September 8, 2011 Issue

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Local JROTC Students May Get Meaningful Lessons on 9/11

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While schools closer to Ground Zero have had a decade to sensitively incorporate the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks into their history curriculums, local high schools in Los Angeles have a more relaxed policy in honoring the fallen.

At Abraham Lincoln High School, in Lincoln Heights, one of about 20 schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District with a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC program), students will not be viewing videos of the hijacked airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center or the reactions of residents and first responders navigating Group Zero in horror and fierce bravery that day.

Lincoln High School Principal Jesse Torres says U.S. History is taught to 11th graders and videos have not been shown for various reasons, primarily because “some may not be prepared to see that,” and the students may not yet be mature enough, he said.

Lincoln High School JROTC Color Guard during the last year's 9/11 ceremony. Photo courtesy of Master Sergeant(Ret) Gilberto Rosado.

 

“We do have an ROTC program and instructors will have the cadets fly the flag at half staff that day. The student body will also make an announcement and join in a moment of silence to commemorate the anniversary and honor the fallen,” Torres said about this Friday’s events.

Teachers and staff have received talking points and Social Studies teachers in the past have engaged students in discussion during the advisory period, he said.

Lincoln’s Victory Over Ignorance Through Culture and Education Small Learning Community (VOICE SLC) is taking the lead by providing talking points and teachable moments, Torres added.

Lincoln High’s oldest students are now 18-year-olds, but they were just 8 years old at the time of the attacks that changed the country and began the “War on Terror.”

Last year, Lincoln’s JROTC cadets participated in a ceremony to honor the fallen on 9/11,  but a similar event they hoped to participate in this year was cancelled at the last minute, when according to Master Sergeant Gilberto Rosado, a JROTC supervisor, guest speakers said they were too busy preparing for ceremonies taking place on Sunday, the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania.

Nonetheless, the JROTC will address the terrorist attacks and the 10-year anniversary with their cadets following the talking points provided by the school, he said.

The JROTC program will follow school policy; if other students don’t view the videos on campus, neither will the cadets, he said.

“A lot of kids, 10 years ago, might not even remember how Americans came together to try to help each other …” Rosado said.
The school, like other campuses, is closed on Sunday, but will most likely fly its U.S. flag at half-staff before or after the 11th.

Firefighters Saw Their World Change

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While many saw the surreal scene of buildings collapsing on 9/11, firefighters like Captain Rick Burroughs of the Monterey Park Fire Department immediately saw something very personal.

Like many on the west coast, he was getting ready to go to work when he was stopped short by the sight of several hijacked airplanes flying into the World Trade Center buildings, and later the Pentagon.

“It was the numbest feeling I’ve ever had in my life. I knew I just watched hundreds of firemen die in a split second,” he said.

He says the firefighters would have been going up the stairs of the World Trade Center buildings soon after the airplanes hit, not suspecting that the entire building would collapse. No other building has collapsed quite the way the World Trade Center buildings collapsed, each floor crushing into the next, creating explosion after explosion, he says.

The next day Burroughs asked for a list of the names of the firefighters he knew would not be showing up to work the next day.

“Everyone knows who’s on duty… by morning, on the 12th they knew who were missing,” he said.

The New York Fire Department released the 343 names to him.

Monterey Park Fire Captain Rick Burroughs, pictured at center during a 2009 memorial ceremony, describes what happened to firefighters who came to the rescue of victims of 9/11, and subsequently became victims themselves. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

In the ten years since 9/11, Burroughs has brought the list out again and again as a reminder for younger firefighters. “To me and all of us that are in the business, that day is very personal,” he says.

The young firefighters would pore over each name carefully, to get a sense of the “walking, talking men that morning who answered that call of duty and perished in the middle of it,” he said.

At annual memorial ceremonies, Burroughs would also create a makeshift memorial by posting sheets of paper with the 343 names onto the side of a fire engine.

He first posted the list at the South Garfield fire station two days after 9/11. “It gave people in Monterey Park a way to mourn the loss of the firefighters … when we opened the doors of the fire station, we had to stop to move all of the flowers off to the flagpole,” he recalled.

For Burroughs, reading the names of the firefighters missing at ground zero makes him want to go home to see his family, and motivates him to “know everything I possibly can about this job.”

Firefighting has embraced the idea of “preparedness” since 9/11, whether it’s patching up a neighbor’s broken bones, or spotting suspicious activity, he says. One of the most frustrating things Burroughs says he felt that day was not getting orders to get on a plane to offer assistance at ground zero.

Firefighting used to be about answering calls to a brush or building fires, but now it means being vigilant and getting regular training in counter terrorism techniques, he says.

“It’s a good distracter,” he says. “I’m not sitting home twiddling my thumbs worried about an event. I’m more of the mindset that I’ll be ready when an event happens.”

But now, ten years later, with budgets from the local up to the federal level becoming constrained, cutbacks will start occurring, he said.

“My greatest fear is that Americans have short memories,” Burroughs says. “I know funding cutbacks have greatly reduced on national preparedness. I hate to see what happens ten more years from now. Where nothing has happened and cutbacks have occurred, that’s when we become vulnerable again.”

East L.A. Cityhood Effort Closes In On Next Major Hurdle

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The cityhood debate in East Los Angeles is heating up as residents become more informed and think about what they have to gain, or lose.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Propuesta Ciudad del Este de L.A. Se Acerca a Otro Obstáculo

City Terrace resident Carlos Leon supports the incorporation effort, and says he’s willing to pay more taxes for more access to locally elected officials and local accountability.

East L.A. resident Rebecca Luna, on the other hand, says the area can’t afford to become a city, and she doesn’t understand the proponent’s ‘agenda.’ Luna says tax increases would hurt local businesses and reducing public safety services would hurt everyone.

For Luna, any positive twist to the Draft CFA is a “smoke screen,” and she anticipates cityhood supporters will “spin the numbers” to look good.

But there are also residents like Arnulfo Delgado, who has spent 80 hours creating a video showing how, over the last several decades, portions of East L.A. have been gobbled up by local cities because they represent revenue generating resources.

Delgado notes that Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge now wants the City of Los Angeles to annex the north side of the 10 freeway, which includes the Whiteside redevelopment area.

“Commerce was incorporated because of the threat of annexation from Downey,” he said. While East L.A.’s incorporation isn’t based on the same rationale, he said residents should be paying attention.

“Chicano pride is a part of the discussion about why we want to incorporate, but it’s more about how the government can help the people,” he told EGP.

The final version of the East Los Angeles Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis is scheduled to be released today to the public. It will include new information and data, in the form of public comments, submitted by last week’s deadline.

The comments submitted by the East Los Angeles Residents Association (ELARA)—the proponents of incorporating the new City of East Los Angeles who paid for the study—argue that cityhood is still possible and the deficit is not as large as the Draft CFA suggests.

The draft study with proposed and projected municipal costs shows the “City of East Los Angeles” would have an initial $17.6 million shortfall (including lost vehicle license fees due to recently enacted legislation, SB 89), while the County would have a $27 million gain. In order to close the deficit, the study’s consultants propose increasing the Utility Users Tax (UUT) from 4.5 percent to 10 percent and reducing the contract amount proposed by the LA County Sheriff’s Dept.

ELARA’s comments submitted to the Los Angeles Local Agency Formation Agency (LAFCO) argue that there is $20 million in unaccounted revenues that stem from a variety of areas including:

—$4 million in UTT plus another $2.5 million in franchise fees; based on comparison cities.
—$6.5 million in Community Development Block Grants, HUD and other grants, licenses and permits, and fees and charges.
—$3.5 million less in expenditures for Sheriff provided services.
—$750,00 in savings if the County continues to run Belvedere Park.
—$3 million in cost-savings measures at other parks and recreation centers.
—$45,000 savings if the city employs a part-time treasurer and part-time city clerk.

In their comments, received by EGP before the final CFA was made public, ELARA acknowledges tax increases will make it harder to win voters’ approval, should the measure be placed on the ballot.

“The CFA analysis was also predicated on a single base year of FY 09-10 at the end of the longest recession since the Great Depression … Most California cities made significant budget cuts and depleted reserves to weather the recession, and many newly incorporating new cities would be wrongly found infeasible if analyzed narrowly on such a base year,” ELARA wrote.
Still, many residents who are struggling financially may not find comfort in ELARA’s revised estimates.

The East L.A. Chamber of Commerce, one of the most ardent opponents to cityhood, says incorporation is not feasible because residents can’t afford to pay tax hikes and the community cannot tolerate cuts to public safety.

The Draft CFA calculated cutting Sheriff’s services by nearly a third, “for a community already widely known for gang violence and gangs, graffiti, unlicensed street vendors and illegal curb car sales, etc, this reduction by 30 percent would be very detrimental to the entire East L.A. business and residential community and would immediately be felt should it occur,” Torres wrote.

However, ELARA estimates that the Sheriff’s costs are overstated, noting that the average contract city pays $136 per capita, compared to the $166 per capita being proposed for East L.A.

The East L.A. Chamber “agrees” with the Draft CFA ‘s findings, but also questioned the lack of information on California Highway Patrol services. However, during the community presentations, (and on page 27 and 28 of the Draft CFA) CFA consultant Richard Berkson of Economic & Planning Systems Inc., said the Sheriffs’ contract with the new city would take-over the duties the CHP is currently providing on East L.A. streets.

Torres also notes that the County would gain financially if East L.A. were to become a city, and notes the state law on revenue neutrality: “There is no adverse impact on the County… East L.A. unincorporated is being ‘subsidize’ by the County to the tune of $27.3 Million …” Torres wrote.

ELARA also makes mention of the revenue neutrality aspect of incorporation and suggests the shortfall—which they estimate to actually be around $7 million—could be assumed by the County through Revenue Neutrality negotiations. Page 3 of the East L.A. CFA and page 1 of the Executive Summary, briefly mention revenue neutrality as a process where fiscal impacts can be mitigated.

Revenue Neutrality does not include LAFCO, the discussions would occur between ELARA and the County of Los Angeles, according to LAFCO Executive Director Paul Novak.

On Monday, Sept. 12, residents on both sides of the debate can ask questions and engage in dialogue about their vision for East Los Angeles. ELARA, in partnership with Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderón, will host a community meeting on the CFA and incorporation effort at Garfield High School in the cafeteria at 6p.m.

On Sept. 14, the LAFCO commission is scheduled to take up the final CFA. Though not a full public hearing, residents will be allowed to speak on the issue.

“The meeting on September 14th is not the noticed public hearing required under State law. The purpose of the meeting is to announce the availability of the Public Hearing CFA, and start the State Controller Review request period, Novak told EGP by email. “The meeting date for the public hearing date has not been sent. The timing is dependent upon whether or not there are any requests for State Controller Review of the Public Hearing CFA (the period in which to request such review will end on October 17th, 2011). Once that is known LAFCO will issue a notice of the public hearing.”

The commission, using the study’s findings and stakeholder input, will eventually decide if Unincorporated East Los Angeles can afford to become a city. If they decide it can, their decision would go to County Supervisors to consider putting the question on the ballot. But should they decide the data does not support cityhood, they can stop the incorporation process, Novak previously told EGP.

Bell Gardens to Hold 9/11 Anniversary Ceremony This Sunday

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The City of Bell Gardens will hold a ceremony to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks on Sunday at Veteran’s Park.

“The purpose of the event is to gather together as a community and reflect on this unforgettable day in our nation’s history,” said Sergio Infanzon, Bell Gardens Mayor Pro Tem and organizer of the event. “The theme is “Healing Our Nation” under the values and principles of hope, faith and peace,” Infanzon said.

Infanzon hopes the community will come together to honor those who have died to defend our nation and to assimilate the values and principles of democracy, justice and freedom that have made this country a great nation.

“It’s our desire to pay tribute to the victims of the horrific event that took place 10 years ago and to also recognize the courage and heroism of our community’s police and fire personnel who consistently and unselfishly give of themselves and make tremendous sacrifices protecting all of us every day,” Infanzon said.

Bell Gardens Hometown Heroes, young men and women of the community who are currently serving in the military, have also been invited to Sunday’s event.

The ceremony will begin at 5:30pm and will include several keynote speakers, musical performances and a 21-gun military salute. Veteran’s Park is located at 6662 Loveland St., Bell Gardens, Ca 90201.

9/11 is No Excuse for Bashing Muslims

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On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we’ll be transfixed once more by images of the planes ramming into the World Trade Center and people, caught in the flames, leaping to their deaths. We’ll see pictures of the burning Pentagon and hear stories of the heroic firefighters and police officers who sacrificed their lives to save others.

And we’ll be reminded that, despite Osama bin Laden’s death, violent jihadists are still a threat.

We’d be naive to think otherwise. What’s more, the threat has morphed in recent years. While we’ve made progress in eroding al-Qaeda’s capacity to launch attacks from overseas, we’ve seen an increase in plots hatched by “homegrown” terrorists — U.S. citizens or permanent residents inspired by extremist, al-Qaeda-like ideology. Indeed, half of the “homegrown” plots since 9/11 have occurred in the last two years, many of them instigated by the FBI.

There’s yet another danger, not only to our physical security but to our character as a people. It’s a danger that President George W. Bush warned the country about in the days following 9/11: the danger of branding all Muslims as our enemies.

Unfortunately, in recent years we’ve seen a revival of the Muslim-bashing that fueled a 1,600-percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims in 2001.

During the last presidential election, Barack Obama, a Christian, was portrayed as a Muslim and even a terrorist sympathizer.
Then, last year, anti-Muslim activists coalesced in opposition to the so-called “ground zero mosque,” a proposal to build an Islamic center two blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center. Exploiting the memory of 9/11, a small cadre of extremists who opposed the project created a national controversy brimming with bigotry and intolerance. They wanted nothing less than to deny American Muslims their rights under our Constitution.

The question some are asking is whether the anniversary of 9/11 will spark another jihadist attack. A more likely possibility? A new round of Muslim-bashing across America from those who want to divide, rather than unite, us — from those who forget there were many Muslims who died on that day and who would equate all Muslims with terrorists.

Their words — their depictions of Islam as a virulent political movement rather than a religion — have consequences.
We saw it in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when a Sikh man was fatally shot outside a gas station in Mesa, Arizona. His killer mistook him for a Muslim.

We saw it in 2008, when three men burned down a mosque outside Nashville.

And we saw it on July 22, when Anders Behring Breivik slaughtered 77 people, mostly teenagers, in Norway.

Breivik cast himself as a Christian knight dedicated to stemming the tide of Muslim immigration. He wanted to jolt his country into recognizing what he viewed as the threat of multiculturalism in Europe. In a 1,500-page manifesto, Breivik cited the words of Frank Gaffney, Pamela Geller, and other U.S.-based Islamophobes dozens of times, making clear their influence on him.

So as we mark this solemn anniversary, we must remain vigilant against the threat of terrorism by Islamists who preach an anti-Semitic ideology that is antithetical to our democratic values.

At the same time, we must remember that violent jihadists don’t represent Islam any more than the Anders Breiviks of the world represent Christianity. Our democratic values require nothing less.

J. Richard Cohen is president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups and antigovernment extremists. www.splcenter.org

From Our Readers: Say Yes to the City of East Los Angeles

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We are long-time residents of East Los Angeles, who would like to respond to Martha Jimenez’s alarming and misinformed letter against the current drive to make unincorporated East Los Angeles into a bonafide city; the 8th largest city among 89 cities in Los Angeles County.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Diga Sí a la Ciudad del Este de Los Ángeles

Related: From Our Readers: No to ‘City of East Los Angeles’

 

Don grew up in East LA and attended Harrison Elementary School, Belvedere Junior High, and Roosevelt High School, and his family have been home owners in East LA for 61 years.

Alberto has lived in East LA for 36 years where he raised his family and taught social studies at Garfield High School for 35 years.

We believe that Martha Jimenez loves East LA as much as we do, but we also believe she has done a great disservice by engaging in unnecessary AND unhelpful scare tactics. Why can’t we have a full and serious discussion about future cityhood without having it linked, as Ms. Jimenez does, with “imminent terrorism and insecurity” and “create an experimental arena for political corruption as has occurred in the infamous City of Bell”?

We definitely don’t want East LA to be run by terrorists or by corrupt city officials like Bell’s city administrator Robert Rizzo, but to argue as Ms. Jimenez does that this would be inevitable if East LA became a city is an insult to all the residents of East LA. We believe East LA residents are fully capable of electing knowledgeable, committed, and honest city elected officials, who in turn will hire individuals with outstanding professional skills, vision, and personal integrity to help us improve and advance East LA.

We agree with Ms. Jimenez that Supervisor Gloria Molina has provided effective leadership for East LA. However, in just 2 ½ years, she will be termed out and someone else will be elected to her position. There is no guarantee that the new supervisor will have the same interest, commitment, or time for East LA like Ms. Molina, especially since the 126,000 residents of East LA make up only 6% of the supervisor’s district.

We would prefer to have a City Council of East LA that devotes 100% of its time and energy to East LA than a supervisor, who at best would devote 6% of his or her time to us.

We also believe… that there is no better place for East LA residents to take community issues, concerns, and conflicts that negatively impact our daily lives, than to a city council composed of East LA residents elected by their neighbors. A city council, whose members and their families live among us and experience the same frustrations and irritations as the rest of us.

The difference being that, as OUR elected city government, we give them the authority to offer and implement solutions. We need a city council, whose main focus is the safety, economic well being, and enhancement of the quality of life of OUR community. There is no one more knowledgeable about our strengths or weaknesses as a community than those of us who call East LA home. There is no entity better qualified to determine what is best for an East LA community of over 126,000 residents, than the residents of that community.

Those of us who support the drive to form the City of East LA strongly believe that cityhood offers residents the best opportunity to address and offer solutions to current problems in the most expeditious manner possible. Who best to tackle those problems than members of our community elected by us to the city council for that purpose? Cityhood will also challenge us to create a vision of our community’s future and to be active participants in making that vision a reality.

For those East LA residents, who feel more secure by maintaining the status quo(no change-leave things as they are), as opposed to cityhood, you may want to read the August 18, 2011 article in the Eastside Sun, “LA City Councilman Wants to Annex Portion of East LA”. The fact is that over the years East LA has lost considerable and valuable territory to surrounding cities. And quite frankly there is nothing to stop this nibbling away of our community in the years to come… except by becoming our own city.

Hope and uncompromised determination to keep our community intact; to make it a better place to live in… for ourselves, our children and grandchildren… is what motivates us to work tirelessly towards forming the City of East Los Angeles.

As good as our very capable Supervisor Gloria Molina is, there really is NO substitute for a local government “of the people, by the people and for the people”.

CEOs Rewarded for Corporate Tax Dodging

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For an elite group of American CEOs, sacrifice is for chumps.

As the nation struggles with budgetary constraints, Congress has exempted a group of imperial CEOs and their companies from contributing to the solution.

One special group of CEOs enjoys huge compensation packages while presiding over companies that pay little or no taxes. Twenty-five companies paid their CEOs more last year than they paid in U.S. corporate taxes, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies that I co-authored.

Instead of building better products or providing superior customer service, they spend millions to lobby Congress to change the tax laws so they don’t have to pay.

The ranks of these profitable tax dodgers include Honeywell, General Electric, Verizon, eBay, International Paper, Boeing, Dow Chemical, Ford Motor, and Qwest Communications.

John Lundgren, the CEO of toolmaker Stanley Black and Decker, got a 234 percent pay hike in 2010, bringing his compensation to $32.6 million. Meanwhile the company is shedding thousands of jobs and moving more operations and profits offshore. They have 50 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. Instead of paying taxes, they collected a $75 million refund.
Twenty of these 25 companies spent more money lobbying than they paid in taxes. When confronted by their tax dodging, their PR flaks complain, “We are just obeying the law.” Last year, these 25 companies spent $150 million to influence the law, through lobbying and campaign expenditures.

These companies win gold medals in accounting gymnastics, using subsidiaries in low- or no-tax countries to avoid their tax obligations. Here’s how the game works: A corporation pretends its profits are earned in offshore subsidiaries while its losses are incurred in the United States. At tax time, these corporations report to Uncle Sam that all they have are losses. Together, these 25 companies have 556 subsidiaries in tax havens like the Cayman Islands, Ireland, and Bermuda.

These U.S.-based companies use our taxpayer-funded infrastructure, including roads, bridges, broadband, and transportation. They benefit from taxpayer-funded research and spin-off products like the Internet, advanced jet engines, and drug research. Their corporate assets are protected by the U.S. military, police departments, and firefighters — and they rely on our U.S. justice system to defend their intellectual property.

Yet 20 of these companies paid no taxes in 2010. They didn’t chip in one dime to pay for the services they enjoy — and that contribute enormously to the success of their businesses. Five companies paid symbolic amounts of taxes, less than the paychecks of their CEOs. But most, in fact, collected checks from Uncle Sam.

We taxpayers just hired Boeing for $35 billion to build new aircraft for the U.S. military. Honeywell also receives huge U.S. government and military contracts. But we don’t require either company to pay a nickel for national defense or public services.
As wages for most Americans have remained stagnant over the last several years, these imperial CEOs saw their compensation jump 27.8 percent between 2009 and 2010. The average CEO of an S&P 500 company collected $10.8 million in compensation. But the CEOs of these notorious tax dodgers were paid an average of $16.7 million in 2010.

Shareholders should reward CEOs for building better products or delivering better services, not for accounting gymnastics that game their tax bills down. Shareholders at Stanley Black and Decker are trying to reverse their CEO’s pay grab.
Congress should pass the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, which would generate an estimated $100 billion in revenue annually. It would save jobs at patriotic U.S. companies that are forced to unfairly compete with corporate tax dodgers on an unlevel playing field.

Our nation needs all hands on deck, with everyone pulling their weight to address our fiscal challenges. As we try to recover from the worst economic depression since the 1930s, middle-class taxpayers and domestic businesses shouldn’t have to carry these slacker companies on their backs.

Chuck Collins is a co-author of the new Institute for Policy Studies report, “Executive Excess 2011: The Massive CEO Rewards for Tax Dodging.” www.ips-dc.org

One of Two Montebello CRA Lawsuits Dismissed

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A judge last week dismissed a lawsuit that accused Montebello officials of inappropriately borrowing from its redevelopment agency.

The courts found on Aug. 31 the lawsuit filed by a local businessman had no merit, since the city had paid back the funds by the end of the Fiscal Year, according to a city press release.

Businessman Ara Sevacherian sued to stop the city from transferring funds from the redevelopment agency on the grounds that such a transfer was illegal.

Officials say with this lawsuit out of the way, they can now comfortably pursue a $3.9 million short-term loan by the middle of September. The city estimates it will run out of cash by November, and doesn’t expect to receive its next infusion of revenue until early 2012.

The cash flow problem facing the city this year is nothing new. Last year, Montebello borrowed $17 million from its redevelopment agency in order to pay its bills.

But unlike this year, the city was also dealing with the effects of several years of overspending. By the end of the year the city could only pay back $3.5 million of what it owed the redevelopment agency, potentially putting the city in a legally vulnerable position.

In previous years, city officials hid the extent of the city’s financial problems. Former interim city administrator Peter Cosentini stated in a report released in March of this year, that even though the city had negative cash balances for years, former city finance staff moved money around to “zero” out shortfalls because they felt they could not show “negative cash balances” to independent auditors.

In May of this year Montebello escaped its financial bind when financial strategists hired by the city came up with a debt swap scheme that allowed the city to assume responsibility for payments on a 1990 redevelopment agency bond in return for canceling out its loan.

Before the decision was made to assume the 1990 debt, the finance director pleaded with the city, saying the city would be able to avoid selling off “valuable assets,” and “luckily… thank God that we have this opportunity.”

But the city will again feel the effects of the accumulated deficit in 2014 when it is scheduled to start paying back the bond debt.

Meanwhile, another lawsuit filed by Sevacherian, in which he accuses the city of bailing out on the purchase of several properties, is ongoing.

Soon after four of five current council members assumed their seats, the council voted unanimously to undo the property purchase with Sevacherian, along with several other last minute actions taken by the “lame duck” council in November 2009.

The city says it has a legal defense against this second lawsuit, but says there is a “moderate chance” the city’s redevelopment agency will be found liable for “damages and attorney’s fees, which could be material.”

Earlier this year, in the midst of settlement talks, the city momentarily considered purchasing several properties owned by Sevacherian. The matter was never taken up by the council in open session, even though internal memos and staff reports recommended the purchase without giving any particular reason for why the purchase would be beneficial to the city.

The dismissal of Sevacherian’s challenge to the city’s redevelopment borrowing is being hailed by city officials as one less blemish the city must explain away as they face potential lenders in a “hostile” financial market.

Interim City Administrator Larry Kosmont says the court decision in favor of the city “validates what we have done as having been done appropriately.”

As part of their pitch to lenders, they have also taken steps toward keeping Montebello’s redevelopment agency intact even as state lawmakers work to dismantle agencies across the state.

Redevelopment agencies have been criticized for benefiting developers more than blighted communities, with critics saying the money should be spent on schools and other public services handled by the state.

But those opposed to the shutdown of redevelopment agencies say funds have indeed benefited blighted communities and boosted economic development, and that state lawmakers are just looking for another way to balance their own ailing budget.

Montebello is looking to its redevelopment agency revenue, which allows a city to take a higher percentage of property taxes, for capital to make the kind of financial investments that might signal to lenders that they are likely to make good on their short term loan.

But for the privilege of keeping its redevelopment agency, allowing the city to enter new project agreements, the city council on Aug. 24 agreed to provisions of Assembly Bill X1 27 that include “paying to play” to the tune of $5.7 million, plus $1.4 million every year thereafter.

The money will come out of the 2011-2012 Housing Set Aside Tax Increment and the 2011-2012 Tax Increment. According to a staff report, the fee to the state will nevertheless “negatively impact the Redevelopment Agency’s ability to pursue redevelopment programs and activities designed to eliminate blight and enhance the City’s economic base.”

“In a lot of ways it’s bad news. We won’t get as much redevelopment money as we did in past years,” said Interim City Administrator Larry Kosmont.

But “some is better than none,” and Kosmont thinks the city can get “maybe one good deal a year” with what’s left of the redevelopment funds.

The council, on a 3-1 vote, approved preserving its redevelopment agency at the Aug. 24 city council meeting.

Students Waiting for Gov. to Sign CA Dream Act

September 8, 2011 by · 4 Comments 

Immigrant-rights advocates and supporters of undocumented students were waiting this week for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign AB 131, the California Dream Act, after the California Assembly on Sept. 2 approved the law that would allow undocumented students to receive state grants to finance their college education.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Esperan que el Gobernador Brown Firmará Ley que Beneficiará a los Estudiantes Indocumentados

The Assembly approved the law on a vote of 45 to 27 in favor. The governor has 30 days to sign or veto the measure, and activists are hopeful Brown, a Democrat, will give it his signature.

“This bill, when signed by Gov. Brown, will represent a historic, giant step for education and for California’s prosperity,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

AB 131, which would take effect in 2013, and AB 130, which will be implemented next year, will offer financing options similar to those legal residents receive in California.

The new law, however, only allows undocumented students access to the Board of Governors (BOG) Fee Waiver and institutional grants funded by California’s public universities.

Undocumented students will only be eligible to receive Cal Grant scholarships after all eligible legal residents have been awarded grants.

“It is a bitter point, which leaves undocumented students receiving leftovers from Cal Grant scholarships,” said Jorge Medina, a student at California State University Dominguez Hills.

Granting financial aid to undocumented students has been highly criticized at a time when budget cuts affecting public institutions of higher education are at a crisis level.

“At a time when the University of California and California State Universities are being cut and have had to increase the cost of their degrees, it does not make sense to offer the little financial aid available to students who are here illegally,” said Lupe Moreno, an anti-illegal immigration activist.

Critics of the measure say income levels should instead be changed to allow more “middle-class” students to receive assistance.

“I do not think we’re taking away opportunities from others, because people who want the opportunity can take it,” argued Maria Delgado, a UCLA student seeking a double major in philosophy and art.

“If they want the same opportunities they would do the same thing as us, we are at the top of our class, we are leaders and outstanding students,” said Delgado.

If signed by the governor, the full California Dream Act provides undocumented students with more options for financing their education, which, following the passage of AB540, allows undocumented students to pay the same tuition as legal residents in the state if they attended a California high school for three or more years, graduated and are registered in a state-accredited college.

“This bill ensures that young people who are eager to study and excel in meeting their goals, get a degree and help contribute to the California economy,” said Justino Mora, an undocumented Mexican student double-majoring in political science and computer engineering at UCLA.

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