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Prison Plan Insults Latino Community

September 06, 1986

The Antonio Rodriguez and Veronica Gutierrez article (Editorial Pages, Aug. 21), "State Prison Plan Insults the Whole Latino Community," was right on the mark. But The Times editorial the next day was way off base.

The Times has suddenly discovered that Gov. George Deukmejian and Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) want the state to pay millions for a downtown prison before any impact report is filed. For shame! The prison measure, Senate Bill 904, has had that section for two years. And East Los Angeles opponents of this misguided project have pointed it out repeatedly.

Why did it take the spectacle of thousands of Latino residents marching in East Los Angeles and Sacramento to finally get the message across? Listen and you'll hear that:

--East Los Angeles already has three-fourths of the county's inmates.

--A prison would cost thousands of local jobs. Superba Inc., a downtown garment manufacturer, is one example. They say they would take their 400 jobs to Puerto Rico instead of building their new facility across from the 12th and Santa Fe prison.

--Every single community-based group in the area is utterly opposed.

Not filing a prior impact report is the tip of the Deukmejian Administration's iceberg of incompetence in prison construction. Taxpayers should ask why we spend millions looking "objectively" at hundreds of prison sites when the final decision is made through a private real estate agency hired by a Republican politician to keep it out of his district?

Another question: Prison officials say they must buy the land immediately because the owners, who are supposedly losing money sitting on the property, might back out of the deal if they have to wait eight to nine months for a state impact report.

But it has been two years since they first made this argument and this "hot" deal hasn't fallen through yet. Somebody must be sandbagging. Before the people of California buy up prime industrial land at $500,000 an acre they should ask who.

The Times, as a supposed watchdog of the public trust, should be in the front of the investigative pack. Instead we find them howling at the rear, restating the obvious, then ignoring the implications. Lincoln Steffens and Upton Sinclair, where are you when we need you?

The tragedy of American democracy is being played out again. This time it is the families of East Los Angeles who are discovering that the roar of thousands in the streets is drowned out by the whispers of the well-connected. And that the sweat from the brow of the common man is no match for the oil of a deal well-greased.



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