Is city status right for East Los Angeles?

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The introduction of Assembly Bill 2986 in Sacramento has reopened the perennial question of cityhood for East Los Angeles and triggered a fight over how to even consider the question in 2024. Nearly 120,000 people live in East L.A., the most populous unincorporated community in Los Angeles County. What’s feasible? What’s fair? We asked East L.A.’s state Assembly representative, Wendy Carrillo, who introduced the bill in Sacramento, and East L.A.’s county supervisor, Hilda Solis, for their answers.

East L.A. deserves an accountable, independent assessment

By Wendy Carrillo

The residents of East Los Angeles, a historic community, have spent decades fighting for justice. Most Angelenos know about the 1968 walkouts demanding better schools, and the massive 1970 Chicano Moratorium march against the Vietnam War. Few know about the multi-decade battle the residents of East L.A. have waged for self-determination.

Earlier this year in Sacramento, I introduced Assembly Bill 2986. It would require the Local Agency Formation Commission for Los Angeles County — known as LAFCO — to create a task force to study how East L.A. tax revenues are used and review whether the community should incorporate as a city or become a “special district,” which could include an elected oversight board. This community’s nearly 120,000 residents, most of whom are Latino, need and deserve a stronger civic voice.

Despite being the largest unincorporated area in L.A. County, East L.A. lacks a formal governance structure. It is surrounded by Monterey Park, Commerce, Montebello, Maywood, Vernon and L.A. itself — all cities with mayors and city councils elected to carry out local residents’ wishes, develop economic strategies and oversee public services. In the city of L.A., residents can also make their voices heard in neighborhood councils.

In East L.A., residents have only county representation — one supervisor whose district includes 2 million people. That kind of governance isn’t local enough, and it’s not transparent enough.

In 2012, LAFCO — using a financial study done during the 2008-09 recession — denied efforts for East L.A. to incorporate. The rationale was that the community’s tax base could not support cityhood. According to many accounts, then-county Supervisor Gloria Molina, whose district encompassed East L.A., promised instead to deliver an annual financial report detailing tax collection and expenditures for the community. An East Los Angeles Advisory Committee composed of local leaders was established. Unfortunately, the financial reports never materialized and the committee was dismantled.

Now it’s time to look again at the question of East L.A.’s status, and that is exactly what AB 2986 would do. I developed the bill working with hundreds of East L.A. tenants and homeowners, business owners, nonprofit directors and community leaders. My bill does not mandate cityhood. However, the task force and the feasibility study do seek to empower East L.A. residents so that they have an effective and permanent voice in their community.

The opposition to the bill, from the Board of Supervisors, some labor groups, non-East L.A. residents and even the L.A. County Democratic Party, underscores East L.A.’s David vs. Goliath position in the county. AB 2986’s supporters simply want an accountable task force and an independent feasibility study, not analysis from a group hand-picked by the county, which has, after all, disappointed them in the past.

It shouldn’t take a state bill to have L.A. County respond to the people it governs, but in fact AB 2986 is necessary to even the odds between East L.A. and the county. The state can afford to help this community.

The real question isn’t about cityhood but a permanent form of representation for East L.A. With AB 2986, we can stand and deliver for East Los Angeles. And we should.

Wendy Carrillo represents state Assembly District 52, which includes East L.A.

East L.A. should extend its long alliance with the county

By Hilda L. Solis

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Decades of history and reams of hard data from multiple analyses have repeatedly reached the same conclusion: East Los Angeles simply does not generate enough tax revenue to make incorporation economically viable.

Four previous studies have shown that incorporation would immediately force East L.A. residents and businesses to pay higher taxes, slash vital community programs, including law enforcement, fire services, libraries and housing, and lead to outsourcing services to private, likely nonunion, contractors.

The last analysis conducted by California in 2012 showed that, if incorporated, East Los Angeles in the first year alone would run a $19-million budget deficit. That deficit would be significantly higher today given that costs for public services have grown since.

These are the harsh economic realities of incorporation: The people, businesses and union members in East Los Angeles will bear the brunt of the costs.

That’s why the L.A. County Board of Supervisors; the county chief executive office, which is responsible for overseeing L.A. County’s fiscal health; the Local Agency Formation Commission, which oversees the viability of incorporation; dozens of businesses and community organizations — as well as more than 2,100 residents who have a signed a petition of opposition — have lined up against Assembly Bill 2986. The bill calls for another task force and another detailed feasibility study, a two-year process that would cost nearly $6 million, according to county estimates.

The county has been a reliable economic partner with East Los Angeles for decades. I have spent the last 23 years advocating for the people and businesses there, lifting those who are struggling and opening doors that have been closed for far too long for far too many.

Over the last decade, the county has invested more than $500 million in East L.A. to help fund community services and infrastructure projects, including multifamily affordable housing, rent relief, parks and street improvements, and support for small businesses, seniors and low-income residents. That is in addition to the nearly $103 million the county invests annually for municipal services such as the Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation, the Sheriff’s Department and animal control.

East Los Angeles is a fiercely proud community, and rightfully so. They want accountability and transparency and a seat at the table. I couldn’t agree more.

Last month the Board of Supervisors directed every county department to conduct a year-over-year analysis to account for every dollar allocated to East Los Angeles. This should be completed within 120 days, and we will share every line item with the people of East L.A.

We’re also working to form a town council or municipal advisory committee to provide residents with a dedicated platform to advise the county on issues related to East L.A.

Extending East Los Angeles’ decades-long alliance with the county and finding new ways to work together is a better path forward than another study of cityhood.

Incorporation would be a bad deal for East Los Angeles. With California facing a historic budget deficit, the last thing taxpayers need is to waste money on another study that will tell us information we already know.

Hilda L. Solis is a Los Angeles County supervisor whose 1st District includes East Los Angeles.

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