For the first 17 years of his life, Jose Anthony Gutierrez lived in Vernon, not too far from the now closed Exide Technologies plant. He says he is living proof that Exide is to blame for many of the health issues in surrounding communities.
“Take a long hard look at me,” Gutierrez told state regulars last week during a public meeting of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) community advisory group at the Salt Lake Park Community Center in Huntington Park.
“I may look 14 but I’m actually 25 years old,” Gutierrez said. “Doctors told me I shouldn’t be alive today.”
According to Gutierrez, he and his family lived in Vernon because it was what they could afford. When he nearly died of cancer caused by years of lead exposure, the family decided to move to Huntington Park, one of the cities reeling from the fallout of Exide pollution.
“The sad part is I’m still being exposed to arsenic and god knows what else,” he said tearfully.
Just over a week ago, DTSC revealed that as many as 10,000 homes could be contaminated with lead spewed by the former acid-lead battery recycler. State regulators said soil sampling was expanded to a larger geographical area and tests showed a much higher number of properties contaminated than previously believed.
Angry residents living within the contamination zone — from Huntington Park, Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, East Los Angeles and other areas near Vernon — packed the advisory committee meeting last Thursday and loudly demanded the state agency immediately begin what could turn out to be the biggest environmental cleanup and public health disaster in California history.
Throughout the meeting, speakers decried DTSC’s years of poor regulation of Exide and voiced distrust of the agency’s ability to handle the cleanup.
“Now no one is willing to take responsibility and pay for the harm,” said Maria Flores, scolding DTSC officials for allowing Exide to continue to operate on an interim-permit for decades despite numerous toxic emission-related violations.
With her elderly father at her side, Flores said he and her husband are very ill. She blames Exide where both men worked for years for her family’s ailments.
“My son was conceived and born while my husband worked there,” she said, struggling to hold back tears. “He has severe learning disabilities. He is a seventh grader with a third grade learning capability,” she told officials and their advisors.
Exposure to lead has been linked to learning disabilities and birth defects. Children are especially at risk because they play in the dirt, according to health and environment experts.
Young children who are exposed to lead may also suffer from damage to the brain and nervous system, behavioral problems, anemia, liver and kidney damage, hearing loss, hyperactivity and in extreme cases death, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Lead poisoning in adults can cause poor muscle coordination, nerve damage, increase in blood pressure, hearing and vision impairment and reproductive problems.
According to Flores, the car her father drove to work was found to have high levels of lead. He parked the vehicle across the street or in the parking lot of the facility every day for 27 years, she said.
He would load the family into that same car, she said angrily.
Participants at the meeting demanded that the cleanup be done immediately. Questions whirled about the cost and who would pay.
Decontamination costs for the much larger number of properties is going to skyrocket, according to experts. DTSC Chief of Permitting Rizgar Ghazi said the clean up of the Exide plant alone would cost the company $26 million.
Last year, Exide struck a deal with federal authorities and state regulators to permanently close down and set aside $9 million to cleanup 219 homes in exchange for avoiding federal criminal prosecution for its illegal handling of hazardous waste.
So far, lead-tainted soil has been removed from 150 homes north and south of the plant. An additional 146 homes have been tested in an area beyond the initial scoping area to determine how far Exide’s contamination reaches.
DTSC Director Barbara Lee informed the crowd that the $7 million received from the state last week would be used to “swiftly” clean homes with lead levels above 1,000 parts per million and to conduct additional testing in the expanded zone, which now includes Commerce as well as Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park.
“How many times have we heard that,” several people in the audience scoffed over the use of the word “swiftly.”
DTSC officials continued to emphasize the agency’s commitment to cleaning up the community and holding all responsible parties accountable.
A capability many in the audience questioned.
Boyle Heights resident Yolanda Gonzalez and other speakers urged elected officials and state regulators to push California, Gov. Brown specifically, to declare a state of emergency and for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to step in and coordinate a mass evacuation from homes.
Families should be relocated and compensated for their homes and their sickness, Gonzalez said.
The cost to cleanup one residential property stands at $39,000, according to Ghazi.
Lee said DTSC is working to secure funds for the expanded residential cleanup, which could reach hundreds of millions of dollars.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia represents Commerce and says she does not want any more funds used for testing: “We just need to clean up,” she said impatiently.
DTSC officials countered that testing is necessary to helps prioritize cleanup of properties with the highest contamination. Lee said the agency and its partners are looking at chemicals that could be the “smoking gun” to directly link the contamination to Exide.
Her words seemed to do little to move the hundreds of residents at the meeting to have faith in the agency’s plan.
“No matter what is in that soil, it’s a result of your failure,” said Terry Cano. “Clean it up first and figure it out later.”
Fuming over news that as many as 10,000 homes could be contaminated with lead spewed from the now closed Exide Technologies plant in Vernon, hundreds of people on Thursday demanded state regulators immediately begin clean up of what could turn out to be the biggest “environmental clean up and public health disasters in California history.
“If you can’t handle the problem get out of the way and let federal government step in,” insisted Terry Cano, a resident of Boyle Heights whose home was found to have higher than safe levels of lead but has not yet been decontaminated.
“I don’t care where it came from, just clean it up,” she said angrily during a public meeting of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) community advisory group in Huntington Park at the Salt Lake Park Community Center.
DTSC revealed just over a week ago that the agency had expanded soil sampling for lead to a larger geographical area and the tests revealed much higher numbers of property contaminated with the toxic chemical than previously believed.
“We have preliminarily estimated the number of residential properties potentially affected could be five to six thousand, or as high as nine to 10 thousand,” Lee said. “It is certainly a large extent of impact.”
Angry residents living within the contamination zone — from Huntington Park, Bell, Boyle Heights, Commerce, East Los Angeles and other communities near the former lead-battery recycling and smelting plant packed — packed the advisory committee meeting and loudly demanded the state agency admit its failures and speed up the clean up.
DTSC will use $7 million it received from the state Thursday to swiftly clean homes with lead levels above 1,000 parts per million, agency Director Barbara Lee told the loud crowd Thursday.
The state’s money will be added to the $9 million Exide was forced to place in a community trust fund as part of an agreement to avoid federal criminal prosecution for its illegal handling of hazardous waste.
Lee said half of the funds would be used to conduct additional testing in the expanded zone, which will now include Commerce as well as Boyle Heights, Maywood and Huntington Park.
The comments struck a nerve with Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia who represents Commerce.
“We don’t need testing, we just need to clean up,” she said. “Three million [dollars] should not be going to testing!”
Several members of the community advisory committee, which is supposed to be providing input and oversight for the clean up process, also expressed distrust in DTSC’s ability to handle the cleanup.
“We don’t want you to be sorry,” a visibly agitated Teresa Marquez said. “Its time for the governor to know, its time for Obama to know.”
It’s time for California to declare a state of emergency and for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to step in and coordinate a mass evacuation from homes, some speakers said.
Exposure to lead has been linked to learning disabilities and birth defects. Children are especially at risk because they play in the dirt, according to health and environment experts.
The $9 million Exide set aside was to pay for the cleanup of 219 homes north and south of the plant. So far, lead-tainted soil has been removed from 146 homes. An additional 146 homes were tested in an area beyond the initial scoping area to determine the extent of Exide’s contamination.
Media reports have placed the cost between $150 million to $200 million. According to Lee, DTSC is working to secure funds for the expanded residential cleanup.
DTSC Chief of Permitting Rizgar Ghazi explained the cost to clean up the Exide plant site would cost the company $26 million.
“Leave Exide the way it is, use that money to clean up the community,” demanded Miguel Alfaro of Boyle Heights. “Leave the building up as an example of your lack of enforcement.”
A warehouse fire in Vernon burned for about an hour before it was brought under control early Friday.
The second alarm fire was reported at 11.30 p.m. Thursday in the 6000 block of Malburg Way, Vernon Fire Department Battalion Chief Dave Kimes said.
The blaze was fought by 40 firefighters from Vernon and nearby city fire departments, Kimes said.
“It was difficult to get to the seat of the fire,” Kimes said.
It’s official. With a grand opening ceremony Saturday attended by state and local elected officials, the city of Vernon welcomed its newest residents, 100 plus people now living in the newly opened Vernon Village Park Apartments.
The event included the ceremonial ribbon cutting, speeches and refreshments.
Not to be left out, local businesses provided their own welcoming gesture to the newcomers, baskets full of “Made in Vernon” products.
The 45-unit, low-income housing development will double the size of the city’s residential population, presumably also increasing the number of voters in the city.
“Four years ago, Vernon’s future was very much in doubt,” said Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León. “Today, I am pleased to say that the future of this city is much brighter.”
Former El Sereno resident Francis Ramirez was used to her 45-minute commute to her job in Vernon, but wanted to cut down her morning drive time.
So when earlier this year she happened upon a flyer left at her office advertising new affordable housing being built on the outskirts of Vernon, she decided to apply, sight unseen.
After months of waiting, Ramirez and her 25-year old son are now completely moved in to their new home at the Vernon Village Park on the 4600 block of 52nd Drive, although the site doesn’t officially open until next week.
“I wanted something closer to work and after learning about the pricing I took a chance,” she told EGP. “I needed a change” and this is it.
When fully occupied, the Vernon Village Park will house 102 new residents, doubling the size of Vernon’s residential population. It’s one of the key reforms adopted by the city to stave off efforts in 2012 to disincorporate the city amid allegations that, lacking a true electorate, city officials controlled elections, obscenely raised their own salaries, and evicted anyone who opposed them from city-owned homes.
On any given day there are about 50,000 people working at Vernon’s 1,800 businesses.
But with only about 110 residents and just 66 registered voters, incumbents rarely faced challengers.
“Vernon Village Park is a momentous event in the life of a city that has proudly called itself ‘Exclusively Industrial,’” reflected Mayor W. Michael McCormick, the longest sitting member on the city council.
On Monday, as she waited for her furniture to arrive, Ramirez told EGP she does not like to judge anyone by what’s gone on in the past.
“I’ve worked in Vernon for 16 years, it was my second home,” she said. “I came here with an open mind.”
The 45-unit housing project has one-, two- and three-bedroom apartment units. Tenants were qualified based on gross annual incomes that range from no more than $34,260 for one-person to $56,760 for a six-person household.
Rents range from about $687 for a one-bedroom to $1,272 for a three-bedroom unit, very affordable for the region. Section 8 is accepted.
Ramirez said moving to Vernon will save her over $225 in rent every month, not to mention the two-bedroom apartment is brand spanking new and much larger than her old apartment on Huntington Drive in El Sereno.
She happily pointed out the granite countertops, fans, carpeting and even her new walk-in closet.
“Everything is new, I get to break it all in. I’m even making my guests take off their shoes when they walk in,” she said excitedly.
When plans for the new housing were first announced in 2013, some critics raised concerns about the wisdom of building homes in an area with so many environmental problems, like the hazardous waste violations fueling headlines and protests at the now shuttered acid-lead battery recycler Exide Technologies.
But Ramirez says she is not at all concerned.
“I have worked in Vernon for years and have never had any health issues,” she rationalized.
Built by Meta Housing Corporation on two-acres of city-owned land leased to the developer for $1 a year for 65 years, amenities at the gated, non-smoking community include a community building, laundry room, computer lab, tot lot and onsite parking. Solari Enterprise Inc. will provide on-site management.
According to Meta Housing, people who already work in Vernon will occupy eleven of the 45 apartment units. Three others are being rented to people who lived within a mile of the property, with the remainder of tenants coming from all over Los Angeles County.
“We are extremely pleased these apartments will help so many young families,” said Michelle Espinosa Coulter of Meta Housing.
Ramirez says her neighbors have so far been very quiet and keep to themselves, but she expects the place to get livelier once the official opening ceremony takes place July 25.
“It’s a really small community we have here, so it will be nice if they turn this place into the new heart of the city,” she said, noting that many units appear to be occupied by young couples with children.
The area is familiar to her son Daniel Mendiola,who grew up in nearby South Gate. He told EGP he would often drive by the vacant lot but never thought he would one day live there.
“The location is convenient for me,” he said, explaining that he hopes living near so many companies he’ll “have more luck finding a job.”
Ramirez says she will register to vote and plans to attend city council meetings, which to date are usually only attended by city staff and representatives of local businesses.
Councilwoman Luz Martinez said the opening of the housing community makes good on a “pledged to double our city’s residents.” She said she looks “forward to meeting the city’s new families.”
In the meantime, Ramirez will have to learn her way around her new neighborhood, which borders the city of Maywood. She has already found a couple of grocery stores to shop at and her go-to gas station, all outside of Vernon.
But what excites Ramirez most is that her new address means her morning commute to work will drop to just 10 minutes.
“Now there’s no excuse for being late.”
Update; 7-20-15 to correct Vernon Park Village with Vernon Village Park.
Había cientos: banderas estadounidenses dañadas por años de exposición al sol y la contaminación, muy lejos del vibrante rojo, blanco, azul y de sus “gloriosos” días.
La semana pasada, la Cámara de Comercio de Vernon organizó una ceremonia para retirar las banderas descoloridas y rotas que habían recolectado de empresas y casas de la zona y que estaban en peligro de ser desechadas en un bote de basura, una falta de respeto extrema para el final del símbolo más conocido de la independencia de Estados Unidos, la bandera americana de color rojo, blanco y azul.
Read this article in English: U.S. Flags Retired in Vernon Ceremony
Este sábado, gente de todo el país exhibirá la bandera como parte de su celebración del Cuatro de Julio. Muchos no tienen idea de que hay una etiqueta que va con el ondeo, el cuidado y la eliminación de la bandera cuando está en mal estado.
El jueves pasado la Tropa 419 de los Boy Scouts dirigió la ceremonia de la bandera en la estación de bomberos de Vernon. La tropa se encuentra en Vernon, pero ninguno de sus miembros viven en la ciudad. Algunos de los más jóvenes, conocidos como cub scouts, asisten a la Primaria Vernon; la mayoría vive en las ciudades vecinas de Cudahy, Maywood y Huntington Park. Se reúnen en la estación de bomberos de Vernon.
Para el Boy Scout Andrés Soto, de 12 años, expresar lo que siente cuando ve la bandera de Estados Unidos no es fácil, él sólo sabe que está orgulloso del país que llama hogar y agradecido con todos los hombres y mujeres que lucharon y que continúan luchando, para mantener al país seguro.
“Mucha gente piensa ‘es sólo una bandera’”, que se puede tirar, pero debería ser respetada”, dijo Soto. “Hemos tenido que hacer mucho para tener nuestra bandera, que representa años de lucha y de las leyes y los cambios que hemos tenido desde entonces hasta ahora”, agregó.
Según el código de la bandera de Estados Unidos, las banderas desgastadas, rotas y descoloridas no se deben ondear, deben retirarse con dignidad, de preferencia con la quema. Hay organizaciones de todo el país, como La Legión Americana, los Veteranos de Guerras Extranjeras y los Boy Scouts de America que entienden cómo se retira adecuadamente una bandera, y muchas divisiones tienen ceremonias de retiro en el Día de la bandera o los días de fiesta militares.
María Fremd trabajó en Exide Technologies por 56 años antes de que cerrara la planta en la primavera. Regresó a Vernon la semana pasada con varias banderas que ya no estaban en buenas condiciones. “Todo el mundo estará ondeando sus banderas esta semana”, dijo Fremd, “es el momento perfecto para retirar la bandera vieja y hacer espacio para una nueva”.
Fremd dijo que no soportaba ver “las banderas rotas”.
Las ceremonias de retiro de la bandera por lo general se empapan con la tradición y la formalidad y la ceremonia de Vernon no fue la excepción. Las banderas se exhibieron a la audiencia compuesta por policías, bomberos, funcionarios de la ciudad y otros. La historia detrás del símbolo nacional—el himno americano—fue explicado antes de que las banderas se cortaran en pedazos y se colocaran en el fuego.
El Boy Scout Connor Esquivel, 11, estuvo a cargo de iniciar el fuego, donde los restos de rojo, blanco y azul eventualmente ardieron en llamas. Él dijo que la bandera le recuerda que Estados Unidos es un país libre. “La bandera se ondea sobre la mejor nación”, dijo emocionado.
Alex Duran ha trabajado en Vernon por 25 años y dice que el simbolismo de la bandera tiene un significado especial para él: “Me encanta el hecho de que el blanco representa la pureza, el azul representa la valentía y rojo simboliza toda la sangre derramada por aquellos que han servido a su país”, dijo Durán. “Me recuerda lo bendecido que soy”.
“Cuando veo la bandera pienso en un infante de marina”, dijo Fremd, quien es voluntaria en el Campo Pendleton de la Base Marina.
El alcalde de Vernon Michael W. McCormick es jefe de la tropa de Boy Scouts. Le dijo a EGP que la mayoría de las personas no se dan cuenta de que hay una manera correcta de deshacerse de una bandera y recomienda que los residentes se contacten con sus ciudades, boy scouts locales o grupo de veteranos cuando tengan una bandera que ya no está en buena forma.
“Muchas de las 30.000 empresas en Vernon ondean la bandera de Estados Unidos”, explicó Marisa Olguín, presidenta y directora ejecutiva de la cámara de Vernon. La ceremonia es propia de una ciudad industrial, dijo. “Esto demuestra nuestro firme orgullo cívico”.
Para Jason Rosa, bombero de Vernon y ex oficial de la Marina, esto significa mucho más.
“Cuando piensas en lo que la bandera simboliza, todas las personas que han muerto por la bandera, lo menos que podemos hacer es retirarla con respeto”.
La Cámara de Comercio de Vernon tiene a la venta de nuevas banderas y los ingresos se destinarán Tropa 419 de Boy Scouts de la zona de Vernon. Para más información, llame al (323) 583-3313.
There were hundreds of them: U.S. flags battered by years of exposure to sun and pollution, a far cry from the vibrant red, white and blue of their “Old Glory” days.
Last week, the Vernon Chamber of Commerce hosted a ceremony to retire faded and torn flags they had collected from area businesses and the homes of individuals that were in danger of being discarded in trash bins, a disrespectful end to the best-known symbol of U.S. independence, the red, white and blue American flag.
Lea este artículo en Español: Boy Scouts de Vernon Retiran Banderas Estadounidenses
This Saturday, people all across the country will display the flag as part of their Fourth of July celebration. Many will have no clue that there’s an etiquette that goes with flying and caring for Old Glory and for disposing of the flag when it falls into disrepair.
Boy Scout Troop 419 led last Thursday’s flag ceremony at Vernon Fire Station 1. The troop is located in Vernon but none of its members actually live in the city. Some of the younger Cub Scouts attend Vernon Elementary; most live in the bordering cities of Cudahy, Maywood and Huntington Park. They meet at the Vernon Fire Station.
For 12-year old Boy Scout Andres Soto, expressing what he feels when he sees the U.S. flag does not come easy, he just knows he’s proud of the country he calls home and grateful to all the servicemen and women who fought, and are still fighting, to keep the country safe.
“A lot of people think ‘it’s just a flag,’ that could just be thrown away, but it should be respected,” Soto said. “We’ve had to do a lot to get our flag, it represents years of fighting and the laws and changes we have had from then to now,” the scout said.
According to the United States Flag Code, worn, torn and faded flags should not be flown but retired with dignity, preferably by burning. There are organizations across the country, such as The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Boy Scouts of America that understand how to properly retire a flag, and many chapters hold retirement ceremonies on Flag Day or military holidays.
Mary Fremd worked at Exide Technologies for 56 years before the plant’s closure in the spring. She returned to Vernon last week with several flags no longer in good condition. “Everyone will be waving their flags this week,” said Fremd, “it’s the perfect time to retire an old flag and make room for a new one.”
Fremd said she could not stand seeing “the flags in a ratty state.”
Boy Scout Connor Esquivel, 11, was charged with starting the fire where the remnants of red, white and blue would eventually go up in flames. He said the flag reminds him that America is a free country. “The flag flies over the best nation,” he said excitedly.
Flag retirement ceremonies are usually steeped in tradition and formality and Vernon’s ceremony was no exception. The flags were displayed to the audience of police, firefighters, city officials and others. The history behind the national symbol – the star spangled banner – was explained before the flags were cut into pieces and placed into the fiery pit.
Alex Duran has worked in Vernon for 25 years and says the flag’s symbolism holds special meaning for him: “I love the fact that white stands for purity, blue stands for valor and red stands for all the blood shed by those who have served their country,” Duran said. “I’m reminded how blessed I am.”
“When I see the flag I think of a Marine,” said Fremd, who volunteers at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base.
Vernon Mayor W. Michael McCormick is the troop’s scoutmaster. He told EGP most people don’t realize there’s a proper way to dispose of a flag and recommended that residents contact their city, local boy scouts or veteran’s group when they have a flag that is no longer in good shape.
A ceremony like this is befitting of an industrial city like Vernon, said Marisa Olguin, president and CEO of the Vernon Chamber. “Many of the 30,000 businesses in Vernon fly the U.S. flag,” she esplained. “It shows our strong civic pride.”
For Vernon Firefighter Jason Rosa, a former Navy officer, it means so much more.
“When you think of what the flag symbolizes, all the people that have died for the flag, the least we can do is retire it with respect.”
The Vernon Chamber is selling new flags and proceeds will go towards the Vernon-area Boy Scout Troop 419. For information, call (323) 583-3313.
Failure to list a possible allergen has resulted in Vernon-based La Mexicana Food Products voluntarily recalling its Spinach Dip. The company said the products’ label failed to list milk, as a sub-ingredient of the listed ingredient, sour cream.
According to the company, people who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk run the risk of a life threatening allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, that requires immediate medical attention if they consume the product.
La Mexicana Spinach Dip is packaged in a 14-ounce clear plastic cup. The product is white in color, with pieces of spinach visible throughout. The lid has a green and yellow circular border with “La Mexicana” in white lettering.
Customers should return the product to the place of purchase for a refund, the company said.
For the first time in a long time, a Vernon city councilmember asked city staff some tough questions about the $380 million proposed budget for 2015-2016 the city council would ultimately unanimously approve.
Councilwoman Melissa Ybarra asked department heads Tuesday to cut their budgets 5 to 10 percent to help businesses facing increases in fees. She said she was not pleased that the departments have proposed a budget that’s been balanced “on the backs of businesses.”
“We’re raising rates for businesses but I don’t see [the city] cutting back,” she said.
Ybarra question whether staff had determined if the increases to city fees approved last year and again last month had caused any businesses to leave the industrial city.
It was an unusual exchange in a city where councilmembers routinely approve staff recommendations with little public discussion.
Vernon’s independent reform monitor, former Attorney General John Van de Kamp, congratulated Ybarra for her questioning of the budget details and changing the tone of council meetings in the city.
“It’s very refreshing [after] having sat here for years, to hear a councilmember ask these types of questions,” Van de Kamp said.
“These are the questions that need to be asked regularly at council meetings.”
Responding to Ybarra, City Administrator Mark Whitworth shot back that Vernon – home to 1,800 business but only about 110 residents – has an occupancy rate of 95.6 percent, one of the highest in Los Angeles County.
He said the city’s utility and other business-related fees are 60 percent of what neighboring cities are charging.
“Granted, there will always be a few people that want it to return to the way it was 20 years ago, we just don’t have the reserves or cash balances for that anymore,” Whitworth said.
In 2011, Vernon faced a $16 million deficit but has since managed to turn its finances around.
Not satisfied, Ybarra pressed staff to justify why they are adding 19 new positions to the city payroll and the city’s retirement fund.
Whitworth said the city’s past financials woes had forced reducing the number of city employees from 322 in 2007 to the current 255.
“I not only cut staffing, I gutted it,” he said.
Police Chief Daniel Calleros and Fire Chief Michael A. Wilson each said their department’s personnel had also been cut to the “bare bones.”
If employees can’t be cut, can you cut other areas of department spending, countered Ybarra.
“Can you answer me right now, can you cut another 5 to 10 percent overall?” she asked the department heads.
Carlos Fandino Jr., director of electric and gas justified his department’s staffing increase, saying the cost was being offset by a significant decrease in what the department would spend for supplies and services.
“Reducing by 5 percent is doable, but understand there are consequences,” he warned.
The only way to cut the budget further is to cut capital projects and infrastructure, said Public Works Director Kevin Wilson.
Ybarra reminded staff that any increase to fees or reduction in services directly affects the business community.
“We’re asking the businesses to pay for it because we’re not like other cities, we don’t have the residents to get additional revenues from,” she said.
“Is there any way to cut spending a little more,” she asked one final time.
Finance Director William Fox said he too doesn’t want to see costs go up but explained the budget is already very tight. He said the city had reduced expenditures $3 million compared to last year.
Peter Corselli of U.S. Growers Cold Storage regularly attends council meetings. He thanked Ybarra for putting staff on notice and making them answer some hard questions.
Corselli said he’s opposed to the new fee structure and demanded the city to conduct a new study to determine if the city is as competitive as it says it is.
“If you want to silence your critics redo the study,” he said.
Van de Kamp agreed that the city’s rate are competitive but said they may no longer reflect historical margins previously cited.
“I urge the city to report what’s different, it’s important to the business community,” he said.
Before being elected in February, Ybarra told EGP she was not one to shy away from asking tough questions. She was elected during a special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of her father, Michael A. Ybarra.
Like her father, Ybarra told EGP she would stand up for the business community.
Desde hace unos años, la Iglesia de la Resurrección en Boyle Heights ha sido el epicentro del movimiento para cerrar la planta de baterías de reciclaje Exide localizada en Vernon, un papel que continuó desempeñando la semana pasada como anfitriona de la primera reunión de un nuevo comité asesor encargado de supervisar el cierre de la controversial planta y la limpieza de contaminación de plomo y arsénico que dejó a su paso.
La reunión del 28 de mayo tuvo todas las características de una reunión tradicional del consejo de la ciudad o de la comisión, incluyendo la agenda requerida, minutos y el seguimiento del procedimiento parlamentario.
Read this article in English: Exide Advisory Group Assembles
En muchos aspectos, fue un paso sólido hacia el futuro para una comunidad que siempre se había sentido marginada por los reguladores estatales de contaminación.
“Aquí es donde empieza la asociación”, Barbara Lee, directora del Departamento de Control de Sustancias Tóxicas (DTSC), dijo con entusiasmo en la reunión inaugural del Grupo Asesor de Exide.
Con 37 miembros, el comité generalmente grande está compuesto por personas que representan a la comunidad, los organismos reguladores y funcionarios electos.
Debido a que la comunidad afectada es tan grande, nos pareció que un mayor número de miembros del comité sería apropiado, dijo la portavoz de DTSC Sandy Nax.
El comité se reunirá una vez al mes para revisar aspectos específicos del proceso de cierre, y para plantear preguntas como lo hicieron la semana pasada en temas tales como dónde se moverá el suelo tóxico. Los miembros del comité son el enlace entre los reguladores comunitarios y estatales que realizan el trabajo del día a día en la limpieza de los productos químicos tóxicos en la planta y en las comunidades cercanas.
El comité asesor se formó en respuesta a una avalancha de opinión pública negativa resultante de la mala respuesta de DTSC a las preocupaciones de la comunidad acerca de los productos químicos tóxicos que se arrojan ilegalmente de la planta de Vernon actualmente cerrada.
Lee, quien asumió el cargo más alto de DTSC hace apenas unos meses, se comprometió a principios de este año para asegurarse que se le otorgaría la palabra a la comunidad en el futuro. El comité asesor ayuda a Lee a cumplir esa promesa.
El subdirector de DTSC Jim Marxen dijo que el trabajo de la comisión pretende complementar las audiencias públicas que se llevarán a cabo. Ellos le darán a la comunidad otra oportunidad de expresar sus preocupaciones durante el proceso de cierre, dijo.
“El grupo estará involucrado desde el principio en el proceso”… ayudando a lograr un cambio y “ahorrarse el tiempo de cada uno” al “comunicar las necesidades de la comunidad”, dijo Marxen.
Se espera que los miembros de los comités consultivos vengan preparados para compartir ideas y proporcionar comentarios sobre el cierre y materiales de limpieza relacionados, y la preparación de los documentos necesarios para cumplir con la Ley de Calidad Ambiental de California (CEQA).
“Nunca hemos demolido una instalación de este riesgo”, señaló Jane Williams de Ciudadanos del Desierto Contra la Contaminación.
En primer lugar, el grupo debe contratar a un asesor técnico para explicar el alto volumen de datos de los miembros del comité técnico y revisarlos antes de tomar acción.
El comité también debe seleccionar un copresidente de la comunidad para unirse a Lee y a Barry Wallerstein director del Distrito de Gestión de Calidad del Aire de la Costa Sur para la moderación de las reuniones y establecer el tono para los debates.
Mirando alrededor de la sala de la semana pasada, Mark López con East Yard Communities señaló que sólo una cuarta parte de 37 miembros de la comisión no representan ya sea a un funcionario público o una agencia pública.
“Es un poco preocupante”, dijo.
Pero de acuerdo con Lee, más de un tercio de los miembros del comité son de la comunidad.
“Realmente tratamos de ser inclusivos”, dijo. “Quiero que el grupo sea eficaz”, agregó, explicando por qué no cree que sea una buena idea agregar más personas a la comisión.
La reunión del jueves pasado demostró que el grupo refleja muchos puntos de vista, y que los miembros están dispuestos a hablar con franqueza acerca de nuestro trabajo, dijo Nax.
Marxen dijo a los miembros del comité que ellos están encargados de comunicar y educar a sus respectivos constituyentes sobre el proceso de cierre, que comenzó formalmente en abril.
El cierre permanente viene después de años de violaciones de residuos peligrosos por Exide que expusieron a más de 110,000 personas en los barrios y ciudades del Este de Los Ángeles a Maywood a niveles tóxicos de arsénico y plomo, productos químicos conocidos por causar cáncer y trastornos neurológicos, problemas de aprendizaje y otras cuestiones de salud.
En marzo, la oficina del Fiscal de EE.UU. llegó a un acuerdo con Exide que permitiría a la empresa y a sus ejecutivos evitar la persecución penal a cambio del cierre definitivo de la planta de Vernon y la limpieza total del sitio y propiedades que hayan sido contaminadas.
La primera fase de cierre que incluirá la demolición de edificios, se espera que tome entre 19 a 22 meses, según el DTSC.
La próxima reunión consultiva se llevará a cabo en junio en la ciudad de Maywood. Las reuniones están abiertas al público.