Newest Parklet Opens in El Sereno

February 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A little slice of El Sereno just got a little sweeter with the grand opening last week of the neighborhood’s first parklet, an outdoor seating area with a park-like feel created as part of a City of Los Angeles pilot program.

The parklet, located in front of recently renovated grocery store on the 4900 block of North Huntington Dr., joins three other recently opened parklets, one in Highland Park and two on Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles.

The El Sereno location features attractive wooden benches just off the sidewalk. “Parklets are temporary extensions of the sidewalk that provide seating and recreational public space to encourage increased pedestrian use and community interaction,” according to Councilman Jose Huizar’s office. Three of the new parklets, including the one in El Sereno, are in the councilman’s 14th district.

Huizar, Living Streets L.A., the L.A. Department of Transportation, Barrio Action and the LA 32 Neighborhood Council attended the Feb. 16 ribbon cutting ceremony.

The councilman, working Living Streets LA, hosted several community workshops where El Sereno residents and local stakeholders were able to chime in on the parklets location and design.

“Residents carefully chose a location at the crossroads of their neighborhood and created a design that captures the history, nature and character of El Sereno,” said Steve Cancian with Living Streets L.A. in a written statement.The CD14 Pilot Parklets will inform the LA Department of Transportation’s Streets for People program which will give stakeholders an opportunity to bring parklets, bike corrals and street plazas to their neighborhoods, according to Huizar’s office.

El Sereno recently celebrated the completion of another major project. According to Huizar’s office, El Sereno Arroyo Park has opened on the corner of Alhambra and Concord Avenues, once the site of a vacant lot.

L.A. Could Re-Open City Hall Office to Assist Immigrants

February 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council, hoping to breathe new life into the city’s dormant Office of Immigrant Affairs, directed staff Wednesday to determine how much it would cost to bring back the department, which was first established within former Mayor James Hahn’s office eight years ago.

City Council members who spoke in support of the motion said this would be an opportune time to re-establish the office, with lawmakers in Congress debating the details of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The council, still attempting to chip away at a projected $200 million budget deficit, voted 12-0 — with two members absent — to direct staff to look into setting up a new Office of Immigrant Affairs to assist undocumented immigrants should a “pathway to citizenship” be established by the federal government.

Councilman and mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti, who authored the motion, said he wants to make Los Angeles “the very first big city in the nation to step forth with a dedicated initiative to guide our immigrant residents through President Obama’s new pathway to legal status and citizenship.”

According to Garcetti’s legislative deputy, the office was first proposed by Garcetti in 2002 and established in 2004. It has not been staffed in recent years, but Garcetti said given the possibility that there could be an immigration reform bill approved by the end of the year, the city of Los Angeles needs to be prepared.

Even with financial limitations, “we here at the local level have to be ready to take action,” Garcetti said, adding that he was confident existing resources could be pulled.

“I know in these budget times we’re not calling for any funds meant for something else and to cut existing resources,” the mayoral candidate said, adding that he hopes the office would be able “to have authority over all of our departments, to look at how our departments are serving immigrants.”

The council also voted in favor of Garcetti’s resolution supporting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants as part of a comprehensive reform bill.

“Frankly, the council has been on record many times supporting comprehensive immigration reform,” Councilman Jose Huizar said. Since the last presidential election, even some Republicans who have “fought off efforts to have comprehensive immigration reform, have come to realize … the importance of embracing our immigrants in this country … The timing is right,” Huizar said.

Garcetti said the country and the city have “much to gain” from a comprehensive immigration reform bill, including “new taxes … people who are going to be able to get scholarships to go to college … individuals who would be able to work, whether it’s picking our vegetables or making our clothes…

“It’s time to end our hypocrisy on immigration in recent years and re-embrace our pathway as an immigrant nation,” he said.

Analysts Laud Gov. Brown’s Budget Proposal, But Pitfalls Remain

February 21, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

The California Budget Project (CBP), a non-partisan policy think-tank, held its annual news briefing in the State Capitol last week, where executive director Chris Hoene laid out his organization’s analysis of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed state budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year. In a word, CBP’s message was all about caution: While the proposed budget spells good news for California’s economy, the state is not yet out of the woods.

Indeed, while the state budget looks to be in balance, thanks largely to new revenue generated from Propositions 30 and 39, proposed spending is still below pre-recession levels — especially in critical areas many Californians depend on, such as education and health care.

“California is back on track after years of serious budget challenges,” said Hoene, who addressed members of the media. “But we still have a long ways to go. A lot of Californians are hurting.”

Especially worrisome, said Hoene, is that California continues to experience widening income inequality, making it all the more critical that programs like Medi-Cal and CalWORKs remain adequately funded.

“Budget choices are about priorities and values,” Hoene said, adding that while it’s great to be back on a fiscally sustainable path, the State must “set priorities in investing in the future of California and help [Californians] find a bridge to prosperity.”

Gov. Brown has signaled his priorities in certain key spending areas. With regards to education, spending for K-12 schools is set to increase $9.2 billion due to Prop. 98, while funding for the University of California and California State University systems would increase by more than $250 million each – provided those universities don’t increase tuition or fees until 2016-17.

Medi-Cal is another area in which Gov. Brown has proposed changes. California currently ranks last in the country in per capita Medicaid spending, and while Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) spending would increase by $15.6 billion this year under Brown’s plan, Hoene contends the state still isn’t spending enough. Gov. Brown has, however, opted to implement federal health care reform, which among other things will expand Medi-Cal coverage to previously ineligible adults via federal subsidies.

Going forward, California will need to decide whether the implementation of Medi-Cal expansion is best left to the state, or to individual counties. “There’s a lot of policy debate that’s going to happen in this arena in the coming year,” said Hoene.

Unfortunately, lamented Hoene, spending will remain at historic lows for human services programs. Such is the case with CalWORKs, the state welfare program that was severely cut in the aftermath of the recession and will remain at 2012-13 levels, despite 1 in 6 Californians now living in poverty. “CalWORKs is not keeping up with the cost of living,” Hoene said. “This is a program fundamentally designed to lift people out of poverty, and we have structured it to not do that.”

Still, said Hoene, there is somewhat of a silver lining in the form of increased revenues approved by California voters last November: “If Props 30 and 39 hadn’t been passed, we’d be having a very different conversation today. We’d be talking about what we’re going to cut next.”

Hoene dismissed critics of California’s tax increases on business, singling out Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently aired ads throughout the state encouraging businesses to flee California’s high taxes for the friendlier business climate of Texas. “Changes in tax rates do not affect migration patterns of wealthy people,” Hoene said, citing a Stanford University study tracking wealthy individuals’ tax filings following tax increases. Furthermore, he said, “we’re not that far ahead of the rest of the country [as far as tax rates].”

Despite the overall good news, from CBP’s vantage point, there is still much uncertainty as to how the budget will ultimately play out. Federal funds account for one-third of the state’s total revenues, so the outcome of any future federal budget debate will have a huge impact on California’s economy. The proposed budget also assumes the U.S. economy will grow by 2.7 percent, so national economic recovery will be another key to California’s fiscal health.

Regardless, Hoene concluded, with the new budget, state leaders “now have the opportunity to choose a fiscally responsible path, while reinvesting in vital public services that foster economic growth and contribute to broadly shared prosperity.”

Cedillo Gets Mayor’s Endorsement

February 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa threw his support last week behind City Council candidate Gil Cedillo, a longtime friend of the mayor running for the seat of termed-out First District council member Ed Reyes.

The mayor’s endorsement of Cedillo is a departure from recent election history, when an apparent rift between the two led Cedillo to endorse Villaraigosa opponent James Hahn in the 2005 Los Angeles mayoral election won by Villaraigosa.

In 2009, Villaraigosa in turn backed Judy Chu, Cedillo’s opponent in his failed bid for Congress.

But last Friday, Villaraigosa – calling Cedillo his “brother” – and highlighted their history as high school and law schoolmates who also worked on numerous campaigns and issues together. They also were colleagues in the state legislature, where Cedillo has served as both a senator and assemblyman.

“What reconciliation?” Villaraigosa said in response to a question about the perceived rift.

“I said I’ve known him for 45 years,” Villaraigosa said. “There is no need for a reconciliation. I know him better than anybody here. I know what kind of man he is. I support him without qualification, without equivocation.”

Villaraigosa said he has “admired (Cedillo’s) fierce dedication to social justice and civil rights, the fact that he’s been willing to take on issues in fighting for the undocumented, the uninsured, the un-housed.”

Cedillo said he and the mayor have come together on policy matters, particularly in passing Measure R, which funds public transportation projects. He also drew further parallels between their backgrounds.

“We came from communities that were modest, that were humble and provided us with our fair share of challenges,” he said. “Every step of the way, we’ve met those challenges, and it is those experiences … that have informed our decisions in public service.”

The announcement made on the south lawn of City Hall comes in the final stretch of election campaigning, as fund-raising and spending records are turned in, and as candidates make a push to sway voters in the less than three weeks leading up to March 5.

Based on last month’s fundraising figures, Cedillo was trailing his biggest opponent, Jose Gardea, a veteran chief of staff in Reyes’ office.

Cedillo, however, has spent more on his campaign to this point.

Gardea, who is endorsed by Reyes, told City News that he is not basing his campaign on endorsements, but on  ”real accomplishments on my part and my work in the community, working toward a better future.”

Gardea said he was not surprised that a decades-old friendship with the mayor would produce an endorsement for his opponent.

Social Security Payments Moving to Electronic Transfer, Debit Cards

February 21, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Starting March 1, the US government will stop issuing paper Social Security Checks; an exemption will be made only for beneficiaries born before May of 1921.

The move aims to save taxpayers $1 billion over 10 years, and counter Social Security fraud. More than 5 million beneficiaries who will be affected have already been informed they must enroll in direct deposit or for a Direct Express debit card by March 1, according to a press release.

While it may be difficult and scary for some individuals to make this change, there are many benefits to choosing either direct deposit or the government issued debit card.

Local banks are also stepping up to help beneficiaries make the transition.

“Wells Fargo has a long standing commitment to educating consumers on financial matters,” said Evelin Martinez, vice president and general manager Wells Fargo Group. “During this time of change, we want our customers and consumers alike to know their available options. We want to underscore the importance of people keeping on top of their finances to ensure they succeed financially.”

Direct deposit is a free service that electronically deposits recurring income into a person’s checking or savings account. Beneficiaries won’t have to worry about misplacing their paper check ever again.

While the government debit cards are prepaid debit card payment options, no bank account is required for this option. The Direct Express debit card can be used to make purchases, pay bills or withdraw funds from ATMs anywhere Debit MasterCard® is accepted.

Persons who do not choose an electronic payment option by the March 1 deadline will be out of compliance with the law and may receive their payments via the Direct Express® card, according to the press release.

For more information, visit www.GoDirect.org, call the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center’s toll-free number 1-800-333-1795, or talk with a local bank representative.

Monterey Park Vote-By-Mail Deadline Approaches

February 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Monterey Park residents hoping to vote by mail in the March 5th election are being reminded by the city’s clerk’s office that Feb.26 is the last day to request a Vote-By-Mail ballot.

Request forms are available at Monterey Park City Hall: 320 W. Newmark Ave. Forms are also available inside the sample ballot booklets mailed to residents earlier this month.

Vote-By-Mail ballots must be received by the city clerk’s office by Election Day, Tuesday, March 5. Residents unable to mail their ballot to meet the deadline can instead drop it off at any polling place on Election Day. Ballots received after March 5 will not be counted as prohibited by State law.

As of October 2012, 6,586 of the city’s 26,796 registered voters are permanent Vote-By-Mail voters.

For more information, contact the City Clerk’s Office at (626) 307-1359 or email mpclerk@montereypark.ca.gov. Residents in other cities should check with their local city clerk or the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder for more information.

March 5, 2013 Ballot Recommendations

February 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

City of Los Angeles Measures

Prop A—The Neighborhood Public Safety and Vital City Services funding and Accountability Measure Sales Tax proposal for 1/2 percent new sales tax.

The proponents of Measure a are blaming state cuts in funding for the need to provide more funding for 911 emergency response services, maintain firefight, paramedic and police staffing.

In addition the revenue raised would also help fund, senior services, pot hole and sidewalk repair drug prevention and gang services.

Which would be OK if it weren’t for the fact that city tax payers have already provided founds for these services, where did the funds go? Ask the proposals of the measure.

Its easy to lull the voters and city residents into thinking that a 1/2 cent added to the sales tax is a miniscule amount except when you add it to the already 9.00 percent sales tax they pay then the cost of sales taxes becomes a hefty 9.25%.

The proposers of this new sales tax say that the $215 million in new revenue will keep the city form having to lay off 500 police officers, really? We’ve heard that line before and don’t believe the city won’t find a way not to lay off this many officers—they’ve don that before when they halted the layoffs of city workers last year.

May 9.25% of every purchase doesn’t seem like much to those proposing it, but it does to those with families to support, seniors on social security, working commuters now paying more than $4.00 per gallon of gas.

And we believe that consumers, or tourists wont’ take the opportunity to shop surrounding cities with lower tax rates?

We’re told the city can’t afford to lose this sales tax increment, we say that consumers just can’t afford to stretch their already strained budgets any more.

Why the PLAS Experiment Must End at Roosevelt High School

February 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

On December 7, 2007 teachers and parents voted 152-62 in favor of the Mayor’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (PLAS) to work “collaboratively” with teachers, parents, classified staff, and students to increase student achievement at Roosevelt High School.  After 5-years, PLAS is a dismal failure at Roosevelt High School.

After five years, 2012 standardized test scores indicate that six out of seven small schools at Roosevelt have API scores from 544 to 672 range, not counting the magnet school.  A score of 600 or below qualifies a school as a “Focus School,” which can be reconstituted, taken over by a charter operator, or taken over by groups of teachers. CST scores range from 200 to 1,000, with 800 being the statewide performance target.

When the PLAS experiment got underway at Roosevelt High School in 2007, there were 5,000 students at Roosevelt High School and 240 teachers. Today, there are 2,900 students and 170 teachers. The PLAS small school experiment has eliminated dozens of courses, including AP, foreign language, Mexican American Studies, and vocational classes, like culinary arts. The PLAS argument for small schools was that smaller was better. But now, according to PLAS CEO Marshall Tuck…”the small schools [at RHS] are currently not financially and programmatically sustainable and need to consolidate in order to remain viable.” CEO Marshall Tuck claims that Roosevelt students have gone to charter schools, since there are now 4,500 charter seats in the area. Actually, Roosevelt students that were way behind on credits to graduate were sent to the Mendez Learning Center and Esteban E. Torres High Schools. They were also sent to the Roosevelt Community Adult School, the Boyle Heights Continuation School, the East Los Angeles Occupational Center, and the East Los Angeles Skills Center.

Perhaps the biggest mistake under PLAS took place in the 2010-2011 school year, when Roosevelt High School was broken up into seven independent schools with their own state education code. Each of the seven small schools offers different electives, foreign language, AP, and core classes to RHS students. The seven small school arrangement deprives students of taking a variety of classes in their small school.  Each small school has its own principal and no assistant principals. An eighth campus-wide principal was added to oversee the entire operation.  Eight principals, seven small schools, created a financial and logistical nightmare.

Another unacceptable metric under PLAS at Roosevelt’s seven schools is that according to the most recent data, six out of the seven schools’ reclassification rates of ELL students to English fluency are terribly low. It appears that Roosevelt’s six schools are out of compliance with state and federal law and the District’s Master Plan for English language learners. This strongly suggests that ELL (English language learners) at six of the seven small schools at Roosevelt are not being given specially designed academic instruction in English, including bilingual instruction.

Only one out of the seven principals of the seven schools has previous experience as a principal. One principal never completed his administrative credential course work prior to being hired—he was straight out of the classroom. One principal hired, came from the state of Washington, with no knowledge of Roosevelt students or the immediate community.

Roosevelt students in the seven small schools are given a rigorous college core curriculum, which parents welcome. However, the problem is that most of Roosevelt students lack the basic skills in English, math, and science to pass college core courses. Remediation and basic skills development are not adequate for Roosevelt High School students. Students must be up to grade level to succeed in rigorous college bound classes. Moreover, the overall curriculum for six schools, not counting the magnet school, lack vocational and technical classes, which gives students an option to be career bound and college ready.

On January 28, 2013, the PLAS administrative staff convened a parent meeting at Roosevelt High School to address why Roosevelt would have to submit a plan by February 22, 2013 to Supt. Deasy to consolidate from its current seven small schools arrangement. When asked repeatedly by George Buzzetti, the Policy Director of CORE, California, how much each student received at Roosevelt, PLAS CEO Marshall Tuck finally responded that Roosevelt received $9,000 per student. When Mr. Buzzetti informed PLAS CEO Marshall Tuck that one of the principals of one of the small schools had budgeted $4,027 for each student, then asked him “What happened to the other $5,000?”, to everyone’s surprise,  Marshall Tuck could not answer the question.

At the January 28, 2013 parent meeting at Roosevelt High School, parents, students, and community members voiced their dissatisfaction with PLAS. In 2009, the Roosevelt faculty gave Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and PLAS at Roosevelt a grade of F—because they saw no improvement—the same holds true today. It’s time to end the experiment with PLAS at Roosevelt High School.

Dr. John Fernandez taught at Roosevelt High School for 24-years. He was former director of the Mexican American Education Commission for the LAUSD. Dr. Fernandez ran unsuccessfully for the LAUSD School Board in 2011.

AIDS Patients Need Access to Medicare

February 21, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Anthem Blue Cross, California’s largest health insurer, was just sued for discriminating against patients with HIV and AIDS. The company instituted a policy prohibiting these patients from filling their prescriptions at local or specialty drug stores, instead requiring the use of a mail-order pharmacy. These limitations outraged many Californians.

Ensuring improved access to healthcare has been at the center of our country’s health debate for decades. Providing access to the uninsured was the foundation of President Obama’s successful push to overhaul our healthcare system through the Affordable Care Act. This legislation was long overdue. Many of its provisions will remove the barriers to care that have kept people from achieving improved health outcomes.

However, after a closer look at our new healthcare system, advocates are starting to voice concerns about areas that can diminish access to care. One such issue is the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which has the power to limit care for those who need it most.

IPAB is a powerful new board charged with controlling Medicare spending, limiting Medicare’s growth to the rate of GDP growth plus half of a percentage point. While this may sound like an effective way to control spending, IPAB’s cost-controlling authority is severely flawed.

IPAB only authority is to cut government reimbursement rates to doctors who treat Medicare patients. These rates are already dangerously low, resulting in doctors turning away patients. Between 2004 and 2009, the number of doctors refusing new Medicare patients more than doubled, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Here in California, finding a doctor is already more difficult than just about anywhere else in the country. A recent series of studies by California HealthCare Foundation documented acute doctor shortages across the Golden State. Los Angeles is one of California’s counties that don’t meet the federal government’s recommended supply of primary care physicians. In 2008, there were just 58 per 100,000 people.

IPAB’s unencumbered authority will only exacerbate this problem.

This is of particular concern to those of us at the Wall Las Memorias Project – an organization that works with Latino populations in California affected by HIV/AIDS. Our fear is that IPAB will dramatically reduce the number of doctors that accept Medicare patients. This will limit access to healthcare, particularly for patients with chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS may not seem like a health care issue for seniors, but according to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of HIV positive Americans over 65 develop AIDS. These patients account for 35 percent of all AIDS-related deaths.

Currently the number of HIV positive Medicare enrollees is rising. Approximately one fifth of infected Americans receive their treatments through Medicare. If IPAB is allowed to implement Medicare cuts, care will become increasingly challenging to access for seniors with HIV/AIDS.

Fortunately, our representatives are recognizing that IPAB will do more harm than good. In January, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the “Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act” – a bill to repeal IPAB. Democratic Representative Linda Sanchez of California’s 38th district is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

At The Wall Las Memorias Project, we’ve seen the tragic consequences when people who desperately need healthcare are denied access. We applaud Rep. Linda Sanchez for her work to ensure Californians living with HIV/AIDs get the treatment they need.

Americans know that Medicare needs a fiscal overhaul; the program is careening towards bankruptcy, while driving a large portion of our nation’s debt. But IPAB’s proposed solution will only weaken our healthcare safety net.

Other lawmakers in Washington, from California and across the country, should follow Rep. Sanchez’s lead and support her efforts to repeal IPAB.

Richard Zaldivar, Executive Director/President & Founder of The Wall Las Memorias Project, an organization dedicated to promoting wellness and preventing illness among Latino populations affected by HIV/AIDS.

From Our Readers

February 21, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Re: “Away With That Ugly Old Bridge,” published Feb. 7, 2013: From the verbiage you have chosen to use, one can tell that you have no respect for those who do appreciate what the bridge means. It is not just an old bridge it is part of the history that is Los Angeles; it is a monument to the community for which it was built. From the design, to the lighting, placement and events that have been held there in celebration of the community is the meaning of the bridge.

There are various historical buildings throughout Los Angeles that are a testament to the past of the city that apparently you would like to forget. The bridge can be saved and retrofitted for far less while saving a piece of history and community. It is not only a bridge but a gateway that made the city one again. It created the connection from downtown to the new emerging cities. There are still many alive who helped build that bridge and used that bridge as a new opportunity for a better life. With your perceptive we should tear down all that is old and make it new. What then of historical value? What then of those who are not like you and have learned to navigate the bridge with no issue and love the feeling when they cross it daily? As a reporter one is to be objective and present the story; you are far from that and have insulted an entire community because of your own personal bias.

Rodrigo Valles, Montebello


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