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Imperial County OK’s $50K for Study of the Disenfranchised

There was little discussion Tuesday morning, Nov. 17, about the need to change policies and procedures to help disenfranchised communities.

That’s because the discussion took place almost a month ago as the Imperial Valley Social Justice Committee presented its proposal for a study to look into policies and practices regarding African Americans and other disenfranchised communities.

At the Nov. 17 meeting, the supervisors were asked to support the project financially with $50,000 in funding to make it happen.

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An assessment like this is much needed, Imperial Valley Social Justice Committee Chair Marlene Thomas said.

“This need assessment is different than any other need assessment you’ve probably ever done, because it’s done by local people,” she told the board. “It’s done by people who love the Valley, who are passionate and committed to making our community a better place. I think that makes all the difference in the world. 

“What comes up will be the raw truth, and also working with the county to come up with solutions. That’s necessary,” she added. “And lastly, it’s not a needs assessment to kind of beat up anybody or anything. We’re all here to do better. It’s going to be very honest and real. What’s important is we do expect your participation.”

Board Chairman Luis Plancarte responded, “You can count on it. …

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“I look forward to working with you,” he told Thomas after the 4-0 vote. “I look forward to the results.”

Thomas had previously explained that the document the committee hopes to prepare with its partners at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus and the University of California will end up being a historical living document for the benefit of all Imperial Valley residents. 

The purpose is to provide data, identify current problems, and recommend solutions, according to Thomas. The work will go toward the development of an action plan with the county to address disparities in social, economic, geographic, political, and physical environmental conditions to create a fair and just society in Imperial County. 

The plan presented Nov. 17 included a two-year budget with funds going toward administration, salaries for a project coordinator, assistant, data analysis and bookkeeper, as well as stipends for student researchers.

Upgraded air filters installed at Heber Elementary School are shown. The filters were part of an effort from the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District through its AB 617 works to provide air-pollution grants to schools in the El Centro, Heber, and Calexico air corridor. | COURTESY PHOTO

School Grants on the Way

Grant funding may soon make its way to schools in the El Centro, Heber, and Calexico corridor.

The Board of Supervisors voted to allow the air pollution control officer to sign funding agreements with schools to provide grant money for air-filtration projects. That funding comes from the California Air Resources Board’s AB 617 Community Air Protection Program. 

Currently air-filtration projects are in place at Grace Smith School in Niland, Seeley school, Heber and Dogwood elementary schools in Heber and De Anza Magnet School in El Centro.

The air pollution control district plans to work with a minimum of 12 schools, providing a maximum grant cap of $200,000 per air-filtration project, according to project manager Thomas Brinkerhoff. The high-efficiency air-filtration projects reduce air-pollution exposure to students and faculty.

Imperial County Agricultural Commissioner Carlos Ortiz. | COURTESY PHOTO

The air district requested being able to sign the paperwork to ensure it is done within a timely manner instead of waiting to go before the county board for each grant.

Ortiz Reappointed Ag Commissioner

The county board also appointed Agricultural Commissioner and Sealer of Weights Carlos Ortiz to another four-year term in that position. The 5-0 vote happened during the closed session of the Nov. 17 meeting. 

Ortiz was first appointed agricultural commissioner in December 2016, wherein he was placed in charge of the department that both promotes and protects local agriculture.

No action has been taken yet to fill the position of Registrar of Voters, though the board did discuss the opening during closed session at the meeting.

Former county Registrar Debbie Porter retired effective Nov. 3, but she has advised through the ongoing vote count, according to county officials.