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‘Cactus Curtain’: the thorns of pride

Fighting has gotten very personal

Merdies Hayes | 10/11/2013, midnight

The settlement demand comes after the DOJ concluded in a report released this summer that “... some Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department personnel in the Antelope Valley engage in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional and unlawful policing regarding stops, searches, seizures, excessive force and discriminatory targeting of [Section 8] voucher holders in their homes.”

Parris said his city should not bear any of the burden; Ledford wrote in an email, “The proposed settlement is between the U.S. government and the county of Los Angeles.” Both cities are negotiating the findings, but if either refuses to pay, the DOJ may take the county and both cities to court. “If we are unable to reach an agreement with a party, we would not hesitate to enter into contested litigation with that party,” said DOJ spokesperson Dena Iverson in a email released in late July. Parris released a statement in early August, noting, “We’re collaborating together now, but DOJ is stirring the pot.”

Both cities argue that their alleged crackdown on Section 8 tenants was intended to root out fraud and ensure compliance.

In the late 1990s, Black and Latino families arrived primarily from South Los Angeles, looking for lower home prices; better schools, and freedom from the violent, gang-ridden streets. Three years ago, Whites became a minority populace in both cities, according to a published report.

An L.A. Times article reported among these newcomers were poor persons who once rented homes and apartments with the help of Section 8. Most of these renters were African American and, at the time, the number of local Black Section 8 renters doubled from 510 in 2000, to 1,119 in 2004 and rose to 1,530 by 2008. The Black families were met with immediate hostility, reported the Times; in 2010, the paper reported that the DOJ found that “...the Antelope Valley had the highest rate of hate crimes of any region in Los Angeles County.”

Lately, the sparring match between the two mayors has focused on the solar power plant literally straddling the border of the two towns. Palmdale wants to continue construction, and Lancaster wants to stop it. Lancaster officials say the region’s gusting winds will carry the plant’s reported 546 tons of pollution straight into their domain, resulting in high levels of caustic contaminants. Ledford said last month those claims are unsubstantiated, citing approval of plant construction by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Energy Commission. The contentious issue involves the plant location, who will run the plant, its size, emissions and the energy source itself. Because Lancaster is downwind from Palmdale, Lancaster Vice Mayor Marvin Crist said the swirling winds of the desert will force pollution into his town thereby causing respiratory distress. “When all of our kids have asthma and you add to that, it’s kind of like putting too much chlorine in a pool,” Crist remarked last month to the online site “CurbedLA.”

Unconvinced of Lancaster’s dire prediction, Ledford fired back: “It’s what they do,” he told CaliforniaCityNews.org last month regarding the accusations. “Maybe [Lancaster Vice Mayor Marvin Crist] put it on his bucket list as something he’d like to do. ‘I think I’d like to kill a power plant.’ It’s just immature.”