Mayor Pushes Public Safety in Northeast
By Paul Aranda Jr., EGP Staff Writer
When Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa concluded his budget presentation at Monte Vista Elementary School on Monday afternoon, he asked the audience if they had any questions. In the crowded auditorium full of adults, one 11-year-old girl seated in a front row quickly raised her hand. After the Mayor spotted her, Abigail Munguia, a fifth grader at the Highland Park school, offered a simple question to which the Mayor admitted he had no easy answer. “How can you make our school safer?” she asked.
Although he could not offer a quick solution, the Mayor utilized the question to reinforce the message he repeated throughout the session: massive cuts in city services and personnel will lead to a direct increase in local crime. The Mayor read off the latest Los Angeles Police Department statistics that show reductions in every crime category in Northeast Los Angeles except robberies.
“If we start having to cut, all these numbers are going to go up,” the Mayor warned the audience of approximately 150 parents, students and community members.
In response to Munguia’s question, the Mayor said he planned to secure federal stimulus funds to hire 500 additional school police officers. Although he said that schools are generally safer than the surrounding communities, he called the four to five lockdowns at Monte Vista over the last few months “ridiculous.”
The town hall was the latest in a citywide series the Mayor has held to build public support for his budget proposals. The Los Angeles City Council, city employees and union leadership will consider a combination of spending reductions, city department consolidations and private investments included in the proposal. The Mayor’s office created new Web site —KeepLAWorking.com — for city employees to see the menu of options available to balance the budget faced with a $530 million deficit in the upcoming fiscal year.
The Mayor told the audience that everyone needs to sacrifice in order to avoid massive layoffs and cuts in public services.
“I’m unabashedly pro-teacher. I’m unabashedly pro-cop, pro-firefighter,” the Mayor said. “I think it’s important for us to protect jobs that provide services to people.
“When you have a 12.5 percent unemployment rate, it does no good to lay off teachers, firefighters, police officers, cafeteria workers and librarians,” he continued, “that’s the wrong way to go.
“I don’t want to do that.”
On Tuesday, the City Council voted to begin the process of identifying 1,600 positions that can be eliminated from city departments.
As part of his budget proposal, the Mayor has asked the city’s employee unions to look at furloughs, higher pension contributions and reduced health benefits.
The Mayor connected the potential effects of massive layoffs to the shootings last month outside the Highland Park Recreation Center that left two high school students dead after an alleged gang fight. The recreation center is adjacent to a city library that was filled with young school children at the time of the still unsolved shootings.
“If you cut X number of librarians, it will mean cuts in [library] hours,” he said.
The Mayor warned that cuts in school and park personnel would lead more youth to become bored and more susceptible to criminal activity. In addition to avoiding layoffs, the Mayor pressed that his budget increases funding for public safety, including an expansion of the Summer Night Lights program launched last year.
The number of parks that offer the program will double from eight to 16 this summer. In Northeast, L.A., the program serves Cypress Park and Glassell Park.
Before the meeting, EGP asked a group of Monte Vista students seated in the auditorium if they had any questions for the Mayor. Lisa Castillo, 10, wanted to know, “How is our community any safer?”
The UCLA aspirant said she felt safe at her school before she proceeded to give a detailed account of the shootings outside the Highland Park Recreation Center. As she spoke, her classmates huddled around to hear the latest accounts of an incident embedded in the minds of the students at the northeast school where drop drills serve as preparation for a shooting, not an earthquake.Print This Post
May 7, 2009 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.