"It is a shame that Board Member Franklin missed this opportunity to connect with the Filipino community and it is sad she did not show up for the kids at Catskill. If she was concerned about the air quality, Ms Franklin would have used this opportunity to engage with the Carson residents to see how she could be of service." - Alicia Baltazer, LAUSD Parent
Just before Halloween in 2015, the natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch started leaking toxic chemicals into the environment. When neighbors complained, the Southern California Gas Company and the politicians they had paid off with campaign donations denied there was anything wrong. As the leak continued through November, Los Angeles County health officials were forced to acknowledge "that noxious fumes from a gas well above Porter Ranch [were] causing a health threat". As the year came to a close the leak had still not been stopped and 5,426 households had either been relocated or were looking to do so. In the end "some 100,000 tons of methane, ethane and toxic chemicals poured into the air for 112 days, forcing over 8,000 families to evacuate from their Los Angeles-area homes and sickening many". Residents are currently considering if a $1.8 billion settlement will fully compensate them for the damages that they suffered.
The first politician to listen to the community's concerns and attempt to help them was LAUSD Board Member Scott Schmerelson. When the evidence showed that students who attended two of the elementary schools in the area were not safe, Schmerelson lept into action and made sure that these students were relocated to different campuses. To reduce the stress on these students he made sure that classmates were kept together and that the furniture from the evacuated classrooms was moved to the new location.
The environmental crisis that is currently affecting residents in the Carson area gives freshman Board Member Tanya Ortiz-Frankin an opportunity to prove that she is a representative in the mold of Schmerelson and not singularly focused on expanding the charter school industry. For over a month, the residents of this area have been dealing with a "nauseating odor" that has forced people from their homes. While health officials are trying to calm people's fears by stating that the gas believed to cause the odor is "not lethal," it has been reported that those in the area are experiencing "constant headaches, nausea, dizziness, and burning eyes as a result of the putrid smell."
The port areas have also been affected by "unprecedented" supply chain backups. In the best of times, "the ports already are major contributors to the region's bad air," but the current situation is clogging streets and making matters much worse.
Catskill Elementary, an LAUSD community school, is located less than two miles from The Dominguez Channel from where the odor is originating. As part of the annual Larry Itliong Day Celebration on Saturday, October 23, the school presented awards to winners of an essay contest. Ortiz-Franklin was invited to make the presentation and was expected to attend. Unfortunately, she was a no-show for the proceedings.
This multi-cultural event would have been a perfect opportunity for Ortiz-Franklin to meet with the affected residents, hear their concerns and assure them that the district was doing everything possible to help their children. These types of events are what helped Schmerelson connect with the Porter Ranch Community and provide them with the help that they needed. The residents of Carson and surrounding communities deserve the same kind of attention in their time of need.
Ortiz-Franklin's previous experience as an elected official was as a representative on the Del Rey Neighborhood Council. When asked in September 2020 why she had been absent for 61.5% of the meetings during her tenure, her campaign responded that she was unable to "commit the time and still fully serve the students of the LAUSD." In disputing the public records of this council that show she was removed with a unanimous vote of the board, the campaign insisted that she focuses "100% of her time on the betterment of children." She could have proven this dedication by showing up at the Larry Itliong Day Celebration to ensure that the Catskill students were recognized for their achievement and the concerns of the residents were heard. Instead, she sent a district bureaucrat to mix among the commoners. This is not the action of someone who makes "students the top priority and [makes] everything else second."
Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He is an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and serves as the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him "a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles." For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.