By Lyn Jensen, Carson Reporter
When it comes to news, Carson is its own reality show with backstories and plot lines that extend from season to season. Almost all major Carson stories this year were continuations of threads from previous seasons and almost all will continue into 2015 and beyond. There were political scandals, changes in community leadership and outrage about fracking and toxic contamination. Below, find some of Carson’s most epic moments of 2014:
Carson’s representation at the state level changed sooner than normal. On Jan. 28, a Los Angeles jury found Ron Wright, who represented Senate District 35, guilty of eight felony charges related to residency requirements for his office, including voter fraud. Isadore Hall III, who was termed out in Assembly District 64, had already announced plans to run for the SD 35 in 2016. He was elected to replace Wright in a special election that took place on Dec. 9, 2014.
Gipson to Assembly
Beginning in the spring, four candidates sought to succeed Hall in the assembly: Carson Councilman Mike Gipson, Compton School Board Member Micah Ali, then-Long Beach Councilman Steve Neal, and Prophet Walker, who had no experience in elected office. When the June primary came, Gipson and Walker were advanced to a run-off in November. Gipson won and resigned his council seat, moving up to the assembly.
Opposition to Fracking
In March, Councilman Albert Robles asked the city to consider a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking). It was partly in response to the passage of Senate Bill 4, which directs the state to establish new oil industry regulations related to fracking. On March 18, the city council, reacting to concerns about effects of fracking on public health and safety, voted unanimously to establish a 45-day moratorium on not only fracking but “the drilling, redrilling, or deepening of any new or existing wells” within city jurisdiction.
“We need to evaluate legal options,” said Mayor Jim Dear, at the time.
The action was also related to a proposal from Oxy to reopen oil wells under the Dominguez Technology Center. Oxy has often assured Carson that fracking would not be appropriate for the proposed development. In a March 10 letter to the city, Oxy committed to not use any “well stimulation methods” covered by the state’s new regulations under Senate Bill 4.
On April 29, the council declined to extend its moratorium on “drilling, redrilling, or deepening” of wells. The Carson Chamber of Commerce, Watson Land and other business representatives spoke against continuing it. Gipson abstained from the controversial vote. His abstention was used (unsuccessfully) against him by his opponents in the assembly race. The city then moved to update its oil code and include a ban on fracking, which is due this January 2015.
In the aftermath of the vote, the district attorney investigated whether Robles had a conflict of interest, sitting on Carson’s city council, while also having office with the Water Replenishment District of Southern California. The investigation may have perhaps been triggered when the council looked into fracking’s possible effect on local water quality. The DA has not taken any further action.
Toxic Carousel Keeps Spinning
During Thanksgiving week Carson and Shell signed off on a personal injury settlement affecting 1,491 current and former residents of the Carousel housing tract north of Lomita Boulevard. The settlement was negotiated after the neighborhood was found to be sitting on toxic soil in 2008. Reportedly, Shell has since asked the court to negate the settlement on grounds that confidentiality was violated when some details were leaked to media (not this outlet).
Body Cams and New Leadership for LASD
Changes in leadership happened at the top and community level in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which has jurisdiction in Carson. At the top a new sheriff was elected—Jim McDonnell, the former chief of the Long Beach Police Department. Given the issues that plagued McDonnell’s former department and the sheriff’s department, it remains to be seen how effective a leader McDonnell will be.
The Carson station got a new captain twice. In June Reginald Gautt assumed command. One of his first duties was to oversee a six-month pilot program on body-worn cameras, a possible tool to curb issues of police brutality and charges of excessive force. Seventeen deputies and two supervisors are participating at the Carson station, where such complaints are fortunately rare. In December, Capt. Chris Marcs took command.
Water Board Shake-up
Ron Smith, who formerly represented District 1 (including Carson) for the West Basin Municipal Water District, was convicted of a conflict-of-interest charge in September. Leading up to the November election to replace him, one candidate, former Carson Mayor Mike Mitoma, questioned the board members’ salaries. Former Carson Councilman Harold Williams won the seat, while concerns about board members’ salaries remain unsettled.
Dear Seeks Job Change
As 2014 concluded, candidates emerged for the next General Municipal Election. Four offices—two on the council, plus clerk and treasurer—will be on the ballot in March. Jim Dear announced he’s challenging Donesia Gause for city clerk.