Tres Menores Detenidos por el Robo y Vandalismo de un Centro Comunitario

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Oficiales de la Policía de Los Ángeles han detenido a tres menores—de 12, 13 y 16 años de edad—por el robo y el vandalismo de la Armería de Park Hazard, un edificio del Departamento de Recreación y Parques de LA, que es utilizado por una organización sin fines de lucro que ayuda a los jóvenes en riesgo de ser reclutados por pandillas.

Los menores confesaron a los crímenes y las autoridades recuperaron el 95 por ciento de las cosas robados, valorados a $9,000, dijo el Det. de Hollenbeck Bill Eagleson a EGP el martes.

Un hacha fue utilizada para quebrar una pared y romper un escritorio, pero no habían muchas cosas de valor debido a un robo solo una semana antes. Foto cortesía de Legacy LA

El pasado fin de semana, las oficinas de Legacy LA fueron robada y destruidas, un incidente similar pero sin el vandalismo, había ocurrido solo una semana antes.

“Pensamos que era una cosa al azar, esto le pasa a todo mundo”, dijo la directora ejecutiva de Legacy LA Lou Calanche. “Lo reportamos, pero no pensamos que volvería a suceder.”

Casi todas las computadoras y otros aparatos electrónicos de la organización fueron robados durante los dos robos, de acuerdo a Legacy LA. La organización ofrece programación de prevención e intervención de pandillas para los jóvenes que viven en, o cerca de, el Desarrollo de Viviendas Públicas Ramona Gardens en Boyle Heights.

Los daños al edificio se estiman alrededor de $4,000, de acuerdo con Eagleson.

Los menores, dos hermanos y un amigo, fueron detenidos por robo comercial el martes. Ellos fueron citados y entregados a sus padres, dijo Eagleson.

Uno de los menores en algún momento era un cliente de Legacy LA, dijo Eagleson. Pero ninguno de los menores son residentes de Ramona Gardens y ninguno de ellos tiene historial criminal, él dijo.

Mientras que las pandillas de la zona se consideraron al principio, esa sospecha fue eliminada rápidamente.

Ambos Eagleson y Calanche dijeron que la evidencia sugiere que los responsables estaban familiarizados con las oficinas.

“Es una cosa si eres un verdadero ladrón, [y] es otra cosa si entras para comer palomitas, refrescos, y luego hechas pintura sobre las computadoras y destruyes el lugar”, dijo Eagleson a EGP.

Durante el primer robo a principios de este mes, los culpables cocinaron en la cocina antes de llevarse la mayoría de las computadoras y otros aparatos electrónicos.

En este último incidente, los autores hicieron palomitas de maíz, entraron a un sitio de red social en una computadora y olvidaron cerrar su cuenta. Se robaron numerosos lectores electrónico de la marca Kindle que son utilizados por los adolescentes en el club de lectura, y más tarde trataron de entrar en una sala de almacenamiento. De seguro pensaban que habían objetos de gran valor en el interior y hicieron un gran esfuerzo para entrar, dijo Calanche.

Un hacha y un cortapernos que fueron usados durante los crímenes parecen pertenecer al Departamento de Recreación y Parques, que también utiliza el sitio para almacenar sus equipos, ella agregó.

El hacha fue utilizada para romper una pared y un escritorio, Calanche dijo.

Se derramó pintura en las paredes y monitores de las computadoras, y un extintor de incendios fue rociado en la mayoría de las oficinas, también se rompieron ventanas. El vandalismo obligó que la organización cancelara programación mientras se limpiaba el desastre, dijo Calanche.

La única habitación a salvo del vandalismo y el robo fue el cuarto utilizado principalmente por los participantes del programa de liderazgo juvenil “Dream Big”.

El miércoles, Calanche dijo a EGP que ella y su equipo se sintieron decepcionados al descubrir que uno de sus jóvenes clientes estaba involucrada.

“Les pedí a los detectives de Hollenbeck que en su audiencia en la corte pidan que estos tres jóvenes sean obligados a participar en el programa de Prevención e Intervención de Legacy LA, hacer su servicio a la comunidad aquí, y les ayudaremos conseguir consejería familiar”, Calanche dijo en un correo electrónico.

Calanche añade que la organización tiene una buena relación con la comunidad, pero están pensando hacer más enlace para informar a la comunidad sobre el trabajo que realizan en el sitio.

Establecida en 2007, Legacy LA tiene su sede en la Armería antigua de Hazard Park—ubicado en 1350 N. San Pablo—y tiene una segunda oficina ubicada en Ramona Gardens, esa no ha sido el objeto de ladrones.

A principios de este año, la ciudad de Vernon acordó donar $5 millones para un plan de renovaciones a la Armería. Sin embargo el concejo de la Ciudad de Vernon no ha oficialmente aprobado la subvención, de acuerdo con el portavoz de Vernon Fred MacFarlane.

Montebello Bus Lines Posts Detour Around Paramount Bridge Closure

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Montebello Bus Lines has issued the following detour information in response to the closure of the Paramount Boulevard bridge and 60 Freeway following Wednesday’s tanker truck fire:

Due to the incident on the 60 Freeway, lines 20 & 70 will be on the following detour until further notice:

Line 20 northbound

Continue on northbound Montebello Blvd; right on Town Center drive to regular route

  • Temporary added service stops: near side Montebello @ Paramount; far side Montebello @ Plaza Dr; nearside Montebello @ Town Center Dr
  • Temporary out of service stops: Town Center Dr @ Kaiser; Town Center Dr @ JCPenney; Town Center Dr @ Montebello

Line 20 southbound

Southbound buses are not affected

Line 70 northbound

From eastbound Via Campo; left on Markland Dr; right on Potrero Grande Dr; right on Hill Dr; right on Paramount Blvd; right on Arroyo Dr

  • Temporary added service stops: far side Paramount @ Hill; far side Arroyo @ Paramount (Lay-over & service stop)
  • Temporary out of service stops: Town Center Dr @ Kaiser; Town Center Dr @ JCPenney; Montebello @ Macy’s

Line 70 southbound

From service stop/lay-over on Arroyo Dr: left on Potrero Grande Dr; left on Wilcox Ave to regular route

  • Temporary added service stops: far side Arroyo @ Paramount (Lay-over & service stop)
  • Temporary out of service stops: Montebello @ JCPenney

Passengers wishing to transfer at Hill Dr/Paramount Blvd & San Gabriel Blvd from Lines 70 and/or 20 may use a continuation slip. Temporary signs have been posted at all affected service stops.

The detours are posted on their facebook page.

Estudiantes Obtienen la Perspectiva de un Banquero sobre los Indignados

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Francisco Jaimes, de 21 años de edad y residente del Este de Los Ángeles, recientemente tuvo la oportunidad de poner al banquero de su barrio en la silla caliente.

Read this story in ENGLISH: LA CAUSA Students Get Banker’s View On Occupy Wall Street

“¿Qué has hecho para beneficiar a la comunidad”, él le preguntó a Jesse Torres, presidente de Pan American Bank.

Jaimes y un grupo de más de veinte estudiantes de la escuela charter LA CAUSA YouthBuild se reunieron con Torres para obtener la perspectiva de un banquero sobre el movimiento de los indignados. No hace mucho que visitaron Occupy LA, el campamento de indignados de Los Ángeles.

Durante la visita a Pan American Bank, (de izquierda a derecha) Janet Torres, Francisco Jaimes y Marlene Arazo explicaron lo que vieron en el campamento de Occupy LA. EGP. EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou

Los estudiantes tenían curiosidad por saber lo que los banqueros hacen con el interés que les cobran a sus clientes por mantener de su cuenta bancaria.

Torres estaba nervioso, pero era un voluntario dispuesto. Él se mostraba seguro del hecho de que él cabeza el “banco más pequeño en Los Ángeles”, por lo cual él no es el enemigo número uno del público.

Él señaló a los interiores pasados de moda, de casi 50 años del banco y dijo que contribuyen casi todas de sus ganancias a la comunidad.

“Justo el otro día escribí un cheque de $1.500 para una entrega de juguetes”, él dijo a Jaimes y los otros estudiantes.

Torres dijo que su banco mensualmente tiene eventos para recaudar fondos para grupos comunitarios locales, tales como el Centro Comunitario Eastmont, Rotary Club del Este de Los Ángeles, y la Fundación Roybal.

Hasta el momento han aceptado todas las solicitudes de modificación de préstamos individuales que han recibido, acordando a pagos de hipoteca mensuales más bajos a pesar de que perderán dinero, él dice.

Según el director ejecutivo de LA CAUSA, Robert Zardeneta, se les esta dando a los estudiantes la oportunidad de decidir por sí mismos que piensan acerca del movimiento de los indignados contra Wall Street.

Zardeneta dice que los estudiantes que asisten LA CAUSA están realizando una segunda oportunidad para recibir su diploma de preparatoria tras abandonar sus estudios en escuelas de la zona, muchas de las cuales estaban sobre poblados por años.

Él recordó su propia experiencia mientras asistía la Preparatoria Garfield, antes que la nueva Preparatoria Esteban Torres se abriera, y señaló que había como 60 personas en una sola aula y los estudiantes se vieron obligados a sentarse sobre las mesas. Habían pocas oportunidades para sentirse comprometidos en la escuela, y mucho menos a terminar sus estudios, dijo Zardeneta.

Los 147 estudiantes de LA CAUSA han obtenido mayor puntuación que las escuelas Garfield y Roosevelt, y este año parece que hay un aumento en el número de alumnos que reciben calificaciones todas “A’s”. “Nuestras clases o no son menos difíciles que en otras escuelas”, él dijo.

La escuela trata de lograr que los estudiantes descubran el valor de la educación, enseñándoles acerca de su propia comunidad, incluso sobre los bancos locales como Pan American Bank, y motivándolos acerca del movimiento de hoy que “no es diferente que los movimientos de derechos civiles en Este de Los Ángeles hace años.”

Durante la visita a Pan American Bank, los estudiantes también hicieron una presentación sobre su viaje a Occupy Los Angeles (Ocupar Los Ángeles), que estaba ubicado en el jardín del Ayuntamiento.

Los estudiantes salieron del campamento sorprendidos que ellos sabían más sobre los temas que algunos de los manifestantes, Zardeneta dijo.

Algunos de los estudiantes también no esperaban ver a tantas personas desamparadas, y lo que parecía ser el uso de drogas en el campamento. Otros, como Janet Torres, de 18 años de edad y del Este de Los Ángeles, dijeron que los medios mostraron estos aspectos negativos del movimiento, pero dejaron fuera las “partes más importantes”.

“Vimos lo que era en realidad una biblioteca, y la gente tomando clases. Usted podía obtener ayuda médica e información sobre lo que estaba pasando”, ella dijo.

Algunas de las personas sin hogar estaban allí porque era un lugar donde habían recursos de alojamiento, alimentos y atención médica, ella dijo.

Al ver la diferencia entre la cobertura de los medios de comunicación y su propia experiencia de campo, ella comenzó a desconfiar de los medios de comunicación. “Ahora, cuando veo las noticias, creo que, bueno, eso es una mentira, porque ellos se referían a las personas que quieren luchar contra la policía, pero había gente que no quería pelear, que se iban a ir voluntariamente. Quieren que la gente vea que estaban allí por lo que quieren”, ella dijo.

Marlene Arazo, de 16 años de edad y residente de Ramona Gardens, salió de su viaje al campamento pesimista sobre su futuro, diciendo que ella ha dejado de usar su cuenta bancaria porque piensa que los bancos son “sucios”.

“Todo el mundo va a empezar a quedarse sin dinero, vamos terminar aun más en la miseria que ahora, y creo que vamos a acabar robándonos unos a otros, matándonos unos a otros”, ella dijo.

Un mensaje que leyó Arazo en una pancarta se le quedo grabado: “Se llama el sueño americano, porque para creerlo uno tiene que estar dormido”—una cita de la comedia de 2005 de George Carlin en la cual él lamenta que “los intereses de empresarios ricos” son dueños y controlan “toda la tierra importante,” y el gobierno y los medios de comunicación, y “nadie parece darse cuenta, y a nadie parece importarle”.

“Esta bien. Porque es cierto”, dijo Arazo acerca de la frase clave de Carlin.

Los estudiantes estaban en desacuerdo sobre si fue eficaz el movimiento Occupy LA. Arazo dijo que no se logró nada concreto, “se trataba de asegurar que ese mensaje se enviara y que la gente lo escuchara.”

Robert Gutiérrez, de 18 años de edad y residente del Este de Los Ángeles piensa que Occupy LA intento hacer algo más grande que lo que podían verdaderamente manejar. “Si hubieran entrado con solo un enfoque y cumplido con él, entonces hubieran tenido más éxito, y no se hubieran preguntado ‘¿Por qué nos están desalojando?’ En vez estuviéramos diciendo, ‘cerramos a los bancos.’”

El Presidente de Pan American Bank, Torres, respondió al pesimismo de los estudiantes sobre la industria bancaria diciendo que a pesar de que él está en conflicto acerca de ser un banquero en el clima actual, él “los desafía a encontrar a alguien que tiene más amor por la comunidad que él.”

Torres dijo que él no ha visto a ninguno de los bancos más grandes que hacen negocios en el Este de Los Ángeles asistir a eventos comunitarios, y dejó a los estudiantes de LA CAUSA con este consejo: “Nadie va a venir al Este de Los Ángeles y decir, ‘¿Sabes qué? Yo le voy a ayudar.’ En todo caso, ellos van a llegar y van a decir, ‘¿Sabes qué? Voy a tomar ventaja de usted.’ Ustedes se tienen que fortalecer entre ustedes mismos, utilizar la información [que han conseguido al mirar ambos lados del Movimiento de Occupy Wall Street] y ser inteligentes al respecto.”

UPDATED: 60 Freeway Shutdown by Tanker Truck Fire Could Reopen On Saturday

December 15, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Clouds of thick, black smoke surged skyward Wednesday as firefighters from Montebello and the Los Angeles County Fire Department battled a tanker fire explosion on the eastbound Pomona (60) Freeway in Montebello. Traffic was snarled for hours when the fire forced the closure of the freeway between the 605 Freeway and the 710 Freeway. The Paramount Boulevard overcrossing was damaged in the intense blaze, forcing its closure. The two people in the truck escaped injury, according to Sal Gomez with the California Highway Patrol. Several agencies worked to contain the spread of hazardous materials, said Montebello Fire Chief Tim Wessel. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

Update (12/16): The reopening of the 60 Freeway has been pushed to noon Saturday, according to CHP.

Update (12/15 2:40pm): According to a Montebello city press release on their Facebook page, the demolition of the Paramount Blvd bridge is set to begin Thursday afternoon, and engineers are still studying samples from the bridge to determine if the westbound lane also needs to be demolished along with the eastbound lane. An emergency contract has been granted to Flatiron Construction to demolish the bridge.

Also, not all of the 60 Freeway stretch between the 710 Freeway and the 605 Freeway is shut down. The San Gabriel Boulevard, Rosemead Boulevard, Santa Anita Avenue, and Durfee Avenue eastbound ramps, and the Atlantic Boulevard and Garfield Boulevard westbound ramps are open.

Montebello Bus Lines also issued detour information.

Bumper to bumper traffic choked the commute on nearby freeways Thursday morning as an eight-mile stretch of the Pomona (60) Freeway and the Paramount Blvd Bridge between Montebello and San Gabriel remained off limits to motorists after a double-tanker truck filled with gasoline burst into flames Wednesday.

The fire not only damaged the freeway, but also incinerated a freeway sign and caused concrete on the Paramount Blvd overpass to explode. Most of the 60 Freeway from the 710 Freeway to the 605 Freeway is expected to stay closed until Friday evening, though the there are reports it can now be accessed at Garfield Avenue in Monterey Park just east of the 710 Freeway.

Due to concern by Caltrans engineers that the damage to the bridge would make it unsafe for cars following the blast, demolition of the bridge is set to begin today, said Commander Omar Watson of the East Los Angeles CHP office.

Watson said only the eastbound lane of the bridge will be demolished, he said, so cars will still be able to use the bridge going in the other direction after it is demolished.

A Caltrans engineer declined to comment on what they are using the carry out the demolition, but Watson said they are taking the bridge apart bit by bit in order to not affect other parts of the bridge and freeway.

Southern California Edison also worked this morning to rewire the electrical system on the freeway in order to avoid power getting shutdown at nearby shops, businesses and residences.

Victor Hassan, 38, who owns the two Chevron stations on either side of the bridge and freeway entrances said he has not had any business since the fire started and is hoping to get signs telling customers that they are still open.

Other businesses at the nearby Montebello Town Center mall and shopping area are also reporting a sharp decline in business. Drivers who were in the area when the explosion occurred were stuck in traffic for hours, and many are now avoiding the area entirely.

Traffic on the 60 freeway was deadlocked Wednesday as firefighters worked to put out the tanker truck fire. (Photo by Vicente Gutierrez, City of Montebello)

The entire Montebello firefighting team was among the over 200 firefighters from Los Angeles County, Monterey Park, Rosemead, El Monte and other agencies who responded to the fire.

Montebello Fire Chief Tim Wessel told EGP the “explosion that most of the people are talking about was actually the parts of the concrete bridge exploding,” explaining that water in the concrete began boiling and had nowhere else to go.

Wednesday’s fire began at noon and sent black smoke over a stretch of freeway overlooked by the Montebello Town Center shopping mall. It left commuters and shoppers trapped for hours and one firefighter with a leg fracture. No other injuries were reported.

A preliminary investigation indicated the truck’s brakes may have overheated, CHP Officer Vince Ramirez told KCAL9.

Fire crews sprayed a foam-like substance on the fire and by 1 p.m. appeared to have knocked down most of the flames. But then, the fire flared up anew.

“The wind conditions were such, it was kind of pushing the fire to the south and to the east,” said MWessel

“Unfortunately, that put the main part of the fire further under the bridge, causing further damage to the bridge.”

Firefighters then offloaded the remainder of the 8,800 gallons of gasoline that had been in the tanker.

Wessel said firefighters did “a good job of dyking and containing the runoff” to prevent a mixture of gasoline and firefighting foam from pouring into storm drains and pollute ocean water.

This is not the first time a bridge in Montebello was damaged in a fire. In 2005, the Beverly Blvd bridge connecting Montebello to Pico Rivera suffered a fire believed to have been started by a transient trying to keep warm. That bridge, which was originally made of wood, was rebuilt and reopened as a concrete bridge in 2007.

Information from City News Service was used in the story.

LA CAUSA Students Get Banker’s View On Occupy Wall Street

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Twenty-one year old Francisco Jaimes of East Los Angeles recently got a chance to put his neighborhood banker in the hot seat

“What have you done to benefit the community?” he asked Jesse Torres, CEO of Pan American Bank.

Jaimes and a group of over twenty students from the LA CAUSA Youthbuild charter school were fresh off a trip to Occupy LA when they met with Torres to get a banker’s perspective on the movement.

The students were curious to know what bankers do with the profits they make off the interest they charge customers for borrowing money from the bank.

Students from LA CAUSA Youthbuild charter school get a banker’s view on the Occupy movement. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

Torres was nervous, but willing volunteer. He seemed confident in the fact that he heads the “smallest bank in Los Angeles” and is therefore hardly public enemy number one.

He pointed at the dated, nearly 50-year old interiors of their bank building and said they contribute nearly all of their profits into the community.

“Just the other day I cut a $1,500 check for a toy giveaway,” he told Jaimes and the other students.

Torres said their bank holds monthly fundraisers for local community groups such as the Eastmont Community Center, the Rotary Club of East Los Angeles, and the Roybal Foundation.

They have so far accepted every single loan modification request they have gotten, agreeing to lower monthly loan payments even though they stand to lose money, he says.

According to LA CAUSA’s executive director, Robert Zardeneta, students are being given a chance to decide on their own how they feel about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Zardeneta says the students who attend LA CAUSA are getting a second chance at a high school diploma after dropping out of local high schools, many of which were overcrowded for years.

He recalled his own experience while attending Garfield High School before the new Esteban Torres High School opened, noting that there were as many as 60 people in a single classroom and students were forced to sit on tables. There was little opportunity to feel engaged in school, much less graduate, Zardeneta said.

LA CAUSA’s 147 students score higher than Garfield High School and Roosevelt High School on state tests, and this year there seems to be an increase in “straight A” students. “Our classes or not any less challenging than other schools,” he said.

Their school tries to get students to find value in their education by teaching them about their own community, including about local banks like Pan American Bank, and getting them excited about a modern-day movement like Occupy Wall Street that is “no different from the civil rights movements in East Los Angeles years ago.”

During their visit to Pan American Bank, the students also gave a presentation on their trip to Occupy LA. Zardeneta said the students came away from their visit to Occupy LA surprised that they knew more about the issues than even some of the people at the camp.

Some of the students also did not expect to see so many homeless people, and what appeared to be drug use at the encampment. Others like eighteen-year old Janet Torres of East Los Angeles said the media showed these negative aspects of the movement, but left out the “most important parts.”

“We got to see there was actually a library, and people were taking classes. You could get medical help and information about what’s going on,” she said.

Some of the homeless people were there because it was a place with shelter, food and medical resources, she said.

Seeing the difference between media coverage and her own experience of the camp has made her wary of news outlets. “Now, when I see the news, I think, well, that’s a lie, because they would refer to the people who want to fight the police, but there were people who did not want to fight, who were going to leave voluntarily. They wanted people to see that they were there standing up for what they want,” she said.

Sixteen-year old Marlene Arazo of Ramona Gardens came away from her trip to Occupy LA pessimistic about their future, saying she has stopped using her bank account because she thinks banks are “dirty.”
“Everyone’s going to start running out of money, we’re going to end up broker than we are now, and I think we’re going to end up robbing each other, killing each other,” she said.

One particular sign Arazo saw at Occupy LA resonated with her: “It’s called the American dream because to believe it you have to be asleep,” a line from a 2005 George Carlin comedy bit in which he laments that “wealthy business interests” own and control “all the important land,” the government, and the media companies, and “nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care.”

“It’s pretty cool. Because it’s true,” Arazo said of Carlin’s punch-line.

The students disagreed about whether the Occupy LA movement was effective. Arazo said even though they did not make anything concrete happen, “it was about making sure that message was sent out and people knew about it.”

Robert Gutierrez, 18, of East Los Angeles thinks Occupy LA may have bit off more than it could handle. “If they would have went in and focused on one point and got rid of that, then they would have gone on longer, and sooner or later we wouldn’t have this whole, ‘Why are we getting shut down?’ We would have been like, ‘We shut down the banks.’”

Pan American Bank CEO Torres responded to the students’ pessimism about the banking industry by saying that while he is conflicted about being a banker in today’s climate, he “would like to challenge them to find someone that has more love for the community than he does.”

Torres said he has not seen any of the bigger banks that have come into East Los Angeles at community events, and left the LA CAUSA students with this advice: “No one is going to come to East LA and say, ‘You know what, I’m going to help you. If anything, they are going to come in and say, ‘You know what, I’m going to take advantage of you.’ You guys have to build up amongst yourself, use that information [you’ve gotten looking at the different sides of the Occupy Wall Street movement] and be smart about it.”

LAUSD Sues State Over Transportation Cuts

December 15, 2011 by · 4 Comments 

The Los Angeles Unified School District plans to sue the state in hopes of blocking a planned $38 million cut to the district’s transportation program, with the superintendent saying Tuesday the cutback would force massive cuts in classroom spending to meet federal and court-ordered mandates for busing students.

Students from Bravo Medical Magnet in Boyle Heights walked out of school Tuesday and headed to LAUSD headquarters to protest plans by the state to cut funds that pay for the busses that they ride to school. During the school board meeting, students addressed the board members while others staged a demonstration outside. (Photo courtesy of Bravo Medical Magnet Students)

The cut in transportation funding was part of a sweeping budget-slashing announcement made Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown, who said the state’s revenues fell $2.2 billion short of projections, triggering cuts in education and social service programs.

“They’re not good,” Brown said of the cuts. “It’s not the way we’d like to run California, but we have to live within our means.”

The governor announced about $1 billion in spending cuts, far short of the $2.4 billion in cutbacks that were envisioned under a summer budget agreement. The cuts will take effect on or after Jan. 1.

While K-12 education was spared any massive cuts, the governor announced a $248 million cut in the school transportation budget — a cut that LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said would be too steep for the district to absorb.

“LAUSD cannot withstand further budget cuts without adversely impacting the educational benefits offered to its students,” he said. “We stand with our students to say enough is enough.”

Deasy said the district cannot just terminate its school-bus program, since the majority of the services were mandated under a 1981 court order requiring desegregation programs, including the busing of about 35,000 students. He noted that state and federal law also requires the district to provide transportation to 13,000 other students with special needs.

“Due to the combined mandates, the trigger cuts force the district to choose between two illegal and unconstitutional outcomes,” Deasy said. “It must either terminate its transportation services in direct violation of the … court order — and state and federal law — or divert precious classroom dollars from its general fund to pay for the required transportation services.”

The cuts announced by Brown also include $100 million cuts to both the California State University and University of California systems.

Three Minors Arrested In Community Center Robbery, Vandalism

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Police Department officers have arrested three minors—ages 12, 13 and 16—for the burglary and vandalism of Hazard Park Armory, a Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks facility where a local nonprofit that helps at-risk youth is based.

All three minors admitted to the crimes and 95 percent of the stolen property, worth upwards of $9,000, has been recovered, Hollenbeck Det. Bill Eagleson told EGP on Tuesday.

Over the weekend, the offices of Legacy LA were burglarized and vandalized. A similar incident, minus the vandalism, had occurred one-week prior.

“We thought it was a random thing, it happens to everyone,” Legacy LA’s executive director, Lou Calanche said. “We reported it, but didn’t think it would happen again.”

Nearly all the nonprofit’s computers and other electronic devices were stolen during the two burglaries, according to Legacy LA, which provides gang prevention and intervention services to youth living in or adjacent to the Ramona Gardens Public Housing Development in Boyle Heights.

The vandalism damages are estimated to be about $4,000, according to Eagleson.

The minors, two siblings and a friend, were arrested for commercial burglary on Tuesday. They were cited and released to their parents, Eagleson said. They are expected to appear in juvenile court in a few months.

One of the minors was a client of Legacy LA, Eagleson said. None of the minors are residents of Ramona Gardens, and none had prior contact with police, he said.

While gang activity was considered early on, it was quickly eliminated from serious consideration.

Both Eagleson and Calanche said the evidence left behind suggested the culprits were familiar with the offices.

It’s “one thing to go in if you’re a real burglar, [and] another if you go in to have popcorn, sodas, pour paint on computers and then destroy the place,” Eagleson told EGP.

During the first burglary, reported earlier this month, the trespassers cooked in the kitchen before stealing the majority of computers and other electronics.

In this latest incident, the perpetrators made popcorn, got on a social networking site and forgot to log-out. They stole numerous kindle electronic readers that are used by at-risk teens from the program’s book club, and later decided to try to break into a storage room assuming items of great value were stored inside, Calanche said.

An axe and bolt cutters used during the crimes appear to belong to the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, which uses the Hazard Park Armory site for equipment storage, she added.

The axe was also used in an attempt to try to open a storage room with a heavy-duty metal door, but when that proved futile, the vandals decided to get into the next room by busting a hole in the drywall, Calanche said.

“They worked really hard to get in there,” she told EGP.

It also appears the vandals were looking for keys to a desk where a petty cash box was stored, but not finding them there this time around, they smashed the desk to pieces with an axe.

Paint was poured on walls and computer monitors, a fire extinguisher was sprayed in most of the offices, and windows were broken; the vandalism forced the organization to cancel programming while they cleaned up, Calanche said.

The only room spared from vandalism and theft was the “Dream Big” room used primarily by participants of Legacy LA’s year-old youth leadership fellowship.

LA Vandals destroyed Legacy LA offices. (Photo courtesy of Legacy LA)

Before the arrests were made, Legacy LA staff had been grappling with the idea that those responsible could be among the youth they help.

“It’s hard knowing they did this too us, but at the same time we know that’s why we are here,” Calanche said, explaining the organization does not plan to turn its back on the young people.

On Wednesday, Calanche told EGP she and her staff were disappointed to find out that one of their young clients was involved.

“I asked the Hollenbeck detectives to request at their court hearing that these three youth be required to attend Legacy LA’s Live Your Legacy Prevention and Intervention Program, do their community service at Legacy, and we will refer them to family counseling,” she said in an email.

Calanche adds that the organization has a good relationship with the community, but they are considering doing more outreach to inform the community about the work they do at the site.

Legacy LA is working on getting security cameras and alarms installed, and hopes they can  get some of the equipment donated. The security equipment will be used to secure the property, not to keep people out, Calanche said.

She also expressed gratitude for the support they received from the public. “An event company has pledge their support and will replace many of the stolen items. We did recover some of the equipment, some in okay shape, some damaged, and some destroyed,” she said.

Established in 2007, Legacy L.A. is based at the Hazard Park Armory—located at 1350 N. San Pablo—and has a second office located within Ramona Gardens, which was not targeted by thieves.

Earlier this year, the City of Vernon agreed to fund $5 million in renovations to the Hazard Armory building. While an agreement is being set up and the money has been identified, Vernon’s city council has not officially signed off on a grant, according to Vernon spokesperson Fred MacFarlane.

CD-14 Residents Define Their Common Interests

December 15, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Los Angeles’ redistricting commission met Tuesday in Boyle Heights, where they heard from residents and business owners in Council District 14 about what they think the district should look like following the redistricting process.

The 21-person commission is tasked with redrawing the city’s 15 council districts by March 1, 2012, and the final maps must be adopted by the city council by July 1, 2012, as required by the City Charter.

Tuesday’s meeting at the Boyle Heights Senior Center is one of 15 public hearings — one per council district—being held by the commission.

During the hearing residents expressed what they liked and didn’t like about the current district borders. Some complained that neighborhoods such as Rose Hills, and business corridors like York Boulevard, are currently split between districts.

Ryan Ballinger, owner of The York in Highland Park, said the front of his business is in one district while the back is in another.

Gema Marquez said Highland Park should be made whole, but Jesse Rosas said he wants Highland Park to continue being represented by both CD-1 and CD-14, noting Councilman Ed Reyes’ commitment to reopening the Southwest Museum. Reyes represents the first council district, and is termed out; Jose Huizar currently represents CD-14.

Several residents of Boyle Heights spoke in favor of having closer ties to Downtown Los Angeles.

Homeowner Juaquin Castellanos said CD-14 looks like it has been purposely stratified by income. “We are not East LA, we should get everything downtown is getting. We should be middle class …” he told the commission.

While community activist Teresa Marquez wasn’t completely in favor of Boyle Heights being lumped together with downtown, she did say Latinos are segregated in CD-14, which is to their detriment since they have a low level of civic participation.

Activist Jose Aguilar asked about Tom LaBonge’s interest in annexing the Whiteside Biomedical Corridor. He feels LaBonge’s informal proposal could affect the borders of the city, but he was told the item was not part of the discussion.

Several Downtown property owners spoke in favor of being part of CD-14 and Huizar’s continued leadership. But Richard Zaldivar of The Wall-Las Memorias, and a former staff member to Art Snyder, said in the past CD-14’ s identity was primarily based on a Northeast L.A. perspective—with communities such as Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights and Boyle Heights.

He said Downtown has nothing in common with Northeast, which has more areas of common interests.

“When you are looking at anything at all in keeping the identity and culture of the 14th district, [Downtown] disembowels and takes the voice and the vote away from the people of the Northeast side of Los Angeles. This is ridiculous, the 14th district should be north to south, anything east of the LA River,” he said.

After the meetings conclude in early January, the commission will tour the city to observe the issues brought up during public hearings, according to Redistricting Commission Chair Arturo Vargas.

While the commission must re-consider the boundaries of the districts to account for the population changes in the 2010 Census, they must also abide by several legal criteria, including: the Equal Population Principal to ensure “One-Person, One-Vote;” The U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause that states race cannot be used as a predominant factor; The Voting Rights Act of 1965 that prohibits gerrymandering and Traditional Redistricting Criteria such as contiguity, compactness, existing boundaries, and communities of interest.

Once the hearings conclude, the commission will receive an aggregate copy of all the public comment, which will also be made available to the public, LA Redistricting Commission Executive Director Andrew Westall told EGP.

Once new draft maps are created, a second round of regional hearings will be held to solicit comments from the public, Westall said. Those meetings will take place in late January to early February and the CD-14 meeting will likely be located in the Northeast LA area, he said.

The new maps will stay in effect until after the 2020 census.

The public hearing in Council District-1 will be held at 11a.m. on Jan. 7, 2012 at St. Peter’s Italian Catholic Church: 1039 N. Broadway, 90012.

For more information, visit http://redistricting2011.lacity.org/.

Supervisor Wants Ticket ‘Amnesty’ Law Expanded

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A new state law offering traffic violators a 50 percent discount on unpaid traffic fines is unfair, a county supervisor said Tuesday in suggesting that the “amnesty” be extended to those who had made partial payments.

SB 857 will take effect Jan. 1. allowing motorists who have unpaid traffic fines that date back prior to 2009 to pay half of what they owe and clear the slate.

Some restrictions apply, including that the violator cannot have any outstanding misdemeanor or felony warrants.

Another restriction that leaves out anyone who has tried to pay off part of their fine prompted Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky to call for a change in the law.

“California traffic fines are among the highest in the country and have become extremely onerous to our citizens,” Yaroslavsky said. ”It is only fair that if the state wishes to grant a 50 percent amnesty for those who have made no attempt at payment, then those who have made partial payment should be offered the same discount.”

He asked the Board of Supervisors to ask state court officials asking for the change.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich abstained from the vote.

“Wrong message,” Antonovich said. “All the people in this county who paid their traffic citations and now, basically, we’re going to reward those who didn’t pay on time.”

The county is mandated by the state law to offer the amnesty.The board voted 4-0 in favor of pushing for the change.

Former Schurr Captain’s Basketball Jersey Retired

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Twelve years later, No. 11 still brings the team together.

Former Schurr High School basketball players gathered last Friday to retire the green No. 11 jersey that belonged to Kevyn Nojima, a former teammate who passed away from Osteogenic Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, at the young age of 22.

Nojima is credited with leading Shurr to an Almont League basketball championship in 1999.

“We were all individually good players, but he made us a team,” said David McDaniel, now 30, the age Nojima would have also been this year.

(L-R) Schurr Basketball Coach Rene Herrera, Nojima’s mother Judy, and brother Eric helped retire Nojima’s jersey last Friday.

McDaniel and several others trickled in during a game between the Schurr basketball team and alumni. They greeted one another with big hugs and loud slaps on the back.

They gathered around to peer at a display case filled with pictures of themselves and Nojima on the court. “We all look so young there,” one of them said as he snapped pictures of the display cases using his cell phone camera.

Howie Vitasa, 30, of West Covina grew up playing basketball with Nojima. “It’s been years and we still celebrate him. We appreciate him, and all his courage … when we got down in points [during basketball games], he always rallied us together,” he said.

Friends and relatives of Nojima describe him uniformly as an intense player who was honest, good-hearted, and inspiring on and off the court. Schurr principal Stacey Honda called him “one of the toughest, fiercest competitors in the 30 years that I’ve been here.”

Before he passed away in 2003, Nojima set up a foundation using his own money to help other terminal cancer patients. He also set up a scholarship for the local youth teams he once played with.

His brother Eric Nojima said they carry on his foundation with the aim of instilling  “strength, determination and courage in people, because that’s what he believed in and it was the way he came off.” Each year they hold a bowl-a-thon to raise money for the foundation and scholarships.

Nojima’s mother Judy said the foundation came out of his appreciation of his teammates who pitched in to buy him a DVD player while he was sick in the hospital. “It just made it easier, and passed the time through the eight hour (cancer) treatments. He was thinking this is really nice, and he wanted to offer other cancer patients who couldn’t afford things, just to make them feel better,” she said.

Kevyn’s mother said he threw himself into basketball because that was where he felt he could excel. “He knew he got the game, so he said he better make something of it,” she said.

He played for the CYC Mustangs, Tigers and Jets growing up. “He started playing when he was seven years old. The ball was bigger than him, it was so cute,” she said.

He played two years on the Schurr basketball team and was captain of the team when they took the league championship, earning First-team All-League honors.

Nojima took ill after high school when he was 19, but even when his arm and shoulder were amputated, “nothing made him slow down,” his mother said.

While undergoing treatments, he coached three teams, including the CYC Mustangs and worked for the Los Angeles Clippers in their video/scouting department. He was also studying toward a communications degree at East Los Angeles Community College.

Christine Alcala, a classmate and friend of Nojima’s who now works as assistant coach at Schurr, put together the display case and worked with head coach Rene Herrera to hold the official jersey retirement ceremony last Friday.

Former Schurr basketball coach Kevin Akiyama was a close friend of Nojima and had unofficially retired Nojima’s jersey, Alcala said. He kept his memory alive among later generations of Schurr basketball players, and she says they are attempting to do the same.

“I told my boys… if you do an amazing job in the sport and you’re an amazing person, people will want to remember you forever too,” she said.

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