On Saturday May 22nd, 2021, a group of water activists protested outside the Downey home of Santa Fe Springs Public Works Director Neo Negrete, who also serves as an appointed Director to the Central Basin Municipal Water District.
Negrete’s appointment was heavily contested by the Southeast L.A. community, which has been protesting the existence of appointed Directors at Central Basin. These Board Members are not elected by the voters, but rather by “water purveyors,” which include private water companies and cities that support the privatization of water.
While some of the elected Directors support the privatization agenda of the appointed Directors, Directors Martha Camacho-Rodriguez (Division I) and Leticia Vasquez-Wilson (Division IV), have stood against it, notably through their public push against Assembly Member’s Christina Garcia ill-fated SB625 bill to terminate the Central Basin Board. Following the defeat of the bill, Garcia has been aggressively pushing to reduce the power of Central Basin, and the appointed Directors are mounting a push to sue Vasquez for her engagement with the community.
At Saturday’s protest, one protestor said her reason for attending was, “I am tired of water privatizers not dealing with health issues of our water. The water has been found to have plastic particles in them and instead of Mr. Negrete working on ways to ensure that people in Southeast Los Angeles have healthy, clean water, he chooses to go after Leticia Vasquez Wilson, who is fighting for people to have clean water.”
Another protestor said, “Since when does an elected official not get to say what they think to the public that they serve? What gives them the right to sue her? And why in the world are they using our taxpayers dollars for such a frivolous lawsuit? These guys, or gals—this Board—if they don’t like what she’s saying, tell us why you don’t like it, don’t sue her for it. Don’t use my money.”
Vasquez stated “Mr. Negrete lives in Downey and you would think he’d want to have clean water coming out of his faucet and that he too would demand that his City would address the PFAs issues in their water supply, and that’s not the case.”
Negrete was observed to open his door, and promptly shut it. Downey Police stopped by the protest, asked about the topic and person being protested, and promptly drove away.
Negrete is expected to vote to censure Vasquez at upcoming meetings of the Board.