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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What would East LA get out of cityhood?

Recently, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 711 making available a $45,000 loan to proponents, the East Los Angeles Residents Association (ELARA) for use in the current effort to make East Los Angeles (ELA) a city. A fact unknown to most, ELA is actually an “unincorporated” area of Los Angeles County. Despite several past failures back to 1961 that Latino dream of city hood doesn’t seem to want to die. Or does it?

In many ways it is a “tale of two non-cities” for the community as debates rage on between those who see city hood as a viable and deserved bridge to the future and those who seek to preserve the cultural meaningfulness that ELA represents.

For example, at a recent sparsely attended “community meeting” over the conversion of the long-abandoned Golden Gate Theater in ELA into a CVS pharmacy with alcohol sales, that tug-of-war was evident when the Mothers of East Los Angeles (MELA), a non-profit environmental justice organization in East LA, argued against the CVS pharmacy because it deems it a poor cultural use of this historical complex, while ELARA argued for it, not surprisingly, because it would mean critical revenue for any future city of East Los Angeles.

No doubt, our past guides and empowers us. Yet, when we myopically cling too hard to the past, we risk becoming a “closed system,” an entity that allows very little beneficial exchange with its environment and, thus, becomes stale only to suffocate itself. Perhaps our internal crisis of direction is best viewed in the context of the many issues that truly plague ELA and which, ostensibly, are a call for serious changes.

Why change? If we have any real desire to prosper as a community, we must change. Yes, some would like things to continue as they have for decades, to go on with a “wild, wild east” mentality where rules are few and anything goes. In reality, we are in deep trouble. Our problems are many and few solutions reach fruition because of that great divide that pits us against each other and thins our collective power.

If “place matters” in the overall success, health, and well being of an individual from birth to death, then consider what the following statistics tell us about life in East LA as compared to another local but more fortunate community …

Public records show that one square mile of unincorporated ELA has on the average when compared to one square mile of the city of Malibu about 28 times the number of registered sex offenders, 7 times the number of murders, and 27 times the number of dog bites since 2007. In addition, ELA drinking water has been tainted with manganese, a potential neurotoxin, for years at levels exceeding the standards while Malibu has not. Further, ELA is a very densely populated area in desperate need of new housing. Unfortunately, the county does not even routinely track the number of single-family dwelling units being built, probably because construction is stagnant and not a priority. In Malibu, new homes are being built.

ELARA has succeeded at raising funds to push through a formal “comprehensive fiscal analysis” (CFA) to be done by a consultant as a formal, county-required, economic audit of ELA to determine if it would be viable as a city.

However, what it may show is that there remain serious concerns and uncertainties about the feasibility of our community to make it as a city as things stand now given the extreme pressures on most cities because of the protracted, poor economy. The timing may be bad for incorporation. In fact, the League of California Cities has stated that estimates are “grim for property and sales tax,” both key city revenues. The City of Bell’s recent announcement that it is becoming a “100% contracted” city to cut costs further illustrates the challenges nowadays to being a city.

Consider that in the short four-mile strip of Whittier Boulevard, a major thoroughfare running through ELA between Indiana Street and Garfield Avenue, there are approximately 40 hair salons/barber shops, 16 auto insurance stores, 12 mobile phone retailers, 10 bakeries, and 6 “botanicas”!

Can such a “mix” of businesses adequately sustain profitability to serve those businesses or the municipal revenues that a future city would rely on? These days in ELA that is debatable. Then again, C.K. Prahalad, a business guru, once said that “poverty is not stupidity; poverty is lack of opportunity.”

So we in ELA ought best ask ourselves relevant questions in order to forge the right “opportunities”… like do we really need another taco venue or another used car dealership in East LA?

If city hood can get us to that “better place” we seek, perhaps it’s a debate we must not take lightly. No doubt, economics will be critical in determining if ELA can make it as a city. So it behooves us to keep an open but balanced perspective when evaluating the issues.

– C.J. Salgado, MBA

8 comments

  1. According to CJ, “public records show that one square mile of unincorporated ELA has on the average when compared to one square mile of the city of Malibu about 28 times the number of registered sex offenders, 7 times the number of murders, and 27 times the number of dog bites since 2007″. The first question i have is where did you get your source?

    The second question is why would you compare East LA to Malibu? It doesn’t make any sense to compare them both because we all know that they are not comparable in nature. You’re comparing apples to oranges. Maybe if you compare to El Monte or any other city with similiar demographics, population density, etc then it would be a good comparison.

    You state that the CFA is “county-required” and that is also wrong. It is state mandated and LAFCo is the watchdog to ensure orderly development of cities, etc.

    You also state, “The timing may be bad for incorporation. In fact, the League of California Cities has stated that estimates are “grim for property and sales tax,” both key city revenues”. Sales-tax do make a sizeable percent of a city’s budget, but property tax do not make a good portion of the budget -it actually depends on a community’s median family homes (the higher the property values, the more it could contribute to the property taxes).

    I do agree with you CJ on the need to diversified the businesses in East Los Angeles. You asked, “Can such a “mix” of businesses adequately sustain profitability to serve those businesses or the municipal revenues that a future city would rely on”. This question needs to be restated as: do the residents in ELA shop locally or do they leak their money out to the surrounding cities, etc? You can have a “mix of businesses”, but if the residents don’t shop locally then the businesses suffer as well as potential sales tax.

    “In Malibu, new homes are being built.” WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND that counties and cities do not BUILD homes, etc. They instead repair roads and it is, they could barely keep up with those costs and maintenance. It is in the community plan, specific plan, or general plan that a city or unincorporated area provides the blueprint for development. It is private enterprise and sometimes along with public/private partnerships that housing gets built. Just needed to clarify this misconception.

    sincerely yours,
    jose

  2. Steven F. Jimenez

    I suspect that East Los Angeles as a City would be more like Maywood, Bell Gardens, or La Puente than Malibu if it incorporated. Do the residents really need this kind of headache?

    By the way, the CVS issue is a lousy argument for cityhood. CVS is just another cookie cutter business, with minimum wages jobs, more interested in selling booze.

    Steven F. Jimenez

  3. Its fact checking time. First of all this article is not bipartisan. The author C.J. Slagado is actually against the effort. He actually did think it would make it this far, he only tries to seem bi-partisan to hide his propaganda. Hey dont take it from me, read the open letter he wrote EGP news heres the link.

    http://egpnews.com/?p=15622

    Fact Checking:
    ELARA was for the CVS?
    There was no endorsement made, indivduals do not represent the whole board of ELARA.

    Comparing Malibu to East L.A?
    If C.J. does in fact have an M.B.A. he would understand that this comparison has many fallacies in it, his logic is to try to make ELA seem worse than it is. Why didnt he compare the area to local cities, ex Montebello, Maywood etc.

    Poor Economy?
    The Initial Fiscal Analysis done by in 2007 shows that East L.A. brings in $51 milion in revenues vs the $45million in expenditures. Yes $51 million, dont underestimate the car insurance shops, cell phones dealers, etc.

    C.J. Salgado?
    This guy is the Anakin skywalker of the Cityhood effort, first he was completely for it, now hes completely against it. Writing these pieces just lets me know, he is not a reliable source. He talks about the problems of Cityhood but never talks about solutions. Its easy to critisize everyone else and say no, but then again im sure he will change his mind again when the effort becomes successful.

  4. Would the residents want this extra headache?

    YES! Otherwise they’re gonna keep getting manganese headaches. No taxation without representation!

  5. I live in an unincorporated part of East LA. We need city-hood! Nothing ever gets done because of the County BS.

  6. Steven F. Jimenez

    El Magico & City T- I don’t believe you can blame the County for all the problems. One can look at cities like La Puente, Maywood, or Lynwood, or even Boyle Heights and see some problems run deeper than what local government can provide. It really starts with the residents working together to clean up the alleys and streets of abandon furniture and cars, wipe off the graffitti, and patronize mom and pop businesses. Now get busy and start neighborhood clean ups.

    And yes my family has lived in East Los Angeles since the 1950s.

  7. Mr. Jimenez,
    How do I get the people on my block (Hazard) to clean up their front yards? How do I get a sign removed from a house that reads “We Do Hair” and get rid of the fact that there is yard sale every weekend and during the week? I’m a proud Latino who wants the Latino community to thrive, how can I establish or the community establish some rules and regulations so the community can get better?
    I feel if city-hood happens I can actually start a beautification program for East LA
    I’m going to print some signs and place them on my block.
    “Make $”
    “Clean yo’ Shit Up”

  8. Start by contacting David Vela at Supervisor Molina’s East LA Office. Have some of the other residents also request a meeting. Organization is the key. What you are describing are really simple requests. Also, does the City Terrace Coordinating Council still meet? Or, is there a Sheriff’s Neighborhood Watch?

    By the way, what kind of County B.S. does Mr. Vela tell you? I’m curious.

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