Los Angeles’ 2024 Olympic Bid Getting Support in Capitol

April 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The city’s effort to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games got a boost on Capitol Hill Wednesday thanks to a bipartisan resolution supporting the effort.

Mayor Eric Garcetti joined members of Congress in Washington, D.C., including Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, to unveil a House resolution expressing general support for the bid.

The resolution, which has not yet been introduced and still needs approval by Congress, would reflect Congress’ “sincere hope that the United States will be selected as the site for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and pledges its cooperation and support toward their successful fulfillment in the highest sense of the Olympic tradition.”

The resolution does not address security-related funding, which would be discussed by Congress at a later date.

“Our country knows from experience that hosting the world’s greatest sports event can have profound and positive sporting, social and economic impacts,” Roybal-Allard said. “I urge my congressional colleagues to follow the sun to LA, and help us bring the Olympic Games back to the City of Angels.”

Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, also expressed his support for the resolution, saying the 2024 Olympics is “the right event in the right city at the right moment for the United States, and that is why it has earned bipartisan backing in Congress.”

Garcetti thanked the Congressional representatives for their support, which adds to backing from President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

“L.A. is a city with the Olympics in its DNA, and we are honored to have been selected as the U.S. bid to bring the Games back to our country for the first time in 28 years,” Garcetti said.

LA 2024 bid committee chair Casey Wasserman and Olympic swimmer Janet Evans also participated in today’s announcement.

“With every show of support we get, we are demonstrating more clearly LA 2024’s alignment with the future of our city, our state and the rest of the United States,” Wasserman said. “To us, LA 2024 is an opportunity to welcome the world back to America for a celebration of unity and humanity in the new Los Angeles.”

Los Angeles, which also hosted the Summer Olympics in 1932 and 1984, is competing with Paris, Rome and Budapest. The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to select a host city for the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics during a meeting in Lima, Peru, in September 2017.

Garcetti was in Washington, D.C., this week to take part in Access Washington D.C., an annual event organized by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce in which Southland business people and officials get the opportunity to meet with White House officials and members of Congress.

He attended a reception Tuesday and took part Wednesday in an Access Washington D.C. breakfast and a White House event to recognize two Los Angeles residents.

Teens to Get Free YMCA Summer Pass

April 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Teens will get in for free at YMCAs throughout Los Angeles County this summer, it was announced Monday.

The “Get Summer” program offers free memberships to teens aged 12-17 at all 26 YMCA locations in Los Angeles County during June and July.

The YMCA locations participating in the free summer membership program stretch to the edges of Los Angeles County, and include YMCAs in Lancaster, Monrovia and San Pedro, as well as in Hollywood, East Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

The goal is to sign up at least 10,000 teens with free memberships this summer, YMCA Metropolitan Los Angeles President Alan Hostrup said.

Free meals will also be provided by the Los Angeles Unified School District at some YMCA locations with “high need,” and part-time jobs at the YMCA will be available to young people aged 14-24, according to Juan De La Cruz, vice president of community development of the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles.

De La Cruz said a typical family membership is about $32 a month, but the YMCA does not typically turn away people, “so it’s free anyway.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Unified School District board President Steve Zimmer and county Supervisor Hilda Solis joined YMCA officials to announce the free membership promotion.

“Not everyone can afford to send kids to camp, but summer vacation is really, really important,” Garcetti said.

“It’s what actually makes or break the education” of young people in Los Angeles, he said, adding,

“It’s a great chance for our kids to enjoy life, play, to unwind, to enjoy the sunshine.”

He said he goes to the YMCA in Hollywood, and considers it one of the few places “where you see your entire city” and where people of all ages and walks of life see each other as they take spin class, use the pool and participate in other activities.

Garcetti said the city of Los Angeles is subsidizing about 200 of the part-time jobs.

L.A. to Spend $30M Annually on Sidewalks

March 31, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council approved a comprehensive sidewalk repair plan Tuesday that calls for spending about $30 million a year for the next three decades to do initial repair work, then return the responsibility for future fixes to property owners.

The council voted 14-0 to approve plan that follows a “fix-and- release” strategy in which the city pays for the initial repairs of sidewalks next to both residential and commercial properties.

Council members said the plan will tackle a backlog of damaged sidewalks that has built up over decades.

“Our sidewalks are an embarrassment, and over the course of the last 40 years we’ve had a policy in place that has failed the city, has failed its residents and its businesses,” said Councilman Joe Buscaino, who co-chaired a joint committee that advanced the plan.

Buscaino said the plan is a “comprehensive approach” that offers various options and recognizes “a one-size-fits-all strategy will not work.”

His co-chair, Councilman Paul Krekorian, said the most frequent complaint by constitutents has long been the “sorry state of our sidewalks,” and yet past City Councils have let the problem “fester and get worse.”

Under the “fix-and-release” strategy approved today, the city will repeal a law that made the city responsible for the repairs, but still commit to performing one-time repairs on broken sidewalks next to both residential and commercial properties.

Residential property owners will also have a 20-year warranty in case the sidewalk is later damaged through no fault of their own and needs to be fixed again. Commercial property owners would have a shorter, five-year guarantee.

Krekorian said the plan lays out a way to fix about 11,000 miles of sidewalks, and aims to fix all of the damaged sidewalks in the city. Because the initial fix will be paid by the city, it “makes sure no one will have to dig into their pocket to fix a sidewalk for many, many years to come.

Krekorian said property owners are technically responsible for the condition of sidewalks under state law, but about 40 years ago, the city decided to take over the repairs of sidewalks damaged by tree roots.

After federal funding dried up for the projects, the city was left with a growing backlog of repairs it could not afford.

The plan comes as the city is preparing next year’s budget, including the first allocation of funds the city agreed to spend as part of a legal settlement.

The city last year agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by disability advocates through spending an average of about $31 million each year for the next three decades on repairing sidewalks and making public walkways more accessible.

Under the sidewalk repair plan, the projects will be scheduled according to priorities set forth in the lawsuit. Sidewalks next to government facilities, transportation corridors and medical buildings are among the top priorities, but other factors could also influence when repairs are scheduled.

Property owners who want their sidewalks to be repaired sooner would also be able to petition City Council offices to expedite their projects, especially if they are hard to access for people who are disabled. Others can also move their projects up in the queue by paying for about half of the average repair cost under a rebate program planned for the first three years.

Councilman Paul Krekorian said earlier this month this plan is an “important step, but it’s not the final step” toward fixing the city’s many broken and buckled sidewalks.

The plan will serve as a framework for moving forward, but details still need to be worked out, such as where to cap the city’s repair costs, according to Krekorian.

The city would be able to pay for the entire expense of the average repair, but some jobs might be more complicated and therefore costlier.

The Budget and Finance Committee and the Public Works and Gang Reduction Committee, co-chaired by Krekorian and Buscaino, met jointly and approved the proposal the plan earlier this month.

L.A. Mayor Hits the Street to Push Exide Related Resources

March 17, 2016 by · 2 Comments 

When Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti visited Reyna Contreras Saturday, he encouraged her to allow the Department of Toxic Substance Control to test soil at her Boyle Heights home for lead contamination. His request came as a surprise to the mother of four, who said she did not realize her family was still at risk.

“I thought they closed down the [Exide] plant” and the danger was over, she told EGP in Spanish.

Just a stone’s throw away where the 60 and 5 freeways meet, Contrera’s home is less than three miles from the now-shuttered battery recycling plant in Vernon.

Lea este artículo en Español: El Alcalde de L.A. Sale a la Calle para Hablar Sobre Recursos Relacionados con Exide

“I just assumed any contamination was either from the smog or the industry in Vernon,” her daughter Liset Contreras added. The 21-year old UCLA neuroscience student says she is now concerned her younger siblings are being exposed to lead.

“It’s something we don’t think about on a daily basis, but it’s a public health issue,” she said. “It’s a poison.”

County health officials have said in the past that as many as 2 million residents of Boyle Heights, Commerce, East Los Angeles, Huntington Park, Bell and Maywood have been exposed by Exide to toxic levels of lead, arsenic and other chemicals known to cause cancer, neurological diseases and learning disabilities. The plant was closed in March 2015 after operating on a temporary permit for 33 years, all the while collecting dozens of toxic air emission and hazardous waste violations.

 

Mayor Eric Garcetti visits Elvira Fernandez at her Boyle Heights home Saturday and urges her to sign up for lead testing. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Mayor Eric Garcetti visits Elvira Fernandez at her Boyle Heights home Saturday and urges her to sign up for lead testing. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Last Saturday, Garcetti and other local officials hosted a resource fair at Ramon Garcia Park to inform residents in the eastside Los Angeles neighborhood about the dangers of exposure to lead and other toxic chemicals, and services now being made available to help remediate the problem.

During his opening remarks, the mayor also announced the opening of a drop-in center at the Benjamin Franklin Library located at 2200 E. 1st St. in Boyle Heights. On selected dates, residents will be able to ask DTSC representatives questions, fill out access agreement forms and have their blood tested for lead.

Over 100 volunteers – most from the Mayor’s Youth Council – joined Garcetti going door-to-door to encourage residents to sign property access agreements to allow DTSC to test for contamination.

According to DTSC, 231 access agreements were signed.

The mayor assured residents the government personnel who will have access to their property are there strictly to test soil, not to check immigration status or report unpermitted buildings like converted garages. Once remediation is completed, property owners will also have the option to choose from one of three drought-tolerant designs and use DWP to pay for re-landscaping their yards.

“Don’t risk your children’s health, protect your family,” Garcetti told the crowd gathered at the resource fair.

85-year-old Maria Gonzalez lives alone and usually leaves home-related decisions to an adult son who no longer lives with her. “I wait to show him any mail I don’t understand because I don’t want him to later say ‘what did you do mom,’” she told EGP in Spanish. But after hearing Garcetti plead his case with the skill of a door-to-door salesman, she was convinced. “I’m glad it’s just the soil and no longer the air that could be contaminated,” she observed.

Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown asked state legislators to approve a $176.6 million loan to expedite the testing process and to decontaminate residential properties, schools, daycare centers and parks near the battery recycling plant. Approval of the funds will allow for the testing of 10,000 properties by July 2017 and cleanup of 2500 homes by July 2018.

“We know it took some time for the state to come through,” Garcetti told reporters. “At the previous pace it would have taken years…people would have died before their homes were tested.”

Some environmental activists believe the governor was not the only elected official who failed to act quickly. Mark Lopez, executive director of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, criticized Garcetti for not publically acknowledging Exide sooner.

“At this point we don’t need a response from the L.A. Mayor in the form of a one-day event,” Lopez wrote on the group’s website. “The time for statements from politicians was when Exide was still open, or before the governor announced a plan to fund partial residential cleanup.”

Garcetti disputes that accusation, telling EGP that Saturday’s resource fair was not his first public action on Exide.

“I spoke about it before…I talked to residents…it just never made the headlines,” he said.

Garcetti said he discussed Exide with the governor early in the year, before he proposed the $177 million allocation. The mayor commended Brown’s action, but conceded it could represent only a fraction of what the contamination process will ultimately cost.

Rev. Monsignor John Moretta of Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights said he is relieved to see local, county and federal officials working together, and encouraged residents to open their properties to be tested.

“This is an illness you can’t see the effects of because it happens inside of you,” he warned.

Elvira Fernandez is 92-years-old and has lived in her Boyle Heights home overlooking Ramon Garcia Park for 50 years. When the mayor showed up at her doorstep, she quickly agreed to allow DTSC to test her home.

“Thankfully everyone is healthy,” Fernandez said, referring to her six adult children.

“But the sooner we find an issue we can focus on cleanup for everyone,” she said.

The uncertainty of not knowing can be worse than knowing for residents, says DTSC Director Barbara Lee.

“With this [testing] they can know what’s on their property so they can take steps to clean it up,” she told EGP.

Matt Rodriguez, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, said only 200 homes have been cleaned and 779 properties tested so far.

“We know that’s not enough,” he told the crowd. “I know you don’t want words from the state, you want action.”

L.A.’s Bureau of Sanitation will also test soil, water and green waste collected in Boyle Heights to monitor contamination levels. Los Angeles plans to expedite the cleanup process by rushing permit requests and waiving related fees.

“Exide has taken so much from us,” Garcetti said. “We’re here to make sure we get it back.”

The Exide drop-in resource center will be open from 1-5pm on March 19, April 2 and April 9. Residents who want more information can visit http://exidecleanup.lacity.org/.

Update 11:15 a.m. March 18, 2016 An earlier version of this story did not include county health officials as the source for the number of residents believed to be exposed by Exide.

 

—-

Twitte @nancyreporting

nmartinez@egpnews.com

Homeless Shelters Open During Stormy Weather

March 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a reminder to the homeless Monday that winter shelters offer expanded hours during stormy weather.

Shelters typically open at 5 p.m. and close in the mornings, but during heavy rains, cold temperatures or high winds, the shelters generally stay open around the clock.

To find the nearest winter shelter and instructions about when and how to gain admittance, call 211. The operator can also provide information about additional overflow shelters opened due to the inclement weather, but are not listed on the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority website.

A list of the regular winter shelters, as well as information about pick- up locations, can be found at http://www.lahsa.org/ces/winter-shelter/home.

City officials “are doing everything possible to keep residents safe during the El Nino winter weather,” according to Garcetti.

The Los Angeles fire and police departments have also been working to evacuate known flood areas in advance of storms, he said.

Exide: State to Fund $176M to Speed Up Testing, Cleanup

February 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

For years, communities surrounding the now-shuttered Exide Technologies plant in Vernon have fought to be heard: first to force the closure of the facility and then to ensure a thorough, swift cleanup of neighborhoods contaminated by toxic emissions — something many believe was stalled due to a lack of funding and sense of urgency on the part of state officials.

On Wednesday, Gov. Brown at long last took a major step to address Exide’s contamination by proposing the state spend $176.6 million to expedite and expand testing and cleanup of residential properties, schools, daycare centers and parks in the 1.7-mile radius surrounding the battery recycling plant.

The multi-million dollar spending plan is detailed in a letter to the California State Senate and Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee chairs. The funds will be in the form of a loan from the General Fund, and California will “vigorously pursue Exide and other potential responsible parties to recover the costs of this cleanup,” according the governor’s office.

The now-closed Exide Technologies plant is located at 2700 South Indiana St. in Vernon. (Department of Toxic Substances Control)

The now-closed Exide Technologies plant is located at 2700 South Indiana St. in Vernon. (Department of Toxic Substances Control)

“This Exide battery recycling facility has been a problem for a very long time,” said Brown in his first public statement on Exide. “With this funding plan, we’re opening a new chapter that will help protect the community and hold Exide responsible.”

Barbara Lee, director of the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control told reporters Wednesday the new funding will allow DTSC to hire more staff to test the remaining properties in the contamination zone and to remove lead-tainted soil from 2,500 properties labeled highest priority.

So far, close to 200 homes in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Commerce, Maywood and Huntington Park have been cleaned since the plant was forced to close in April 2015, according to DTSC. Currently, DTSC only has two crews assigned to the large-scale decontamination, but Lee said that number could go up to as many as 40 crews cleaning at least one property each per week.

Senate leader Kevin de Leon applauded the governor for recognizing the “urgent need” for emergency action. Ongoing talks with the governor’s office led to this day, the senator said. “Urgency legislation” to appropriate the funding will be introduced within the next week or so, de Leon told reporters.

While the governor’s proposal is widely welcomed, it’s also bittersweet.

Especially for residents and environmental activists who for years heavily criticized Brown and state agencies overseeing the cleanup for their slow response to the Exide “epidemic,” which may have contaminated 10,000 homes and exposed as many as 2 million people in East and Southeast Los Angeles communities to toxic levels of lead, arsenic and other chemicals.

Brown’s long silence on Exide irked eastside residents who saw his rapid response to the SoCal Gas Co. gas leak in more affluent Porter Ranch and emergency declaration to marshal state resources to deal with the catastrophe as confirmation that there’s a double standard when it comes to the treatment of poor people and communities of color.

“Our communities have been fighting Exide for decades, and with today’s announcement from Governor Brown, it is clear he has heard our calls for swift and comprehensive cleanup,” said Mark Lopez, executive director of East Yards Communities for Environmental Justice.

Lopez, however, pointed out that the funding is not enough to complete the entire cleanup, but called it the “next step in the long road to justice on this issue” after the state failing for years protect the community from Exide. It sends a clear message that the cleanup will now be a priority for the state, Lopez said.

Brown’s proposal comes just two days after a group of Boyle Heights residents told EGP they had grown tired of attending meetings and hearings, and felt it was time to get the weight of the federal government behind them after seeing no real action for years from their elected officials.

“We need the federal government to take DTSC out of the equation and handle it themselves,” Terry Cano said Monday.

“I think they believe if they close their eyes and ignore it, we’ll just die out,” said Joe Gonzalez, who says he has cancer and just two months to live.

They blame state regulatory agencies for allowing Exide to operate for 33 years on a temporary permit, all the while spewing toxic levels of lead, arsenic and other chemicals known to cause cancer and neurological diseases and learning disabilities in the mostly working-class communities.

Last Friday, saying he too had grown impatient with DTSC, Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar intruded a resolution signed by five of his colleagues urging the state to move quickly to allocate funding. Huizar, who represents and is himself a resident of Boyle Heights, also asked that City Atty. Mike Feuer explore what if any legal options the city has.

Huizar said Wednesday the much-needed funds “do right by communities that for so long suffered undue harm because of Exide’s negligence and a complicit state agency that failed to regulate the battery recycling company,” He’s looking forward to seeing a timeline that spells out when testing and remediation will start and how long it will take.

Lee responded to criticism of the governor Tuesday night at a meeting of the Independent Exide Community Advisory Committee.

“He’s spent hours talking about Exide, working on what he wants to propose,” she said before alluding to an impending announcement.

Yesterday she told reporters Brown’s proposal is a “big milestone” for the state and an indication of how committed the governor is to the cleanup.

DTSC workers clean a Boyle Heights home. (DTSC)

DTSC workers clean a Boyle Heights home. (DTSC)

De Leon said Wednesday that the state would work closely with the U.S. Attorney to ensure Exide lives up to its agreement to pay for the cleanup, or face federal criminal charges.

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard implored state legislatures to immediately approve funding to expedite the cleanup.

“The health and well-being of our communities depends on swift and sustained action by the state,” she said. “To date, the state’s effort has been dangerously slow and underfunded.”

The city of Commerce released a statement calling the contamination an “environmental disaster,” adding the testing and cleanup has been a “long and arduous process.” On Tuesday, the council asked staff to discuss with the state expanding its targeted areas in Commerce.

“This long-fought victory is a result of Assembly, Senate and local officials working together to raise the fierce urgency of this issue to the Governor,” said Assembly Speaker-Elect Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) said in response the Brown’s proposal.

Rendon also singled out Assemblymembers “Miguel Santiago and Cristina Garcia for their relentless devotion to restoring justice to East and Southeast L.A. residents victimized by the illegal behavior of Exide management.”

Garcia said Wednesday she plans to work with her colleagues to create a necessary CEQA exemption to expedite the testing and cleanup of these homes.

Garcia and Assemblyman Miguel Santiago also plan to introduce legislation to mandate a fee on car batteries sold in California.

“This measure would create a state mandated Lead-Acid (Car) Battery Recycling program, and have $1 from that fund go to re-pay the $176.6 million loan program,” she announced.

In addition to testing and cleanup, Lee said some of the $176 million would go toward workforce development and job skills training for local residents and businesses to help revitalize the community. Lee also announced the state is looking at ways to improve how they manage waste and reduce the exposure of lead, adding staff is currently identifying how manufacturers can make batteries safer for humans and the environment.

Brown’s announcement came after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to send a letter to the governor and legislative leaders, calling for them to allocate more funding for the cleanup effort, saying the $8.5 million originally proposed by the governor was inadequate.

“For too long we have seen two Americas: one in which affluent neighborhoods get immediate help and relief. The other America is made up of poor working-class families who silently suffer,” Solis said. “Today’s announcement from the Governor reconciles these two Americas.”

Last week for the first time since taking office, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti met with Boyle Heights residents disappointed by the city’s lack of action on their behalf.

Garcetti told EGP he has directed the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation to work with community leaders, County Public Health and DTSC to help advance testing and cleanup and plans to launch a public education effort to ensure that more residents are tested for lead contamination.

“No one should have to live in fear of serious health risks from their own home and no child should be robbed of the joy of playing in their own backyard,” Garcetti told EGP. “Those who live in Boyle Heights and the surrounding communities deserve better.”

DTSC’s Assistant Director for Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs Ana Mascareñas said the agency is considering holding large-scale events such as health fairs and opening resource centers to allow residents to drop in and get information about the cleanup process.

Exide agreed in March 2015 to close its lead-acid battery recycling plant and pay $50 million for cleanup of the site and surrounding neighborhoods.

Of that amount, $26 million is to be combined with $11 million currently in trust to safely close the plant, according to DTSC. As of August, Exide, which filed for bankruptcy in 2013, had paid $9 million into a trust and another $5 million is due to be paid in by March 2020, according to state officials.

Longtime Boyle Heights resident Frank Villalobos told EGP he was elated by the announcement but pointed out the funds will only address the impact to property and not the permanent damage residents face with illnesses caused by the contamination.

For now, “our prayers have been answered,” he said. “The state is now starting to show concern.”

Jerry Brown, Where Are You? It’s Time to Step Up on Exide

January 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

California’s “environmental governor” has been missing in action in the fight to stop the devastating damage being done to east and southeast Los Angeles residents by state regulator’s failures to stop years of toxic chemical dumping in those communities.

Those residents – most of them Latino and working class – are mad as hell, and rightfully so.

For more than a decade, this newspaper has been publishing stories on the dangerous polluting of these same neighborhoods – from unincorporated East Los Angeles to Boyle Heights, to Maywood, Commerce and cities nearby. The number of community meetings and protests we’ve covered over the years are too many to count. Yet, the illegal health and environmental damage for the most part went unabated.

The most recent revelations — if you can call three years recent — that the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant in Vernon was allowed to operate for decades on a temporary permit despite repeated violations of state toxic chemical emissions is inexcusable.

So is the lack of urgency and action not only by state regulators, but also by the state, national and local officials elected to serve, and to protect them.

If it weren’t for the people in the impacted neighborhoods unrelentingly beating the drum on the crisis in their community, Exide would likely still be in business today.

Sadly, it’s taken the catastrophe at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in Porter Ranch to stir up awareness by state official to what east and southeast residents have known along: There’s a double standard in California when it comes to protecting people of color and limited means from environmental injustice.

On Tuesday, the Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Assembly finally held a hearing on the Exide debacle and plans to clean up the toxic pollution it has left behind. The meeting was held in Sacramento, not where the problem is.

In more affluent Porter Ranch, officials brought the hearing down to the people. Gov. Brown personally went to Porter Ranch and declared a State of Emergency, but couldn’t be bothered to drive two-miles from where he was attending the opening of casino in Bell Gardens to peek in at the Exide damage.

Residents in the areas contaminated by Exide had expressed doubt about former Supervisor Gloria Molina’s assertion that the governor had not responded to her calls to him to discuss Exide. How could it possibly be true that the governor had refused to call back a supervisor from the largest county in the state? We now know it wasn’t just one supervisor, but two. Sup. Hilda Solis says she has received the same treatment.

Is it any wonder the people living in neighborhoods polluted by Exide are angry? We think not.

Gov. Brown owes these communities an apology for the lack of respect he has shown them. Tell us Jerry, what would it have taken to stand up and say to the community, ‘I’m on it and I’m making sure my administration is doing everything to ensure your safety?’

We have to wonder how the governor’s friend Cesar Chavez would have reacted to this very obvious slight. But let’s face it, Brown isn’t the only official whose been missing in action. Why aren’t the legislators who represent these communities banding together to pressure the governor and their fellow legislators to put up the money needed for the cleanup?

In the city of Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Attorney Mike Feuer have both been very out spoken in their criticism of SoCalGas’ handling of Porter Ranch. Boyle Heights is in the city of angels, but you don’t hear them talking about bringing lawsuits or demanding that these constituents, whose children can’t even play in their own backyards, be relocated until their homes are decontaminated.

Yes Angelenos, it’s painfully clear: If you are poor, and a person of color, there is a double standard in the Golden State.

It’s time that changes and for the state to come up with the initial $70 million needed to get the clean up of residential properties moving.

No 2024 Olympic Village for Lincoln Heights

January 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

A plan calling for the city to build housing for athletes competing in the 2024 Olympics in Lincoln Heights if Los Angeles wins its bid to host the Games has been scrapped in favor of a more “fiscally responsible, sustainable and deliverable,” Mayor Eric Garcetti announced.

Instead, the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid committee will propose housing Olympic athletes at UCLA’s residential facilities, while members of the media would be based on the USC campus, said Garcetti.

“We are fitting the plan for the Olympic Games to our city, not the other way around,” said Garcetti, who joined officials of LA24, the bid committee, at UCLA to make the announcement.

The Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid committee must submit a concept and strategy plan for the games to the International Olympic Committee by Feb. 17.

Garcetti said UCLA offers existing athletic facilities and accommodations, and is close to other training venues, while USC is near several sports venues, including the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Staples Center, and is home to a major journalism school.

The selection of UCLA as the site of the Olympic Village is a shift away from an earlier, proposal — expected to cost more than $1 billion — to house athletes at a Union Pacific rail yard known as the “Piggyback Yard” in Lincoln Heights, near downtown Los Angeles.

Garcetti said that while the cost of the initial choice was considered, it was not the main reason a different venue was ultimately chosen.

“It’s the athletes’ experience that drove this decision,” he said.

Garcetti said LA24 looked at about 20 sites before choosing UCLA for the Olympic Village.

LA24 chairman Casey Wasserman, who is an alumnus of the university, said “this is a historic moment for UCLA.”

Current Olympians already train at the UCLA athletic facilities, which have also produced Olympic gold medalists like Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Wasserman said.

“UCLA offers amazing world-class facilities such as a great track and field stadium which already conforms to Olympic standards,” he said.

Olympics-bound athletes already choose Southern California as a training base, said Janet Evans, an Olympic gold medalist in swimming and LA24’s director of athlete relations.

LA24’s bid is focused on ensuring that the “athlete’s voice has the first and last word in the 2024 Games,” Evans said.

Los Angeles is competing with Paris, Hamburg, Rome and Budapest to host the 2024 Olympics. If held in Los Angeles, the 2024 games would be the first summer Olympics to be held in the United States since the Atlanta games in 1996, and the third time the city would play host to the summer Games.

Panel Clears Way for DWP Power Rate Hike

January 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The typical single-family household in Los Angeles could see its monthly electricity bill go up a total of $12 over five years under proposed electricity rate hikes backed Tuesday by the Board of Water and Power Commissioners.

The panel, which oversees the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, voted to recommend that the City Council also back the rate hikes.
Board President Mel Levine said it would be “irresponsible” for elected officials not to approve hikes.

City officials have “no choice” but to increase electricity rates, since the majority of the rate hike revenue would go toward complying with state mandates to switch to renewable energy sources, he said.

The rest of the revenue would go toward fixing the city’s aging and broken electricity infrastructure, which would reduce and prevent blackouts, Levine said.

The electricity rate increases, which would be spread out over five years, already have the backing of

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Ratepayer Advocate Fred Pickel, who was appointed to watch over rate increases at the DWP on behalf of customers.

With Water and Power commissioners signing off on the rate hikes, the proposal will now be sent — along with proposed water rate hikes that were approved by the board last year — to the City Council and the mayor for consideration.

Garcetti said Monday the increases are “critical to modernizing our aging electricity grid and bringing our power system into the 21st century.”

“DWP needs to have the resources to be successful,” he said. “After five years of rate increases, the typical residential customer would see a $6 to $12 increase to their monthly bill. The price of inaction would be much higher than this.”

Garcetti said the rate hike proposal includes regular monitoring to determine if the extra revenue is being used to improve the DWP’s power system, and a formal review after two years.

“These reviews are critical as the utility industry is in a moment of transition and innovation,” Garcetti said.

He noted the DWP is expected to replace 70 percent of its power sources over the next 15 years “to meet state mandates, fight climate change and fund the energy efficiency programs that enable customers to lower their bills even as rates rise.”

Pickel, who leads the Office of Public Accountability tasked with monitoring the DWP, issued a report last week concluding the increase was “just and reasonable.”

Pickel also noted that the 21 percent average increase over the next five years — which averages 3.86 percent annually — is “less than what is needed” and the utility’s power system “will continue to be challenged to perform activities at planned levels.”

A typical single-family household that uses 500 kilowatt-hours per month — putting it in “zone 1” — could see a $12 monthly bill increase after five years, according to the OPA.\Monthly bills for such households would rise from the $76-$78 range to between $80 and $82 after one year, eventually going up to about $90 per month after five years, according to the report.

The rate hikes would mean that DWP power revenue would eventually grow to $4.22 billion in fiscal year 2019-20, up from $3.45 billion in fiscal year 2014-15, according to the OPA.

The OPA report also raised concerns that there would be inadequate staffing “for the growing levels of planned capital project expenditures, in part due to the anticipated personnel retirements and constraints on outsourcing.”

DWP officials said they were “pleased” with Pickel’s assessment of the planned rate hikes, which were proposed to pay for the replacement of aging infrastructure needed to keep electricity service reliable.

If ultimately adopted, the rate hikes would “allow us to continue the transformation of our power system to a clean energy future that protects the environment, while complying with regulatory mandates,” according to a statement issued by the utility.

All LAUSD Schools Closed Due to ‘Electronic Threat’

December 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

[Update: 3:15 p.m: Addition of funding comments from Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leon.]

Responding to an “electronic threat” emailed to multiple members of the school board and campuses, all Los Angeles Unified School District campuses were closed today and a massive effort began to search the roughly 900 schools in the district.

Officials in New York City said schools there received a similar threat, but officials did not believe it was credible, and campuses remained open.

New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, said LAUSD’s decision to shutter all campuses was a “significant overreaction.”

Los Angeles officials, however, defended the decision, with Superintendent Ramon Cortines saying that “based on past circumstances, I could not take the chance” of allowing schools to reopen.

School Police Chief Steve Zipperman said the campuses would remain closed until they are deemed to be safe.

"School closed" signs are placed at the entrance of every LAUSD school. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

“School closed” signs are placed at the entrance of every LAUSD school. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

The LAUSD closure applied to all campuses –more than 900 of them. The district, the nation’s second biggest, serves more than 700,000 students. Most other Southland schools outside the LAUSD remained open, although there were sporadic reports of some Catholic schools in the Los Angeles Archdiocese being closed because of their proximity to LAUSD campuses.

Diocese officials said that decision was being left to individual school principals.

LAUSD officials would not provide specifics of the threat, which was initially reported by police to have come via telephone, but was later revealed to have come in via email, possibly from Frankfurt, Germany. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said late this morning, however, that officials believe the email likely originated from somewhere much closer than Germany.

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks, said he has reviewed the email, and said the author “claims to be an extremist Muslim who has teamed up with local jihadists.”

“We do not know whether these claims are true or a lie. We do not know whether this email is from a devout Muslim who supports jihadists or perhaps a non-Muslim with a different agenda,” he said. “The email makes relatively specific and wide-ranging threats to Los Angeles schools. We do not know whether some or all of the threats are truthful.”

Sherman said the email referenced bombs or possible nerve agents and suggested there were about 32 people involved in possibly planting the devices.

“The text of the email does not demonstrate that the author has studied Islam or has any particular understanding of Islam,” Sherman said.

Although no specifics of the threat have been released, Bratton told reporters in New York that the threat officials received there mentioned.

“Allah,” but the word wasn’t capitalized –providing a clue that the threat might be a hoax.

Beck said, however, the email contained very specific threats aimed at the LAUSD. He had strong words for anyone who might criticize Cortines for deciding to close the schools, saying the “safety of our children” is the highest of priorities.

“These are very high stakes,” Beck said.

Mayor Eric Garcetti also threw his support behind Cortines.

Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights was among the 900 schools closed today due to an electronic threat. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights was among the 900 schools closed today due to an electronic threat. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“The decision to close the schools is not mine to make, but it is mine to support as the mayor of Los Angeles,” Garcetti said.

He said decisions need to be made “in a matter of minutes” and it’s unfair to be critical of Cortines when the safety of children is at stake. The mayor also said the email threatened that weapons were already in place at campuses.

School officials told parents to keep their kids home and retrieve those already taken to school by meeting them at the campuses’ reunion gates.

Students will be supervised until they are picked up, officials said.

Board of Education President Steve Zimmer said the district was acting “out of an abundance of caution.” He urged parents to negotiate time off to be with kids and called on employers to show maximum flexibility.

Metro offered LAUSD students free rides on buses and rail lines.

Cortines said he ordered all campuses to be searched, which promised to require a colossal effort involving a multitude of agencies.

“I want every school searched, to make sure that it is safe for children and safe for staff to be there on Wednesday,” Cortines said.

Zipperman described said the threat was “electronic” and it “mentioned the safety of our schools.”

“As a result of that threat, the Los Angeles School Police Department, as well as the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI were notified, and right now, the threat is still being analyzed,” Zipperman said.

“In an abundance of caution, as Superintendent Cortines has indicated, we have chosen to close our schools today until we can be absolutely sure that our campuses are safe.”

Officials with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also taking part in the investigation. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was assisting in the effort to search schools.

Cortines said he ordered the closures because he was not going to take a chance given recent terror strikes in Paris and San Bernardino.

“I think its important to take this precaution based on what has happened recently and what has happened in the past, he said, speaking less than two weeks after a couple –a U.S. citizen of Pakistani background and his Pakistani wife—killed 14 people in San Bernardino in the deadliest terror strike on U.S soil since 9/11.”

The LAUSD closures came on a day when finals were scheduled at high schools, leading some students to speculate that a student fearing exams was involved, according to broadcast reports.

The bulk of other Southland school districts announced that classes were continuing as normal, although some, such as Pasadena, said they would have stepped-up security on campuses.

The two high schools run by the Los Angeles County Office of Education—the High School for the Arts on the Cal State Los Angeles campus and International Polytechnic High School on the Cal Poly Pomona campus—remained open. The LACOE did not receive a threat and determined that both locations were safe for students, according to LACOE spokeswoman Margo Minecki.

Minecki said another high school on the Cal State LA campus—Alliance Marc & Eva Stern Math and Science School — was closed because it is part of the LAUSD system.

We have not heard reports of any other closures” from the other 79 school districts in the county that the LACOE supports, Minecki said. However, she cautioned that those districts are independently run and would not necessarily reach out to the LACOE to report closures.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon assured the Senate will work to ensure LAUSD schools receive attendance funding despite district wide closure.

“Loss of funding should never be factor in keeping students safe,” he said in a tweet.

The LAUSD set up an information hotline for parents at (213) 241-2064.

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