Local News The Press

Recall notices served on Huntington Park council members

HUNTINGTON PARK — Four City Council members, faced with possible recall, may have made their positions more tenuous Feb. 19 by approving an ordinance to allow up to three medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

Final action on that action is expected at the March 15 meeting.

Former City Councilwoman Linda Caraballo, a paralegal who prepared the intent to recall notices, said Mayor Karina Macias, Vice Mayor Graciela Ortiz and Council members Jhonny Pineda and Marilyn Sanabria, have legally been served with notices of intent to recall papers, even through they refused to personally accept the papers, which were left on a front banister.

Caraballo said the serving was recorded on video and viewed by several dozen members of the audience.

If the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters Office in Norwalk certifies the signatures on the recall papers the four officials will have seven days to respond.

After that, petitions of recall may be circulated, with about 5,000 signatures needed.

Maywood activist Sandra Orozco read a list of accusations. Huntington Park residents George Frankel and Francisco Rivera set the papers down when no one came forward to accept them and they were not allowed to approach the dais.

Ortiz, Pineda and Sanabria were elected in March 2015 and were supported by Macias, who was elected in 2013.

According to the petitions, the four council members have appointed friends and relatives to advisory committees, with Pineda’s appointments being two non-citizens who worked on his campaign. Efrain Martinez, allegedly campaign manager for Macias and not currently a Huntington Park resident, was appointed to the Planning Commission. Macias also was accused of seeking election while not yet a city resident.

The four also are accused of approving a sweetheart contract with Metropolitan Transit, headed by a large donor to their campaigns.

Sanabria commented that the bus service contract was a last-minute arrangement last year necessary to continue transit operations after the Oldtimers Foundation pulled out of its contract.

Amezquita voted against the appointment of the non-citizens, the transit agreement and medical marijuana shops. He was not targeted in the recall effort by residents and a regional group called We the People Rising.

Those in favor of the marijuana dispensaries said they are allowed by state law and would help people suffering from serious illnesses. One supporter declared that “no one has overdosed on marijuana, which was safer than smoking and alcohol consumption.”

But opponents said marijuana dispensaries attract crime, are subject to abuse with fake prescriptions.

They noted it is not approved by the federal government and said it’s not endorsed by health organizations.

Former Councilman Ric Loya, a retired health program administrator in the Los Angeles Unified School District, opposed the dispensaries because of possible health problems for young people.

He said the city ordinance apparently limits medical marijuana to residents and questioned why three shops were needed to serve a limited number of patients.

City Manager Edgar Cisneros said staff recommended changing the city law, which currently bans dispensaries, so the city can regulate marijuana transactions easier because of numerous restrictions.

Police Chief Cosme Lozano agreed, saying he would rather know the shop locations to keep an eye on them as opposed to having underground sales.

Cisneros noted that the council could choose to reject individual claims for dispensaries and have zero shops.

He said the Huntington Park law would allow city restrictions regardless of how state voters act on proposed recreational use of marijuana on the November ballet.

Macias said she directed staff to propose changes to allow medical marijuana “because marijuana use seems to be the trend.”