediation, flood hazard mitigation, wetlands restoration, and passive recreation uses, according to The LA River Project.

The developer, however, has entered a purchase option agreement with Union Pacific Railroad, with the intention of developing the land zoned for industrial use, The LA River Project states on their website.

“Given that the site’s severe access constraints and its proximity to the park, the school, and the river would make developing anything other than open space very difficult, some have speculated that they plan to purchase the land, then sell it to the state in order to realize a substantial, unearned profit. This purchase option expires at the end of June 2012,” the website states.

Aerial view of Taylor Yard (Google Maps)

Sean Woods, California State Parks Superintendent for the Los Angeles Sector, sees the parcel as fertile land for urban renewal.

“This piece is now up for sale, its in contention right now. It’s 44 acres known as Parcel G 2 and many of us consider this the crown jewel in the acquisition of the future development of the river,” Woods told a group touring the Rio de Los Angeles Park on Feb. 25.

The parcel would contribute to a 100-acre riverfront park in a community that is park-poor, income poor and disproportionately Latino, according to Robert Garcia, founding director and counsel of The City Project.

Garcia recently submitted a comment on the draft Feasibility Study for the Taylor Yard G2 Parcel on behalf of Anahuak Youth Sports Association and The City Project.

According to Jeanne M. Garcia, public information officer with California Dept. of Toxic Substances Control, the “Feasibility Study is an evaluation of the alternatives for remediating any identified contamination (soil, groundwater, gas soil, etc),” which, when complete, would become “part of the Remedial Action Plan. At that point it would be “subject to notifications and public review and comments,” Garcia told EGP in an e-mail,

However, in his comment submitted Feb. 24, The City Project’s Robert Garcia said the Feasibility Study fails to provide a complete and accurate accounting of the extensive planning process to restore and revitalize the Los Angeles River, or the community’s consistent vision for G 2 for open space and recreation along the Los Angeles River.

“[The] Feasibility Study fails to take into consideration the full impact of the site’s contamination on human health and the environment and the various planning efforts for this important section of the River,” Garcia wrote.

Woods and Garcia admit the odds don’t look good but they, and community members, are not deterred.

“We don’t get involved unless it looks hopeless,” Garcia said, noting they got involved in the fight for Los Angeles Historic State Park when there was only 30-days left in its escrow to a developer. “We don’t start with the question ‘what’s the odds of winning?’ Loosing is not an option.”

“We’re going to put up a fight. The work we’ve done to date, for this to go to industrial development would just be a travesty,” Woods said.

However, remediation of Parcel G2 would cost upwards of $70 million, Woods said.

A current market value analysis taking into account accessing the location and contamination has been completed, and stakeholders and interested agencies are trying to cobble together money, like the Water Quality Bond money, to try to purchase the land, Woods said.

“My hope would be that the railroad would just give the contaminated land to the state and just walk away, take a huge tax break and we’ll figure it out later,” Woods said. Garcia added a land swap could also be a possibility.

The City of Los Angeles is park poor. It has just a little more than 30,000 acres of parks and open space and with a population of almost 4 million people, there is an average of 6.1 acres of parkland for every 1,000 residents, according to The Los Angeles Revitalization Master Plan.

To submit a comment on the Feasability Study, email Yvette LaDuke at yladuke@dtsc.ca.gov or miskarou@dtsc.ca.gov. Letters can be sent to Michel Iskarous, Project Manager, Department of Toxic Substances Control, 9211 Oakdale Ave., Chatsworth, California 91311. Or fax your comment to (818) 717-6557. The draft and revised studies are available on the DTSC website: www.dtsc.ca.gov or http://www.envirostor.dtsc.ca.gov/public/profile_report.asp?global_id=19470006

Monument is Reminder of Shameful Time in US History

March 1, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A monument installed Feb. 27 at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles commemorates Mexican-American U.S. citizens who were deported during the Great Depression era.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOLMonumento es un Recordatorio de un Capítulo Vergonzoso en la Historia de EE.UU.

The unveiling ceremony on Sunday, attended by civic leaders and elected official, included a formal apology from the State of California and the County of Los Angeles for their roles in the forced “repatriation” to Mexico of about two million Mexicans and Mexican-American citizens between 1929 and 1944.

A survivor of repatriation with her family viewing the monument.

“We were Americans citizens and there was no reason for us to be driven out of our country,” said Emilia Castaneda, who participated in the ceremony.

“We had to experience many difficulties and hardships to overcome this unjust expulsion,” Castaneda added.

“This mass exodus of our people during the Depression era was indeed a very dark period in our history — as a community — and as a nation,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said during the unveiling ceremony.

Solis said the reasons for the mass deportation of 80 years ago sound eerily similar to the rhetoric attacking undocumented immigrants heard today. She called the monument an important reminder:

“Especially now, as the rhetoric surrounding modern-day immigrants has become increasingly demonizing — and hauntingly similar to that of the Depression era. … You know that in tough economic times vulnerable communities are the easiest target for exploitation,” Solis said.

Several speakers noted that the stated purpose of the Mexican Repatriation Program was to ensure jobs for “real Americans.”

Former congressman and LA Plaza Board Chair Esteban Torres gave perhaps some of the most moving remarks during the ceremony. Torres recalled how his father was caught up in a raid while working at a mine in Miami New Mexico and was sent to Mexico. “I never saw him again,” said Torres, who was just six-years-old when his father was deported. He went on to tell the stories of several other family members, who like his father were illegally deported, but never told why.

The event, hosted by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and LA Plaza, included a panel of experts which drew comparisons between the repatriation with current views on immigrants.

“This remembrance has powerful lessons for today in the contemporary context of states and cities that have policies to terrorize the peaceful residents who live in our country,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF.

“This event today is a formal apology from California to all those who were illegally deported and forced to emigrate to Mexico,” said retired Sen. Joseph Dunn, whose legislation, SB 670, was passed in 2005 and resulted in the state offering a formal apology and ordering a monument be made.

Supervisor Gloria Molina stressed the importance of the event as also recognizing a little studied chapter in history.

“Not only are we celebrating the apology by the state but LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes is also bringing to the fore a tragic piece of our history that was swept under the rug and cannot be found in our textbooks,” she said. LA Plaza is located across from Olvera Street, the site of one of the largest raids of the era.

Approximately 1.2 million of the people deported during the Mexican Repatriation program were born in the U.S., had U.S. citizens or legal residents, and not “illegal aliens” as they were labeled.

Francisco Valderrama, a University of California Los Angeles professor and co-author with Raymond Rodriguez of “A Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930’s”, explained the Mexican community was the “scapegoat” of the economic difficulties at the time.

In California alone, about 400,000 U.S. citizens or legal residents of Mexican origin were, as Dunn said passionately, “illegally deported” to Mexico.

The monument has been erected in LA Plaza’s courtyard, and reads: “The state of California presents an apology to these people who were victims of this ‘repatriation’ program for the fundamental violations of their basic freedoms and legal rights committed during the period of illegal deportation and forced migration.”

L.A. Police Commission Cuts Unlicensed Drivers Some Slack

March 1, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Police Commission Tuesday approved a new policy for impounding the vehicles of unlicensed drivers, allowing offenders who have valid identification, car registration and proof of insurance to avoid a mandatory 30-day impound.

Under the policy, which was approved on a 4-1 vote, drivers who are at fault in an accident, or have prior convictions for driving unlicensed, will not qualify for a shortened impound.

Police Chief Charlie Beck, who proposed the policy with the backing of immigrants’ rights groups and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said the policy change was an attempt to eliminate confusion by officers in the field over two conflicting laws regarding when to impound a vehicle and for how long.

The LAPD impounded about 30,000 cars last year. About 85 percent of those were for violations of a state vehicle code that mandates a 30-day impound.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley sent a letter to the commission Tuesday stating that the policy violates state law and would make the city vulnerable to lawsuits.

A Feb. 11 memo by the state Legislative Council, which provides legal advice to state legislators, also questioned its legality.

But a deputy to City Attorney Carmen Trutanich told the commission that the city’s top prosecutor believes the proposed policy change is legal.

Deputy City Attorney Heather Aubrey told the commissioners during a brief exchange on the subject. “Both sections (of the state vehicle code) are discretionary impound statutes. Both are legally available to the department.”

During a news conference following the vote, Beck refuted criticism that the change encourages illegal immigrants to drive on city streets.

“This is not a free pass,” Beck said, adding that all drivers will be cited for infractions whether their vehicles are impounded or not and regardless of how long.

“This is just an attempt to get safer drivers in Los Angeles and an attempt to recognize that this (mandatory 30-day impound) is an extreme hardship on some individuals,” Beck said. “If the people that are suffering those hardships do the right thing, get insurance, they have ID, they don’t cause an accident, then their car will be impounded for less time.”

When asked about Cooley’s letter, Beck responded, “The district attorney is not my attorney.”
Commissioner Alan Skobin cast the lone dissenting vote. Citing a recent AAA study, Skobin said unlicensed drivers are involved in 5 percent of fatal accidents and are nine times more likely to be involved in a hit-and-run than licensed drivers.

“What that means is there’s a strong public safety interest in keeping the vehicles of the unlicensed driver off the streets,” Skobin said.

The commission did tweak Beck’s plan slightly to also ban unlicensed drivers who have existing warrants for traffic violations from being able to get shorter impound times.

The vote was opposed by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing the department’s more than 9,000 officers.

“The rank-and-file is not happy,” LAPPL President Tyler Izen said.

“They think there are laws on the books that unlicensed drivers should have their cars impounded for 30 days.”

Izen said he doubts the new policy will increase the number of unlicensed drivers who get insurance.
“It remains a public safety issue for us,” he said.

The Police League filed a formal complaint last week with the department’s employee relations administrator, which kept the door open for the union to sue in a bid to block the policy. Izen did not rule out a lawsuit, but said the union’s board of directors would discuss the issue and the union’s options.

The City Council can use its authority to overrule the commission’s actions by a two-thirds majority vote by March 9.

Meanwhile, Beck reiterated his opinion Tuesday that the state should provide an alternate driver’s license to undocumented immigrants that would prove that they have passed physical and written tests to drive.

“I think that makes a lot of sense,” Beck said. “Why wouldn’t we want to ensure that they have personal responsibility when they operate motor vehicles, that they have the right training? That will make the road safer.”

Beck said last week that undocumented immigrants have no incentive to wait for or cooperate with authorities after a car crash, leaving legal citizens with damaged cars and pricey repairs. And no license often means no insurance, a problem in itself, he said.

“We have to deal with reality. Unlicensed drivers are an issue,” Beck said.

Unlicensed immigrant drivers have created what Beck called, “a de facto class of drivers outside of the law.” He said the state’s current policy has not reduced the number of undocumented immigrants driving without licenses, and that it is time to re-examine the issue.

Likewise, LA County Sheriff Lee Baca also said last week that he supports issuing drivers license to undocumented immigrants. In years past he supported a driver’s license with an “I” or something similar to identify its bearer as an undocumented immigrant, and to prevent it from being used to pass through airport security checkpoints.

Immigrant rights groups were opposed to such a license, seeing it as a way to stigmatize the recipient, and as a tool for discrimination.

Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, who is running for City Council, announced plans last week to try again to get a bill passed to create a driver’s license category for undocumented immigrants. Cedillo has introduced similar bills before that were vetoed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

EGP staff writers contributed to this story.

Time to Approve Drivers Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

March 1, 2012 by · 4 Comments 

Prior to 1960 all motorists were allowed to apply for a driver’s license and they were given one if they met all the requirements.

This fact allowed police to identify drivers stopped for traffic infractions, found to be driving under the influence or without insurance or without a driver’s license. It also made it possible for those drivers to obtain auto insurance.

This newspaper has repeatedly endorsed the passage of legislation to allow undocumented residents to receive a California driver’s license if they pass all the tests and requirements needed to obtain one. As we have said again and again, it’s in the interest of safety that we believe all California drivers should be licensed.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and LA County Sheriff Lee Baca among other officials have been frustrated by the fact that many drivers in accidents cannot always be identified, nor have they been able to stop people from driving without a license.

You can’t register a car or force a driver to get adequate insurance if the owner of the vehicle does not have a valid driver’s license. This makes little sense to us, since rather than improving public safety on our roads, the prohibition is actually causing unlicensed drivers out of fear of losing their car to violate more laws, such as fleeing the scene of an accident, event when not at fault.

The issue has been so vilified by those who are either anti- or pro-illegal immigrants, that it has become nearly impossible to discuss the policy without raising outrage.

Given that reality, we applaud those brave officials who have nonetheless dared address reality, and speak in favor of allowing undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license as a matter of public safety.

An example of why its good to have all drivers licensed and all autos registered occurred on Tuesday night, when during a police pursuit of a driver who failed to stop ensued. Police were able to identify the car’s owner and address because the car was registered. They were able to identify the driver who didn’t own the car and get a name and address from his family. The pursuit ended with no violence whatsoever.

The idea of having two different kinds of licenses so that an undocumented immigrant can’t use it for identity purposes, such as one with “I” to identify someone as an immigrant, is sure to lead to racial or immigrant profiling, which should not be tolerated.

Allowing undocumented, unlicensed drivers who are undocumented to get a California driver’s license is a step toward safer roads, and one we are all for.

Why the WRD Is Taking Legal Action

March 1, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

One of the fundamental tenets of life is that ‘you can’t get something for nothing.’ It’s a basic rule that everyone learns in kindergarten and most people adhere. It sets the parameters for how we conduct business. Unfortunately, there are always some challenges to this timeless adage, even at the literal expense of others, including neighbors.

Last week, the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (WRD) sought a court injunction to prevent a handful of local cities from further pumping groundwater because they have refused to pay their water bills, some for up to 10 consecutive months, and they now owe more than $5.3 million. The consequence of their withholding payment has shifted the financial burden of sustaining the region’s groundwater supply to the remaining paying cities from WRD’s service area that includes 43 cities and nearly 4 million residents. Without WRD maintaining the local groundwater supply, these 43 cities in southeast Los Angeles County would be forced to purchase imported water that is 3-4 times more expensive than groundwater.

One councilman in the City of Downey, Mario Guerra, recently stated publicly that his city will not pay the bills they owe because his city is among those challenging the process by which water rates were set as not purportedly complying with Prop 218. However, in written publications, the California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office has referred to the way Prop 218 applies to water assessments as a gray area. So instead of waiting for a final resolution from the courts, these handful of cities have snubbed case law and taken matters into their own hands by refusing to pay their bills. In fact, Mr. Guerra’s political spin is demanding that all money for which they purchased water dating back to 2006 be returned. Mr. Guerra is demanding something for nothing.

Ironically, the cities of Downey, Cerritos and Signal Hill have continued to collect money from customers in their respective cities despite their calculated decision to withhold payment to WRD for the very same water they use for everyday life. In fact, these cities have even turned off the water on customers for failure to pay their water bills. So should these cities be treated any differently than the way in which they treat their own customers? Moreover, should these cities be allowed to threaten the water supply for nearly 4 million people?

WRD believes these cities should not be treated any differently than anyone else. Consequently, after months of amicable requests to make payment on their respective water bills, WRD exercised its remaining enforcement remedies, as defined in the California Water Code §60339, that allows WRD to file for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against further pumping for any operator delinquent in the payment of a replenishment assessment.

Of course, the cities will still have access to other sources of water and residents will still have flowing faucets. The big difference, however, is that it will be at a significant increase in the cost of water to customers who never stopped paying their fair share, because unlike these handful of cities, their respective customers know that you can’t get something for nothing.

Albert Robles is president of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California Board of Directors.

Soaking the Customer

March 1, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Ruby Williams, a 78-year-old Aqua Pennsylvania customer, got stuck with a $40,000 water bill because of a serious leak in the pipes under her home in Bristol Township, Pennsylvania. After her situation garnered national media attention, the private company agreed to reduce her bill to a few hundred dollars.

Likewise, the Price family of Stallings, North Carolina recently had their sewage service cut off by Aqua North Carolina despite having paid an overdue bill. The company demanded $1,000 to restore it — hundreds of dollars more than the actual cost to do the work. Again, thanks to bad publicity and public outrage, Aqua backed down.

It’s not just American consumers that feel the pinch as our municipal water systems change from public to private hands — and it’s not just that Aqua America is one bad actor, either. Private interests worldwide increasingly control our water. Too often, customers are getting a raw deal.

Nestlé, Veolia, and Suez Environnement are just a few of the multinational corporations that either provide water services to our homes, bottle our communities’ spring water, or otherwise control the vast amounts of water needed to power our industries. All of us, like Ruby Williams and the Price family, will pay the price — unless we stop allowing them to turn our water into a commodity that they can exploit, and instead force our governments to do their jobs and protect our water resources.

Many economists, market-oriented environmentalists, and think tanks say we should let the market decide when it comes to water provision. They say that the higher the market value of water becomes, the more likely it is that people will use it wisely. That’s a thorny proposition for a public resource that has no substitution and that is essential for human life. As consumers have seen, market forces can create untenable burdens by driving up water rates.

At the most extreme, companies cornering the water market will price out the poor. As the planet’s population (7 billion and counting) and industrial development increases, entire freshwater lakes disappear, groundwater resources are drawn down, and technologies — including chemicals used in fossil fuel extraction — pollute water supplies. It doesn’t take a brilliant economist to recognize that water will become more valuable. That means the companies that control it will become richer.
Nearly 1 billion people worldwide already lack access to clean water and sanitation. Their numbers will increase.

It’s wrong to let the private sector drive water policy. But it’s already beginning to happen. This trend will be on full display in France at the World Water Forum, which begins March 12. Many of the same companies that increasingly control our water will be holding a corporate trade show disguised as a multi-stakeholder forum to create solutions for providing water to the world’s poor. Letting the private sector take the lead on these efforts is like letting the fox guard the henhouse.

After all, as consumers time and time again have experienced, corporations in the water business are accountable primarily to their shareholders, not the people they serve or the localities in which they operate. Conversely, public officials can be voted out if their constituents don’t like the services rendered.

All people deserve access to an adequate supply of clean water. Profits reaped from water services should be reinvested in the local community, not pocketed by shareholders half a world away. It’s in the public interest.

Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch. www.foodandwaterwatch.org Distributed via OtherWords.org.

Cantwell Sacred Heart to Play Pacific Hills for CIF 4A Title

March 1, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School will make its first-ever appearance in a CIF Southern Section boys basketball championship game Thursday when the Cardinals play top-seeded Pacific Hills for the 4A title at 3 p.m. at the Anaheim Convention Center.

The fourth-seeded Cardinals (28-4) used a third-quarter scoring onslaught that stunned No. 2 Ontario Christian last Friday in their 82-62 4A semifinal victory. Cantwell outscored Ontario Christian, 35-16, turning a 36-35 halftime lead into a 71-51 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Jose Estrada led the outburst by scoring 25 of his game-high 50 points in the third, including a stretch in which he scored 15 unanswered points. The 6-2 junior guard, who also had 10 rebounds, is averaging 30 points per game.

Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School guard Jose Estrada drives to the basket in last Friday’s CIF Southern Section 4A semifinal. The Cardinals defeated Ontario Christian to advance to the championship game against Pacific Hills at the Anaheim Convention Center. (EGP Photo by Mario Villegas)

The Cardinals also got 13 points from Joe Covarrubias and 11 from Jacob Alaniz, and some stellar defensive play from Francisco Gutierrez in the post. Alaniz ignited Cantwell with two 3-pointers at the outset of the third quarter.

Coach George Zedan also got the Cardinals going with a halftime outburst of his own. “I was really upset in the first half because we weren’t playing smart basketball, so I let them have it,” said the first-year coach who has taken a team that was 2-25 last season to the finals this year. “They really responded.”

Cantwell can ill-afford to play poorly during any stretch of its game with Pacific Hills. The Bruins’ only losses have been to some of the top teams in the state in Long Beach Poly, Bishop Montgomery and Windward. They are led by guards Brandon Taylor and Marcus Jackson.

“They’re a very good team with some very talented players who are being recruited,” Zedan said. “We’re going to be playing on a college-sized court, so it’s going to be a little different, but we’ll be ready for the challenge.”

Pacific Hills has scored playoff wins against Nipomo, Costa Mesa, St. Bonaventure and Campbell Hall. Besides Ontario Christian, Cantwell has defeated Loma Linda Academy, St. Anthony and Viewpoint.

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