- Terelle Jerricks
DOJ Reaches Agreement with Lomita Protection Religious Freedoms
LOS ANGELES – On Feb. 1, the Department of Justice announced a settlement with the City of Lomita, resolving allegations that the city violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 when it denied the Islamic Center of the South Bay’s application to build a new mosque on its property.
The settlement, which still must be approved by the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, is in the form of an agreed order and resolves a lawsuit filed today by the United States against the city.
The case arose from the Lomita City Council’s 2010 denial of an application by the Islamic Center to take down the aging, separate structures on its property, which it has been using for worship and various other religious activities since 1985, and construct a single building that would serve its needs.The government’s complaint, which was filed with the court along with the agreed order resolving the lawsuit, alleges that the structures currently being used by the Islamic Center are insufficient to enable the community to come together for worship and fellowship or to perform religious rituals properly. The lawsuit alleges that the city’s denial of the Islamic Center’s application to construct a new center in place of these inadequate facilities imposed a substantial burden on the religious exercise of the Islamic Center and its members.
As part of this settlement, which incorporates portions of a related agreement between the city and the Islamic Center, the city has agreed to consider a renewed application by the Islamic Center on an expedited schedule. The city also agreed that its leaders and employees who make land-use decisions will attend training on the requirements of Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. In addition, the city periodically will report to the Justice Department.
The act prohibits land use decisions that discriminate based on religion or impose substantial and unjustified burdens on religious exercise. Persons who believe their rights under that act have been violated may contact the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at (800) 896-7743.
City Workers Score Victory for LA
LOS ANGELES — On Feb. 3, city workers secured $27.8 million for Los Angeles and partnered with city officials to create policies that will benefit every city resident.
City workers and their representatives in the Coalition of LA City Unions, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana has agreed to recommend that city departments release $27.8 million of prior-year encumbrances into the city’s general and various special funds. Santana also recommended to adopt procedures that make unspent money available to fund city services each year. Prior-year encumbrances are funds that were appropriated to city departments and allocated for use, but never spent.
Santana made his recommendations Feb. 4 at the Los Angeles City Council Budget and Finance Committee meeting.
Until now, the city had no policy governing when those appropriated, but unused funds should revert back and become available for other purposes. This left tens of millions of taxpayer dollars sitting unused and untouchable, while city workers faced layoffs and cuts and public services suffered.
During the fiscal year 2012-2013 budget discussions this past year, SEIU Local 721, a member of the Coalition of LA City Unions, presented on prior-year encumbrances to the Budget and Finance Committee. They offered a complete accounting of tens of millions in unused funds and suggested that the city adopt a policy that would make them available to the city at the beginning of each year. Councilman Paul Krekorian directed the Santana to form a working group comprised of the Coalition of LA City Unions and the City Controller’s Office to review the city’s policies on prior-year encumbrances.
After eight months of work, the partnership achieved tangible results. Santana will make the following recommendations to the Budget and Finance Committee:
- To revert $27.8 million in prior-year encumbrances by Feb. 28, 2013. That includes $18.2 million of General Fund encumbrances and $9.6 from special funds.
- To create a policy that would revert encumbered, but unspent funds after one year. Departments that claim they still need the funds would need to reapply for them.
Belmont Pool to Remain Closed
LONG BEACH — Long Beach announced today that the Belmont Pool must be permanently shuttered to ensure the safety of the community.
On Jan. 10, 2013 the Belmont Pool was temporarily closed due to a draft structural and seismic evaluation that indicated the facility was seismically unsafe in the event of a moderate earthquake. The pool was temporarily closed in an abundance of caution for patrons and staff while city engineers reviewed the draft analysis and inspected the facility to confirm the extent of its structural safety.
Both the city’s building official and the city engineer have now reviewed the final report and determined the Belmont Pool Natatorium, in its current condition, is a substandard building that is seismically and structurally unsafe.
After considerable discussion and public input dating back to 2008, city staff will be recommending to the Long Beach City Council a new permanent facility that balances both recreational and competitive swimming needs.
The proposed facility would include a natatorium in the approximate location of the existing Belmont Pool, and a new outdoor pool immediately north of the existing facility. The proposed facility will be able to host all competitive swim and water polo events that are currently hosted, while providing added water space to enhance the experience of all users. The preliminary cost estimate is $54 to $62 million, depending on added features, and construction will take approximately two to three years to complete.
At the Feb.12, 2013 city council meeting, staff will present the proposed project and seek the city council’s direction on whether to proceed with the entitlement phase and environmental clearance of the project.
On Feb. 12, staff also will be presenting the city council with four interim options to address the closure of the Belmont Pool. Staff members are recommending to construct of a temporary outdoor pool in the adjacent parking lot that could be ready in five to eight months, contingent upon Coastal Commission approval, and provide swimming facilities while a permanent facility is constructed. The cost of this option is approximately $4.2 million, and the temporary facility would be similar to the facility built during the 2004 Olympic swim trials in Downtown Long Beach.
Details can be found at www.longbeach.gov/cityclerk under the Feb. 12, 2013 City Council agenda.
Long Beach Parks, Recreation, Marine Grant for Two Futsal Courts
LONG BEACH — Long Beach has been awarded a $61,500 grant from the U.S. Soccer Foundation to convert two tennis courts to two futsal courts at DeForest Park, 6255 De Forest Ave. Futsal is a fast-growing, fast-paced variant of soccer.
The word futsal is derived from Portuguese and is loosely translated as “hall football” or “indoor football.” The sport traces its roots back 80 years, and is growing in popularity worldwide.
Futsal can be played on both indoor and outdoor courts instead of a field. It is played on a hard surface, with a smaller ball with less bounce than a regular soccer ball. The surface, ball and rules create an emphasis on improvisation, creativity and technique, as well as ball control and passing in small spaces. Skills developed on a futsal court translate very well to a full-size soccer field.
DeForest Park will continue to feature a basketball court, community center, nature trail, playground, racquetball court, softball field, tennis courts, sand volleyball court, restrooms, youth recreation and adult classes.
LA City Council Votes to Place Marijuana on Ballot
LOS ANGELES – On Jan. 29, the Los Angeles City Council voted 8-4 to place a medical cannabis initiative ordinance supported by UFCW Local 770 represented collectives on the upcoming May general election ballot.
Fifty-four union collectives voted unanimously, Jan. 28, to support the council’s initiative.
The council initiative is the third measure aimed at medical cannabis regulation to qualify for this May’s ballot.
UFCW Local 770, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, and the Americans for Safe Access will now abandon support for their own initiative that was certified on Jan. 3, and throw their full support behind the city initiative ordinance. UFCW Local 770 believes the city initiative strikes the right balance between the best interests of patients, responsible collective operators and their employees and communities.
The city’s initiative ordinance would reduce the number of collectives allowed to operate from about a 1,000 to 127. It would also increase the business taxes paid to the city by collectives by the same amount as the second initiative — from $50 to $60 per $1,000 of medical cannabis sales. It requires collectives maintain distances of at least one thousand feet from schools and at least six hundred feet from other sensitive uses – including parks, libraries, and other collectives. Collectives would have six months to find compliant space.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Resigns
WASHINGTON DC – On Jan. 29, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced plans to leave the Obama administration.
LaHood, a Republican, pushed for greater safety on the highways and in the air. The former Illinois congressman led the Transportation Department throughout Obama’s first term and helped steer a number of safety measures and highway projects, including steps to curb distracted driving, promote high-speed rail and repair roads and bridges. Thanks to LaHood, the department demanded tougher fuel efficiency requirements for automakers and took steps to address airline pilot fatigue. The Federal Aviation Administration set new rules under LaHood’s watch that would limit the maximum time a pilot can be scheduled on duty and place limits on scheduled flying time and hours for pilots flying overnight.
LaHood said he plans to remain at the department until the Senate confirms his successor in about two months.
Possible replacements for LaHood include Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has pushed for increased rail service in Los Angeles and served as chairman of the past year’s Democratic National Convention, and Debbie Hersman, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. The name of former Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota, who led the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has also been mentioned.
LaHood, 67, served seven terms in Congress representing a central Illinois district that includes his hometown of Peoria, Ill., and overlapped with Obama in the state’s delegation during the last four years of his career.
LaHood worked with automakers and environmentalists to develop tougher fuel efficiency standards for new cars, with the goal of providing environmental benefits and reducing fuel consumption.
LaHood also slapped Toyota Motor Co. with record fines for delaying safety recalls and failing to promptly report problems to federal regulators.
He recently ordered United Airlines to ground its Boeing 787 Dreamliner following mishaps with the aircraft’s batteries.
Hahn Receives Port Person of the Year Award
WASHINGTON, DC – The American Association of Port Authorities announced, Feb. 4, that Rep. Janice Hahn and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX), co-founders of the bipartisan PORTS Caucus will be honored with the 2013 “Port Person of the Year” award at the association’s upcoming annual spring conference on March 19 in Washington, D.C.