The recent article “Battle over Milpas” (Aug. 7) really missed the mark. The plain and simple fact about the “Battle over Milpas” is that a small handful of people have turned the attempt of a vibrant business district to continue improvements into a racially charged political issue.
The Milpas Community Association was asked to submit our plan for a Business Improvement District (BID) to the city council prior to doing our planned community outreach. City Councilwoman Cathy Murillo visited small businesses on Milpas and turned them against the proposed plan before we could even present it to them. She made her mind up against it prior to any conversation. She and Jacqueline Inda, plaintiff in the recent lawsuit against the city for district elections, led meetings to stir up businesses to oppose the plan.
This led to a protest against a local Latino-owned restaurant that supported the MCA’s BID proposal, in which Inda participated.
The MCA has made a tremendous amount of progress over the past five years and everyone knows the Eastside is much better than it was five years ago. This progress was mainly funded by a handful of business owners with a huge assist from our community volunteers.
All businesses benefited from the work of the MCA to improve conditions in the community but some were not actively participating or contributing. In order to sustain these gains, the Eastside needs to move to a sustainable model. The model of a small number of financial supporters, for the benefit of all, is not sustainable. Nor are the many hours of time and effort of a small number of volunteers.
A number of community organizations like the MCA have sprung up historically and then gone because of burnout: The Greater Eastside Merchant’s Association, the Eastside Study Group, the East Beach Coalition, the Milpas Association, etc.
The Eastside Business District is the best way to gain a strong voice with our city and provide services that improve all our prospects. It is not a takeover. It is not racial. It is not gentrification. It is a sustainable plan to move business in the area forward and help all businesses succeed.
It empowers all of the businesses in the district to participate in an election to make up the board that will govern the business district and determine how to spend the assessed monies.
These same people who opposed the idea of a business improvement district plagiarized the MCA’s plan and submitted it as their own to the city. The opposition plan has a $5,900 per year budget? Seriously? They claim that they want to “take over” the annual holiday parade, the Christmas lights, community events, etc.
What they don’t know is that insurance, permits, storage, lease and installation of the holiday lights costs roughly $13,000. And they are proposing a plan with a budget of $5,900?
Where have these people been for the last five years? The people who are so opposed to our plan are the same people that we have repeatedly approached to donate to our causes (like the holiday lights), to come to Milpas Action Task Force meetings, attend community forums and help with community cleanups. But very few have ever responded or been involved. Now this is how they want to get involved?
The MCA has reached out repeatedly to the “leaders” of the opposition. Our goal was to have a respectful conversation, business leader to business leader, to discuss how the plan could be changed to accommodate their needs. Each time we were denied. Now they claim the Greater Eastside Merchant’s Association has been reinstated.
Although the leadership of this organization promised the city council last month that they would have a board formed and be ready to talk with the MCA leadership within two weeks, it still hasn’t happened.
The opposition is just a handful of activists, interested only in politicizing this issue, to further their own agenda and/or to get elected to a council seat. Our goal is to improve our business climate.
• Alan Bleecker is president of the Milpas Community Association.