Huntington Park council approves spending limits

HUNTINGTON PARK — City employees, from administrators to department heads and regular workers, are limited in the amount of purchases they can make under an ordinance approved 4-0 Dec. 5. Mayor Marilyn Sanabria was absent.

City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman said the limits were not prompted by careless spending in the past, but just to provide clear guidelines and clarify existing city policy on spending.

Acting City Manager Ricardo Reyes, in a report to the council, said the council asked him to establish a spending limit policy which will ensure that sound fiscal and budgetary practices are implemented by imposing certain limits upon the city manager, all department heads and employees.

Under the new policy, department heads shall have the authority to purchase supplies, services or equipment in the amount of $1,000 or less without City Council approval.

The city manager shall have the authority to purchase supplies, services or equipment in the amount of $1,000 or greater, but not to exceed $5,000, without prior City Council approval.

Under the ordinance, the city manager, shall have the authority to purchase supplies, services or equipment in the amount of $5,000 or greater, but not to exceed $10,000, as requested by the city’s departments without prior City Council approval, but such purchases shall be debited from the city manager’s budget accounts.

The policy also addresses emergency situations.

“In the event of an emergency situation, as defined below, emergency purchases may be authorized by the city manager … which exceed the above spending limits when time is of the essence.”

“Emergency situations” were defined as events requiring the preservation or protect life, health or property; in circumstances involving natural disasters; and to forestall a shut down of essential public services.

“When emergency situation purchases have been approved by the city manager, these purchases shall be submitted to the City Council at the earliest possible date for ratification of such purchases,” Reyes said.
“This policy also requires all other federal, state and local laws must be followed for bidding and RFP (requests for projects) requirements, he added.
“This policy will limit and restrict purchases and expenditures without prior City Council approval. The city will experience savings in an amount currently unknown due to the oversight and monitoring by the City Council and this more restrictive policy,” he concluded.

In other action Dec. 5, the council discussed in closed session for informational purposes but took no formal action on a lawsuit filed by Arthur Schaper, a Torrance blogger who is active with We the People Rising, a conservative regional group headed by Robin Hvidston of Claremont.

Members have attended every council meeting since fall 2016 to protest the appointment by Vice Mayor Jhonny Pineda of two non-citizens to advisory boards and to demand their removal.

Schaper, who videotapes the council meetings and interviews people, apparently for his blog, told a reporter he is seeking $10,000 in punitive damages for violation of his civil rights and defamation of his character.

The incident was June 6 when he was ordered by Mayor Marilyn Sanabria to be escorted by police from the meeting for allegedly shouting loud, generally derogatory comments at council members and disrupting the meeting.

Schaper said he did nothing wrong.

From 10 to 15 members of We the People Rising have spoken on the issue at various meetings. However, only three commented Dec.5 — Schaper, Hvidsgton and a man wearing a Donald Trump T-shirt.

We the People Rising was founded in 2011 and 2012 when its executive director, Robin Hvidston and others organized at the offices of former Congressman Gary Miller in Rancho Cucamonga to support enforcement of immigration laws, according to an online report.

“We are growing and your supporters are decreasing,” Schaper told the council. “We will not go away. We have won and you have lost. See you in court.”


Huntington Park targeted by anti-immigrant group

HUNTINGTON PARK — A second organization concerned about illegal immigration is targeting the city.

American Children First filed an a initiative “to defund the sanctuary city of Huntington Park,” after a June 19 press conference at City Hall, said its executive director, Joseph Turner, who founded the organization.

“Huntington Park is not a sanctuary city and never was,” Police Chief Cosme Lozano told a reporter after some speakers called for the city to declare itself a sanctuary city during public comments at the June 20 council meeting.

American Children First joins We The People Rising, which since August 2015 has protested at almost every council meeting the appointment of two non-citizens to advisory commissions by Councilman Jhonny Pineda.

Pineda appointed Francisco Medina to the city’s Health and Education Commission and Julian Zatarain to the Parks and Recreation Commission 22 months ago. He acknowledged that both worked on his election campaign in March 2015.

We the People Rising have said council members are violating the U.S. Constitution and breaking the law.

Huntington Park City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman said June 20 he received the election initiative June 19 but had not had a chance to review it and compile a ballot proposition.

He did not say when he would do it and said he wasn’t sure how many votes were needed for its passage. It would depend on voter turnout percentage at the last city election, he said.

The American Children First plan is to convince residents to vote down the city’s utility tax, giving residents a tax break, but also forcing the city to reduce police, fire, recreation and public works services.

“The measure is identical to the one we filed in Cudahy [June 12] where we seek to repeal Cudahy’s 4 percent utility user tax,” Turner said.

Deputy City Clerk Richard Ybarra said the Cudahy City Council received the petition and said “the people will decide.”

The Huntington Park utility user tax generates more than $6 million a year and accounts for more than 20 percent of the city’s general revenue fund, Turner said in a news release.

“I will take that money away from you,” Turner told the Huntington Park City Council June 20.

That tax is 9.25 percent a month on telecommunications equipment, 9.75 percent on water, natural gas and electricity and 9 percent on pre-paid telephones, a city finance staffer said.

Like We the People Rising, American Children First says it welcomes immigrants who become citizens. The organization rails against crime allegedly caused by immigrants as well as accusing them of taking American jobs and posing terrorist threats.

The group also seeks to ban children of illegal immigrants from attending public schools.

Members of the two groups and City Council supporters clashed in the Huntington Park City Hall lobby June 6.

At the meeting later, We the People Rising member Arthur Schaper was arrested after he allegedly refused to halt loud rhetoric during the council meeting. Schaper, a blogger from Torrance who records all his actions with the council, said June 20 he will file suit.

“If the [loss of the] utility tax doesn’t break you, my lawsuit will,” he said in a loud voice, calling council members and the police department criminals and saying “Jeff Sessions is on the way,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s attorney general who has advocated a hard line on illegal immigration.

Robin Hividsten of Claremont, head of We the People Rising, said Schaper was falsely accused of disrupting the meeting and actually did not comment from the audience June 20.

But a man sitting near Schaper June 6 said the blogger was indeed guilty and appeared to be asking to be arrested, possibly giving him an excuse to sue.

Members of the two groups and those defending the city spoke for about an hour with more than 20 people taking the podium. Some screamed at the council, accusing it of harboring criminals, while others cautioned residents not to listen to “the outsiders who want to tell our city what do.”

Some members alleged that illegal immigrants are treated better than citizens in health care, jobs and government aid, but Alex Sanchez said non-citizens receive no health care and government aid.

“If you want jobs, see me. I have a lot of them,” he added.

Lozano took issue with a woman who said the Huntington Park crime rate was 64 percent higher than the national average, saying upon examination the woman was found to be using 2012 figures.

Fearing problems, 12 police officers were on hand June 20 with orders to let audience members in one by one, to allow no one to loiter in the lobby and to prohibit admission once the 128 seats in the council chambers and 30 seats in the “overflow room” were filled.

However, the crowd was smaller than expected and did not fill the council chambers.


Judge rules for Huntington Park in charter schools suit

HUNTINGTON PARK — Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos has ruled in favor of the city in a suit brought by the California Charter Schools Association, according to City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman.

He made the announcement after a closed session with the City Council May 2, but provided no other details of the ruling, City Clerk Donna Schwartz said.

“The city is pleased with the outcome of the court’s ruling which upheld the city’s right to take overall community concerns into account with its land use policies,” City Manager Edgar Cisneros said.

Representatives of the Charter School Association could not be reached immediately for comment at press time.

The association filed suit Nov. 3 after the City Council Oct. 18 approved a moratorium on new charter schools in the city, saying it needed to review zoning laws to find the best location for such schools to both protect students and avoid inconveniences such as traffic congestion and parking overflow to residents.

Councilwoman Karina Macias also said the city must reserve commercial space for revenue-producing businesses.

Charter school officials, citing success with students in the area and long waiting lists, said the city was in violation of state law on charter schools.

Alvarez-Glasman said it was a land use issue.

The moratorium, unless canceled by the city, is in effect until next fall and could be extended another year under state law.

A charter school, operated by private, nonprofit groups, is a public school using public school funding from the state and operating with permission of the school district in their area, in this case Los Angeles Unified.