Southwest Museum Celebrates Centennial

August 14, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

It’s been more than a century since journalist, anthropologist and Indian rights activist Charles E. Lummis began his quest to open the city of Los Angeles’ first museum, the Southwest Museum of the American Indian. On Saturday, the 100-year anniversary of the fulfillment of his vision will be celebrated in Mount Washington, atop the same hill where the Museum has stood overlooking the City of Angels since 1914.

First opened in 1907 in downtown L.A., the Southwest Museum moved in 1914 to the 37-acre site in Mount Washington.

Today, it is considered a cultural-historical monument, and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and the California Register of Historic Places. The City of Los Angeles Historical Cultural Monuments includes both the Southwest Museum building and Braun Library among its listings.

The Southwest Museum is open every Saturday from 11a.m. to 4p.m.  (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The Southwest Museum is open every Saturday from 11a.m. to 4p.m. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Los Angeles’ oldest museum is now owned by the Autry National Center, the result of a 2003 merger intended to save the historic site from closing after years of financial woes and deterioration of the Museum’s iconic structure and vast collections of Native American, pre-Hispanic, Spanish colonial, Latino, and Western American art and artifacts.

But for the last decade, the Museum has remained largely closed, in part to allow for repairs to the facility and archiving of the collections, which have now been moved to the Autry Center in Griffith Park and an offsite storage facility in Burbank.

Stacy Lieberman, vice president of communication and visitor experience for the Autry, says Saturday’s centennial celebration will focus on the Museum’s unique architecture and the history of its founder Charles E. Lummis, rather than Museum’s extensive collections.

The event, much of which is free and open to the public, will also include a discussion on possible future uses for the facility, which could include it being turned into a multicultural community center, with conference rooms used for education and cultural purposes. A restaurant, community garden and limited gallery exhibits are some of the options being floated.

Lea este artículo en Español: El Museo Southwest Celebra Su Centenario

For some people, however, the 100-year milestone is bittersweet. They say it’s ironic that the Autry would be celebrating the 100-year anniversary of a museum that stopped fully operating about 10 years—now opening its doors to the public only on Saturdays.

“Do you know we have a whole generation of young kids who haven’t been able to visit the Southwest Museum?” John Nese, the owner of Galco’s Soda Pop Stop told EGP. “They don’t know the history.” He was referring to the generations of Los Angeles area school children who in years past learned about the history and culture of Native Americans and the U.S. Southwest through field trips to the Southwest Museum.

Nese is a member of Friends of the Southwest Museum, a coalition of individuals and groups that has for years been fighting to force the Autry to reopen the Mount Washington site as a fully functioning museum. They believe the Autry has violated the terms of the merger by refusing to keep the Museum open and to exhibit the artwork and artifacts at the Mount Washington site.

Ann Walnum co-founded the Friends group, and told EGP she’s not happy about the Autry’s plan for the centennial celebration or the future of the Southwest Museum. “[The Autry] has no intention to have the Southwest operate as a museum again,” she said.

Walnum says the Autry took about 85% of the Southwest collection “to safely store them” and “promised” to return the collection of about 238,000 Native-American artifacts—the biggest and most important in the U.S.— when funds were available to renovate the Museum.

It didn’t happen, she said.

As a result, the Museum’s future has been mired in controversy. Protests, petitions and lawsuits have been used to try to force the Autry to “live up to the terms of the agreement,” according to Walnum. Elected officials have expressed support for returning the Museum to full operation, using a variety of tactics to force the Autry’s hand, to no avail.

Lieberman says the issue is not the cost of reopening the Museum, but “sustainability.”

She said even if the $25 to $41 million to rehabilitate the site could be raised, the money is not there to keep it open and functioning as a modern day museum.  “The museum was not financially sustainable” before and probably would not be in the future, she told EGP.

“Hopefully, in a few months we will come to a decision” about what the building should be used for, she said.

Nese on the other hand thinks money to support the Museum could be raised by exhibiting the collections in other places, which he says has not been done in the last 12 or so years.

“Europeans and other ethnicities are dying to see [Native-American] history,” just as “We get exited to see exhibits from other countries, such as the Egyptians,” he said.

However, according to Lieberman, “the collection was in disrepair and is currently in a proper storage” area, but not yet built to be moved out. The Autry hopes its Burbank facility will eventually become “a destination where students, scholars, artists, tribal representatives and the broader public” will have access to the history of the American West.

In the meantime, Lieberman emphasized that the 100th year anniversary celebration is not exactly about the museum, but of the building. Councilman Gil Cedillo CD-1 and Autry President W. Richard West Jr. will be honoring the site.

Exhibits will include historical archival material on view at the Braun Research Library, and creative dioramas by students from Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts and Franklin High School in the tunnel at the Museum Drive level. The “Four Centuries of Pueblo Pottery” exhibit, featuring more than 100 pieces of rare ceramics from the Autry’s Southwest Museum of the American Indian Collection, traces the history of Pueblo pottery following sixteenth-century Spanish colonization to the present.

The museum will be open Saturday from 10a.m. to 4p.m. For more information, visit the Autry Center website: theautry.org/exhibitions.

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Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

 

Stocking Up for New School Year

August 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

(Office of Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard)

(Office of Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard)

Just in time for the new school year, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (center) helps hand out school supplies to children during the Back to School Jam at the Nueva Maravilla Housing Development in East Los Angeles last week.

The County of Los Angeles Housing Authority provided donated backpacks and school supplies to students at the event held. Some children also received haircuts before they head back to the classroom.

County Calls on Governor to Force Lead Cleanup

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The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to send a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown urging him to force the cleanup of contaminated soil around homes near the Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon.

Supervisor Gloria Molina said regulatory agencies failed to act “despite numerous and serious repeated violations.”

A toxic threat strike team established by the county identified 39 homes in Boyle Heights and Maywood where elevated levels of lead were found in yards.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control, however, agreed to clean up only two properties and will not commit to more tests as regulators negotiate Exide’s responsibility for the cleanup, according to Molina.

Mark Lopez from East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and other members of the community demand that Exide complete testing and clean up all the homes and schools near Exide, during a press conference on Monday. (Courtesy of Angelo Logan EYCEJ)

Mark Lopez from East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice and other members of the community demand that Exide complete testing and clean up all the homes and schools near Exide, during a press conference on Monday. (Courtesy of Angelo Logan EYCEJ)

“Instead of championing environmental justice for communities heavily burdened by pollution from facilities like Exide, DTSC has been the greatest roadblock to progress,” said the supervisor.

“The community shouldn’t have to be left shouldering this burden … because of this regulatory failure,” Molina said.

She said the outcome would be different if it was another community at risk.

“DTSC’s proposal is unfair, unjust and simply unacceptable,” Molina said.

Agreeing with Molina, Monsignor John Moretta of Resurrection Parish in Boyle Heights told supervisors Tuesday that it is “difficult to deal with an agency that is so ineffective.”

“We were told by the DTSC, ‘Don’t let your vegetables touch the ground’ and that order has been in effect for months. But we’ve heard nothing since then. Asking the governor to intervene with CAL EPA is right on. This is an emergency issue,” Moretta told the board, according to Molina’s office.

Exide announced Monday that it would remove and replace the soil, plants and grass in the yards of two homes, even though testing on the properties suggested lead sources other than the plant.

“Exide is committed to doing our part and working collaboratively with state regulators on this clean-up,” said Thomas Strang, vice president for environmental health and safety. “We recognize concerns in the community and are taking steps to address the two sites.”

The letter to the governor will ask for funding to test the remaining 37 homes, a plan to screen for lead contamination in all 39 homes and to review the process that has enabled the plant at 2700 S. Indiana St. to operate under a temporary permit from the DTSC for 33 years.

It comes on the heels of residents, elected officials and organizations continuing to hammer state regulatory agencies to close the battery recycling plant down on grounds that Exide has repeatedly violated rules regulating the emission of toxic substances into the air, creating a significant health risk for people living and working in surrounding communities.

Exposure to high levels of lead can lead to learning disabilities in children. Children who play in dirt with higher than acceptable levels of lead are at increased risk.

At a press conference Monday in Boyle Heights, a coalition of local environmental justice groups called this week’s scheduled soil cleanup at two homes  “insufficient to protect residents from exposure to lead and arsenic.” Representatives of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Communities for a Better Environment, Resurrection Church and the Natural Resources Defense Council, said regulators must see to it that all homes and schools in the surrounding communities are fully tested and cleaned up, inside and out.

The group also said both the soil and interiors of properties found earlier this year to have lead levels above California’s limit of 80 parts per million should be remediated. To date, however, state toxic substance regulators have only ordered soil removed from the two homes with the highest lead levels in the last round of testing; one with more than 580 parts per million, and the other with more than 450 parts per million.

Later this month, the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council will consider a resolution on its agenda seeking more punitive action against Exide, according to council President Carlos Montes.

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that state regulators were planning to expand testing to 144 homes in a 2-square-mile area north and south of the plant, including parts of Boyle Heights, Maywood, Huntington Park and unincorporated East Los Angeles.

Exide, in operation since 1922, recycles the equivalent of 23,000 to 41,000 batteries daily and has been under fire from state and local regulators for more than a year.

One of only two lead-acid battery recycling plants west of the Rockies, the plant has been closed since mid-March while the company works to reduce air emissions and meet state and local requirements.

The plant was forced to temporarily close last year due to arsenic emissions, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District sued the company in January, alleging numerous air quality violations.

In May, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that the plant violated federal limits on lead emissions on more than 30 occasions between September and April.

Exide officials have repeatedly said the plant is not the sole contributor to lead exposure in surrounding neighborhoods, pointing to other long term potential sources such as lead-based paint in older homes, exhaust from leaded gas from long ago, pollution from nearby freeways and other smelting plants in Vernon.

Exide is seeking to use thresholds established by the EPA rather than more stringent requirements proposed by state regulators in designating areas for remediation.

But Molina said residents should not have to wait.

“Immediate action is necessary to address the public health needs of the community,” Molina said.

 

Information from City News service used in this report.

 

Hundreds Gather in Commerce for ‘Clean Up’

August 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

(City of Commerce)

(City of Commerce)

Over 200 volunteers gathered in Commerce Saturday to take part in the 4th Annual “Clean Up Commerce.”

The volunteers, many of them youth, completed beautification projects ranging from scrubbing away graffiti to removing debris across the city. The clean up was organized by the Citadel Outlets, Commerce Casino and 30 other local businesses.

Participating non-profit organizations received a $100 donation for each member participating, adding up to over $10,000, which was donated by Craig Realty.

Montebello Recreation Program In Need of Art Classes

August 14, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

Over the last several years, longtime Montebello resident Liz Gonzalez has signed her now 13 year-old son up for just about every sport and class available through the city’s parks and recreation department.

She says she would like to sign him up for art classes, but they aren’t available.

Like many other parents, Gonzalez has turned to local city-run parks and recreation programs to help keep her son busy outside of school, and to get instruction in areas she would be hard-pressed to pay for privately.

Park programs, like many city libraries, are being called on to provide a wider range of programs to satisfy the diverse interests of area residents. While in most cities athletic programs are still the core of course offerings at local parks, more and more cities are offering art, music, crafts and even preschool programs.

Montebello, however, does not offer any painting or drawing classes and only recently began to offer classes in guitar and keyboarding. The only courses currently available to youth ages four to 17, outside of sports leagues, are swim lessons, martial arts, Zumba, yoga and dance.

Crystal Jaimez, the city’s community services coordinator, told EGP the recreation department simply does not have any instructors to teach art. She said the city’s programming depends on the availability of instructors, and so far Montebello has been unable to attract teachers willing to teach art during the department’s four-week rotating schedule of classes.

Montebello is “looking for anyone to come out and teach art” at its parks, Jaimez told EGP.

The Montebello Parks and Recreation Department selects its catalog of classes from proposals submitted by people interested in teaching, and who meet certain qualifications. She said the department is especially looking for proposals from people with a background or passion in the arts, who are willing to teach children ages five to 17. Flyers placed around the city to let residents know the city is hiring instructors have so far attracted instructors to teach a cooking class this fall, and the guitar and keyboard classes offered over the summer.

All Montebello asks is that the costs of classes be kept at a minimum in order for them to be accessible to the city’s low-income residents who might not otherwise be able to afford such courses, Jaimez said.

The role art plays in academic performance has been gaining more attention of late.

A recent report by the National Endowment for the Arts found that low-income children and teenagers who are exposed to arts learning perform better academically. The report said students who become involved in the arts are more engaged with local politics than their peers who are not regularly exposed.

Researches noticed a difference in grades, test scores, honors society membership, graduation rates, college enrollment and volunteering. The study also suggests that art helps close the achievement gap between at-risk youth and the general population.

For many people in low-income communities, however, access and cost are obstacles hard to overcome.

Montebello resident Rick Magaña says his seven-year old daughter will have to stick to arts and crafts activities at home until an art class that teaches young students technique is offered through the park’s department, which typically cost less than the private lessons or classes offered through art schools or private teachers.

Though school districts like Montebello Unified, which serves most of the city’s children, offer art classes to high school students, parents like Maria Carrillo think exposure needs to begin at a much younger age. She wishes the city would offer classes in art technique, including painting and drawing, rather than just crafty “kid stuff.”

“I would love to put my children in art classes if Montebello offered them,” she said.

Carrillo told EGP her four year-old daughter is interested in drawing and painting but the lack of art programming in Montebello forced her to look at the art classes offered in other cities and at private schools, but she says she found them too expensive.

Carrillo says she hopes the city’s recruitment effort is successful and instructors sign up to offer classes to Montebello’s younger residents.

“I don’t mind if I have to pay for these classes at the [Montebello] parks,” she said, noting she just can’t afford the “high prices they charge everywhere else.”

East Los Angeles College’s fine arts classes for children range from $50 to $65 for five lessons and a music school in Montebello which offers lessons that can reach $300 for five hours of class. On average, Montebello’s monthly classes for children and teens cost $35 or less. That’s a big savings to a family with more than one child and on a tight budget.

In nearby Monterey Park, residents can take cartoon drawing, sketching and painting courses that range from $45 to $144. However, Program Coordinator Alex Garcia told EGP those classes have not been filled in a year, though he could not say if the prices were the reason for the lack of enrollment.

Gonzalez told EGP the city of Montebello “needs classes that are affordable” and says it would be “awful if the city doesn’t do anything to bring art to the children.”

“We encourage them at a young age to create by buying them crayons and color pencils, but when they grow up they sometimes don’t have anywhere to continue learning.”

 

For more information about becoming an instructor, contact Crystal Jaimez at the city’s parks and recreation department at (323) 887-1200 ext. 540.

 

Bell Gardens Anti-crime Grant Renewed

August 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) has renewed a one-year grant to help Bell Gardens reduce alcohol-related crime, specifically the sale of alcohol to minors.

The initial grant was used for public education, enforcement and licensee training and according to the city resulted in business owners coming into compliance with ABC laws, as well as numerous citations and arrests.

The new grant will be used to fund police officer overtime related to operations targeting the prevention of alcohol sales to minors, intoxicated patrons, illegal solicitation of alcohol and other criminal activity related to alcohol and drugs, the city said in a press release.

Macy’s Reaches Settlement in East L.A. Distribution Death

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Macy’s will pay a $950,000 fine as part of a settlement over the 2009 death of a worker at an East Los Angeles distribution center for the department store chain, the District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

An attorney for Macy’s Corporate Services entered a no-contest plea on behalf of the company Monday to a misdemeanor count of corporate criminal liability stemming from the July 13, 2009, death of Roy Polanco, 65.

Polanco was operating a cardboard baling and compactor machine at a distribution center when he fell into an opening of the unit, and was crushed and decapitated by the machine’s hydraulic compacting arm, prosecutors said.

The machine he was operating had been modified so it could operate continuously, according to prosecutors.

At a sentencing hearing set for Friday, Macy’s is expected to be ordered to pay a $950,000 fine. The company will also conduct an audit of all the balers and compactors at its stores and distribution facilities in California, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Officials with Macy’s could not be reached for immediate comment.

Lincoln Heights Shooting Victim Identified

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Authorities released the name of a man Monday who died after crashing his SUV into a garage in Lincoln Heights while trying to flee after being shot in the back by an assailant who remains at large.

The man backed into the garage while trying to turn around at 2221 Thomas St. at 12:14 a.m. Sunday, said Sgt. Kevin Moore of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Station.

“He had a gunshot wound in the lower left back,” Moore said. “He was shot prior to entering the vehicle. He tried to turn around in the alley and backed into the garage.”

Edgar Pastor, 40, was unconscious when police first arrived, and they initially thought he passed out because he was drunk.

“He had been drinking, but he woke up and told us he’d been shot,” the sergeant said. “He didn’t say who shot him.”

Paramedics rushed him to County-USC Medical Center, where he died of his injuries.

Detectives said they had no suspect information. Anyone with information was asked to call Hollenbeck detectives Palacios or Alfaro at (323) 342-8900.

Judge Rules State is Failing Non-English Speaking Students

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A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday that the state is obligated to ensure that school districts follow state and federal laws and provide specialized instruction to thousands of students with a native language other than English.

Judge James Chalfant agreed with the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Public Counsel and the law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP that California was failing to live up to its responsibility to ensure the delivery of meaningful educational support to

thousands of the state’s English-learner students.

Parents, students and a former administrator brought the lawsuit more than 18 months ago against the state, the state Board of Education, Superintendent Tom Torlakson and the California Department of Education for allegedly failing to provide students with a native language other than English receive specialized instructional services.

Proponents of such instruction say it enables English learners to overcome language barriers so they can access core classes such as math and science. They say it also increases the likelihood of testing at grade level by middle and high school.

Those students who receive no services are among the lowest performing and are more likely to drop out of school, according to proponents of the instruction.

“State educational officials had created a virtual caste system in which tens of thousands of children, nearly all of whom are U.S. citizens, were denied access to the bond of English language that unites us as Californians,” said Mark Rosenbaum, chief counsel of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “Today marks an important civil rights leap forward for all students and all residents of the state.”

Five More Years For Chief Beck

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Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck was re-appointed Tuesday by the city Police Commission and will serve another five years as head of the department.

The commission voted 4-1 to extend Beck’s tenure, with the panel’s longest-serving member, Robert Saltzman, casting the dissenting vote. Saltzman is the only member of the panel who pre-dates Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Saltzman said he believes the department needs fresh leadership, saying Beck was not as open about sharing information with the commission as his predecessor, William Bratton.

Other commissioners conceded that there were areas in which Beck could improve, but commission President Steve Soboroff said the “positives far outweigh the negatives.”

Some commission members noted they were concerned about the fairness of discipline meted out by the chief and echoed some of Saltzman’s concerns about transparency.

But those concerns were not enough for them to reject his bid for another term.

Beck said he was “honored” to receive the commission’s support during what he called the “most difficult reappointment process in recent memory.”

He conceded that the reappointment process “was much more difficult that I anticipated.”

He said the criticisms raised by Saltzman and some other commissioners were not lost on him, saying he “learned lessons” during the process. He said he would work to ensure that “we honor transparency not only in speech but in action.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti cheered the commission’s decision, saying the panel’s work has “led this department to a city that’s safer than it has been each year, to a city that has a community-level of trust that didn’t exist a decade and a half ago.”

“I thank the commissioners for the diligence they have put in this process,” he said.

The process showed that “we can always get better, but we can also embrace the progress that we have made,” he said.

Beck has been on the defensive in recent weeks, with questions being raised about the department’s handling of crime statistics and about the chief’s role in the department’s purchase of a horse from his daughter.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that an estimated 1,200 violent crimes – mostly aggravated assaults – that occurred in 2013 may have been downgraded to minor offenses in crime statistics reported to the federal government.

LAPD officials said the misclassifications were inadvertent and the result of the “complex nature” of fitting crimes defined under state law into the “FBI’s coding system.” The department has long recognized the problem and has worked to reduce the error rate in classifying aggravated assaults,officials said.

The skewed statistics do not change the department’s contention that crime has dropped consistently in the past 11 years, LAPD officials said, while the miscoding of the crimes did not affect how they were ultimately prosecuted.

Beck submitted a letter to the Police Commission in May officially seeking a second term. He was required to submit an application to the commission 180 days before the end of his first term, which is Nov. 17.

Tyler Izen, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents LAPD officers, congratulated Beck on his reappointment.

“We pledge to work with him to restore officer morale and reform the department’s arcane disciplinary system,” he said. “We also would like to see him become an advocate for competitive, market-rate pay and benefits for the men and women of the LAPD he is sworn to lead.”

The union and the city are locked in a labor dispute, focused primarily on salaries.

 

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