Taking Out the Garbage
By Alex Distefano
There’s something fishy about a Pomona waste-hauling deal and the mayor’s campaign contributions, activists say
For some, there’s a pungent stench lingering in the city of Pomona, but this time it isn’t due to winds, sulfur in the air or the Salton Sea. It’s political in nature, according to some activists.
The fact that Pomona city officials approved a waste transfer station at the same time when one of their own—Mayor Elliott Rothman—has been allegedly on the receiving end of illegal campaign contributions from a local recycling business, doesn’t sit well with some.
Something fishy—stinkier than week-old garbage—is going on here, according to United Voices of Pomona, a newly formed organization consisting of local residents and others who have been fighting the project and what they claim is “corruption” that made its approval possible.
According to www.pomonavalleytransferstation.com, the project is a necessity, due to the fact that the Puente Hills Landfill, which currently serves Pomona and surrounding areas, is shutting down next year. The state-of-the-art facility is needed to “consolidate waste into transfer trucks that have three times the capacity of a collection truck. By consolidating the loads we are reducing the cost of transporting to a distant landfill thereby managing future rates,” the site proclaims. The waste transfer station will be located at a 10.5-acre piece of land at 1371 E. Ninth St. in Pomona.
The proposed site has been zoned for General Industry for decades, but residents oppose the station, citing environmental issues such as pollution, unwanted odors and traffic congestion from trucks carrying trash loads.
Our “concerns about the Pomona Waste Transfer Station are [mostly] environmental,” says United Voices Pomona member Benjamin Wood. “We just think it’s a step in the wrong direction.”
Such “Don’t Trash Pomona” efforts are taking place at the same time that a Los Angeles County District Attorney’s investigation—according to the Daily Bulletin—is alleging that the owner of Mission Recycling in Pomona made 15 illegal contributions to Mayor Rothman’s campaign in 2008. Curiously, these $1,000 donations were given by people that did not live in Pomona, including residents with ties to Garden Grove and Buena Park, according to campaign statements and public records obtained by the Weekly. Records also show that these donors were reimbursed for their donations by Alfredo Solis, Mission Recycling’s owner, a possible money laundering scheme, according to the DA’s investigation. Solis faces 15 misdemeanor charges.
In an effort to raise awareness about what the group has characterized as “money laundering and corruption,” a protest was staged a couple of weeks at the corner of Mission Boulevard and Garey Avenue in Pomona.
“We had speakers from the United Voices discuss their concerns about the station and the [alleged] dirty money that is running our city,” Wood says. The group harbors hopes that Rothman will end up facing charges and step down. Wood said that the organization had gone as far as supporting candidates opposing Rothman in his bid for re-election.
To date, no charges have been filed against Rothman.
The chance of that happening—at least right now—is likely slim to none.
However, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney confirmed that there is no open investigation into Rothman, and there are no charges pending. Case closed.
Pomona city officials declined to comment on the matter when contacted by the Weekly. In addition, Mayor Rothman and his staff also failed to respond to requests for interview for this story.
But that’s not the end of the story for United Voices of Pomona.
“We won’t stop fighting for the issues we believe in,” Wood says. “This organization is focused on the environment, and especially around environmental racism. It’s no coincidence that this waste station is in a very poor part of town. That is done on purpose. We’re very concerned about democracy and the way it is practiced in Pomona.”