Local and national elections promise to be exciting in 2016, and more than 100 ballot measures are being consider by the State of California, with at least 25 expected to qualify — the most in many years. Before giving a detailed rundown of the many initiatives at the Arcadia Chamber’s monthly Government Affairs Forum, guest speaker Brad Jensen, Director of Public Policy of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership, provided an update on the sale of the Ontario Airport.
Also reported at the Forum sponsored by Singpoli were reports on new businesses being opened in Arcadia, including a renowned Sechuan Chinese restaurant, a report from Mayor Gary Kovacic, legislative updates at the County level, and other input from community leaders (details below).
Forum chairman Jack Orswell began the meeting with the pledge of allegiance to the flag and asking attendees to remember the victims of a mass shooting this week in San Bernardino.
Jensen, whose member-based SGVEP is dedicated to growing the local San Gabriel Valley economy and improving the quality of life, said a vote of approval is expected on the sale of the Ontario Airport by the L.A. City Council December 15, 2015 with all final approvals and turnover of control to the City of Ontario expected by summer 2016. Along with this the City of Ontario would be in the process of finding a CEO to manage the airport by February of 2016.
There are issues being considered for the ballot this year that cover the waterfront of subjects ranging from taxes, pension reform, California independence, abortion, electoral reforms, water, and marijuana legalization, the latter of which Jensen described as “a bad idea whose time has come” (more on this below). One measure called Stop Blank Check initiative is opposed by the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership because it is designed to stop the California Water Fix, the Delta tunnels project, Jensen said.
A main topic of Jensen’s presentation involved a ballot measure to begin a process of initiating a string of school bonds for K-12 schools and community colleges. The measure would authorize $9 billion in general obligation bonds: $3 billion for new construction and $3 billion for modernization of K-12 public school facilities; $1 billion for charter schools and vocational education facilities; and $2 billion for California community colleges. Jensen illustrates the importance he places in the community college programs by noting a positive and direct correlation between students who attend California community colleges and those that find jobs in California. As this point is clarified further through the fact that while California is and should be commended for outstanding UC and CSU programs, the students who graduate from those universities are more likely to find employment outside of California. Implied in the ballot measure is that by investing in school bonds and providing even greater support to California school programs, cities would be investing greatly in the next wave of the California workforce.
Special attention was payed to the issue of legalizing marijuana in Jensen’s presentation as it has many possible ramifications due to the nature of what is described in the ballot measures. Jensen presented up to eight measures cleared for circulation that were titled Marijuana Legalization, these measures would legalize under state law marijuana use, growth, cultivation, possession, transportation, storage, or sale and creates board to license and regulate the marijuana industry. In addition to this, Measure 15-0027 would impose a 15% tax on non-medical marijuana and 3% tax on medical marijuana, and additional temporary taxes.
Although there are possible financial benefits to the passing of these measures Jensen presents the fact that these positives must be weighed against the many ramifications that could arise. To add to the importance of this issue is the possibility that because California represents around 10% of the US population, Jensen indicates that the passing of such measures is a clear indication that similar measures may be forthcoming across the country. An example of one such problem Jensen presented is that under Initiative 15-0027 non-violent marijuana offenders from prison would be released and their criminal records would be erased. Also due to the nature of the effects of marijuana there could be an increase in the presence of police, and Jensen’s last possible outcome deals with the establishment of border-towns created through major cities not accepting the institution of marijuana dispensaries. With the wave of marijuana ballot measures comes two initiatives that would increase the sales tax of cigarettes by $2 per pack. Chamber member Franklin Ruedel noted that it would appear the state would be bolstering one vice while hindering another.
Reports from legislators and their representatives:
- Brian Mejia, from the office of L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, spoke about the recent gas leak situation in Newport Ranch, noting that the County is monitoring the problem and making note of the level of gases. Mejia also presented the County’s response to the upcoming possible El Nino, which is the launching of a website to help disperse necessary information to the public. The website’s address is www.lacounty.gov/elnino, and it will provide real-time details on rainfall and road closures, as well as where to get sandbags to prevent possible water damage to homes. Finally, the County is also working on combating human trafficking.
- Arcadia Mayor Gary Kovacic said the City is also offering to make up to 20 sandbags available free to residents at the Fire Station 107 on Foothill Blvd. to protect their homes, but noted the public will be given the sand and bags separately and will need to fill their own sandbags.
Kovacic also reported on this week’s dedication of the Gold Line bridge over Santa Anita Avenue near Fasching’s Car Wash and In-N-Out. The bridge is set up with a sophisticated light system which can display many patterns. In collaboration with the seasons the lights are currently red and green. Arcadia is the only city along the 11.5-mile extension where residents voted to approve building a bridge, which Kovacic spearheaded on the Council years ago to avoid a train crossing every few minutes over the heaviest-traveled thoroughfare in town.
Kovacic also reminded everyone of the snow festival which is taking place this weekend and promises to be a great event for all ages. He also reminded attendees that the city is proceeding with work on the citywide residential and commercial zoning code update with a goal of completing it in February or March prior to the City’s election. A petition is still being circulated to put another issue on the ballot asking voters to approve a proposed zoning code with wording that could only be changed or revised via another election ballot. The ballot already has an issue asking voters if they want to repeal the utility users tax, which all City Council members, the police, fire and Arcadia Chamber of Commerce strongly oppose.
- Tim Schwehr, City of Arcadia Economic Development Analyst, announced that NAI Capital has completed a draft analysis of business districts in Arcadia that will be finalized soon with a report on what’s working and what is not.
Meanwhile, a host of exciting new businesses are coming soon all over town:
- A new vegetarian Chinese sechuan restaurant in Downtown Arcadia, the first of its kind in L.A. County and the first in the U.S. for a popular chain in China. The city has received a business license for the new eatery in place of the former La Luna Negra and Patio restaurants on the north side of Huntington Drive just east of Santa Anita Avenue.
- A proposed vegetarian Chinese hot pot restaurant in Downtown Arcadia in the completely renovated former location of Zapata Vive.
- A Starbucks drive-through is proposed for the northwest corner of Santa Anita Avenue and Live Oak Avenue in the stand-alone building formerly occupied by Wal-greens and Famima.
- A mixed-use development to replace Arcadia Fitness at the southwest corner of Duarte Road and First Avenue, with retail/commercial on the ground floor and 37 condominium units above. The proposal goes before the City Council Dec. 15
Linda Sells from the Monrovia, Arcadia and Duarte Town Council reminded everyone that the organization, which is still looking for a building to move the popular library, meets the third Wednesday of each month at Pamela Park and that instead of the annual Christmas dinner at Pamela Park, this year the event will feature snow for kids on December 12. She said a monument is being built at the intersections of Live Oak and Myrtle Avenues near the Shrimp House, and thanked the City of Arcadia for helping to create a matching one on the other end.
The next Government Affairs Forum on January 7 at 8 a.m. will feature Carol Wong Quan – special assistant, public affairs, executive office of Jeffrey Prang, Assessor, County of Los Angeles, who will provide an informative presentation on methodologies to save on property taxes.
The public is invited at 8 a.m. on the first Thursday of each month to hear informative presentations at the monthly Government Affairs Forum sponsored by Singpoli and led by Chairman Jack Orswell from Orswell & Kasman, Inc. Environmental Assessments & Consulting. The Forums are held at the Chamber office at 388 W. Huntington Drive in Arcadia in the Chamber’s conference room sponsored by Foothill Credit Union. RSVPs to the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce office are appreciated – (626) 447-2159 or info@ArcadiaCaChamber.org.
The Arcadia Chamber of Commerce would like to lastly extend a warm happy holidays to everyone.