East L.A. cityhood sized up

Tom Hogen-Esch, associate professor of political science at Cal State Northridge and co-author of "Local Politics: A Practical Guide to Governing at the Grassroots," argued in La Opinión that the time is right for East Los Angeles to press for city status. He goes through the history of ELA cityhood. Here's the Spanish and a snip of the English translation after the jump.

It's worth remembering that three previous efforts to create a City of East LA failed. In 1960, proponents argued that cityhood would provide representation to Mexican Americans long excluded from the political process.

However, the measure lost narrowly on the April 1961 ballot. Homeowner fears of higher property taxes, and low voter turnout were cited as reasons for defeat. Supporters revived the idea in 1963, but concern over finances again stalled the effort.

The idea resurfaced in the early 1970s, with arguments about local control and representation again forming the basis of the movement.

At the time, supporters noted that there were no Latinos on either the LA County Board of Supervisors or the LA City Council. Activists also complained that the area was divided among five State Assembly, three State Senate, and three congressional districts, systematically diluting Latino political representation.

Urban redevelopment also figured prominently in the 1974 effort. Projects such as the community's 1952 displacement from Chavez Ravine to make way for the LA Dodgers, traumatized the community. In addition, thousands of East LA residents were forced to move during the 1950s and 60s to make way for the 710, 60, 5, and 10 freeways.


Despite its history of failure, there are reasons to believe that this campaign may be different.

First, because of Proposition 13 -- passed in 1978 -- home and business owners know that property taxes cannot be raised by a new city without their consent.

Second, unlike past decades, there is evidence that the area is ripe for an economic renaissance....Perhaps most importantly, the current effort appears to have backing among political, union, and business leaders, support that will be crucial in shaping public opinion and turning out voters.

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