Commerce Man Arrested Following Shootout with Sheriff’s

April 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

A call about a possible child abuser led to a shootout with sheriff’s deputies in East Los Angeles.

The suspect opened fire on deputies arriving to investigate the report at about 9:30 p.m. last Saturday on the 6000 block of Sixth Street in East Los Angeles, according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Internal Affairs Bureau.

Detectives investigating the case said as the suspect, he fired again upon the deputies as he ran toward the 600 block of South School Avenue, and barricaded himself inside of a residence, before surrendering at about 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

A firearm was recovered from the scene, according to authorities.

The suspect was identified as David Martinez, 30, of Commerce.

Exide: Demonstrators Want Tighter Pollution Controls

April 17, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

Demonstrators rallied Monday to demand tougher statewide action on plants like the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon, where recent samples showed elevated levels of lead in the yards of 39 nearby homes.

The group of community members gathered outside of Exide’s plant at 2700 S. Indiana St. in Vernon, calling for statewide reform of California’s environmental regulatory agencies.

“Unfortunately, Exide is not the only culprit in this statewide issue,” said Strela Cervas of the California Environmental Justice Alliance.

With embattled Exide as their backdrop, protesters on Monday called on state legislators to get tough with polluters and to protect the public. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

With embattled Exide as their backdrop, protesters on Monday called on state legislators to get tough with polluters and to protect the public. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

“There are clearly deep flaws in state agencies that regulate toxic polluters, and we are calling on elected officials to tackle these dangerous inadequacies.”

An Exide spokeswoman said the company did not want to comment on Monday’s rally.

Exide officials previously said they have agreed to invest more than $5 million in the plant over the next two years, bringing its total investment to more than $20 million since 2010. Also, they said they are continuing to work with local and state regulators for a long-term operational plan.

Teresa Marquez, who lives less than two miles from the plant in Boyle Heights, said her grandchildren moved out two years ago because they were having difficulty breathing.

I found out once they moved out of here they don’t have the breathing problem,’’ Marquez said.

“They don’t wake up at night trying to breathe and gasping for air. They call me and say ‘Grandma, we’re OK now.’”

She said the children are doing better in school, and that she would like the plant to be closed.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara, who sent a representative to the rally, said in a statement residents from surrounding communities have suffered for too long.

“It’s time to hold Exide accountable for the damage they have done,” Lara said.

Lara’s staff member, Cory Allen, said the state senator introduced SB 712 this year, which would require Exide to get into compliance or be shut down permanently.

The plant has been closed in recent weeks as upgrades were made to the facility. Last week, the South Coast Air Quality Management District ruled to deny Exide more time to install the upgraded “negative pressure” furnaces, and on Friday, citing 18 consecutive days of violations to the agency’s “ambient lead standard,” they filed a new petition with the agency’s Hearing Board seeking to prohibit Exide from continuing facility upgrades.

Exide officials said last week the construction work was likely responsible for recent reports of elevated lead levels in plant emissions.

“Exide’s facility is so contaminated with lead that they are causing violations … even when the plant is not operating,” said Barry Wallerstein, SCAQMD’s executive officer. “For this reason, Exide needs to treat its plant like a hazardous waste site during maintenance and renovation work.”

SCAQMD’s petition alleges, “… If Exide were to reopen and resume lead-smelting operations, the facility would be even more likely to continue violating lead standards.

SCAQMD officials said in  a statement last week that they are continuing “to work on multiple fronts to compel Exide to reduce its toxic emissions and comply with existing regulations,” including fighting the company’s effort in the courts to block the deadline to reduce arsenic emissions

In response to SCAQMD’s denial of more time to come into compliance, Exide officials said they were working to contract with other companies to continue recycling operations, adding that the company has made significant progress in meeting the requirements.

Despite being closed, high levels of lead continued to be emitted from Exide, according to air quality officials.(EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

Despite being closed, high levels of lead continued to be emitted from Exide, according to air quality officials.(EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

“Previously completed upgrades to the facility have already achieved a plant-wide 95 percent reduction of arsenic emissions, which has been maintained since 2013,” according to the company.

The battery recycling plant has been operating under a temporary permit from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control for the past 32 years and is the only facility left in the state that has not been fully permitted, DTSC officials said last year.

DTSC had been strongly criticized by community activists and elected officials for allowing the lead-acid battery recycling plant, one of only two such facilities west of the Rockies, to continue to operate on a temporary permit, despite more than a decade of violations.

At an often-raucous town hall meeting in Boyle Heights last October, Assembly Speaker Jose Pérez called on state regulators to understand the frustration of residents, noting that “Exide has been an air quality offender for years,” but allowed by state regulators to continue operating.

“Generations feel ignored by the very people who are supposed to protect them,” EGP reported Pérez as saying. “When you look at the decades of harm on this community, it is incumbent on you to do everything… you have got to do everything in your power to shut down repeat offenders.”

In operation since 1922, the plant recycles 23,000 to 41,000 batteries daily.

Commerce Council Cordial as Recall Petition Nears Certification

April 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

On the surface, Tuesday evening’s city council meeting in Commerce appeared to function as any normal civic activity. Behind the curtains, nothing in Commerce politics is at is appears.

Earlier in the day, the Los Angeles County Recorder-Registrars office confirmed to EGP that a recall petition filed against three current council members received on March 24 is slated for certification on April 24.

A second recall petition against another councilmember is still in the circulation phase, according to City Administrator Jorge J. Rifa.

Despite all the background turmoil, the council members conducted the city’s business in cordial fashion with no appearances of any of the ill feelings that may exist amongst them.

Mayor Tina Baca Del Rio and councilmembers Ivan Altamirano, Lelia Leon and Denise Robles were all on the same page in commending the efforts of residents who took part in the Relay for Life event held last weekend at Veterans Memorial Park.

Del Rio applauded the staff and residents participation in the 24-hour long fundraising event that raised $31,000 for the American Cancer Society. Del Rio stated that any effort towards the annual event is meaningful as “it is not just a fundraising event, it’s a healing event.”

The council was also unanimous in its urgency that residents arrive early for this weekend’s Easter egg hunt at Veterans Memorial Park. The event is widely popular and late arrivals are certain to be left out of the fun. “They say go, and it’s gone,” Del Rio explained. “It’s a lot of fun and the kids absolutely enjoy it.” The Big Easter Egg Hunt is scheduled for Saturday April 19 at 11 a.m.

A small group of senior citizens in attendance received some good news and then some more good news when the council voted to extend the city’s Temporary Senior Citizen Rent Subsidy Program. In addition to the extension, the council voted to expand the program for a two-year period. Leon, who made the recommendation, said she wanted to make it more comfortable for residents who rely on the program.

Robles asked Community Services Director, Matt Rodriguez, to ensure staff does more for residents than simply passing along referrals for housing assistance.

Athens ‘Evergreen’ Contract Raises Concerns In Bell Gardens

April 17, 2014 by · 3 Comments 

Dozens of concerned residents filled the Bell Gardens council chamber Monday when a proposed contract with Athens’ trash hauling services sparked passionate pleas from both those who support and those who oppose the contract.

The council’s unanimous approval of a 15-year rolling contract for its residential trash hauling did not sit well with many of the residents at the meeting who had argued 15 years is too long for an exclusive contract.

“Why don’t you just give them the city right now,” said Bell Gardens resident Joaquin Madrigal in a raised voice. “You’re doing all of this on the backs of us, the residents,” he said angrily.

Bell Gardens resident scolds the council over the rolling contract with Athens during the city council meeting Monday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Bell Gardens resident scolds the council over the rolling contract with Athens during the city council meeting Monday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Madrigal warned the council to not delay their vote until the next meeting in hopes that fewer would be at the meeting to witness their action.

The “evergreen” provision allows Athens’ contract to automatically renew each year until either the city or the company provides notice to terminate the contract. Whether the city notifies Athens in the first or fourteenth year, Athens is guaranteed 15 more years from that point forward, that is unless the city terminates the contract because Athens has failed to meet the terms of the contract, including quality of service and reaching mandated diversion rates.

The contract only applies to residential trash hauling; businesses can still contract with any company they want.

City officials say the long-term contract will alleviate the deficit in the city’s trash hauling fund, caused by fees being lower then the actual cost for service. The city has been subsidizing the service with money from the general fund.

Former Bell Gardens councilman Mario Beltran voted to bring Athens to the city when he was on the council. He said Monday he still supports contracting with the company, but considers the evergreen component of the contract “dangerous” because it locks the city into working with Athens for too long.

Beltran also took issue with the way the rate increase was bundled up with the contract, suggesting the city’s agenda did not detail clearly enough that trash-hauling fees would be going up.

“Tell the voters that [fees will go up] and ask them to pay,” he told the council angrily.

He said he respects that increases may be necessary, but told the council to be clear about their intentions.

Some residents implied the $5,000 in campaign contributions that Councilman Jose Mendoza, Mayor Pro Tem Priscilla Flores and Mayor Daniel Crespo each received from Athens in the last election was to ensure support for the contract.

“I suppose it’s because you have to repay [Athens] for all the contributions that they made to your campaigns,” said Lissette Saavedra. “That is why you are protecting this company,” she said accusingly.

Flores defended the contributions, saying “it’s not untypical” for elected officials to seek contributions from companies in the city. “I can see how political opponents could try to bring that up, but you have to look at their agenda,” she said. “It’s very irresponsible for them to do this.”

With former Bell Gardens councilmembers Beltran and recently ousted Sergio Infanzon sitting in the audience, Flores told EGP that she felt there was a political ploy to “stir the pot” and create panic among residents.

“There’s that bitterness … it is an attack,” she said in a frustrated tone. “I think I would be concerned if it were other residents, but the people that I saw are the same people that will complain if you get a new clock on the wall …They’ll complain about anything just because it’s not them doing it.”

City Manager Phillip Wagner told EGP a lot of people and businesses contribute to candidates running for office in the city. “My recommendations are not based on campaign contributions to council members,” he said. I believe the current council makes decisions based on what they think is right or wrong for the city, he added.

Wagner told EGP that before Monday his office had not received any complaint about the contract proposal.

“Whenever something like this comes up you have political opportunists that come to try to make something they know is beneficial for our community controversial,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Rodriguez. “Instead of educating the public on what the benefits of this is going to be, they come and try to create animosity against the council and our community.”

Ron Saldana, executive director for the Los Angeles County Disposal Association (LACDA), urged the council to not enter into the long-term agreement. The nonprofit LACDA says its goal is to promote fair business practices for the solid waste industry haulers they represent.

“Rates are going down, not up,” Saldana claimed. “Waste is becoming a commodity … there’s really no reason for [a 15-year contract].”

Independent haulers have taken several hits in recent years, as more cities move toward limiting trash-hauling services to a single provider, giving independent contractors less leverage during contract negotiations.

Wagner said the contract would set limits on service rate increases, which he said were bound to go up due to the closure of the Puente Hills Landfill last year.

Residents will see an increase in waste collections fees on their 2014-2015 property taxes. Rates are expected to increase from $15.88 for the three-barrel service to $18.93 for a two-barrel service during the first year, going up to $25.08 by the fifth year, not including increases for inflation.

Blue recycling barrels will be eliminated and residents will no longer have to separate their recyclables, eliminating a truck trip for Athens, which will separate recyclables at its trash-processing center.

Residents pay $15.88 for trash hauling but according to the city the actual cost over the last four years is $17.08. The city has been subsidizing the service to the tune of $132,000 a year. The deficit in Bell Gardens’ Waster Management Fund has hit $391,000, and is expected to exceed $700,000 by the end of the 2014 fiscal year.

“We have no choice,” said Wagner. “We can’t do it any longer.”

Wagner believes the city is being proactive, locking down rates now. Rate increases would still be among the lowest in L.A. County, he said.

Longtime resident Martha Rodriguez was concerned that the council and staff had not presented any comparisons. She said rate increases would be hard on the city’s low-income community.

“If you had other offers by other companies I would like to know about them,” she demanded in Spanish.

Wagner again defended the contract saying Athens has guaranteed the city would reach state government mandates aimed at reducing the amount of waste entering landfills, ensuring the city would not face costly fines that could be as much as $10,000 a day.

Under the agreement, Athens guarantees that the diversion rates, which describe how much waste is diverted from landfills, would go from 23% to the 50% as required by state recycling laws.

“Bell Gardens will be the leading community in this area for recycling and processing of their waste,” said Gary Clifford, chief operating officer and executive vice president for Athens Services. “[The city] will be number one.”

Pointing to the $250,000 in franchise fee the city would receive the first year of the contract, followed by at least $30,000 every year of the contract, longtime resident Ron Hoyt also said the city must be more transparent.

“This is not transparency,” he insisted. “I know this [fee] would help the budget a great deal but this is not the way to do it, on the backs of poor residents.”

Residents called the franchise fee a “gift” from Athens, implying it was meant to persuade the contract decision.

Wagner quickly noted that the “gift” was anything but, and is expected when entering into such agreements. He said the funds would go toward the city’s general fund and would help eliminate the waste management deficit by 2019.

Other residents spoke in favor of the agreement, including Bell Gardens Chamber of Commerce Vice President Robert Rubio who said the company has “really been there” for the city, supporting community projects such as the $50,000 donation towards the Ford Park soccer fields.

“Athens is the best company for the job,” Victor Lopez, a seven-year resident said in Spanish.

After nearly half an hour of public comment, Mayor Crespo asked the city clerk how much time was left for discussion, something rarely done at council meetings.

Under the law, public comments on agenda items are limited to 30 minutes, however many councils allow for all residents who turned in a comment card to have their turn to speak before closing the public comment portion of the meeting.

Flores said the council has been working on this agreement for years and assured the public that making the decision to enter into an evergreen contract was not easy.

“We don’t want to raise these rates, but it’s going to have to come from somewhere,” she said.

As previously reported by EGP, in 2008 the city of Montebello approved a similar 15-year evergreen agreement with Athens. The city did not at the time have an exclusive contract with Athens or any trash hauler, with service being provided by several independent contractors who fought the city’s efforts to enter in to an exclusive agreement saying it would “kill” their businesses.

The deal didn’t last very long, however, with more than 10% of the city’s registered voters petitioning to require that the contract go before the voters before a final decision was made.

Although the referendum never made it to the ballot, the Montebello council was able to end the “evergreen” agreement with Athens in 2010 amid anticipated litigation.

On Tuesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti signed an ordinance to restructure the city’s commercial waste hauling business, for the first time creating exclusive franchise zones in the city and doing away with the long time practice of allowing commercial customers to contract with a company of their choosing.

Athens has had an exclusive residential contract with the city of Bell Gardens since 2008, but has been doing business with the city since 1999.

 

 

For Poorer Students, Little Guidance on Path to College

April 17, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

High school seniors across the country are reviewing college acceptance letters and financial aid packages to meet the May deadline to inform colleges if they will attend their institution in the fall.

But for many students in low-income communities, the choice comes down to going to a community college or getting a job because they failed to complete the requirements to attend a four-year university or college, or lack the financial resources to attend.

The documentary “First Generation” was recently screened for Los Angeles area students. The film follows the lives of four low-income students —an inner-city African American athlete, a white waitress from a small town, a Samoan warrior dancer, and the Hispanic daughter of migrant farm workers — for three of their high school years. The film looks at the obstacles the students face as they try to make it to graduation, earn a high school diploma and break the cycle of poverty for their families by being the first in their family to get a college degree.

Students who saw the movie said the stories are striking similar to their own experiences.

Roosevelt High School students and graduates attend screening of the documentary “First Generation.” (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Roosevelt High School students and graduates attend screening of the documentary “First Generation.” (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The documentary points out that low-income students are more likely to attend a community college than a 4-year university. In California, only 21 percent of those who attend community colleges will transfer to a 4-year university or college.

Sixteen-year-old Cynthia Eranas attends Roosevelt High School in L.A.’s mostly Latino eastside and told EGP the documentary hit close to home.

As the first in her family to graduate from high school, she says the pressure to succeed weighs heavy on her shoulders.

Lea este artículo en Inglés: Estudiantes de Bajos Recursos Carecen de Ayuda para la Universidad

“My family [is] looking up to me and saying, ‘you are going to be the one changing the family’s future,’” Eranas told EGP.  At the same time, she said, there are many people who think just because she goes to school in a poorer neighborhood “she is not going to make it.”

Overcrowded schools and overcrowded homes complicate the problem even more, Eranas told EGP. She said there are 7 people living in her family’s one-bedroom apartment, making it hard to study. Because both her parents work full-time, the 10th grader said she’s on her own when it comes to finding out information for school and college. “I feel like I’m the parent taking charge,” she said. “Instead of us asking our parents, our parents are asking us” what has to be done, she said.

The nonprofit InnerCity Struggle has for years advocated for reforms at local schools and was instrumental in the movement to require all students in the Los Angeles Unified School District to complete the so-called A-G curriculum, a set of courses needed to gain acceptance to a California four-year public university or college.

The group’s director, Maria Brenes, told EGP that the requirement doesn’t guarantee students will complete the classes. There are not enough counselors to provide academic guidance to students, she said.

According to Brenes, the counselor to student ratio in low-income eastside schools is stunning: 333 to 1 at Roosevelt; 493 to 1 at Garfield and 325 to 1 at Mendez High School.

“The [school] district has to do more to provide for these students,” she said, adding the ratio should be 100 students per counselor.

LAUSD’s own data shows that only 33 percent of all eastside graduates passed the A-G courses with a C or better, Brenes told EGP.

The data shows that 40% of the students who attend Roosevelt High School do not graduate, she said. The story is about the same at Mendez High; the school’s website put the 2012-2913 graduation rate at 61%.

“For many years ,students didn’t know and didn’t understand the urgency of college,” said Brenes. A lack of information about the A-G requirements, applications deadlines, fee waivers, financial aid and SAT tests has left many students unprepared, limiting their choices.

Hoping to turn things around, organizations like InnerCity Struggle work outside the schools to help students get ready for college, Brenes said. “Our goal is to increase the graduation rate.”

Programs such as United Students at Garfield, Lincoln, Roosevelt and Wilson High School, help students organize to ensure that all students graduate and attend college.

The group currently works with about 500 students. “About 150 students receive individual support form the organization,” Brenes explained. Every month they meet directly with one of the group’s three advisors who check the student’s academic progress. The advisors provide support and information to the students, including those that are undocumented, during the college application process, Brenes said.

When students “pay attention” it is more likely they will look for opportunities. That was the case for recent MIT graduate Madeline Salazar, 22, who said the documentary really showed the problems low-income students face getting information; problems she said could be addressed through more outreach. MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, is one of the country’s most prestigious universities; acceptance is very selective.

“I was a product of one of these nonprofit organizations that came to our community and inspired students to meet deadlines,” the Boyle Heights resident told EGP. Her advisor guided her through the college application and financial aid process, making sure she did not miss any deadlines.

“My family was earning under $40,000 a year. I was a low-income student at Roosevelt but I paid attention to the advise from the organizations,” she said, adding she now has a good paying job at aerospace giant Boeing Corp.

Brenes said this is why it is very important Local Control Funding Formula revenue reaches low-income eastside schools. LAUSD recently released its funding priorities and about 20 eastside high, middle and elementary schools are among the 175 schools the school district says will be targeted for added funding.

A panel of experts and the fillmmakers of the documentary "First Generation" spoke to students about their options for college. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

A panel of experts and the fillmmakers of the documentary “First Generation” spoke to students about their options for college. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Earlier this month, University of California President Janet Napolitano sent a letter to about 5,000 low-income California students who received high scores on their practice college admissions tests. “Your performance on the PSAT places you among the top students in California. It is truly impressive that you are preparing yourself so well for college,” her letter stated. She also encouraged the students to consider applying for admission to a UC school.

Napolitano said her objective is to challenge low-income students by inviting them to take the Advancement Placement (AP) courses that will help increase their chances of gaining admission at highly selective universities.

Eranas hopes change is coming to students at Roosevelt High School: “Give us something to do and we will show you we have the potential,” she told EGP.

“Students are the future and it is important to talk about the gaps,” said Brenes. After all, the number one goal for students and parents is college, she said.

The documentary First Generation was produced and directed by filmmakers husband and wife Adam and Jaye Fenderson and is showing all over the nation, sponsored by Wells Fargo. For more information visit www.firstgenerationfilm.com to show it at your school.

—-

Twitter@jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

Montebello Police Talk Gun Safety, But Few Show Up To Listen

April 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

 

Montebello police held a ‘town hall’ meeting last weekend to educate the community about gun safety and keeping guns away from children, but only a handful of residents showed up.

Nonetheless, Montebello police say they are committed to the effort and plan to hold more such meetings.

“Gun safety is such a huge issue especially when we have people in this city that don’t care where they throw their guns,” said Officer Brion Gorrell, referring to suspects who toss their guns while being chased by police. “It upsets me to think that a child could get a hold of a gun and get hurt.”

The few people who did attend received personal attention, including tips on how to safely store and handle their guns.

Montebello Police Officer Brion Gorrell displays his gun during a gun safety town hall presentation on Saturday.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Montebello Police Officer Brion Gorrell displays his gun during a gun safety town hall presentation on Saturday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Police also gave away gunlocks and raffled off a gun safe, courtesy of a local business and Project ChildSafe, a nationwide program promoting gun safety.

Gorrell said the department organized the town hall on their own without the help of the city.

The gun safety workshop was the first of its kind in the city and Gorrell expects they will continue.

“It’s every city’s duty to educate people” about guns, he told EGP. “If it saves one life it was well worth it.”

Gorrell told EGP the police department is also open to visiting classrooms, offices, homes or clubs for one-on-one presentations.

Longtime Montebello resident Silvia Gonzalez told EGP that she is happy that the police department is going out into the community to engage the public.

“I give them a lot of credit for making themselves visible,” she said.

Gonzalez believes more advertisement of these types of events will increase resident participation.

“Maybe next year there will be more participation.”

“It’s a good event but it’s geared for families,” added resident Susie Reynosa. “It’s too bad we didn’t have a lot of family participation.”

Azusa resident Romelia Villegas attended the event with her family because she thinks it is important for young adults to be educated on the dangers of guns.

“You have teenagers who spend hours grabbing virtual guns in video games,” she said.

Gorrell said Montebello is home to a large number of gun owners, not all of them legal.

“I’m sure in every household somebody has a gun. We come across guns on a daily basis in the city,” he said.

Gorrell claims the town hall was not organized in response to last year’s gang raids in the city, conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Montebello Police and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Dept. But “it certainly goes hand in hand,” he said.

“People are always going to get illegal guns,” Gorrell said, expressing the importance of gun education. “They are going to be here whether you like it or not,” so it’s best to prepared.

Interested residents can still obtain gunlocks at the city’s police department.

Jay-Z ‘Made In America’ Music Festival Coming to L.A.’s Grand Park

April 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Mayor Eric Garcetti and other Los Angeles leaders took turns quoting lyrics by rapper Jay Z Wednesday as the music star joined them outside City Hall to announce a two-day music festival to be held at downtown’s Grand Park this Labor Day weekend.

One city councilman has expressed misgivings about the hassle that the “Made In America” festival could bring with 50,000 concert-goers expected to swarm the downtown park and surrounding streets. But Garcetti and L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina said the event will fill hotel rooms, a source of tax revenue, and stimulate the local economy.

“Well, L.A. has 99 problems but Jay Z and ‘Made in America’ ain’t one,” Molina said.

Garcetti was also enthusiastic. “On Labor Day weekend, we’re gonna celebrate our golden state of mind, right here in L.A., with a sellout crowd right here on the steps of City Hall,” the mayor said, putting a twist on a Jay Z song celebrating New York City.

“We are a world class city, we are the ‘City of Angels,’ and we throw a world class party,” Garcetti said.

While not much was offered in the way of a musical lineup and other details about the Aug. 30-31 music festival, the event is expected to take over Grand Park, which is adjacent to the Spring Street entrance of L.A. City Hall.

Noticeably absent at the announcement was Councilman Jose Huizar, who complained earlier this month that the music festival, which is to be held in his district, would draw 50,000 concert-goers to the area, include several beer gardens and require street closures around Grand Park lasting up to 10 days.

He said city staff should hold off on issuing permits until the council receives a report on “public safety concerns and any necessary cost implications” of the event.

The festival, which began in Philadelphia in 2012 and is coming to the west coast for the first time, will “inject millions of dollars into the Los Angeles economy,” as well as “showcase our city and shine a spotlight on Grand Park and downtown L.A.,” Garcetti said.

A simultaneous “Made In America” festival will take place in Philadelphia, where, according to Garcetti, the concert brought $10 million to the economy and boosted that city’s 60 percent hotel occupancy rate up to 90 percent.

Jay Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, said two years ago he had a vision of putting together a “music festival that blurred those lines of genres, that all walks of life” would want to attend.

Past events have featured Queens of the Stone Age, Wiz Khalifa, Public Enemy, Deadmau5 and Jay Z’s wife Beyonce.

The 19-time Grammy-winning artist and former president of Def Jam Recordings added the concert would be at a public park, in the heart of the city, “not some far off place you can’t get to — no disrespect to any other festival.”

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which occurred this past weekend and is set to continue this coming weekend, is more than a two-hour drive from Los Angeles.

“Look how beautiful this park is. It’s assessable to everyone. It’s inclusion, it’s not exclusive,” Jay Z said of the ticketed event, which is selling early bird tickets at $125 a person.

“Philadelphia had huge success and I’m sure we’ll have even more success in Los Angeles. We’re very proud to be here, ‘Made In America.’ We’re very excited,” he said.

Also at the news conference was Brian Perkins, a vice president at Budweiser, which is to be a sponsor festival, and Elise Buik, president of United Way of Greater Los Angeles, a nonprofit that creates programs to help people in poverty and will receive some of the concert proceeds.

The county-owned Grand Park is managed by the Music Center but must obtain street closure permits from the city, according to Councilman Huizar’s spokesman Rick Coca.

Coca said Tuesday that — according to officials in Garcetti’s office and event organizers — the number and duration of street closures has been reduced, but still, “more work is needed.”

He said downtown “residents and stakeholders” should have a chance to share their concerns so any “potential negative effects to the downtown community” can be addressed before the event.

Coca noted that the event is being held at a public park, and fellow city leaders should consider whether residents and others in the downtown community deserve something in return for the inconvenience.

Although talks with Garcetti’s office have been ‘positive,’ Coca said, Huizar is still concerned about outreach to the neighborhood, and the fact that the festival is a ‘ticketed event with an alcoholic beverage company as the main sponsor.’

“We have questions over whether that is the best use for Grand Park, the so-called ‘people’s park,’” Coca said in an email.

L.A Mayor’s 2014 Budget Leaves Out Small Businesses

April 17, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

While Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s new budget proposal does not take a slash and burn approach to fixing the city’s budget deficit, we don’t understand why he was unable to include at least a small token in the $8.1 billion fiscal plan for the city’s small businesses.

It’s unlikely anyone will strongly argue against more police and fire personnel, longer library hours or better 911 response times, but given all the recent news about the city’s sad state of affairs when it comes to creating jobs, it seems helping businesses – or at least the small businesses that these days are creating what few new jobs we have – would get some incentives to do more.

Following the most recent UCLA Economic Forecast that stated there’s been no job growth in the city for two decades, and the release of the L.A. 2020 Commissions’ recent dire report that major changes are needed in the city to improve its financial outlook, it’s hard to get a handle on the alternative view of Los Angeles as a city on the mend.

Garcetti’s picture of an L.A. that’s on its way up is, however, not without merit. The fact is that in some sectors the city is seeing improvement, but that’s not hard given how far it had fallen. So we guess the truth is somewhere in between the two views of Los Angeles.

We had hoped the Mayor would make a down payment, even a very small one, on his promise to lower the city’s business taxes and eliminate them over time.

Nothing will do more to cure of the city’s problems than new and existing businesses hiring more workers, making the small business community more secure and giving them the incentive to raise the pay of low-wage workers.

The Mayor’s doubling of the budget for sidewalk repair is a good start to a problem that desperately needed to be addressed. Hopefully he will continue to add to that pot in the near future.

As the city council begins the budget review process, we urge them to keep the small businesses in their district in mind.

Ryan’s Joke Is on Us

April 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

My guess is that Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican Party’s highly touted budget guru, doesn’t have a very tight grip on the concept of irony.

 

Otherwise, why would he choose April Fools’ Day to release the latest version of what the GOP intends to do to federal programs (and to the people who count on them) if it takes total control of Congress? But there he was on April 1, declaring with a straight face that, “We [Republicans] believe that we owe it to the country to offer an alternative to the status quo. It’s just that simple.”

 

Sure it’s simple. He just Xeroxes the same stale budgetary flimflams that he always puts out, even though the public keeps upchucking at the sight of them. Ryan’s “alternative” to the status quo is taking Americans back to the harsh days before there were any programs to help unemployed, elderly, sick, and other people in need.

Ryan envisions turning Medicare into a privatized “WeDon’tCare” program. He wants to outright pull the plug on the new health care law that just extended coverage to millions of people, replacing it with, uh, nothing.

The Wisconsin Republican’s budget scheme also slashes job training, education, infrastructure repairs, medical research, public broadcasting, the arts, and pretty much anything else that regular people need.

 

Still, he claims that he’s “helping” — in an ideological, Republicany way. For example, Ryan explains that whacking food stamps “empowers recipients to get off the aid rolls and back on the payrolls.”

What payrolls, you ask? That’s not my problem, says the guy drawing $174,000 a year and a gold package of benefits from the government he pretends to despise.

Yeah, let ‘em eat right-wing ideology. I wish it were all an April Fools’ joke. But Ryan’s joke is on us.

 

OtherWords,org columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown. 

 

This is what one dollar, one vote looks like

April 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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