Eastside Youth Demand Inclusion in City Budget

May 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Feeling they don’t have a seat at the table during budget season, over 200 local students rallied outside Los Angeles City Hall Tuesday and invited the mayor and council members to sit down at the dining table they’d set up and “break bread” over a discussion on city youth services.

“You say youth are the future yet you don’t invest in our youth,” said 14-year-old Martin Raza as he stood across City Hall.

The students are members of the Invest in Youth Coalition which is campaigning to get city officials to invest in a youth development task force aimed at getting funds for community-based safe places and youth programs such as tutoring, mentoring, workforce development, college support and other services.

Although 800,000 young Angelenos live in the city, the Youth Coalition points out there is no specific department that addresses their needs.

Jackie Vargas, right, discusses the importance of involving youth in the city;s budget process with representatives from the mayor’s office Tuesday at a table set up outside L.A. City Hall. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Jackie Vargas, right, discusses the importance of involving youth in the city’s budget process with representatives from the mayor’s office Tuesday at a table set up outside L.A. City Hall. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“We want a better future for ourselves and that starts with the budget,” Ariana Chavez, 17, told EGP. “We want a voice in our city.”

A number of students, sitting with representatives from Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office and several council members, argued that the timing of budget sessions during school hours makes it hard for them to participate in the discussions.

The group estimates a $10 million budget allocation for youth development would allow for the creation of 50 programs citywide, something they want to see,.

Arlyn Nuñez, 18, of East Los Angeles, told EGP that Tuesday’s City Hall “dining table” discussion is the first step toward making sure city youth receive much-needed services.

“We’re in a low-income area, we don’t have many services available to us,” Nuñez said, explaining that tutoring and other after-school programs would benefit the region.

“Instead, money is being spent in incarcerating our youth.”

According to the coalition, 10,000 youth – ages 19 and under – are arrested annually: most are minorities.

The group points to the cities of San Francisco and New York, each of which has a youth development department, as examples of what can be done.

“Being a part of an after-school program helps students stay away from the streets and prevents them from getting locked up,” said Lincoln High School student Leslie Sanchez.

Garcetti’s representative pointed out there has been investments in youth through HIRE LA’s Youth Initiative and LA College Promise. Through HIRE LA, Garcetti hopes to see at least 20,000 youth employed by 2020. Under LA College Promise, LAUSD students will be guaranteed admission and a year of free tuition at a Los Angeles Community College campus.

Councilman Jose Huizar has asked city staff for a report on how the city spends its funds and how it can better prioritize youth services. “It’s a monumental task, but one Councilmember Huizar really wants to see done right,” stated Huizar spokesman Rick Coca in an email, adding that CD14 staff have had a series of meeting with youth advocates, one as recently as Monday.

Coca said his boss stands with advocates “in recognizing that the City’s youth stand to benefit the most from a thorough, well-researched comprehensive report on where our resources are going in funding youth services.

“ … So we convened a session with the CAO and the CLA and representatives from the Boyle Heights For Youth and LA For Youth campaigns to begin to figure out the scope and what we want the criteria to be since “youth programs and services” can cover so much ground.”

Eastside students rally outside L.A. City Hall Tuesday, urging elected officials to invest in youth services. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Eastside students rally outside L.A. City Hall Tuesday, urging elected officials to invest in youth services. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A [dedicated] youth development department is imperative if Los Angeles hopes to address the issues young people face, said Lou Calanche, executive director of Legacy LA, a community based non-profit that runs youth programs at Hazard Park and the Ramona Gardens Housing development in Boyle Heights.

Last year, in response to multiple officer-involved shootings in Boyle Heights, members of 23 nonprofit groups called on city officials to fund a department focused on youth development services.

“Boyle Heights is about 50 percent under the age of 25, if youth voices aren’t front and center in times like today, then the city is saying that youth of color aren’t a priority,” said Joel Garcia, director of Self-Help Graphics, a community arts center in East Los Angeles.

Several students acknowledged that organizations like Legacy LA and Self-Help Graphics were instrumental in keeping them out of trouble and on the path to college.

Araceli Rodriguez, a senior at Garfield High School will attend Sacramento State University in the fall. She told EGP it is especially important for the city to invest in youth at a time when the Trump administration is threatening budget cuts for education and other public programs.

“We need our leaders to send a message and put their money where their mouth is, that starts here in our city.”

Judge Blocks Trump’s Action on ‘Sanctuary Cities’

April 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Mayor Eric Garcetti and leaders in the Los Angeles immigrant community hailed a federal judge’s ruling Tuesday blocking President Donald Trump’s executive order that threatened to cut funding to so-called “sanctuary cities.”

The ruling by U.S. District Judge William Orrick came in response to lawsuits which were filed by San Francisco and Santa Clara County challenging the constitutionality of the order signed by the president. The city of Los Angeles had filed briefs in support of both suits.

“Today’s ruling by Judge Orrick is good news and reminds us that people’s rights transcend political stunts,” Garcetti said. “The Constitution protects cities’ right to create humane, sensible policies that keep our neighborhoods safe and our communities together. It is time for the federal government to stop attacking cities and scapegoating immigrants, and begin focusing on the hard work of comprehensive immigration reform.”

Garcetti said he “will keep working to defend the rights of all our residents — including immigrants — and fighting to protect our own federal tax dollars, which Angelenos want to invest in keeping their families safe and our city strong.”

The White House criticized the ruling, saying “Once again, a single district judge — this time in San Francisco — has ignored federal immigration law to set a new immigration policy for the entire country.”

“This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge,” the statement from the Office of the Press Secretary said. “Today’s ruling undermines faith in our legal system and raises serious questions about circuit shopping.

“But we are confident we will ultimately prevail in the Supreme Court, just as we will prevail in our lawful efforts to impose immigration restrictions necessary to keep terrorists out of the United States.”

The White House pledged to “pursue all legal remedies to the sanctuary city threat that imperils our citizens, and continue our efforts to ramp up enforcement to remove the criminal and gang element from our country.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, who is on the Ad Hoc Committee on Immigrant Affairs and a vocal critic of Trump’s immigration policies, said such battles are going to continue.

“We can’t say at this time that one side won or the other side won, because I think the Trump administration is going to continue to find ways to demonize immigrants, whether it is through his executive orders or his Twitter account or his public speaking,” Huizar said.

The executive order likely could have been applied to Los Angeles because the LAPD only notifies immigration agents it has someone in custody potentially subject to deportation if there is a federal warrant for the person’s arrest.

Garcetti reiterated that stance during his State of the City speech last week, saying the city’s police department would not act “as a federal immigration force.”

The two lawsuits were assigned to the San Francisco-based Orrick, who ruled that Trump has no authority to attach new conditions to federal spending.

“Today’s decision by a federal judge is one more reminder President Trump and members of his cabinet have much to learn about individual and state rights,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

“The ruling underscores the president’s actions are not only unpopular but also unconstitutional,” she said.

Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the ruling “vindicates constitutional limits on executive authority. The order demonstrates that the Trump Administration’s nearly 100-day campaign of bullying must end.”

The executive order reads: “Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in March reinforced the order, saying local jurisdictions seeking U.S. Department of Justice grants must first demonstrate they are not sanctuary cities.

Chad Readler, acting assistant attorney general, said the lawsuits were interpreting the executive order too broadly and it would only apply to the U.S. Department of Justice grants, but Orrick ruled the order could be applied to all federal funding.

Orrick’s ruling is another in a series of executive orders on immigration by Trump that have been blocked by the federal courts, including two seeking to prevent visitors from some countries with a Muslim majority from entering the U.S.

Apertura de Parque Histórico Estatal de Los Ángeles

April 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

El gobernador Jerry Brown junto con funcionarios de Los Ángeles y líderes comunitarios se unieron a miles de personas, el 22 de abril, para celebrar la inauguración del Parque Histórico Estatal de Los Ángeles.

El parque, ubicado en el 1245 N. Spring St., esta compuesto por 34 acres y rodeado por las comunidades de Lincoln Heights, Elysian Park, Chinatown, Solano Canyon y Chavez Ravine. El área había sido designada para el desarrollo industrial, pero fue cambiado al proyecto del parque a través de un proceso de más de 65 reuniones públicas desde los años 90’s. Eventualmente el Departamento de Parques Estatales de California compró el terreno.

“Hemos completado un largo proceso público de renovación de nuestros parques estatales públicos”, dijo John Laird, Secretario Estatal de Recursos Naturales.

“Parte de la renovación tuvo como objetivo el proveer acceso equitativo a los parques en las ciudades del estado. Esta apertura coincide con ese objetivo, y los resultados de dos décadas de esfuerzos por esta comunidad abogando por este parque. Felicito a todos los que han hecho este día posible”.

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El Parque Historico Estatal de Los Ángeles incluye llanos verdes disponibles para eventos deportivos, comunitarios y culturales, con una vista al centro de Los Angeles. Foto: Cortesía de Los Angeles State Historic Park.

“Demasiados de nuestros niños crecen sin acceso a parques, sin un lugar en dónde jugar, tener fiestas de cumpleaños o un picnic”, dijo Kevin de León, Senador Estatal Pro-Tem.

“Este parque lo tiene todo – caminos, carriles para bicicletas, la naturaleza, historia, el paisaje urbano de Los Ángeles – y todo está a pasos de Chinatown. Este punto es intrínseco al nacimiento de Los Ángeles y es tanto un museo de la historia Angelina como es un espacio verde”.

El parque incluye un sendero de una milla de largo, un espacio flexible de llano para eventos deportivos, comunitarios, culturales y para conciertos. Al igual, hay un área de juego infantil y áreas de hábitat construidas con nuevos árboles y paisajes. Las horas de servicio serán de las 7a.m. hasta el atardecer, los siete días de la semana.

Garcetti Logra Fácil Reelección Como Alcalde de Los Ángeles

March 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

El alcalde de Los Ángeles, Eric Garcetti, obtuvo este martes una fácil victoria al recibir el 81% de los votos, informaron las autoridades electorales locales el 8 de marzo , con datos que recogen el 100% de los precintos.

Garcetti obtuvo más de 200,000 votos, contra algo más de 20,000 de su inmediato seguidor, Mitchell Jack Schwartz, y evitó así participar en la elección general del próximo 16 de mayo.

El hispano David Hernández figuró tercero con cerca de 8,500 votos en una elección que se caracterizó por la baja participación, de los más de dos millones de electores registrados.

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Bomberos del LAFD celebraron la victoria de Gil Cedillo el martes, 7 de marzo. (Foto: Cortesía )

La Medida H, que aumenta el impuesto a las ventas en medio centavo para recoger fondos para combatir la creciente población de desamparados, fue aprobada con el 67.4% de los votos.

Una propuesta contra la que Garcetti y los sindicatos se habían pronunciado, las Medida S, que buscaba una moratoria de dos años para los proyectos de construcción que requieran una enmienda al Plan General, fue rechazada por el 61% de los sufragios, con cerca de 172,000 votos.

El concejal Gil Cedillo logró su reelección, con el 51% de la votación, al igual que los concejales Bob Blumenfield, Paul Koretz, Curren Price, Mike Bonin, Mitch O’Farrell y Joe Buscaino.

La candidata Mónica Rodríguez obtuvo el 27.7% de los votos (cerca de 4,000) y deberá enfrentarse a Karo Torossian que logró 16.3% en la elección general de mayo.

Tanto el fiscal de la ciudad, Mike Feuer, como el contralor, Ron Galperin, no tenían rivales y repetirán en el cargo.

Few Voters Decide Big Issues

March 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Turnout was expected to be low for Tuesday’s Los Angeles County elections. And it was.

Unofficial figures released early Wednesday put the turnout figure at 11.29 percent.

Election experts noted that the turnout tends to be low when there is no presidential race on the ballot, even when there are local offices up for grab and tax raising measures on the ballot.

The election included a countywide quarter-cent sales tax measure to combat homelessness, a successful re-election run by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, local council races and measures to control development and the production and sale of marijuana in the City of Angeles.

Of the 593,233 ballots tallied as of early Wednesday, 239,853 — or roughly 40 percent — were vote-by-mail, while the rest were cast at the polls, according to the county Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office.

It was unclear how many late, provisional and questioned ballots still need to be counted, and how they would affect the final turnout figure, but this is how it looked on Wednesday:

County Measure H

The quarter-cent Los Angeles County sales tax to fund anti-homelessness programs appeared to emerge victorious by a thin margin.

With all precincts reporting, Measure H had 67.44 percent of the vote, just ahead of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. The measure was short of the threshold much of Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, but it steadily gained ground as vote-counting continued, and it passed the two-thirds mark only when the final precincts reported.

The Board of Supervisors declared homelessness a countywide emergency and chose the sales tax hike over a number of other funding alternatives, including a millionaire’s tax, a parcel tax and a special tax on marijuana.

There are roughly 47,000 homeless people countywide, according to a point-in-time count in January 2016. That total reflects a 19 percent increase since 2013, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

City of L.A. Mayor, City Council

The city’s mayor and six members of the Los Angeles City Council were celebrating re-election victories Wednesday, while Councilman Gil Cedillo appeared to have won as well, but by a tenuous margin over activist/businessman Joe Bray-Ali.

With all precincts reporting from Tuesday’s election, Cedillo finished with 50.98 percent of the vote, appearing to win re-election outright.

Cedillo had a 1,952-vote lead over Bray-Ali, a bike activist and former bike shop owner.

Of the three challengers looking to unseat Cedillo in the 1st Council District, which includes the Westlake area, Chinatown, Highland Park and Lincoln Heights, Bray-Ali presented the biggest challenge to the political veteran first elected to the seat in 2013 and who also served 14 years in the Assembly and state Senate.

It was unclear Wednesday whether the final count might land him under the 50 percent threshold to avoid a May 16 runoff.

Meanwhile, Mayor Garcetti was preparing for another term Wednesday, after easily outpacing a field of 10 challengers and avoiding a May runoff to keep his job.

The mayor proclaimed victory relatively early Tuesday night – when early returns had already given him about 80 percent of the vote – greeting supporters at a campaign party in downtown Los Angeles, touting his achievements over the past four years and vowing that more is to come.

“While other people are talking about doing big things, Los Angeles, we are doing big things right now,” he said. “My friends, big things don’t happen by accident. They require leadership. The job of the mayor is to get things done, and that’s what I’m going to keep on doing for each and every one of you here in this city. We’re breaking records at our port and our airport.”

“We’re breaking records for tourism and filming. We’ve housed more homeless veterans than any city in America. We’ve paved more roads than ever before. We’ve confronted climate change head on, by cleaning our air, conserving our water and expanding our green spaces. We enacted the largest tax cut in our city’s history and we’ve seen more small businesses start in the last four years than we’ve seen in decades.”

“… So we are doing big things, but we have a lot more left to do.”

Measure S

Despite a defeat at the ballot box, backers of a hotly debated initiative aimed at limiting development in the city of Los Angeles in part by blocking General Plan amendments for two years said Wednesday they were happy that their campaign has prompted change at City Hall.

“We not only exposed corruption but we began a process of reform,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which largely bankrolled the campaign in support of Measure S. “We built a citywide movement and we planted the seeds of change. Los Angeles will be a better place to live as a result of the Yes on S campaign.”

Measure S was handily defeated by voters in Tuesday’s election. The initiative was the most expensive – and in many ways the most bitter – campaign in the Los Angeles city election.

The measure would have halted all General Plan amendments, or special permission to developers known as “spot zoning,” for two years while the city updates its General Plan and community plans that guide neighborhood development.

The measure’s backers argued that City Hall is plagued by a “pay-to-play” climate in which wealthy developers who contribute money to elected officials’ campaigns get spot zoning requests granted while the proliferation of high-rise towers and other expensive developments have caused increases in the cost of housing.

Opponents, however, argued the measure goes too far, saying a halt to all General Plan amendments would undercut the city’s efforts to build affordable housing and housing for the homeless while severely hurting the local economy. Officials also argued that updating the General Plan and community plans within two years is not possible.

Measure M

Los Angeles voters have overwhelmingly approved a measure that gives the city tools to regulate the recreational and medical marijuana industry.

The city-sponsored Measure M easily bested a competing ballot issue, the initiative Measure N, which was crafted and pushed onto the ballot by a marijuana trade group that later opted to throw its support behind the City Council’s measure.

The measures were placed on the ballot in reaction to California voters in November agreeing to legalize recreational marijuana starting in 2018.

Measure M will allow the city to repeal a current ban on medical marijuana dispensaries under the previously approved Proposition D and replace it with a new set of rules for different types of marijuana businesses.

It will give the city tools to enforce its regulations, such as authorizing fines, criminal penalties or loss of power and water service for businesses operating without a license or ignoring city rules.

The measure also allows for gross-receipt taxes to be imposed on marijuana businesses, including the sale of general-use and medical cannabis, delivery services and manufacturing.

“Los Angeles is leading the country and world in responsible and inclusive approaches to legalization,” City Council President Herb Wesson said. “The passing of Proposition M is a great victory for common sense, law enforcement and all Angelenos. We gave communities a voice in the process, and their voices will continue to be heard. This measure is what responsible marijuana laws should look like, and we couldn’t be prouder of our city.”

Measure N called for giving permitting priority to 135 businesses that have been allowed to operate under the Proposition D ban, and also includes taxation and permitting provisions.

But since the city-backed measure also wound up containing a provision to prioritize the Proposition D-immune medical marijuana dispensaries, the group behind Measure N, the UCBA Trade Association, opted to back Measure M.

Part 2: EGP Ballot Recommendations for March 7 Primary Election

March 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

City of Los Angeles

 Mayor of the City of Los Angeles – Eric Garcetti

In the race for mayor, Eastern Group Publications (EGP) endorses the reelection of Eric Garcetti. Garcetti has proven that it’s possible to be a mayor for all Angelenos by his constant attention to the needs of all the city’s neighborhoods, while still giving special attention to the homeless, the poor and immigrants.

As mayor, Garcetti has continued to press for action to reduce pollution and to make the need to conserve water a shared responsibility.

Garcetti has been a strong voice for continuing the building of a world-class transit system and a world-class airport, making progress in each of those areas by gaining the support of both Angelenos and neighbors in other cities.

His endorsement of a livable wage for low-income workers has won our admiration, as has his support for protecting undocumented immigrants in the city. Most of all, we appreciate the fact that in Los Angeles, one of the most diverse cities in the world, our mayor can move around this city with the ease and comfort and demeanor only officials that are well liked and trusted are able to do.

Vote Eric Garcetti for Mayor of Los Angeles.

 

City Council District 1 – Gil Cedillo

Our endorsement goes to the incumbent, Gil Cedillo. For the most part, we have been pleased by changes in the First District, including cleaner streets in areas once heavily littered, and the faster cleanup of trash and items illegally dumped. No small task, given that the district is one of the city’s most densely populated.

While there are still many upgrades and improvements needed across the district – and all across the city, for that matter – Cedillo has made progress on improving the district’s infrastructure, including installing new streets signs and street lights along neighborhood thoroughfares.

Yes, we understand that bicycle activists are unhappy with Cedillo’s decision not to support a bike lane along North Figueroa Street, but as this newspaper reported at the time, there were many in the community who agreed with him, and many have told us they still do.

Gentrification will continue to be a hot button issue across the district and the city.

And while we agree that the building of more affordable residential units is needed, we disagree that the loss of affordable and rent control units can be blamed solely on Cedillo or any single city council member. There are limits – under current city regulations and ordinances – to the control the city has over what an owner can do with his or her property, and on who is allowed to buy property in the city.

In our view, Cedillo and his staff need to do a better job or articulating what they have done when it comes to development, why he has approved certain developments, and how he intends to protect neighborhoods from over development. But that’s not to say that we believe the councilman has neglected the communities in those areas, rather to emphasize that a little more face-to-face discussion and consultation could go a long way to reduce distress and dissention.

We give our endorsement to Gil Cedillo for Council District 1.

 

Previous EGP Ballot Recommendations:

City of Los Angeles

Measure S is Not the Solution – Vote No

Measure S – The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative – asks Los Angeles voters to approve a two-year moratorium on developments that don’t conform to the city’s current, but outdated General Plan, but the intended and unintended consequences will do more harm than good and deserves a no vote.

 Yes on Measure M, No on Measure N

Measure M is a sensible step to ensuring the city can responsibly regulate enforcement and taxation on the commercial production, cultivation and sale of marijuana, now that California voters have approved its legalization.

Vote No on Measure N – which is no longer even supported by the cannabis industry.

 

Los Angeles County

 We Need to Invest in Services for the Homeless – Vote Yes on Measure H

Measure H will authorize the County to hike the sales tax a quarter-cent to pay for much needed services for the homeless population in Los Angeles County. Funding includes services for mental health, substance abuse treatment, health care, education, job training, housing subsidies, outreach and other supportive services for homeless adults, families. Vote Yes.

 

Medida S es Criticada Por Líderes Angelinos

March 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

El controlador de la Ciudad de Los Ángeles, Ron Galperin, se unió a la lista de líderes locales opuestos a la Medida S, el 24 de febrero, y criticó la financiación de la campaña por la Fundación de Salud del SIDA (AIDS Healthcare Foundation en inglés).

“La campaña a favor de la Medida S no ha sido transparente con la gente de Los Ángeles. Ha engañado a los votantes ocultándoles cómo dañaría a la vivienda asequible. Ha engañado a los Angelinos diciéndoles que requiere que los funcionarios “desempeñen su trabajo” mientras elimina los fondos necesarios para poder prestar los servicios básicos de la ciudad y no aborda la crisis de vivienda”, dijo Galperin en una conferencia de prensa en el Centro LGBT en Hollywood.

“Ha engañado a sus propios endosantes resultando en cancelaciones de apoyo, ha declarado falsos endosos y usado nombres de oficiales erróneamente. Además ha mal guiado a la comunidad LGBT, colocando el nombre de la organización del VIH/SIDA para llamar la atención y puesto los fondos al servicio de una causa que en el mejor de los casos es irrelevante y directamente perjudicial a la gente que sirve”.

La Fundación de Salud del SIDA, sin fines de lucro establecida hace 30 años, trata a cientos de miles de pacientes al año y rinde servicios filantrópicos alrededor del mundo. Desde la semana pasada, el grupo ha invertido más de $4.6 millones en la campaña, casi el 99 por ciento de las contribuciones en apoyo a la Medida S.

El director general de la Fundación de Salud del SIDA, Michael Weinstein, defendió la inversión política de la fundación en enero, diciéndole a City News Service que el desarrollo en Los Ángeles está aumentando los costos de vivienda y dejando a muchos de sus pacientes sin hogar.

“Adoptamos una visión expansiva de la salud. Creemos que los determinantes sociales de la salud son igualmente importantes a las condiciones medicas de las que los pacientes sufren”, dijo Weinstein.

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La campaña a favor de la Medida S también ha sido criticada por imitar la apariencia de un avisos de desalojo en materielas de campaña enviados por correo.

La Medida S se encontrará en la balota del 7 de marzo y si es aprobada detendría todas las enmiendas del Plan General o los permisos especiales dados a desarrolladores para las zonificaciones de áreas. Esto sucedería por dos años mientras que la ciudad actualice su Plan General y los planes comunitarios de desarrollo de los vecindarios.

Los partidarios de la Medida S argumentan que el procedimiento actual de aprobación de solicitudes de zonificación de áreas da la impresión de que el concejo de la ciudad puede ser comprado. Ellos alegan que los funcionarios electos rutinariamente reciben donaciones de campaña de parte de los desarrolladores creando una relación acogedora.

Los oponentes de la Medida S incluyen al Gobernador Jerry Brown, al Alcalde Eric Garcetti y al concejal de la ciudad José Huizar. Ellos dicen que la medida limitaría la capacidad de construir viviendas asequibles y dañaría la economía local.

“Los partidarios de la Medida S quieren cerrar el desarrollo y están dispuestos a recortar los empleos y aumentar los alquileres para hacerlo”, dijo Huizar en una conferencia de prensa con algunos líderes latinos en Boyle Heights el jueves.

Algunos líderes de la comunidad LGBT se unieron a Galperin para criticar la Medida S.

“El Centro LBGT está construyendo cientos de unidades de vivienda asequible para los jóvenes indigentes y los pobres de la tercera edad”, dijo Lorri Jean, director general del Centro LGBT de Los Ángeles.

“Si la Medida S hubiese existido en el pasado, nos habría detenido y hubiera dejado a un sinnúmero de niños sin hogar en las calles. Esto no es la solución correcta para Los Ángeles”.    Aproximadamente una media docena de seguidores de la Medida S se presentaron en la reunión del Ayuntamiento de Los Ángeles el 24 de febrero y comentaron.

“La organización multimillonaria que nos apoya es el bueno en este caso. Sus desarrolladores millonarios y organizaciones son los malos, para que quedemos claros”, dijo Jill Stewart, gerente de la campaña a favor de la Medida S.

L.A. Pide a Residentes que Identifiquen Prioridades de Financiamiento

February 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

El cómo la Ciudad de Los Ángeles se debe gastar más de $120 millones de subsidios federales en viviendas asequibles, luces públicas, parques, asistencia de negocios y en otras inversiones comunitarias fue el enfoque de una reunión pública la semana pasada en el Centro de Adultos de Lincoln Heights.

La opinión de los residentes fue solicitada sobre el plan del alcalde de Los Ángeles, Eric Garcetti, de invertir aproximadamente $123.5 millones en subvenciones para el derecho al desarrollo del Departamento de Vivienda y Desarrollo Urbano de Estados Unidos (HUD). El borrador del Plan de Acción Anual 2017-2018, actualizando el Plan Consolidado de Vivienda y Desarrollo Comunitario, establece las pautas de gasto para la Subvención de Desarrollo de la Comunidad (CDBG), el Programa HOME Partnership de Inversión (HOME) y el de las Oportunidades de Vivienda para Personas con SIDA (HOPWA).

Según una carta del alcalde dirigida al consejo de la ciudad el 29 de enero, el objetivo es elevar a las comunidades de ingresos bajos y moderados por medio de la adopción de un “enfoque integrado para planificar e implementar las necesidades de vivienda, desarrollo comunitario y económico de la ciudad”.

El Resumen Ejecutivo del plan señala que el subempleo y la asequibilidad de la vivienda son “desafíos persistentes” para la ciudad, afirmando que “los residentes carentes de costos luchan por cumplir con obligaciones básicas como son el pagar por la vivienda, el transporte, la educación y la atención médica…”

En el pasado, los fondos se han utilizado para financiar refugios para víctimas de violencia doméstica, viviendas asequibles y programas para combatir la indigencia y proporcionar asistencia a las pequeñas empresas.

Sharon Lowe, subdirectora de proyectos especiales para el concejal Gil Cedillo, señaló que los fondos de la subvención se han utilizado para hacer las reparaciones necesarias en los parques, centros de recreación y en las calles del Distrito 1 del Concejo – el área representada por Cedillo.

La ciudad está utilizando fondos del HUD para cubrir el costo de la renovación multimillonaria de la piscina en Lincoln Park, informó Lowe a decenas de personas en la reunión de la semana pasada. La piscina ha estado cerrada por años, pero está programada para reabrir este año.

“Y eso sólo se refiere a la financiación utilizada en Lincoln Heights”, explicó Lowe, quien dijo que su jefe cree que los fondos deben ser utilizados para mejorar la calidad de vida de los residentes.

“Eso significa mejorar los parques, financiar mejoramientos para la seguridad de los peatones y la seguridad pública”, dijo Lowe.

Sin embargo, existen restricciones sobre cómo se pueden utilizar los fondos de la subvención. Mientras que los fondos de HOME se deben usar para pagar por la vivienda asequible, los fondos del ESG se utilizan para tratar la indigencia, el alojamiento provisional y de emergencia, conjuntamente con la Autoridad del Servicio de Vivienda de Los Ángeles. HOPWA proporciona fondos específicos para donaciones dedicadas a las personas que viven con el VIH / SIDA.

Por otro lado, los fondos de CDBG son los más flexibles, dijo Ruth Rodrigues, analista de gestión del Departamento de Vivienda y Inversión Comunitaria de Los Ángeles.

Ella dijo que esos fondos pueden usarse para mejoramientos de parques, oportunidades de desarrollo económico, servicios públicos, instalaciones comunitarias, infraestructuras y para otros proyectos.

En 2012, cuando la ciudad aprobó su Plan Consolidado Dirigido al Transito para el 2013-2018, había un alto interés en proyectos relacionados con el transporte. La ciudad ahora también está buscando orientación sobre el plan consolidado 2018-2022, que será utilizado para identificar las necesidades a las que la ciudad le dará prioridad para inversiones futuras.

“Hace cinco años se trataba de programas enfocados en el tránsito, esta vez puede ser en la indigencia”, dijo Rodrigues.

“Puede que piense que los funcionarios electos sepan lo que usted quiere, pero no lo sabrán al menos que se lo diga”, señaló.

El plan propuesto por Garcetti requiere asignar casi el 50 por ciento o $60.5 millones para construir viviendas asequibles. Del resto, unos $16.5 millones o 13 por ciento se han asignado para los costos administrativos y un 20 por ciento, o $24.8 millones, para mejoramientos en el vecindario, como en las instalaciones y parques y para la aplicación del código y mejoramientos del Acto Americano de Discapacidades (ADA).

El desarrollo económico, que incluye microcréditos para pequeñas empresas, cobrará un siete por ciento o $8 millones y $13 millones o un 11 por ciento que se destinarán a financiar a los servicios públicos. Estos podrían incluir refugios y asistencia para victimas de violencia doméstica, centros de servicios familiares y servicios gratuitos como el programa estacional de preparación de impuestos gratuito para personas de bajos ingresos.

Rodrigues señaló que HUD limita el monto de fondos que pueden ser utilizados para servicios públicos a no más del 15 por ciento del monto total del derecho. Por consiguiente, Nancy Salazar, quien trabaja en un refugio de abuso doméstico en el Distrito 1, preguntó por qué la asignación para los servicios públicos es inferior a la cantidad máxima permitida.

“Este es el proceso para conseguir lo que se planteó”, respondió Laura Gugliamo, directora ejecutiva del Departamento de Inversión de la Comunidad de Vivienda de Los Ángeles. La ciudad necesita escuchar que eso es lo que la comunidad pide, dijo Gugliamo.

Muchos de los que asistieron al evento manifestaron sus deseos de aumentar la financiación para los servicios públicos, entre ellos varios padres y jóvenes que dijeron ser beneficiarios de los servicios ofrecidos por el Centro de Jóvenes y Familias de Acción en el Barrio en El Sereno. Ellos dijeron que quieren asegurarse de que el centro continúe recibiendo fondos.

Héctor Ochoa, parte de la organización sin fines de lucro Southern California Resource Services para Vivir Independientemente, le dijo a los funcionarios de la ciudad que el cumplimiento con el ADA -Americans with Disabilities Act – debe considerarse antes que cualquier otra cosa.

“Cuando se trata de vivienda, todas las unidades deben ser evaluables desde el principio”, dijo. “Muchas personas entran en su discapacidad con la edad”.

“Hemos llegado a la conclusión de que como ciudad no hemos hecho todo lo posible para asegurar que las personas con discapacidades tengan igualdad de acceso a todos los servicios y estamos tratando de rectificar eso”, respondió Gugliamo.

William Rodríguez Morrison es un candidato para el asiento número 34 de la asamblea del Congreso, que representa a Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, y otras comunidades del este y noreste. Él dijo que el estacionamiento es una preocupación importante y si la ciudad decide construir más viviendas asequibles, no puede hacerlo tomando la tierra ahora usada para los estacionamientos.

El financiamiento para mejorías de la ciudad, tales como las de los parques o centros de recursos, es una inversión genial, pero la seguridad pública debe ser la prioridad, dijo Armida Marrufo, miembro del Concejo Vecindario de Lincoln Heights, a EGP.

“No importará si nuestros parques son nuevos o si nuestras aceras están pavimentadas si la gente no se siente segura caminando por las calles”.

Los residentes tendrán hasta el 13 de febrero para completar la encuesta de desarrollo y necesidades de la comunidad (disponible aquí) antes de que sea revisada por el alcalde y al concejo para aprobación el 15 de febrero.

L.A. Residents Asked to Identify Funding Priorities

February 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

How the City of Los Angeles should spend over $120 million in federal grants on affordable housing, street lights, parks, business assistance or other community investments was the focus of a public meeting last week at the Lincoln Heights Senior Center.

Residents were asked to weigh-in on Mayor Eric Garcetti’s draft 2017-2018 Action Plan updating how the city will spend approximately $123.5 million from four U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) entitlement grants: Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnership Program (HOME), Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) and the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) grant.

According to a Jan. 29 letter from the mayor to the city council, the goal is to use the funds to lift low- to moderate-income communities by taking a “comprehensive, integrated approach to planning and implementing the City’s housing, community development, and economic development needs and priorities.”

The plan’s Executive Summary notes that underemployment and housing affordability are “persistent challenges” for the city, stating that, “Cost-burdened residents struggle to meet basic obligations like paying for housing, transportation, education and health care …”

In the past, funds have been used to pay for shelters for victims of domestic violence, affordable housing, and programs to address homelessness and provide assistance to small businesses.

Sharon Lowe, special projects deputy for Councilman Gil Cedillo, pointed out last week that grant funding has paid for much-needed repairs at parks, recreation centers and to streets throughout Council District 1 – represented by Cedillo.

HUD funds are currently being used to pay for the multi-million dollar renovation of the pool right there at Lincoln Park, Lowe informed the dozens of people at the meeting. The pool has been closed for years but is scheduled to reopen sometime this year.

“And that’s just funding used in Lincoln Heights,” she explained, adding that her boss believes funds should be used to improve residents’ quality of life.

“That means improving parks, funding pedestrian safety improvements, and public safety,” Lowe said.

There are restrictions, however, on how grant monies can be used. While HOME funds must be used to pay for affordable housing, ESG funds are used to address homelessness, transitional housing and emergency housing, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Housing Service Authority. HOPWA provides grant-specific funds dedicated to people living with HIV/AIDS.

CDBG funds on the other hand are the most flexible, said Ruth Rodrigues, management analyst for the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department.

She said those funds can be used for park improvements, economic development opportunities, public services, community facilities, infrastructure and other projects.

Back in 2012, when the city approved its 2013-2018 Transit-Oriented Consolidated Plan, there was high interest in transportation-related projects. The city is now also looking for guidance on the 2018-2022 consolidated plan, which will be used to identify the needs the city will prioritize for future investment.

“Five years ago it was transit-oriented [programs], this time it may be homelessness,” Rodrigues said.

“You may think elected officials know what you want, but they don’t unless you tell them,” she pointed out.

Garcetti’s proposed plan calls for allocating nearly 50 percent or $60.5 million to build affordable housing. Of the remainder, about $16.5 million or 13 percent has been allocated for administrative costs and 20 percent, or $24.8 million, for neighborhood improvements such as upgrades to facilities and parks and for code enforcement and ADA (American Disabilities Act) improvements.

Economic development, which includes micro loans to small businesses, will take up 7 percent or $8 million, and $13 million or 11 percent has been allocated to fund public services that could include domestic violence shelters and assistance, family service centers and free services such as the seasonal no-cost tax preparation program for low-income earners.

Rodrigues pointed out that HUD caps the amount of funds that can be used for public services to no more than 15 percent of the total entitlement amount, prompting Nancy Salazar, who works at a domestic abuse shelter in the first district, to ask why the proposed allocation for public services is below the maximum amount allowed.

“This is the process to get it raised,” responded Laura Gugliamo, executive officer for the Los Angeles Housing Community Investment Department. The city needs to hear that’s what the community wants, Gugliamo said.

The desire to increase funding for public services was echoed by many of those at the meeting, including several parents and young adults who said they benefit from services provided by Barrio Action Youth and Family Center in El Sereno. They said they want to make sure the center continues to receive funding.

Hector Ochoa with the nonprofit Southern California Resource Services for Independent Living, told city officials that ADA –Americans with Disabilities Act – compliance should be considered before anything else.

“When it comes to housing, all units should be made assessable from the beginning,” he said. “Many people grow into their disability with age.”

“We’ve come to the realization that as a city we have not done everything we can to ensure people with disabilities have equal access to all services and we’re trying to rectify that,” responded Gugliamo.

William Rodriguez Morrison is a candidate for the 34th Congressional seat, which includes Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, and other east and northeast communities. He said parking is a major concern and if the city decides to build more affordable housing, it can’t do it by taking land now used for parking.

Funding for city improvements such as those at parks or resource centers are a great investment, but public safety must be the priority, Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council member Armida Marrufo told EGP.

“It won’t matter if our parks are new or our sidewalks are paved if people don’t feel safe walking on the streets.”

Residents have until Feb.13 to complete the community development and needs survey (available here ) before it goes to mayor and council for review and approval on Feb. 15.

LADWP Unveils ‘Customer Bill of Rights’

January 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a proposed Department of Water and Power “customer bill of rights” Tuesday that he says will guarantee improved service for residents, but some critics questioned whether it would actually have any impact.

“Today we are rolling out a customer bill of rights, something that may not sound revolutionary, but for this department it is brand new and it is,” Garcetti said, adding that it would guarantee certain levels of service for customers and financial rebates and credits if the promises are not kept.

The document includes assurances that call wait times will not exceed three minutes on average, bills that exceed three times the average historic use for the same billing period will automatically be reviewed before being sent out and requests to start a new residential account will be processed
within one business day.

Customers will receive rebates or credits if the guarantees are not met. For example, if the department takes longer than 10 days after the final inspection to process a new business service connection of 200 amps or less, that business will receive a $25 credit.

“If approved, I have full confidence in the Department of Water and Power’s ability to meet each of these goals, because I know a few years ago we wouldn’t have been able to meet these promises,” Garcetti said before a meeting of the DWP commission, which deferred a vote on the bill of rights
until a later meeting.

The board’s members are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council. If approved by the commission, the bill of rights would also have to be voted on by the City Council.

When David Wright was confirmed by the council in September as the DWP’s general manager, Garcetti said one of the first tasks he wanted him to undertake was developing and implementing a customer bill of rights.
Wright said Tuesday the department is ready to stand by the bill of rights thanks to the increased personnel that have been hired over the last two years, including 300 customer service representatives and several hundred new billers.

The LADWP has been rocked publicly by a number of scandals in recent years, and the customer bill of rights directly addresses some of the problems that have emerged.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge granted preliminary approval in November to a class-action settlement expected to result in at least $67.5 million refunded to DWP customers over a glitchy billing system several years ago that resulted in some customers receiving wildly inflated bills and others receiving no bills at all.

Customers who received the inflated bills also had to contact the department themselves to try to sort out the issue, and sometimes would get more erroneous bills. The proposed bill of rights calls for the department to red flag any bills over three times the average before they are sent out.

Customers also were reported to have call wait times of up to 40 minutes, but LADWP officials said the wait times have been under a minute for the last 10 months.

“We have now been able credibly to promise that the wait time for a customer to call the DWP on any number of issues – and they won’t be calling as often because the issues have largely been addressed – but the wait time is guaranteed to be under three minutes,” said Board of Commissioners President Mel Levine.

Jack Humphreville, president of the DWP Advocacy Committee, which represents Los Angeles neighborhood councils in matters related to the department, said his committee was not consulted on the bill of rights. He said he is skeptical it will have any true impact.

As for service guarantees, Humphreville told City News Service there was “nothing objectionable” in the bill of rights but  “that is sort of 101, they should be doing that already. Yes, it sounds good, but it is no big deal.”

Humphreville was critical that the bill doesn’t talk about any guarantees for ratepayer fees, and also said he was concerned the department might eventually use the document to justify rate hikes.

“It doesn’t talk about rates or the impact on homeowners. It doesn’t talk about the impact on businesses and stuff like that,” he said.

Inflated bills and long wait times aren’t the only problems the department has experienced lately.

In June, the department sued PricewaterhouseCoopers, which handled the troubled rollout of the billing system, saying its officials had intentionally over-billed the city and spent the money, in part, on prostitutes and two lavish bachelor parties in Las Vegas.

In April of 2015, City Controller Ron Galperin and City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana released audits of two trusts that receive a combined $4 million in annual payments from the DWP and were highly critical of them, saying they lacked methods of tracking and controlling their spending on
contracts and travel expenses.

The department ranked last in J.D. Power’s 2016 Customer Satisfaction Index Ranking for large electric utility companies on the West Coast, and in 2011 it was ranked the 13th “most-hated company in America” by the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Glenn Bailey, treasurer of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition, complained that the bill of rights was scheduled for a commission vote Tuesday without any public notice of its details. The wording of the bill of rights was not included on the meeting agenda, which was made publicly
available late last week, but it did state there would be a vote on it.

Representatives of the mayor’s office and the LADWP on Friday told City News Service the details were still being worked on and would not be ready until Tuesday morning.

“Instead, the LADWP posted the proposed policy just a few hours ago on its website in an obscure location, even though the item had been on the (commission’s) agenda since it was distributed four days ago,” Bailey said.

“How can the public, let alone the commissioners, provide meaningful and thoughtful input prior to adoption of this policy with essentially no notice?” Bailey suggested withholding of the details of the bill of rights could be a violation of the Brown Act, a state law that guides public government
meetings and states that supporting materials produced by the city must be made public 72 hours in advance of a public meeting where a vote on the issue is going to be held.

The DWP’s Joe Ramallo told City News Service the details of the bill of rights were not completed until over the weekend and because of the New Year holiday could not be made public until Tuesday morning. Because only materials that are completed are supposed to be made public before a meeting, he said the department does not believe there was a Brown Act violation.

To view the full text of the LADWP Customer Bill of Rights, click here.

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