State Agencies Banned From Contributing Info to Feds’ Ethnic, Religious Registries

October 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

A new law authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens that prevents California agencies from sharing certain data with the federal government has been signed into law by Gov. Brown.

Information that could be used to compile a registry based on religion, national origin or ethnicity, is not to be shared with any federal agency under the California Religious Freedom Act (Senate Bill 31).

Lara’s bill included an urgency clause which means the bill became effective immediately upon the governor signing.

Lara said he introduced the measure in December 2016 in response to Pres. Trump’s call for a national registry of Muslim Americans as a candidate and after his election.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) authored bill that prohibits state agencies from providing information that could be used to track Muslims and other groups. (EGP Archive Photo)

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) authored bill that prohibits state agencies from providing information that could be used to track Muslims and other groups. (EGP Archive Photo)

The California Legislature passed the Act nearly unanimously with just two dissenting votes. It was supported by a diverse coalition of more than 200 groups and individuals.

State and local agencies are banned from using agency money, equipment, or other resources to help create government programs designed to compile information about a religion, national origin or ethnicity. Except under specified circumstances, law enforcement agencies in the state are prohibited from collecting information about an individual’s religious beliefs or affiliations

State or local agencies can, however, compile aggregate, non-personal information about religion, national origin, or ethnicity, which they can exchange with other local, state, or federal agencies.

Gov. Signs Bill to Move Up California Primary

October 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

California residents could find themselves playing a greater role in the next presidential election, with the governor signing a bill by a Bell Gardens legislator that moves the state’s primary

elections to early March.

Dubbed the Prime Time Primary Act, the legislation by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, moves California’s primary elections to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in March. That means the next presidential primary election will be held March 3, 2020.

“The Prime Time Primary puts California voters in the front seat in choosing our next president and will change our elections for the better,” Lara said.

Backers of the return to an earlier vote said the state’s June primary effectively diluted the state’s national impact on the presidential nominations process, even though California has 19.4 million registered voters, more than any other state.

Legislador De Bell Gardens Presenta Proyecto de Programa de Salud

February 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Ante la posible cancelación de la Ley de Cuidado Asequible de la Salud (ACA), conocida como Obamacare, un senador hispano de California presentó el 17 de febrero un proyecto de ley para un mercado de seguros de salud para todos los residentes del estado.

El demócrata Ricardo Lara de Bell Gardens, presentó la iniciativa “California Saludable” que le permitiría al estado negociar con las aseguradoras y empresas de servicios para obtener precios favorables para los usuarios, incluidos los adultos indocumentados.

“California Saludable proporciona seguro a cada uno porque cada uno tiene el derecho al servicio de salud”, aseguró Lara al anunciar la iniciativa SB 562.

“Trump y los republicanos no pueden escoger a los ganadores y perdedores de la atención médica, y nunca llegaremos al 100% de atención médica en California, a menos que nosotros mismos lo lideremos”, dijo.

La propuesta presentada conjuntamente con la senadora demócrata de San Diego Toni Atkins busca que “cada residente de California tenga un plan (de salud) y más opciones”.

Según el sistema que propone el proyecto, cada usuario podría elegir su doctor y se busca controlar los copagos y evitar los deducibles elevados.

Los legisladores anunciaron que en las próximas semanas estarán ofreciendo más detalles de cómo funcionaría el programa.

“Necesitamos tener esta conversación ahora mientras cientos de miles de personas están manifestándose en apoyo del cuidado de la salud”, dijo Lara, quien fue autor de la iniciativa “Salud para todos los niños” (SB4), sancionada el año pasado por el gobernador Jerry Brown.

A raíz de la SB4, en el proyecto de presupuesto 2017-18 se incluyen 2,795 millones de dólares para ofrecer servicios de salud a 185,000 niños independientemente de su estatus de inmigración.

Nueva Legislatura de California Anuncia Iniciativas a Favor de Inmigrantes

December 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Con la instalación del nuevo cuerpo legislativo de California el 6 de diciembre, el presidente encargado del Senado y el presidente de la Asamblea, ambos hispanos, anunciaron “el compromiso del estado para proteger a su población inmigrante”.

Los demócratas Kevin de León, al frente del Senado y Anthony Rendón, a la cabeza de la Asamblea, discutieron en conferencia de prensa la posición legislativa estatal para enfrentar las promesas electorales del presidente electo Donald Trump en materia migratoria.

“California nunca respaldará a aquellos que con socavar pretenden disminuir nuestra prosperidad o privar nuestra gente de los derechos humanos fundamentales”, dijo de León.

“Nos negamos a regresar a la política de chivo expiatorio, de persecución con hostilidades religiosas, raciales y étnicas, haciendo eco de los días oscuros y divisorios de la Proposición 187”, agregó el legislador.

En un aguerrido discurso de oposición al presidente electo, Rendón aseguró que “tenemos que luchar” contra las iniciativas presidenciales de Trump.

“En este momento creo que nuestra nación se enfrenta a otra gran amenaza existencial y una amenaza para el progreso que hemos logrado”, dijo el presidente de la Asamblea reelegido hoy.

Una de las medidas presentadas busca disponer mayores recursos para que los inmigrantes indocumentados cuentan con defensa legal para sus casos, según explicó de León.

“También vamos a presentar una medida para parar en seco toda la colaboración de las agencias policiacas locales y estatales con los agentes policiacos a nivel federal”, agregó el líder del Senado.

Con la nominación por parte del gobernador Jerry Brown de otro importante líder hispano, el representante federal Xavier Becerra como fiscal general del estado, muchos lo ven como el abanderado de la resistencia californiana contra las posibles futuras medidas presidenciales.

Al aceptar la nominación, el congresista nacido en San Diego de padres inmigrantes aseguró que “California en este momento está por delante del país cuando se trata de energía limpia, tratamiento de sentido común para los inmigrantes, seguridad de salud real y mucho más”.

El senador demócrata de Bell Gardens, Ricardo Lara, presentó tres iniciativas de ley a favor de los inmigrantes el 6 de diciembre.

Basada en argumentos ecológicos, una de las propuestas busca establecer un plebiscito estatal para aprobar o rechazar la construcción de un muro en la frontera entre California y México, lo que podría generar un enfrentamiento con el Gobierno federal.

Otra iniciativa prohíbe a las agencias estatales suministrar información al Gobierno federal sobre la afiliación religiosa de las personas, por ejemplo de los musulmanes, excepto cuando se trate de casos que pongan en riesgo la seguridad nacional.

La tercera ley presentada busca poner fin a los contratos de los gobierno locales con empresas privadas para la detención de inmigrantes indocumentados.

Haciendo eco de las declaraciones de De León, el senador Ben Hueso, vicepresidente del Caucus Legislativo Latino, anunció una propuesta legislativa que busca crear un programa estatal para financiar la representación legal a aquellos que enfrenten procesos de deportación.

La medida, “manda un mensaje claro a los californianos indocumentados de que no les daremos la espalda. Haremos todo lo que esté en nuestro poder para protegerlos de deportaciones injustas”, dijo Hueso.

De igual forma, dos otras resoluciones aprobadas el 6 de diciembre, una en el Senado y otra en la Asamblea piden al presidente electo que abandone su anunciado plan de deportar a millones de indocumentados.

“Los inmigrantes son vitales para muchas industrias de California” y los trabajadores indocumentados representan aproximadamente el 10% de toda la fuerza laboral del Estado Dorado.

El tema de las “ciudades santuario” ha sido uno de los puntos de lucha anunciados, sobre todo para los alcaldes de Los Ángeles, San Francisco, y Oakland entre otros, quienes reafirmaron que las ciudades bajo su mando continuarán con su política de no colaborar con las autoridades federales de migración.

Ya a mediados de noviembre pasado, el jefe del Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles (LAPD), el comandante Charlie Beck, anunció que su organismo mantendrá su política de no cuestionar a las personas sobre su estatus de inmigración, “pues ese no es nuestro trabajo”.

De León aseguró que con el trabajo conjunto del presidente de la Asamblea Rendón y el gobernador Brown “nuestro papel es hacer todo lo posible para defender y proteger los derechos (de todos), pero particularmente de los niños”.

Con la instalación oficial de los legisladores californianos y los anuncios hechos por los líderes de ambas cámaras legislativas, California se erige desafiante contra el nuevo presidente electo y lo hace abanderada por Becerra para llevar esa lucha.

Southeast L.A. County Leaders React to Election

November 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

By the time the polling booths closed Tuesday in California, Southeast Los Angeles County residents attending a “Bad Hombres and Nasty Women” election night party were already glued to their phones and TV screens, anxiously watching the electoral votes tally up against their candidate, Hillary Clinton.

The tongue-in-cheek event, hosted by Democrat Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia at The Bicycle Casino Hotel in Bell Gardens, was supposed to be a victory celebration, after all, almost all the polls earlier in the day had signaled victory for Clinton. Instead, a Donald Trump piñata sat untouched at the bar and a solemn mood persisted throughout the night.

At a Democratic "victory party' at The Bicycle Casino Tuesday, Hillary Clinton supporter Evamarie Balderas watches in disbelief as numbers fall into the win column for Donald Trump. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

At a Democratic “victory party’ at The Bicycle Casino Tuesday, Hillary Clinton supporter Evamarie Balderas watches in disbelief as numbers fall into the win column for Donald Trump. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Garcia kicked off the evening by asking attendees to stay focused and hopeful, despite Trump’s early lead.

“Irrespective of what happens we must show unity,” she told the crowd.

Yet, as the clock moved closer to midnight and projections for key battleground states like Ohio, Florida and Iowa brought Trump closer to the 270 electoral votes he needed to secure the election, the bar got busier as attendees struggled with disbelief.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” one person said.

“How did it get like this,” asked another in shock.

The local elected officials, campaign strategists and residents tried to do the math and tally the numbers, hoping for a Hail Mary victory for Clinton, but it was increasingly clear the night would not end as they’d hoped, and the impact would be far-reaching.

“This is a wake up call for our community and for our state,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard told the crowd as Trump’s lead continued to grow Tuesday. (EGP Photo by Nancy Martinez)

“This is a wake up call for our community and for our state,” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard told the crowd as Trump’s lead continued to grow Tuesday. (EGP Photo by Nancy Martinez)

“Even if she wins, it’s very disappointing that someone who has dishonored our culture, insulted every minority, talked [disparagingly] about immigrants – and in spite of all that, so many people supported him …even Latinos,” a dismayed Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard told EGP .

The cloud from the presidential race made it difficult for elected officials at the event to celebrate their own victories: Garcia was reelected to serve the 58th District, Sen. Ricardo Lara will contine to serve the 33th District, Rep. Linda Sanchez, chair of the Hispanic Caucus, will once again represent District 38 in Congress and Roybal-Allard, the first Mexican-American woman elected to Congress easily held on to her seat in the 40th District.

“This is a wake up call for our community and for our state,” Roybal-Allard told the crowd as Trump’s lead continued to grow. “Take tonight, regardless of turnout and use it as a foundation for building awareness, strengthening our community and being proud of being American.”

Rep. Linda Sanchez speaks to room full of Democrats Tuesday at the "Bad Hombres and Nasty Women" election night party in Bell Gardens. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Rep. Linda Sanchez speaks to room full of Democrats Tuesday at the “Bad Hombres and Nasty Women” election night party in Bell Gardens. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

In the early hours of the morning, business mogul and TV personality, and now President-Elect Donald Trump would rule the night, beating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, receiving 279 electoral votes to Clinton’s 228. Clinton was ahead in the popular vote.

Excerpts from EGP’s Election Night interviews:

Senator Ricardo Lara on electing more “nasty women and bad hombres:”

“We’re used to fighting,” he said. “We’re looking to elect more women and Latinos to state legislator.”

Rep. Linda Sanchez on being proud of California Democrats:

While campaigning in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona there were always “busloads of California Democrats [trying] to help turn those states blue,” she told the large crowd of Democrats. “As we’re still waiting for election results I know I did everything in my power before November to bring it home for Hillary Clinton.”

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard on Hillary Clinton’s Challenges:

“Part of what happened was the press and FBI Director [James] Comey,” she told EGP. “It was hard to recover from misinformation that was out; the FBI really undermined the election.”

On the U.S. Senate Race: “Its kind of sad that in the most Latino state we didn’t elect the Latina,” she said. “Southern California will not have reps in Washington.”

On Prop 64: “Given what’s happened in Colorado and facts from reputable, proven science that have shown marijuana negatively impacts the brain, there is just not enough research and safety regulations in place.”

On a Trump Presidency: “The reality is if Donald Trump wins the election I don’t know if he will follow through on what he promised like the wall and getting rid of immigrants,” she told EGP. “Everything is up in the air.”

Senator Tony Mendoza on what election means for State: “California will not change one bit, it stands alone and is trendsetter,” he said. “We have to set the example, nationwide we still need a lot of work to do.”

“Next session we have a lot of untouched issues, many that revolve around transportation.”

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia on increasing the number of women and minorities in the State Legislature: “I made a commitment to uplift other women,” she told EGP. “For women and women of color the work starts today to make sure our country looks more like California.”

On Prop 64: “There needs to be a change in the system,” she said. “My community is more likely get in trouble.”

Commerce Mayor Ivan Altamirano on Measure M:

“If it passes I’m hoping it will create a win-win and we can all sit at the table and start to fix our neighborhoods,” he told EGP. “In a way the repair of the 5 freeway was the main concern for Commerce, the expansion of the freeway needs to happen right, not 20 years from now.

Montebello Unified School Board Member Joanne Flores on Prop 51: “It will help us with funding tremendously,” she told EGP. “It will compliment funds we already have from our local bond that passed.”

Summit Calls for New Southeast Narrative

November 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Concerned that the corruption scandals in some Southeast Los Angeles County areas might taint their own reputations, cities in the region have distanced themselves from one another and for the most part chosen to go it alone, strictly focusing on what goes on within their borders.

That changed last week when area leaders and residents came together to highlight their strengths and to begin to construct a new narrative for the region, one which they hope will lead to greater public and private investment to create more jobs, better schools and bring other resources.

“Regionalization allows our community to work together to leverage funds,” pointed out Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) during the discussion on communities located along the SR-710 Corridor.

“It allows us to be more influential,” Lara emphasized.

The Oct. 27 “Summit of Possibilities: People, Community and Progress” was hosted by the Pat Brown Institute and the California Community Foundation and focused on the regional potential of the southeast portion of Los Angeles County, including Commerce, Cudahy, Bell, Bellflower, Bell Gardens, Downey, Huntington Park, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, South Gate and Vernon.

Sara Zapata-Mijares, a local businesswoman, brings up the issue of health during a summit on communities located along the SR-710 Corridor.

Sara Zapata-Mijares, a local businesswoman, brings up the issue of health during a summit on communities located along the SR-710 Corridor.

The cities are densely populated and home to a blue-collar workforce surrounded by industry, described opening speaker, Christopher Thornberg, founder of Beacon Economics.

Of the 750,000 people who call the area home, nearly 90 percent are Hispanic, according to the data from Beacon Economics, which also showed that a large number of the residents are fairly young, low-income and have not completed high school.

For most in the room, the information came as no surprise.

“If you lived in the area you already knew this,” said Mark Lopez, executive director of East Yard Communities For Environmental Justice.

A majority of the housing stock is still single-family homes, Thornberg said, suggesting that the cities should invest in building more multi-family housing units to accommodate the Southeast’s growing population.

“This place is ripe for high density, transportation-oriented communities,” Thornberg said. “Given the size of population…single family [housing] is not appropriate.”

It was a suggestion that did not sit well with some of the residents in the audience.

“How can you build when you don’t have space,” Mary Johnson of South Gate asked.

Another resident wanted to know if transforming the area into a technology hub is feasible?

Thornberg suggested cities would be better served by focusing their energies on ensuring existing businesses, especially the large number of manufacturing companies still operating in the region, succeed.

The region has some of the worst air pollution in the state but air quality could be improved and jobs created through better use of the Los Angeles River and pushing more of the goods movement on to the underutilized Alameda Corridor, the economist told Summit participants.

For Bell Gardens and Commerce, Thornberg said continued investment in the casinos in those cities is key to increasing revenue and jobs.

Cities must revisit their general plans, incentivize small builders and unite to compete for grants and businesses, Thornberg advised.

“If you get together you have clout,” he emphasized.

Every presenter acknowledged the event as a very important start to creating a new identify for the southeast region.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Maywood echoed that the southeast cities he represents are all densely populated, have high rates of poverty and lack resources such as community colleges, parks, courthouses and access to light rail transportation.

Still, he says he believes a “renaissance of the southeast” is on the horizon.

Many of the panelists said they recognize the answer to the region’s woes is greater investment in the next generation and incentivizing them to stay or return to their community.

“Our [communities] should not be places our folks have to leave,” said Lopez. “We need to look to the future, at retaining residents not displacing them.”

Access to high quality education is the key to retaining local talent, said Nadia Diaz Funn of Alliance for a Better Community.

She noted that 75 percent of the students from the 8 area high schools who attend Cal State LA are not proficient in math or English, and only 45 percent of those who attend graduate within 6 years.

“It has to begin at the schools that are serving our children,” Funn said.

Sen. Lara suggested it might take breaking up the Los Angeles Unified School District to make sure southeast area students aren’t neglected.

Currently, Cal State LA guarantees admission to students attending LA Unified schools in East Los Angeles who complete the Go East LA pathways program, Dunn pointed out, adding, “Where is the Southeast’s promise?”

It will take coordination, organizing and residents and elected officials demanding changes to make anything happen, panelists acknowledged.

Nonprofits and philanthropy must also be part of the conversation, panelists agreed.

“It was philanthropy that brought us together,” pointed out Dr. Juan Benitez of the Cal State Long Beach Center for Community Engagement.

“We have identified the southeast region as an area we want to focus on and provide resources,” responded Belen Vargas of the Weingart Foundation, which provides grants and other support to nonprofit groups.

Rendon, however, sharing his own experience in the nonprofit sector, expressed frustration that many companies believe the only way to help Latinos is to provide services in East Los Angeles and Boyle Heights.

With part-time city council members and mayors, it’s often “overcompensated” city managers and administrators who act as the default policy makers, said Benitez. Ultimately, decisions are made through policies, she emphasized. The highly publicized corruption scandals that came out of Bell, Maywood and Vernon revolved around overpaid city administrators.

East Yard’s Lopez says the problem of political corruption needs to be part of the conversation. Holding elected officials accountable after the election is vital, but it will only happen with good community organizing and a clear vision, he said.

“We need baselines or else how will we know we achieved [anything],” Benitez said.

Speaker after speaker said the conversation at the Summit just touched the surface of the Southeast region’s needs, assets and potential power.

“We are all the southeast,” said Lara. “This cannot be the last time we meet, this has to be the new norm.”

Conferencia Pide Nueva Narrativa Para el Sureste

November 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Preocupados de que los escándalos de corrupción en algunas áreas del Sureste del Condado de Los Ángeles dañen sus reputaciones, algunas ciudades en la región se han distanciado entre si, enfocándose únicamente en lo que sucede entre sus limites municipales.

Eso cambió la semana pasada cuando los líderes y residentes locales se reunieron para resaltar sus puntos fuertes y para empezar a construir una nueva narrativa para la región. Tal cual los guíe a inversiones públicas y privadas mayores generando más trabajos, mejores escuelas y otros recursos.

“La regionalización le permite a la comunidad el trabajar juntos para recaudar fondos”, señaló el Senador Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), durante la conferencia, acerca de las comunidades ubicadas en el Corredor SR-710.

“Nos permite ser más influyentes”, enfatizó Lara.

La “Conferencia de Posibilidades: Gente, Comunidad y Progreso”, fue presentada el 27 de octubre por el Instituto Pat Brown y la Fundación Comunitaria de California. El enfoque fue en el potencial de la porción sureste del Condado de Los Ángeles, incluyendo a Commerce, Cudahy, Bell, Bellflower, Bell Gardens, Downey, Huntington Park, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, South Gate y Vernon.

Las ciudades están densamente pobladas y son hogares de una fuerza laboral de obreros rodeados por la industria, dijo el primer orador, Christopher Thornberg, fundador de Beacon Economics.

De las 750,000 personas que residen en el área, casi el 90 por ciento son hispanos, de acuerdo a la información proveída por Beacon Economics. Un alto número de los residentes también son bastante jóvenes, de bajos ingresos y no han completado la escuela secundaria.

Para la mayoría en el salón, la información no fue sorprendente.

“Si usted ha vivido en el área ya está enterado de esto”, dijo Mark López, director ejecutivo del East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice.

Una mayoría de los recintos de vivienda incluyen viviendas unifamiliares, dijo Thornberg, sugiriendo que las ciudades deben invertir en la construcción de más viviendas multifamiliares para acomodar a la población creciente.

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Vocero de la Asamblea, Anthony Rendón, habla durante una conferencia acerca de las comunidades localizadas por el Corredor SR-710 el 27 de octubre. Foto de EGP por Nancy Martínez.

“Este lugar está propuesto para una alta densidad, y para comunidades orientadas al transporte”, dijo Thornberg. “Dado al tamaño de la población, casas unifamiliares no son apropiadas”.

Esto fue una sugerencia que no le cayo bien a la audiencia.

“¿Cómo pueden construir cuando no hay espacio?”, preguntó Mary Johnson de South Gate.

Otra residente quiso saber si el trasformamiento de los vecindarios en un centro tecnológico es posible?

Thornberg sugirió que las ciudades serían mejor servidas enfocando sus esfuerzos en que los negocios existentes, especialmente el gran numero de compañías industriales todavía en la región, tengan éxito.

El economista agregó que la calidad del aire podría mejorar y que trabajos se generarían con un mejor uso del Río de Los Ángeles al igual que el incremento de movimiento de mercancía en el Corredor de la Alameda.

Para Bell Gardens y Commerce, Thornberg dijo que la inversión continua en los casinos es la clave para subir las ganancias y el número de trabajos.

Las ciudades deberán revisar sus planes generales, motivar a los pequeños negocios y unirse para competir para subvenciones y desarrollo de negocios, aconsejó Thornberg.

“Si se juntan tendrán potencia”, enfatizó.

Cada presentador admitió que el evento es un importante paso hacia el comienzo de la nueva identidad de la región sureste.

El Vocero de la Asamblea, Anthony Rendón de Maywood, secundó que las ciudades del sureste a las que él representa tienen altas poblaciones, altos índices de pobreza y falta de recursos. Estos incluyen el bajo acceso a transportes por trenes ligeros, colegios comunitarios, tribunales y parques.

Sin embargo, él dice que cree en que un “renacimiento del sureste” está cercano.

Varios de los participantes dijeron que la respuesta a los problemas de la región es una mayor inversión en la próxima generación y la necesidad de motivarlos para que se queden o regresen a sus comunidades.

“Nuestras [comunidades] no deberían ser lugares que nuestra gente dejen”, dijo López. “Necesitamos determinar cómo podremos retener a nuestros residentes y no desplazarlos”.

El acceso a una educación de alta calidad es importante para retener a nuestro talento local, dijo Nadia Díaz Funn parte de Alliance for a Better Community.

Ella notó que el 75% de los estudiantes de las escuelas secundarias, en el área 8, quienes asisten a la Universidad Estatal de Los Ángeles (CSULA por sus siglas en inglés) no dominan la matemática o el Inglés y solo el 45% de los que asisten se gradúan dentro de seis años.

“Tienen que empezar en las escuelas que sirven a nuestros niños”, dijo Funn.

La Senadora Lara sugirió que talvez sea necesario dividir el Distrito Unificado Escolar de Los Ángeles (LAUSD) para asegurar que los estudiantes en el área sureste no sean descuidados.

Actualmente, CSULA garantiza admisión a los estudiantes partes del programa Go East LA en escuelas en el Este de Los Ángeles, parte del LAUSD, mencionó Dunn preguntando “¿Dónde está la promesa para el Sureste?”

Los cambios requerirán la coordinación, organización de los residentes y de los oficiales electos, acordaron los participantes de la conferencia. También dijeron que los grupos sin lucros y filantropía al igual deben ser incluidos en la conversación.

“Fue la filantropía que nos junto”, señaló el Dr. Juan Benítez del Centro Para Participación Comunitaria de la Universidad Estatal de Long Beach.

“Hemos identificado a la región sureste como un lugar en la que queremos enfocar y proveer nuestros recursos”, respondió Belén Vargas de Weingart Foundation. Dicha fundación provee subvenciones y otro tipo de apoyo para grupos sin fines de lucro.

No obstante al compartir sus experiencias personales en el sector de grupos sin lucro, Rendón expresó su frustración en que varias compañías creen que la única forma de ayudar a los latinos es el proveer servicios en el Este de Los Ángeles y en Boyle Heights.

A menudo los gestores municipales “sobre compensados” y los administradores acaban siendo por defecto los formuladores de las políticas ya que los miembros de las juntas y los alcaldes son de tiempo parcial, dijo Benítez. Últimamente, las decisiones son hechas por medio de las pólizas, enfatizó. Los escándalos sumamente publicitados de Bell, Maywood y Vernon giraron alrededor de los administradores compensados en exceso.

López de East Yard dijo que el problema en la corrupción política necesita ser parte de la conversación. El hacerlos responsables después de las elecciones es vital pero no sucederá sin una buen organización comunitaria y una visión clara, dijo él.

“Necesitamos puntos de referencia sino, ¿cómo sabremos lo que hemos logrado?”, dijo Benítez.

Orador tras orador aceptó que las conversaciones en la Conferencia solamente tocaron la superficie de las necesidades de la región del sureste, sus recursos y su poder potencial.

“Todos somos el sureste”, dijo Lara. “Esto no puede ser la última vez que nos reunamos, esto tiene que ser la nueva norma”.

Southeast LA Deserves Its Fair Share of Measure M Funding

October 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

I was raised in Southeast LA County, in the shadow of the 710 freeway, a community suffocated by rail yards and freeways. It is a region identified by the U.S. federal air quality standards as one of the worst in the nation. Unfortunately, Southeast cities are often left out of critical county decisions that will impact our region’s quality of life for decades to come. This is true when it comes to air quality, community health and transportation funding.

On November 8, voters will be asked to approve the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan, otherwise known as Measure M, which would enact a ½ cent sales tax increase that will generate approximately $860 million a year for transportation infrastructure improvements throughout LA County. While Measure M addresses much needed transportation challenges, we must ensure that the needs of the gateway corridor are considered, and that our residents have a seat at the decision making table.

Indeed, the transit network in the county is in poor health and has challenging and complex needs. Our dated roads and freeways weren’t made to withstand our ballooning population which now tops 10.2 million, resulting in congested commutes that average 81 hours a year for Angelenos.

Unfortunately, the planning process headed by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has rendered the cities in Southeast Los Angeles County largely irrelevant. For example, proposals in Measure M would delay long overdue rehabilitation projects on the 5, 605 and 710 freeways up to forty years. Alternatively, projects on the Westside and in the Valley would be placed ahead of the queue. This is unacceptable and in order to win Southeast support, county leaders must address this inequity in a meaningful way.

In a show of solidarity, Southeast leaders have successfully fought for our fair share of Measure M funding. Our cities, stretching from Vernon to Long Beach, have been steadfast and unified in our advocacy for the region.

Our collective efforts got the attention of the MTA and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti who have expressed goodwill toward working collaboratively moving forward. I take these leaders at their word and will work with members of the community to ensure projects in our region are prioritized should Measure M be approved.

MTA has committed to accelerate development of the Eco-Rapid/West Santa Ana Branch transit line, a 20-mile light rail project that provides our constituents safe, reliable transportation to Union Station in Downtown LA. In a show of good faith, MTA agreed to prioritize state and federal funding that will get southeast transportation projects shovel ready.

The mounting pressure has also pushed MTA to include several Long Beach projects such the rehabilitation of the Shoemaker Bridge, the Wardlow Station, as well as expanding resources to address public safety concerns at certain public transit stations, to be prioritized and receive vital funding from Measure M.

I commend our gateway cities for standing up for our working families and highlighting the discrepancies within current MTA funding formulas that disadvantage our neighborhoods. I encourage the MTA, Mayor Garcetti and our regional leaders to continue to work together on behalf of some of our most vulnerable residents.

With Measure M, we have an opportunity to fix and repair our aging transit infrastructure, which undoubtedly improves the quality of life and public health for the millions of residents living in 27 cities across Southeast Los Angeles County. But we must do so in a fair and inclusive manner so that all LA County residents benefit.

I support Measure M because of this unique opportunity. And like many of my residents, I do so with the understanding that our community will get its fair share. I look forward to working with the MTA, Mayor Garcetti, Southeast leaders and other decision-makers to ensure that this is the case.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) represents California’s 33rd Senate District.

New Fee on Car Batteries Could Expand Exide Cleanup

October 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

When Larry Mendoza learned Gov. Jerry Brown had signed legislation imposing a fee on car batteries to fund the cleanup of lead contaminated sites like those near the Exide plant in Vernon, he felt like Sacramento is finally listening.

“The community has been asking for [more funding] for such a long time, it finally feels like the sate is being proactive,” the Commerce resident told EGP.

Beginning April 1, consumers and manufacturers will be required to each pay a $1 fee on every lead-acid car battery sold in California.

“When theses technologies reach their end life, we often learn, the hard way, that these products, when not disposed of properly, come at a cost to their environment and to our health,” wrote Gov. Brown in a letter to the State Assembly.

Retailers currently charge a refundable state-mandated fee intended to encourage customers to properly recycle unused and depleted batteries. Retailers are allowed to keep money not returned to consumers.

Southeast legislators join members of the community to celebrate the signing of AB2153 in Commerce last week. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Southeast legislators join members of the community to celebrate the signing of AB2153 in Commerce last week. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The new $1 battery fee is expected to generate approximately $30 million a year to cover costs associated with the cleanup of sites contaminated by lead-acid batteries.

“It’s one thing to be able to come up with legislation, it’s another to come up with a funding source,” Sen. Ricardo Lara acknowledged during a press conference in Commerce last week celebrating the bill’s signing.

Earlier this year, the governor approved a $176.6 million loan to help speed up the testing and cleanup of properties found to have lead, arsenic and other toxic chemicals on site due to Exide’s violations of pollution and toxic waste standards.

California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, the regulatory agency charged with overseeing the cleanup, plans to use the funds to test approximately 10,000 properties in Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, East Los Angeles, Huntington Park, Maywood and Vernon and to clean an estimated 2,500 homes in the impacted area.

Funds collected from the battery fee can be used to pay back that loan or added to the Exide cleanup budget.

Over the years, state regulators have repeatedly cited a lack of money for the delays and limitations in dealing with the health hazard. Area residents, elected officials and environmental activists are now hopeful that the new revenue stream will allow the cleanup to be expanded beyond the current target zone.

The bill’s principal author, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, lives in Bell Gardens, a city just outside the area currently being investigated. She has repeatedly asked the state to consider expanding the study area because she and others believe the contamination is not limited to the 1.7 miles surrounding the Exide plant.

“With a guaranteed source of revenue we can now entertain the idea of expanding that radius,” she told EGP.

Mark Lopez, executive director of East Yards for Environmental Justice, told EGP the new fee is another step in the long walk for justice.

“At this point, we are looking at the inter-generational impacts to health, academics, social, violence and crime,” he said. “We need a [long-term health] study to be able to fully remediate the effects of the contamination.”

In a statement to EGP, DTSC stated the agency will use the funds to investigation and cleanup areas that are “reasonably suspected to have been contaminated by the operation of a lead-acid battery recycling facility.”

Garcia told EGP she wants those responsible for the contamination to be held criminally accountable.

“We still need an investigation into what allowed this to happen,” agrees Lopez.

Activists have long questioned why state regulators allowed Exide to operate on a temporary permit and with impunity for decades, putting public health at risk. They have also called for criminally prosecuting Exide officials and anyone else who was complicit in the environmental crime.

Sen. Tony Mendoza said it’s frustrating that the Exide crisis has not received the same federal and national attention as other environmental disasters, such as the lead contamination of the water supply in Flint Michigan.

The Exide plant in Vernon is one of 14 now closed lead battery-recycling sites in the state. Cleanup of the site is expected to be the largest and most expensive environmental disaster in state history. City of Industry-based Quemetco is the only lead battery recycler still operating in California. Testing is currently underway to determine if the surrounding communities were contaminated by the plant’s toxic emissions, which have also exceeded state health standards.

“Decades of improper lead-acid battery recycling have left these communities to face enormous environmental challenges,” noted Brown in his signing statement.

As of last month, 2,900 properties in the 1.7-mile target zone have been tested for lead and 236 have been cleaned.

Larry Mendoza says he hopes legislators understand how critical it is to fund and expedite the process, adding that seeing legislators working with the community and addressing some of their concerns has him feeling more optimistic.

“Sadly,” he added, “what unites us is the pollution of lead.”

Gov. Signs Bill to Cut ‘Super Pollutants’

September 22, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

At a Long Beach ceremony, Gov. Jerry Brown Monday signed into law a bill imposing what he called the nation’s toughest restrictions on “super pollutants” such as black carbon, fluorinated gases and methane.

“Cutting black carbon and other super pollutants is the critical next step in our program to combat climate change,” Brown said at the event, held near a playground in the shadow of an oil refinery. “This bill curbs dangerous pollutants and thereby protects public health and slows climate change.”

SB 1383, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, mandates a 50 percent reduction in black carbon and 40 percent reduction in methane and hydrofluorocarbon from 2013 levels by 2030. The pollutants are generated by sources including waste-disposal, petroleum-based fuel, agriculture and synthetic gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning and aerosol products.

Lara said the pollutants “are powerful climate forcers that have a profound effect on climate change and global warming.”

“They also have detrimental effects on public health,” he said. “This bill represents a unique opportunity to balance our global vision for the future with a much more local and immediate perspective. With these bold and ambitious goals, we’ll continue to set the standard for climate policy worldwide.”

The National Federation of Independent Business criticized the legislation, with the organization’s state director Tom Scott saying it creates an inconsistent policy that will “further increase the cost of doing business in California,” particularly for the agricultural industry.

The mandated reductions represent “a direct assault on California’s dairy industry and will hurt manufacturing by creating an arbitrary limit on natural gases which dissipate quickly,” he said.

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