Archived: Open Letter: East LA Residents Deserve Full Time Government Accountability


One thing that struck me while listening to supporters, opponents and skeptics alike of the East LA incorporation effort during last week’s LAFCO hearing was that nearly everyone agreed East LA should become a city.

East LA residents have waited almost 40 years for accurate financial data showing where their tax dollars are being spent. While every city, state and nation has to present a balanced budget to its citizens, county government has failed East LA residents in this regard. The county has operated East LA, one of the largest unincorporated areas in Los Angeles County, in financial darkness, without regard or little effort to improve the economic infrastructure of our community.

Some have cited the current economic recession as a reason to wait for incorporation. The recession is not a reason but an excuse to not face the facts. The county is not immune from the economic recession, much like the state and our nation are not immune, but the fact remains that it has been 40 years of neglect and lack of investment, which have us where we are today.

Our community’s perpetual state of dependency did not begin with the recession, but rather has been the result of decades without strategic community planning and a balanced budget. As a result, this has kept thousands of residents wondering what their future holds.

While every elected official/government always asks their constituencies to become civically engaged, the opposite seems to be taking place in East LA. Perhaps, investing countless hours of volunteer work over 4.5 years; collecting over 16,000 signatures (33% of the electorate); spending over $200,000 to pay for all the fees and financial studies to get credible and accurate data to the residents of East LA might be too much civic engagement for the county.

Whether you are an East LA Cityhood supporter or not, is it too much to ask where your tax dollars are going?

If law enforcement costs by some accounts indicate that East LA residents are paying 40% more than what other comparable communities are paying without any clear justification, is it too much to ask why and who is responsible for overseeing these costs? Are we getting 40% more in services or are we paying more for less?

If the fiscal analysis purportedly shows that East LA has a structural deficit of $19 million, is it too much to ask why has this community operated without a balanced budget? Who is responsible to develop a plan of economic recovery?

If the comprehensive fiscal analysis shows that if East LA becomes a city the county stands to gain $27 million as a result, is it too much to ask of our government to do the right thing by working with East LA residents to develop a balanced budget, thus closing the “$19 million gap” and saving the county nearly $8 million annually?

East LA residents deserve more than answers, it deserves a functional local government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

We have not expected or demanded anything more of our government than what we ourselves are willing to do. They have cited financial obstacles and we have provided fiscal solutions!

LAFCO should provide leadership and forge a Revenue Neutrality agreement with LA County to let East LA voters decide at the ballot box whether or not to have its own city.

And to those who use scare tactics to try and prevent full and fair consideration of the East LA Cityhood proposal — we love East LA just as much as you do. We each have our own dream and vision for a better East LA. As Cityhood proponents, we’re demanding full-time accountability from our government. Let’s come together and provide solutions to getting there.

East LA is viable. The question is under what conditions? LAFCO needs to bring options forward so the people of East LA can vote and decide what’s best for their community. Don’t deny the voters of East LA the right to vote on their own local government.

Let’s become a model city and set ourselves on a path to sustainability and improved quality of life for our families, our children, and the generations ahead.

LAFCO: Let us not repeat history, but let’s make history together…

Benjamin Cárdenas
East LA Residents Association
President and Taxpayer

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