Non-Profit Takes Over Management of Boyle Heights Public Housing Gym

August 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A Boyle Heights non-profit organization is expanding its services to a space traditionally managed by city agencies: the gymnasium and recreation center at the Pico Gardens public housing complex in Boyle Heights.

The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) awarded the facility’s management contract to Proyecto Pastoral, which on Aug. 1 took over operations from L.A.’s Dept. of Recreation and Parks.

On Aug. 2, Proyecto Pastoral held an open house to celebrate the beginning of the two-year contract to manage activities and services offered at the recreational facility.

The group’s executive director, Cynthia Sanchez, said they are thrilled to be able to expand their programs to the community serviced by the public housing facility.

“Management of the Pico Gardens gymnasium and recreation center extends from Proyecto’s commitment to strategically serve the Pico Aliso community.” she said. “For more than 26 years, we have engaged residents to identify community priorities and solutions for creating long-term sustainable change. Pico Gardens and the larger Pico Aliso community is our primary focus, and we are excited to have this opportunity to grow our work,” Sanchez said in a written statement.

The new managers say programs already established at the center will continue, and Proyecto plans to bring its IMPACTO after-school and summer program for Kindergarten through 8th grade youth to the facility. The community will also be consulted about what additional programming they would like to see offered, according to the non-profit’s press release.

Long-time Boyle Heights resident and Proyecto Pastoral Board of Directors Member Rita Chairez, said management of the Pico Gardens Gymnasium is an honor that will allow them to continue building on their grassroots work in the community. It will also allow them to create new opportunities and provide access to a variety of resources, she said.

According to Proyecto Pastoral, their contract is part of a larger effort by Los Angeles to localize management of city recreation centers. The organization’s two-year contact comes with an opportunity to renew for three additional years.

Proyecto Pastoral’s management proposal received the support of others working in the community, including Homeboy Industries, Behavioral Health Services, the Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center, SoundArt, and Urban Strategies. Councilmember Jose Huizar and California State Assemblyman John Pérez also supported their effort.

Since 2010, Proyecto Pastoral’s Boyle Heights Promise Neighborhood collaborative has been working toward developing a cradle to career educational reform plan for the area. Boyle Heights was one of 21 communities nationally to receive the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhood planning grant.


For more information about Proyecto Pastoral, and the services that will be available at Pico Gardens Gymnasium – located at 4th and Gless Streets in Boyle Heights – visit



More Federal Aid Pledged to Assist Local Homeless Vets

August 8, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

The country’s top veterans affairs official committed earlier this month to ramping up funding to help Los Angeles County’s more than 6,000 homeless veterans, local elected officials announced Aug. 1.

U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki made the commitment at a meeting with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky last week in Washington, D.C.

Shinseki told the officials that Los Angeles County – which has the highest population of veterans who are homeless in the country – would get more housing vouchers and medical outreach workers as well as a dedicated homeless services center at the Veterans Affairs facility in West Los Angeles.

Feinstein said she will hold Shinseki to his commitment, calling the high number of homeless veterans in Los Angeles a “disgrace and a chronic problem that we can do something about.”

Waxman said Shinseki committed to end homelessness by 2015 and “showed a sincere desire to turn the crisis of veteran homelessness in Los Angeles around.”

Calling the secretary’s commitment “huge” and “unprecedented,” Yaroslavsky said it would allow the county to “treat ten times as many homeless vets in the next two years than we did over the last two.”

The money would go toward:

—Growing Project 60, a program that finds permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless veterans dealing with severe mental illness;

—Additional HUD-VASH vouchers for housing and therapeutic services;

—Paying for beds in the state veterans home at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs facility to house homeless veterans until full state funding for veterans waiting for nursing home care becomes available;

—Creating a “one-stop-shop” comprehensive homeless resource center at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs facility;

—Expanding “assertive community treatment” teams that will work to bring homeless veterans into permanent supportive housing and to help them remain housed;

—And renovating housing for homeless veterans.


Commerce Man Struck On 5-Freeway

August 8, 2013 by · 4 Comments 

A man fatally struck by a vehicle while walking along the northbound Santa Ana (5) Freeway in Commerce was identified Wednesday as a 27-year-old local man.

Branden Michael Caballero of Commerce was fatally struck about 3:45 a.m. Tuesday near the East Slauson Avenue exit, according to the California Highway Patrol and a coroner’s spokesman.

Los Angeles County paramedics declared Caballero dead at the scene. A CHP officer said she did not know why Caballero was walking along the freeway.

Police Seek Gunmen Who Shot El Sereno Cyclist

August 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Detectives released surveillance video footage Wednesday in hopes of tracking down two suspects wanted for a non-fatal, possibly gang-related shooting attack on a bicyclist in El Sereno.

The man was riding his bike in the 5200 bock of Templeton Street at 5:30 p.m. on June 30 when two suspects in a tan Toyota 4Runner passed him, stopped, then got out of the SUV and fired numerous shots, according to investigators with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollenbeck Division.

The bicyclist, whose name was withheld, was taken to a hospital for treatment of minor wounds, then released, according to police.

The shooting may be gang-related, and detectives hope that someone will see the video and recognize the suspects. Anyone with information should all Detective Donna Cornejo at (323) 224-0104. Surveillance video is available at

Man Killed by Train at Pershing Square Station

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A 35-year-old man was struck and killed Tuesday by a Metro Red Line train at the Pershing Square station in downtown Los Angeles.

The man was struck by an eastbound train just before 3 p.m., according to Erik Scott of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The collision caused major disruptions on the Red and Purple lines, which share the tracks at the station, Metro’s Steve Hymon said.

Trains were rerouted to bypass the Pershing Square station, and passengers were told to consider using a DASH bus or the Metrolink Bunker Hill Shuttle.

It was unclear how the man wound up on the tracks.

East LA-based Boot Camp Counselor To Stand Trial

August 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

 A 37-year-old man who worked as an instructor at a youth boot camp in the Angeles National Forest was ordered Monday to stand trial for allegedly abusing kids who took part in the program.

Edgar Alvarado is charged with three felony counts of child abuse and one felony count each of corporal injury to a child and sexual battery by restraint. The charges involve five alleged victims, boys and girls ranging in age from 12 to 17.

Alvarado inflicted “cruel and inhumane corporal punishment and injury, resulting in a traumatic condition” on one of the children, according to the complaint filed by the District Attorney’s Office. Another child, a girl, told investigators she was inappropriately touched by Alvarado, leading to the sexual battery charge.

Alvarado pleaded not guilty. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elaine Lu, who presided over his preliminary hearing in Pasadena, found that there was sufficient evidence to proceed to trial. Alvarado is due back in court on Aug. 22.

The August Strategy – Immigrant Rights Activism Heats Up

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SAN FRANCISCO – About 40 leaders of immigration reform advocacy organizations were arrested Aug. 1 on Capitol Hill. The group was there as part of a protest aimed at pressuring the House GOP into passing an immigration reform bill with a pathway to citizenship.

Taking a page from young undocumented immigrants, or Dreamers, nine of whom were arrested along the Arizona border last week, the veteran activists blocked traffic along a street adjacent to the Capitol while chanting a slogan popular among Dreamers: “Undocumented, unafraid!”

The action came a day before Congress members leave Washington, D.C., for their August recess. It kicked off a series of demonstrations, town hall meetings and events that are being planned by immigrant rights advocates during the month of August.

The goal, according to Angela Kelley, vice-president of immigration policy for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for American Progress, is to use the August recess to gain so much momentum in support of immigration reform that “when they come back, there’s an air of inevitability” around settling the issue.

“I’m actually more confident than I’ve ever been that our movement is poised to win that argument [for immigration reform] in August,” Kelley said Thursday in a national ethnic media telebriefing organized by New America Media.


Women Taking the Lead

Wida Amir, who oversees the immigrant rights program at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), was born in Afghanistan and came to the United States when she was 16. Her mother, a widow, had to make “the hardest choice anyone has to make,” to pack up her kids and leave her country during the Soviet invasion of the 1980s.

“Immigration reform is something I feel very personal about,” said Amir. “It’s a life mission.”

Women make up 51 percent of immigrants in the United States, yet “a lot of our current immigration laws do not necessarily include them,” according to Amir. For example, under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, immigrants were required to provide proof that they were working – yet the majority of women hold jobs in the informal economy, from domestic care to nail salon workers, she said. Women also primarily come to the United States through family-based visas, Amir added, which have caps and backlogs that can be up to 20 or 25 years in some Asian countries.

NAPAWF director Miriam Yeung was among those arrested in Thursday’s protest at the Capitol. The organization, part of the We Belong Together campaign — which aims to bring more focus to the issue of gender in the immigration debate — helped bring hundreds of women leaders from 25 states to a March hearing held by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) about the impact of immigration reform on women.


LGBT Leaders: This Is Our Fight Too


The Supreme Court’s June decision to repeal a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) allowed foreign nationals to petition for legalization through a same-sex spouse for the first time.

But, according to Dave Montez, acting director of GLAAD, the DOMA ruling is just the beginning.

“Immigration is an LGBT issue,” Montez said. His organization is part of a coalition of about a dozen LGBT organizations, including the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Equality Federation, that are working for immigration reform.

“The Supreme Court ruling only impacts about 10 percent of undocumented LGBT immigrants in the United States,” said Montez.

Of the estimated 267,000 undocumented LGBT immigrants here, only about 30,000 are in binational relationships. “The other 90 percent are not … so they would need a path to citizenship,” he said. “The work for the other 90 percent still has to continue.”


Pressure From the Right

That effort may have found an unlikely ally.

Kelley says the House’s movement on the DREAM Act alone is a sign of a “sea change.” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) – who both voted against the DREAM Act – are now working on a Republican version of the bill.

Even though KIDS Act, as the bill is called, “doesn’t do enough,” Kelley says the move signals a change in Republicans’ stance on immigration reform.

But a divide within the GOP remains. House member Steve King (R-Iowa) recently suggested that many Dreamers were drug smugglers, while Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told his constituency at a town hall meeting that there would soon be a House bill to legalize undocumented immigrants.

Pressure for reform, however, is also coming from leaders in the business and faith communities.

This week, two separate letters were sent to House Republicans calling for reform. One was signed by more than 400 leading businesses and chambers of commerce, the other by more than 100 Republican donors, including GOP strategist Karl Rove.

The letter from GOP donors argued that Republicans need to be seen as taking action on immigration reform for the good of their party: “Republicans ought to be welcoming immigrants and be seen as doing so. We firmly believe that with meaningful action on immigration reform, there is opportunity for both good policy and good politics for Republicans.”

Faith communities also have a powerful influence on the GOP, says Kelley. Conservative Evangelicals, for example, have been an active voice for reform as part of the Bibles, Badges and Business campaign organized by the National Immigration Forum.

According to Kelley, a top democratic Congressional leader recently told her organization that the faith community was “more important than anything” in pressuring the GOP to act on immigration reform.

A recent CBS poll released on Monday found that seven out of 10 conservatives are willing to accept a “path to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants with conditions.

The month of August, activists and advocates agree, will be critical to seeing whether that happens and if, as Kelley says, they can “win the narrative” on immigration reform.

March for Montebello To Continue This Year

August 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

An annual walk promoting local economic stimulation in Montebello will take place Aug. 17 as scheduled, now that safety concerns have been addressed.

“March for Montebello,” a two-mile walk along Montebello Boulevard that goes from Victoria Street to the Shops of Montebello, is meant to encourage the city’s young people to shop local and become informed about the city’s finances.

Concerns about the first march prompted Mayor Christina Cortez to put the item on the city council agenda. She said she wanted to make sure there is consensus among council members that the march, which drew 650 participants last year, should go on again this year.

Cortez said the march is a “source of pride” and helps bring the community together. She said it encourages residents to shop at local businesses thereby helping to stimulate the local economy, something city officials have identified as a key strategy to improving Montebello’s tight budget.

“The intention is to maintain the local dollars in our city,” Cortez said.

Some members of the community at previous council meetings had expressed concerns about the two-mile march that requires walking up a hill on a hot summer day. Councilman Art Barajas reassured residents that citizens on patrol in vehicles would keep an eye out for anyone who might experience a problem, such as becoming dehydrated or overly tired.

At the council’s July 24 meeting, Robert Fuentes, a member of the city’s Youth Advocate Group, told the council the walk is a way for young people like him to get involved in the city.

“The march really helps the youth become aware, and it helps our residents know about the importance of shopping in Montebello,” Fuentes said.

Barajas said he hopes more adults will join the youth participating in this year’s event.

Putting politics aside, Councilman William M. Molinari voted with his council colleagues to unanimously approve continuing the event as a partnership between the city and the shopping center.

“Ms. Cortez and I disagree once in a while, but in this case it’s something that I agree totally with her,” Molinari said, referring to her push to hold the march again. “Its an event that not only shows Montebello in a positive light but its one of the few events we can do given the budget constraints.”


For more information about the event call (323) 887-1437. 


Elderly Couple Die in Solo Monterey Park Car Crash

August 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Authorities on Wednesday identified an elderly couple killed when their vehicle crashed into a tree in Monterey Park.

Geng Li, 83, and Zhong Li, 76, of Monterey Park, were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, which occurred about 8:20 a.m. Tuesday in the 1800 block of South Atlantic Boulevard, said Los Angeles County coroner’s office Investigator Jim Blacklock.

Monterey Park police Sgt. Gus Jimenez said the pair were the sole occupants of the vehicle, which the husband was driving north on Atlantic when it struck the raised concrete center median, crossed into the southbound lane and then hit a tree.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

Injuries From Teen Fighting Deal a Blow to IQ

August 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A new Florida State University study has found that adolescent boys who are hurt in just two physical fights suffer a loss in IQ that is roughly equivalent to missing an entire year of school. Girls experience a similar loss of IQ after only a single fighting-related injury.

The findings are significant because decreases in IQ are associated with lower educational achievement and occupational performance, mental disorders, behavioral problems and even longevity, the researchers said.

“It’s no surprise that being severely physically injured results in negative repercussions, but the extent to which such injuries affect intelligence was quite surprising,” said Joseph A. Schwartz, a doctoral student who conducted the study with Professor Kevin Beaver in FSU’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Their findings are outlined in the paper, “Serious Fighting-Related Injuries Produce a Significant Reduction in Intelligence,” which was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study is among the first to look at the long-term effects of fighting during adolescence, a critical period of neurological development.

About 4 percent of high school students are injured as a result of a physical fight each year, the researchers said.

Schwartz and Beaver used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health collected between 1994 and 2002 to examine whether serious fighting-related injuries resulted in significant decreases in IQ over a 5- to 6-year time span. The longitudinal study began with a nationally representative sample of 20,000 middle and high school students who were tracked into adulthood through subsequent waves of data collection. At each wave of data collection, respondents were asked about a wide variety of topics, including personality traits, social relationships and the frequency of specific behaviors.

Perhaps not surprisingly, boys experienced a higher number of injuries from fighting than girls; however, the consequences for girls were more severe, a fact the researchers attributed to physiological differences that give males an increased ability to withstand physical trauma.

The researchers found that each fighting-related injury resulted in a loss of 1.62 IQ points for boys, while girls lost an average of 3.02 IQ points, even after controlling for changes in socio-economic status, age and race for both genders. Previous studies have indicated that missing a single year of school is associated with a loss of 2 to 4 IQ points.

The impact on IQ may be even greater when considering only head injuries, the researchers said. The data they studied took into account all fighting-related physical injuries.

The findings highlight the importance of schools and communities developing policies aimed at limiting injuries suffered during adolescence whether through fighting, bullying or contact sports, Schwartz said.

“We tend to focus on factors that may result in increases in intelligence over time, but examining the factors that result in decreases may be just as important,” he said. “The first step in correcting a problem is understanding its underlying causes. By knowing that fighting-related injuries result in a significant decrease in intelligence, we can begin to develop programs and protocols aimed at effective intervention.”

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