Time to Clear the Air Mr. D’Arcy? Yes, Please Do

February 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

What a disappointment to read Brian D’Arcy’s explanation on why he continues to defy calls for him to turn over documents substantiating how $40 million in ratepayer monies were used by the Joint Safety Institute and Joint Training Institute trusts.

D’Arcy is the business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 18.

In a letter published Feb. 6 in the Los Angeles Times, D’Arcy states that he has been reluctant to speak out of respect for the rules in the Trust agreement.

D’Arcy claims he has a responsibility to preserve the institution’s independence from political meddling. In the next paragraph he states he recognizes that institutions such as the trust funds need to have the public’s faith and confidence.

While he does say he well make the results of a “new and comprehensive audit report” available online to trust beneficiaries, in other words IBEW members, his continued refusal to make the information available to the public and for city audit will do little to inspire pubic confidence or dispel concerns that the funds were not properly spent.

In fact, his stonewalling and threats of lawsuits against anyone who cooperates with public officials are making more people believe something unsavory is afoot.

D’Arcy knows full well that the trust funds are not private. They are the result of a deal between IBEW Local 18 and the city-owned Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, funded by Los Angeles ratepayers.

Those ratepayers have a right to know how their money is being spent, and to audit those expenditures at their will.

As far as we are concerned, D’Arcy’s proposed comprise, which also includes bringing in former state attorney general and city attorney John Van de Kamp to act as an independent arbitrator, in no way “clears the air” as he suggests.

We understand that as the business manager of Local 18 he at times has had to have an adversarial relationship with the DWP, particularly during contract negotiations, but these are not contract negotiations Mr. D’Arcy, nor should they be up for negotiations.

Stop comparing Kaiser Permanente’s changes for health care with your stance on this matter, stop comparing apples and oranges.

The media reports what the public needs to know it’s the media job to “meddle” as you call it.

If there is no wrongdoing by the trusts, it’s time to stop reacting as if there is. Your attitude will only increase the public’s mistrust of all DWP employees. They don’t deserve to be put under the bad light of your attitude.

You need to remember that trust lost is never entirely regained.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

February 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Finding true love, philosophers have always understood, can get complicated in deeply unequal places. Grand fortunes tend to give Cupid a hard time not just on Valentine’s Day, but all the time.

“If you gain fame, power, or wealth, you won’t have any trouble finding lovers,” as the late social critic Philip Slater noted years ago. “But they will be people who love fame, power, or wealth.”

Philosophers no longer have the love-and-inequality connection cornered. All sorts of social scientists are now working that intersection where wealth and romance meet — and they’re uncovering an assortment of troubling trends.

Researchers are finding, for instance, that Cupid’s arrows fall less randomly than they did back in the middle of the 20th century. Americans today have become distinctly less likely to marry someone outside of their income bracket.

Social scientists have a label for this phenomenon. They call it “assortative mating.” New research from economist Jeremy Greenwood and his colleagues documents how this dynamic is contributing significantly to our growing inequality.

“The rich marry rich and get richer,” notes Andrea Garcia-Vargas, one commentator on the research. “The poor marry poor and get poorer.”

But the cause and effect goes both ways. Assortative mating widens the income gaps that divide us. Wider income gaps nurture assortative mating.

Back in the 1960s, a much more equal time in America, men with high school diplomas could count on good union-wage jobs. They made nearly as much as — and often even more than — men with college degrees.

In that more equal nation, most Americans lived within economic reach of most other Americans and interacted socially with a wide cross-section of the nation’s population.

Today, with Americans much more divided by income, social interactions across income levels have become considerably rarer. People increasingly marry within their own income bracket — if they marry at all.

And that brings us to another mating consequence of growing inequality: the ongoing slide in the share of American adults married.

In 1960, 72 percent of Americans over 18 lived the married life. The 2010 share: just 51 percent. Among younger Americans, the data point to an even steeper tumble. Three-fifths of 18- to 29-year-olds had spouses in 1960. Only one-fifth do today.

How to explain this trend? One key factor is the economic squeeze on working Americans. A half-century ago, a single wage earner could support a family. No longer. Two earners have become a necessity for maintaining anything close to a comfortable middle-class status.

But keeping two people together has never been harder. In our unequal America, jobs have become less secure and workplaces more stressful. At every turn, the strains on married life multiply.

Affluent couples can more easily overcome this strain, note sociologists Sarah Corse and Jennifer Silva. These couples can afford the investments necessary to keep their marriages healthy. They can spend on everything from therapists to “date nights” and get-away-from-it-all vacations. Couples working low-paid jobs find such therapy, formal and informal, simply unaffordable.

America’s top-heavy distribution of income and wealth, Corse and Silva go on to detail, has left many economically insecure Americans “unable to imagine being able to provide materially and emotionally for others.”

Amid this high-stress reality, adds Atlantic commentator Nancy Cook, marriage “is fast becoming a luxury good.” People who can’t afford the investments that help keep marriages together split and sink from the middle class. The nation becomes a more unequal — and lonelier — place.

For that loneliness, we pay a heavy price.

“Air pollution increases your chances of dying early by 5 percent, obesity by 20 percent,” observes Aditya Chakrabortty. “Excessive loneliness pushes up your odds of an early death by 45 percent.”

Those figures come from neuroscientist John Cacioppo, an expert on social seclusion. We have, he writes, created “a culture of social isolates, atomized by social and economic upheaval and separated by vast inequalities.”

If we want to find love, in sum, we need to go looking in more equal places.

 

OtherWords.org columnist Sam Pizzigati, an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow, edits the inequality weekly Too Much. 

Critical Lifeline Lost When Unemployment Benefits End

February 13, 2014 by · 6 Comments 

Even as our economy moves toward recovery, albeit slowly, the scourge of unemployment persists in many greater Los Angeles communities. Among them are communities in my 40th Congressional district where unemployment stubbornly remains well above the national average.

While local businesses tell me they see improvement, there are still far too many Angelenos looking for work who need their unemployment benefits to feed their families. Tragically, by blocking the extension of these benefits the Congressional Republican Leadership is preventing them and millions of Americans from receiving this critical lifeline.

Unemployment payments average $300 per week and replace less than 50% of what a person was earning. Yet these benefits can make the difference in preventing homelessness and hunger. In 2012, for example, unemployment benefits kept an estimated 2.5 million Americans including 600,000 children, out of poverty.

Republicans say they oppose extending Emergency Unemployment Insurance because these benefits provide a disincentive to work and make unemployed Americans content to live off of taxpayer-support.

I say this is an insult to America’s workers and our strong work ethic that has made this country the best and most powerful in the world.

The reality is there are 1.3 million fewer jobs today than when many of these Americans became unemployed during our country’s economic downturn often called the great recession.

The reality is that in spite of continued efforts to find employment, there are nearly three jobseekers for every available job.

American workers are unemployed not because they are lazy and unmotivated to work but because currently there are simply not enough jobs for everyone who needs one.

This fact is magnified in our state of California where we have 400,000 fewer jobs available today than we did six years ago.

A recent report by the House Ways and Means Committee Democratic staff found that 263,916 individuals already have lost their benefits. One such Californian is Vincent Bussey, who has been looking for work for a year. His federal unemployment insurance ran out on December 28, and he is concerned he may have to start sleeping in his car and going to local food pantries.

Another American is Jessica Kruh. Since May, when she lost the $12.40-an-hour receptionist job she had for two years, Jessica had been receiving $270 a week to support herself and her 5-year-old son. Even with a certificate in medical coding, she didn’t get her first interview until October. Since then, she has interviewed for five jobs. Two, she didn’t get. She is still waiting to hear about the other three. If her unemployment insurance is cut off before she finds a job, the combination of rent and utilities would take all but $100 of her family’s monthly after-tax pay, not enough to cover car insurance, gas and food. Jessica says she feels a sense of dread about how this cut will not only impact her, but her son’s life as well. It is simply unconscionable to punish Americans like Vincent and Jessica who lost their job through no fault of their own and are actively looking for work.

It is also important to note that unemployment benefits do more than provide a critical lifeline for out of work Americans. They also help support our national economy. Economists estimate that every dollar of unemployment benefits generates a dollar and fifty five cents in new economic activity. This means our national economy is losing $400 million every week Republicans in Congress refuse to extend these benefits. Furthermore, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the economy will lose 200,000 jobs if these emergency unemployment benefits are not extended. Simply put, unemployment insurance is not only a moral imperative, but one that helps keep our economic recovery moving in the right direction.

We are a country of hardworking Americans who value work and are the best and most productive in the world. We are also a caring country whose values do not support turning our backs on our fellow Americans who are struggling to survive as they look for work. I strongly urge Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor to heed the cries of the unemployed struggling to find work and pass the extension of unemployment insurance without delay.

 

U.S. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard is a Democrat and represents California’s 40th Congressional District.

 

Volunteers Plant New Trees at Ascot Hills Park

February 13, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

About 200 people showed up Saturday at Ascot Hills Park in El Sereno for a free tree giveaway, including a large number of volunteers who rolled up their sleeves to help plant 50 native trees at the park near Wilson High School.

The planting and tree distribution were made possible through a $100 thousand grant from Los Angele4s County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

Many of the volunteers were students from Wilson and Cal State LA, according to Molina’s office. They were joined by volunteers from Molina’s office, as well as Northeast Trees and the Green Team.

“Supervisor Molina wants to thank all those that have dedicated so much time and energy to making Ascot Hills what it is, a beautiful gem for the community of El Sereno” Michael Oropeza Molina’s field deputy told EGP via email, “Special thanks to Ascot Hills’ biggest advocate, Jerry Schneider, Wilson High School Environmental Science teacher,” he added.

About 200 volunteers Saturday planted trees Ascot Hills Park in El Sereno, and many took home a fruit tree for their efforts. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Supervisor Gloria Molina)

About 200 volunteers Saturday planted trees Ascot Hills Park in El Sereno, and many took home a fruit tree for their efforts. (Photo courtesy of the Office of Supervisor Gloria Molina)

Saying her boss was very pleased with Saturday’s turnout, Jacqueline Moreno, Molina’s assistant legislative deputy, told EGP via email that her boss was very pleased with the number of people who showed up to help plant and perform other beautification projects.

“About 50 trees were planted, hundreds of black walnut seeds were sown, trails were improved, nearly 100 fruit trees were given away to the community, and everyone had a good time,” Moreno said.

The event also included a fruit free tree giveaway; attendees received an avocado, pear, apple or pomegranate tree.

Molina’s staff plans to plant more trees in April, as part of an Earth Day commemoration.

The El Sereno Kite Festival will be also be held at Ascot Hills Park his spring.

Article byline updated 2/17/14 to EGP Staff Report.

Headed North This Holiday Weekend? Avoid 405 Freeway JAMZILLA Closure

February 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles transportation officials will deploy dozens of traffic officers and engineers to help ease congestion caused by all or part of the northbound San Diego (405) Freeway being closed through the Sepulveda Pass this weekend.

Jamzilla, the moniker of the latest traffic monster unleashed on Angelenos, will have all northbound lanes closed overnight Feb. 14-18 between Getty Center Drive and Ventura Boulevard. Freeway crews will be working to complete a $1 billion-plus carpool lane that will north run from the Orange County line.

In addition about 30 extra traffic officers deployed along the closed section of freeway, traffic engineers will also be monitoring conditions from their lair under City Hall East, “adjusting signal timing, doing whatever we can do to alleviate” congestion over the President’s Day weekend, said

Jonathan Hui, spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation.

The closures start about 7 p.m. Friday and will continue until about 6 a.m. Tuesday. Three northbound lanes will be closed during the day, leaving two lanes open travel. But all five northbound lanes will close overnight.

During earlier freeway closings dubbed Carmageddon and Carmageddon II, the agencies involved did a good job of publicizing closings and work schedules, and motorists largely avoided the typically busy stretch of freeway.

“We’re hoping the same thing will happen” this weekend, Hui said.

Motorists who need to get spots along the closed section were urged to use other north-south routes, the 101 or I-5 freeways.

Sepulveda Boulevard, the go-to north-south alternative surface street, will be open, but it is expected to be slow.

Los Angeles airport officials are also warning travelers and others driving out of Los Angeles International Airport to plan ahead for Jamzilla.

The closings could slow northbound traffic leaving LAX, although the main routes to the airport should be unaffected.

Advice, updates and details on the freeway closure are available at http://www.lawa.org/405, http://www.Twitter.com/I_405.

Motorists can also access a Jamzilla hotline during Presidents Day weekend by calling 5-1-1 and saying “Jamzilla” or by visiting http://www.go511.com.

 

Partnership to Target Human Trafficking

February 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles city and county officials Monday announced a partnership with five community organizations and a large law firm to seek the public’s help in reporting human trafficking.

The Human Trafficking Poster Outreach Project aims to get Los Angeles businesses to take part in the SB 1193 Anti-Human Trafficking Implementation Project, which has been in effect since last April.

Under the program, a dozen types of businesses are required to put up posters and information about human trafficking. The posters are meant to help victims seek help and increase reporting of human trafficking.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined with Supervisors Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas, Councilwoman Nury Martinez, City Attorney Mike Feuer and other city and county officials to support the campaign at a news conference at the National Council for Jewish Women’s Los Angeles office.

“You always think of this kind of an issue being in a third world or some other foreign country or foreign land, when in reality it is right here in front of us,” Knabe said. “This issue should have the same credibility and same awareness as the war on drugs did many years ago … It is that bad, that horrific and that heinous.”

Ridley-Thomas said the children of Angelenos are not for sale.

“It is inhumane, it is sickening, it is disgusting for a grown person — typically a man — to subject a child to these indecent and inhumane acts,”

Ridley-Thomas said. “Let’s get the record straight, (the victims) are not prostitutes and they are subject to what I consider statutory rape.”

The six organizations signing onto the project include the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles, the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, OASIS USA, Jewish Labor Committee Western Region T’ruah and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, according to county officials.

A posted created by a Los Angeles youth will be selected for the street outreach phase of the program, which began Monday.

Garcetti said human trafficking happens in malls and in what seem like reputable businesses in the Los Angeles area.

“When we hear the stories of survivors, we are so compelled to action, that today, I think, is a giant step forward,” Garcetti said. “Suddenly if we imagine how this force has been multiplied, imagine that times 10 million people in this county. If they know, and if they see and if they can be the folks who say `something looks a little suspicious,’ or if somebody trafficked … can actually see a way out and know there is a better future.”

Los Angeles is known as the third-highest point of entry to the United States for human trafficking victims. The city is also 13th on the FBI’s list of child sex trafficking areas.

Reading GAP for California 4th-Graders

February 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The majority of California’s fourth-graders aren’t making the grade when it comes to reading. A new report finds only one in four California fourth-graders is reading at grade level.

According to Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, reading scores are a key predictor of long-term academic and economic success.

“We’re seeing some of the consequences of that in today’s economy,” he said. “You know, (there are) a number of Californians who personally don’t have the skills to get some available jobs that are out there, and that trend is only going to continue as jobs require more and more skills.”

Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed state budget includes the implementation of a new school-funding formula, as well as an increase in per-pupil spending for K-12 students. Lempert said however that California still places well below the national average for education spending.

He said the proposed budget also fails to include adequate funding for early learning and development programs, which are known to play a critical role in preparing all children for success in school.

“So while some very positive things have occurred, we really need to double down, not only ensuring that we do even more in terms of our education spending, but really start early,” the Children Now president declared.

The 2014 California Children’s Report Card released earlier this month by Children Now showed only half of the state’s three- and four-year-olds are enrolled in preschool, with significant disparities by race and income.

Read the report at ChildrenNow.org.

Monterey Park Police Arrest Marijuana Grow House Suspect

February 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Monterey Park detectives ended a month-long investigation by arresting a 32-year-old man at his residence, where marijuana was being cultivated throughout the two-story home, police said Tuesday.

Bikram Soni was arrested at his home in the 1100 block of Dover Way on Friday, said Sgt. Frank Duke of the Monterey Park Police Department.

Detectives from the Monterey Park Police Department Crime Impact Team found Soni’s home had been “completely converted into an indoor grow operation with over 300 marijuana plants,” according to Duke. About 55 pounds of cannibis was seized, the sergeant said.

Soni was booked at the Monterey Park Police Department, with bail set at $165,000.

Man Shot to Death in East L.A.

February 13, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

A man who was found shot to death in a car in East Los Angeles was identified Wednesday.

Jesus Avalos, 33, of Los Angeles, was found about 3:20 a.m. Tuesday in the 4800 block of Telegraph Road, according to the coroner’s office and Sheriff’s Department.

Deputies from the sheriff’s East Los Angeles Station were called to the location because of a “shots fired” call.

Avalos was found sitting in a vehicle, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

There was no immediate information about possible suspects.

City Council OKs Study of Backyard Beekeeping

February 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday ordered a study of legalizing backyard beekeeping in the city, a response to a growing chorus of Angelenos advocating for “urban beekeeping.”

The study would look into permitting Angelenos to engage in “beekeeping” in single-family residential areas.

The council voted 15-0 in favor of the study, with Councilman Mitchell Englander declaring, “if we don’t vote for it, it will be a buzzkill.”

The council also approved a motion calling for the city to explore more humane ways to deal with bees, rather than extermination, and a resolution supporting federal protections for bees against pesticides.

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