Commerce City Councilman Pleads Guilty To Conspiracy

February 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Commerce City Councilman Robert Fierro could face jail time after pleading guilty Monday to a felony conspiracy charge.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, he announced he would resign from office before his next court date.

Fierro, 40, admitted to trying to get witnesses to make false statements about his role in an illegal campaign finance scheme under investigation by a federal grand jury.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL Concejal de Commerce Admite Manipulación de Testigos

His sister-in-law, Ana Perez, 46, also of Commerce, pleaded guilty last week to a conspiracy charge related to her involvement in the same scheme. As part of her plea agreement, she provided details of the scheme and their attempts to hide it.

The details of Fierro’s plea agreement, such as what he got out of it and what he gave in return, are “under seal indefinitely,” said U.S. District Attorney spokesperson Thom Mrozek.

In an emotional speech Tuesday night, Councilman Robert Fierro announced that he had pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge and would resign in the next few months. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

During an emotional speech Tuesday night, Fierro promised to “give a full explanation of what happened,” saying, “I think I owe it to the residents… I have nothing to hide.”

He thanked his fellow council members and the community “for all the support… prayers… patience.” He added he still thinks his family has a “bright future.”

Fierro, an LAUSD school teacher, said he was grateful to the members of the community and his church who came to his side following his arrest in April 2010, unlike in nearby cities where scandals have occurred and “sometimes the perception changes people.” His words were well received by those in the audience, and greeted with applause.

In a statement released to the press earlier that evening, Fierro said: “Several years ago, I made a mistake. This mistake was contrary to all my beliefs and against everything I have strived to stand for. I take full responsibility for my actions. My actions have caused great hardship and difficulties for my family, friends and community.”

Fierro and Perez are scheduled to be sentenced on April 23. Each is facing a maximum of five years in federal prison.

Fierro’s wife Linda Fierro was also named in the original indictment, and is scheduled to go to trial on Mar. 20. She has not entered into a plea agreement, Mrozek said.

United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. called Fierro’s and his fellow conspirators’ attempt to “obstruct a federal investigation and the federal grand jury process… direct assaults on the integrity of the American judicial system.”

The illegal campaign finance scheme that Fierro attempted to cover-up involved enlisting his family and friends to make contributions to his campaign and that of his running mate, Tina Baca Del Rio, during a 2004-2005 City of Commerce election campaign, according to U.S. Attorneys. He never disclosed the contributions or reimbursements to the State of California or on his campaign’s finance records.

According to information gained from the plea agreement with Perez, the U.S. District Attorney believes Fierro got his sister-in-law to give a $500 check to his campaign and another $500 check to his running mate’s campaign, and that he reimbursed the full $1,000 the next day.

During an interview with the FBI in the spring of 2006, Perez denied the allegations.
But according to her plea agreement, Perez, who served as Fierro’s campaign treasurer for the 2005 election, “knew that the scheme effectively concealed both the true sources of Robert Fierro’s campaign funds as well as the potential influences upon his actions as an elected official from the public.”

When Fierro, his wife Linda, and Perez received subpoenas to testify before a grand jury, they tried to convince other contributors to deny that they were reimbursed for their contributions to Fierro’s campaign.

A month later, Perez falsely testified before the federal grand jury that she was not reimbursed for her contributions. She also denied trying to get others to hide the fact they were reimbursed, charges she later admitted to in her plea agreement testimony.

For his part, Fierro pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges, but was not charged on campaign finance violations involving the fact that he reimbursed his contributors, Mrozek said.

Authorities did not explain why Fierro chose to reimburse his family and friends for his contributions, nor did they say where he got the money to reimburse them.

According to U.S. District Attorney Elisa Fernandez, the original federal grand jury investigation into the illegal campaign finance scheme was resolved when Fierro, his wife and his sister-in-law were indicted. Fierro was arrested in April 2010, while his wife and sister-in-law turned themselves in.

Fernandez called Fierro’s and Perez’s actions obstructions to justice. “We want to make sure witnesses are free to speak the truth. That’s what makes the system work,” she said.

This is not the first time in recent years that members of Commerce’s city council have gotten in trouble.

In December 2010, Commerce Councilman Hugo Argumedo pleaded guilty in to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice and agreed to resign his seat. He was prohibited from holding public office for three years.

Prosecutors said Argumedo signed a false affidavit as part of a civil lawsuit between the city and former City Attorney Francisco Leal.

In April 2011, Councilwoman Tina Baca del Rio was fined $26,000 by the Fair Political Practices Commission, FPPC, for repeatedly failing to turn in campaign finance reports “even after multiple notifications.” In one instance she failed to timely report $17,455 in contributions and $14,971 in expenditures during the second half of 2007, according to FPPC officials.

Del Rio had reports missing from as far back as 2005, but has worked with FPPC through the years to complete the filings.

Appeals Panel Strikes Down Gay Marriage Ban

February 9, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

Supporters of same-sex marriage in the Southland and across the state scored a major victory Tuesday when a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on same-sex weddings, was unconstitutional.

The 2-1 decision out of San Francisco, however, will likely be appealed to either the full 9th Circuit Court or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Despite the ruling, a stay on gay marriages in California will remain in effect while the court case continues.

But that didn’t temper the elated reactions from supporters of same-sex unions.
“It gives Californians the respect that they should be getting,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the first openly gay man to serve on the body. “We don’t have our basic civil and human rights in our relationships. We don’t get the IRS benefits. We don’t get Social Security benefits. We don’t have any of those benefits that are codified in Washington,” Rosendahl said.

Ari Gutierrez, co-chair of the Latino Equality Alliance, at a Tuesday evening press conference at Los Angeles City Hall. She joined local leaders in celebrating a court ruling that struck down Proposition 8, a voter-approved measure banning same-sex marriages. (Photo courtesy of the Latino Equality Alliance)

“Equality is coming to out LGBT community,” said Richard L. Zaldivar, executive director and founder of Highland Park based The Wall Las Memorias Project. “Our community members will no longer be second-class citizens when it comes to marriage and the ability to love their partner openly with respect and dignity,” he said.

Likewise, Ari Gutierrez, co-chair of the Latino Equality Alliance, an organization that grew out of the campaign against Proposition 8, told EGP the ruling will make a difference in the lives of gay Latinos and people of color for whom “family is our lifeblood.”

“Laws like Prop. 8 and attitudes like Prop. 8 aren’t fair. … Decisions like the marriage decision can make such a difference to the lives of young people and the quality of lives of young people and their families,” Gutierrez said.

When organizeres against Proposition 8 opened a campaign office in East Los Angeles, it became the first “openly gay place” in the area, she said.

While organizations such as the Latino Equality Alliance continue to reach out to faith organizations, Los Angeles’ leading Catholic figures reacted harshly to the appeals court ruling. “The government has no competence and no authority to ‘redefine’ marriage or ‘expand’ its definition to include other kinds of relationships.

To do that is to say that marriage no longer exists. And this would have grave consequences for children and for the common good of our society,” said Archbishop José H. Gomez of the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

However, the court’s decision was narrow in its focus, and did not address whether gays and lesbians have a Constitutional right to marry.

Rather, the panel ruled that the proposition’s primary impact was to “lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.”

“It stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously possessed to obtain and use the designation of ‘marriage’ to describe their relationships,” according to the court’s decision. “Nothing more, nothing less. Proposition 8 therefore could not have been enacted to advance California’s interests in child-rearing or responsible procreation, for it had no effect on the rights of same-sex couples to raise children or on the procreative practices of other couples.

“Nor did Proposition 8 have any effect on religious freedom or on parents’ rights to control their children’s education; it could not have been enacted to safeguard those liberties.”

Judges Stephen Reinhardt and Michael Daly Hawkins signed off on the ruling, while Judge N. Randy Smith dissented, writing in a separate opinion that he was “not convinced that Proposition 8 is not rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest.”

Prop 8 supporter Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, called the ruling “unfair to the voters, against our republic, against our democratic system…”

“It’s illogical and unconstitutional to claim that natural, unchangeable race and ethnicity is the same as sexual behavior,” he said.

Blasting the ruling, LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said: “Once again, activist judges with a political correctness agenda have disenfranchised the people who voted overwhelmingly to oppose same-sex marriage in California — over 4.5 million Californians in 2000, and over 7 million in 2008. This ruling needs to be appealed to the United States Supreme Court.”

Ron Prentice, executive director of ProtectMarriage.com, said the issue would definitely be appealed, but a decision had not yet been made on whether to ask the full 9th Circuit court to hear the case or go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“We’re not surprised by this decision, and expected a 2-1 decision and the interpretation of the equal-protection clause is what’s at root here, as well as whether marriage should be defined according to the wishes of two people or whether it should be defined in terms of its purpose and definition for society and future generations,” Prentice told KNX Newsradio.

Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statement saying the court “has rendered a powerful affirmation of the right of same-sex couples to marry. I applaud the wisdom and courage of this decision.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the decision “a decisive victory for freedom and equality.”

“With its decision, the court has affirmed the fundamental dignity of gays and lesbians and has reaffirmed a basic American truth – bigotry and prejudice have no place in our laws,” the mayor said. “If we truly believe in family values, we must value all families.”

On Tuesday, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles, called the decision a proud moment for California, and “an eloquent reaffirmation of Dr. King’s statement that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’”

There is still a long road to travel “before we achieve our full and equal standing in the eyes of the law,” said the openly gay legislator, “but today’s ruling is a strong validation of our belief that we will ultimately prevail.”

Husband Charged In Death of Wife and Fetus

February 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The deaths of a 39-year old Monterey Park woman and her unborn fetus were ruled homicides by the Los Angeles County Coroner on Monday.

Authorities believe Chinese national Chenyan Bao was three months pregnant when she was strangled to death. She was subject to blunt force trauma, according to the coroners, and the fetus died along with the mother.

Hongxin Liu, 41, is charged with the murder of his wife and her fetus.

On Sunday, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s homicide detectives arrested Bao’s husband, 41-year old Hongxin Liu, also a Chinese national. On Wednesday he was charged with capital murder, with the special circumstance of multiple murders. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 27, and is being held without bail.

Detectives believe Bao died from injuries sustained during a domestic violence altercation with Liu,

Authorities found Bao dead around 7 a.m. on Sunday at the couple’s home on the
1000 block of South Ynez Avenue. They noticed suspicious marks on her body when they arrived on the scene.

Authorities are still gathering information, but they believe Liu and Bao moved to the Ynez Avenue house some time in the last month. Their previous address was in the city of Los Angeles, said Lt. Eddie Hernandez of the Sheriff’s department.

He believes Bao ran a kiosk in Chinatown, selling sunglasses and other sundry goods. They do not know where Liu worked. They also believe Bao has an adult son, but do not know his whereabouts.

A Monterey Park police officer “fluent in Chinese” is working with the Sheriff’s department on this case, according to Monterey Park Lt. Carrie Mazelin.

The single-family home where the couple lived was also cited by Monterey Park code enforcement on Monday for operating as a “boarding house, hotel or motel without city approval.”

The couple’s 2-year old daughter is in the care of child-welfare authorities.

L.A. Hispanics Say Local Gym Conditions Discriminatory

February 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Hispanic gym goers in Los Angeles are about to flex their legal muscle against a nationwide fitness chain they claim deliberately failed to maintain proper health standards in clubs where a majority of members are Latino.

“The health conditions in this place are terrible,” says Abraham Mendoza, who since 1989 has been a member of the L.A. Fitness gym in Montebello, a mostly Latino neighborhood. “There is no soap, there is no toilet paper, machines are all dirty… an activity that should be healthy has turned hazardous.”

Mendoza and about half-a-dozen others stood outside the entrance to the gym, owned by the Irvine-based Fitness International LLC, gathering signatures for a petition to be used as part of the suit. He says some 200 disgruntled L.A. Fitness members have already signed.

The move comes on the heels of several similar suits filed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Chicago, claiming that Fitness International violated consumer fraud regulations by not recognizing lifetime membership contracts with the Chicago-based Bally Fitness, also named in the suit and which late last year sold 171 of its gyms to the California company for $153 million.

L.A. Fitness is the second-highest grossing fitness center in the country, according to Club Industry’s “Top 100 Clubs” list, with annual revenues topping $1 billion. A discrimination suit was filed in 2010 against top-grossing 24 Hour Fitness by a Hispanic employee who claimed he was passed over for promotions because of his ethnicity.

The attorney representing plaintiffs in the L.A. Fitness case in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Mark Guralnick, was quoted in media reports last week saying that he has received additional inquiries for possible lawsuits from California, Texas, Minnesota and Illinois.

“We have people coming to us from all over the country,” Guralnick said, anticipating several hundred more customers will add their names to the complaints that contend L.A. Fitness “failed to accommodate Bally members at their clubs” and that some L.A. Fitness clubs now are so crowded “as to deprive Bally members of the…benefits of their memberships.”

Some of those members, who paid upwards of $1200 for lifetime contracts, were informed after the deal with Fitness International that they would now face renewal fees and be limited to a single gym. Others say they were encouraged to sign contracts just days ahead of the sale and were told not to expect any change in the conditions.

The Los Angeles suit would add charges of racial discrimination to a list that in addition to consumer fraud also includes breach of contract and violation of the state health club services act.

“I am sure this wouldn’t happen in Irvine, or higher income areas,” says Guillermina Yakimowich, who has been a member of Montebello’s L.A. Fitness gym for the past 17 years. The Mexico native joined Mendoza outside the Montebello gym, which she says is just a five-minute drive from her house. “I know they have better gyms, but I can’t afford the time and the driving expense to go to a better area,” she said.

Others have complained of being turned away for membership, of a failure to give notice of pending rate increases, and a gradual decline in the number of trainers available.

“In this gym, water leaks in the steam room and overall sanitary conditions are terrible,’’ says Tony Marquez, who pays $100 a month to use the facilities at the Montebello center. “We report the problems but nothing happens,” he adds.

Calls to Fitness International for comment on the pending litigation went unreturned, though the company recently provided a membership status update on its website saying it has simplified access rules, including allowing Bally “local” members access to L.A. Fitness clubs and acquired Bally clubs.

With the November deal, L.A. Fitness now owns some 500 centers nationwide, including 40 former Bally centers in Southern California.

And while the decision to ease access rules may go some way in addressing earlier complaints, Hispanic members in Los Angeles say the problem runs much deeper.

Rosario Vigil attends the L.A. Fitness gym in the city of Alhambra, west of Los Angeles. She says the facilities at her gym are new and that the “services are good,” though she acknowledges there “may be some truth” to the complaints lodged against other centers. As an example, she notes that the gym nearer to her home in Pasadena lacks many of the features found at the Alhambra gym, including a pool.

According to members from the Latino community, the reason has to do with demographics.

“We contacted gym goers in different areas,” says Javier Rodriguez, a Bally Fitness member since 1987 and one of those filing the suit. He says based on the information gathered, “the quality of service and maintenance of the installations had much to do with the income level of the people who live in those areas.”

“This,” he added, “is why we believe there is racial profiling involved.”

Rodriguez and the others say they plan to continue with the signature gathering campaign, adding they are also hoping to bring pressure on the Los Angeles County Health Department, which they say should be responsible for enforcing hygienic and sanitary conditions at local gyms.

No date has been set for when they will file the suit.

EDITORIAL: Miramonte School Scandal Demands Greater Transparency at LAUSD

February 9, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

The sordid news coming out of Miramonte Elementary School in the Florence area has not only shocked us, it has also angered us. That any school employee could for so long engage, undeterred, in the abuse of young students, can only be seen as a sad reflection of the lackadaisical supervision of teachers by administrators at the school.

In light of recent revelations that more than one parent had brought the teacher’s “questionable” behavior to the attention of school officials, it is unimaginable that the teacher was not under the constant watchful eye of those same administrators.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, LAUSD, has a huge number of administrators, far greater than other school districts in the state and nation, yet it seems to be unable to find enough of them to ensure that mandated procedures, such as the reporting of complaints of sexual contact between a teacher and a student. Where was everyone?

Now the school district has shown an even greater disdain for the parents of Miramonte by the heavy handed way district police were allowed to treat them, intimidate them, search them, and refuse their request to allow the media to go into the meeting with them.

We appreciate Superintendent Deasy’s decision to act quickly and forcefully in this case, as a way to show parents and students that they take the safety of students seriously.

But for too long, true transparency has not been the district’s forte. That needs to change, what is there to hide? Hasn’t much of the information already been made public?

This newspaper has always been supportive of the LAUSD, its Board of Education, teachers, administrators and for the most part UTLA, but we are surprised that there has been complete silence and few apologies to the public — which pays dearly for the schools, the students and parents — for their combined failure to act on behalf of their innocent charges.

Open Letter: East L.A. Cityhood Decision

February 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

LAFCO was responsible, followed the law voted to disapprove the incorporation of East Los Angeles request. Dreams must be tempered by reality. Knowingly incorporating a new city with a multi-million dollar deficit is unwise at best and immoral at worst.

The latest LAFCO report and further analysis after the January 25th meeting lent additional support to staff’s conclusion that the proposed Cityhood if East Los Angeles was not economically viable. “The budgets submitted by the proponents contained incorrect assumptions overly optimistic assumptions or information that is simply inaccurate and/or incomplete,” stated the February 8, 2012 staff report.

Even raising the Utility User Tax – which is levied only in unincorporated areas – to 14 percent (14%), would not close the deficit gap and would result in fewer services. This tax hike would amount to more than three times the current rate and would be the highest in the state; of this we can be certain, East Los Angeles residents would never approve an enormous tax hike without seeing an upfront increase in services.

Lastly, incorporation advocates who on one hand were chanting for self sufficiency and determination were asking the county to make up the difference, indefinitely. That’s an unrealistic dream – and one which signals exactly how untenable cityhood actually is.

Many of us have worked so hard to revitalize East Los Angeles into a family-friendly neighborhood with good public services and a healthier community spirit. Asking us to pay more for less is asking us to undo all that progress, and at too great a risk.
And for those of us who have been active to make our community a great place to live work and play – pitting neighbor against neighbor was a huge price to pay.

The determination has been made, and current environment has become tense; our challenge now, is to find ways to work together to channel our energy and passion through positive activities for the benefit of our families and the well-being of the entire community. It is reality; it is about moving forward, looking ahead and working together on common ground to continue to solve not one but many problems.

Incorporation advocates may feel “it’s time” for cityhood but the facts – tell us otherwise.

“Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one” — Albert Einstein

Yolanda Duarte

ELA Resident and Business Owner

An Investment Worthy of Business Community Action

February 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Business Leaders Task Force on Homelessness blueprint, Home For Good, was launched just over a year ago. There is good news to share as well as a big opportunity to take this strategic initiative to end chronic and veteran homeless in Los Angeles County to the next level!

Home For Good is aimed at the 12,000 chronically homeless Angelenos, which includes approximately 1,400 homeless veterans, who have been homeless for more than a year and have serious mental or physical health problems. It is a plan that not only saves tax payer dollars, but has proven successful in cities all over the nation. As a result of the Task Force’s participation in the last two ACCESS Washington, D.C. trips, the feds have renewed faith in Los Angeles and our efforts to solve this terrible blight on our City and our people.

Federal agencies are now meeting regularly with local agencies, service providers and elected officials to implement procedural and systemic changes that will cut through red tape and reduce bureaucratic barriers. Due to our efforts to work with local veteran service providers to reduce the time veterans wait for housing from 168 days to 30, the Veterans Affairs has committed additional Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers to Los Angeles. We are also on track towards implementation of a single, unified homeless data collection system.

Home For Good’s fundamental mission is to build a network of permanent supportive
housing at locations throughout L.A. County. We have reached our goals in the first year, but we are only beginning. To meet the long term goals, the Task Force kicked off an initiative that will put L.A. on track to produce permanent supportive housing in record time: The Home For Good Funders Collaborative .

The Collaborative will align seed money from foundations, government agencies, and corporate sponsors and leverage this larger pool of funds with private capital. Currently those who build permanent supportive housing jump through multiple funding hoops. The collaborative has the potential to decrease the production process from 5 to 2 years — reducing the wait time and dramatically reducing the cost.

The Hilton Foundation seeded this fund with a $1 million challenge grant toward the $5 million needed and we are only a million dollars away from reaching our goal. Several other foundations, private individuals, and thousands of everyday citizens have contributed to this effort, but we need additional help. The collaborative is the ideal way for corporate and business participation to reduce the nation’s largest homeless population.

We believe that ending chronic and veteran homelessness isn’t just the right thing to do; it is in the best interest of the business community — from tourism to entertainment and restaurants to retail, business gets better when homelessness is efficiently addressed.

And that’s The Business Perspective.

Gary Toebben is president and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Playing with Fire

February 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Some Americans want to starve our cities, close our schools, and knock away the ladder that our children are supposed to climb to economic security. Your lawmakers may be among them.

The White House plans to release its proposed 2013 budget on Feb. 13. A free-for-all will ensue, as denizens of Capitol Hill compete for the titles of Biggest-Tax-Cutter and Baddest-Program-Slasher.

To appreciate how truly loony this is, consider how much we’re already hurting.
U.S. cities and towns have fired half-a-million workers since 2008, and another quarter-million municipal employees may lose their jobs by the end of this year.

Venice, Florida is losing its fire marshal, deputy fire chief, and fire inspector. San Jose, California may have to shut down all its libraries and community center programs. Gardner, Massachusetts has one clerk running its municipal grounds, parks, playgrounds, cemetery, forestry, flood control, insect control, golf course, and swimming pool. Fond du Lac, Wisconsin cut city inspectors, police, and crossing guards.

Los Angeles, like hundreds of other cities, is cutting back bus service and raising fares. Lincoln, Nebraska is deciding whether to close a fire station and leave one end of town without rapid fire and medical emergency responders. Baltimore has debated closing five of its firehouses. Other cities across the country are debating similar choices in their worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Our cities and towns need a helping hand from Washington. Instead, Congress is cutting funding they depend on. Under last year’s deficit-reduction deal, domestic spending is dropping about one-quarter from 2010 levels. Meanwhile, military spending, which is supposed to be cut equally, is barely being nicked.

Now a crack team led by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) is trying to exempt the Pentagon from further cuts.

What are they thinking?

Just before Christmas, the Iraq War officially ended. That was a very important moment for millions of Iraqis and thousands of our soldiers and their families. It could have been an important moment for taxpayers too. The war cost us $800 billion, and we could do a lot with that kind of money.

But if McCain and McKeon have their way, our cities aren’t going to be hiring back elementary school teachers, firefighters, or police offers, or providing more VA care to veterans or healthcare for millions of low-income kids. Instead, the Pentagon will continue to develop its F-35 stealth fighter, which costs $156 million per jet but can’t provide a steady stream of oxygen to the pilot. It will continue to build a new fleet of aircraft carriers at $9 billion apiece when no other country in the world has more than one.

It will spend several hundred billion dollars “modernizing” a nuclear weapons stockpile that Washington has committed to reducing. It will build new military bases in places like South Korea and Guam, where people don’t want them, even though the United States has more than 1,000 military installations around the world. We have so many overseas bases that there’s no agreement on how to count them all.

The Pentagon can cut these programs and more without endangering our security or reducing healthcare and pensions for those serving in the military. In fact, we’ll be safer if budget cuts force the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House to focus on programs that actually improve our well-being instead of trying to police every corner of the world. And we’ll be a lot more secure if Washington shifts the savings to us and helps us get out of this Great Recession.

President Ronald Reagan had some advice for confronting bureaucracies like this: “Starve the beast.” It’s time for those who call themselves Reagan’s heirs to take his advice and put the Pentagon on a diet.

Mike Prokosch is the national coordinator of the New Priorities Network. newprioritiesnetwork.org
Distributed via OtherWords.org.

Police Chief Says Carl’s Jr. Shooting ‘Tragic For All Involved’

February 9, 2012 by · 3 Comments 

An officer involved shooting that occurred nearly three weeks ago at the Monterey Park Carl’s Jr. fast food restaurant was “tragic for all involved,” Police Chief Jim Smith said in a brief statement at a recent city council meeting.

During the confrontation, Monterey Park police officers fired ten shots at 22-year old Chino Hills resident Steven Rodriguez, who died at the hospital. Smith said investigations by outside agencies are pending and declined to say more.

In the audience were family, friends and supporters of Rodriguez, still dressed in the black attire they donned for his funeral service in nearby Montebello earlier that evening.

Rodriguez had roots in the area, which included living in the cities of San Gabriel and Alhambra for years. He attended schools in the Garvey and San Gabriel school districts.

Monterey Park police officers responded on the morning of Jan. 23 to reports that Rodriguez was allegedly smashing in the windows of a Carl’s Jr. restaurant.

He was not deterred when officers used a Taser on him, according to a Sheriff’s report. Monterey Park police officers opened fire on him because Rodriguez allegedly swung twice at them, and they feared for their own safety, the report said.

Officer Everardo Romo and Agent Peter Palomino were identified as the two police officers involved in the shooting. Romo has been on the force for three years and Palomino for over twelve, according to Police Captain Eugene Harris. Both started their careers with the Monterey Park Police Department.

Monterey Park officials declined to speak further on the matter, referring all inquiries to the Sheriff’s department, which also declined to go into more detail beyond initial reports about what happened during the confrontation between Rodriguez and Monterey Park police.

According to the Los Angeles’ Coroner’s officials, an autopsy was performed on Rodriguez’s body, but the results are on a “security hold.”

The Monterey Park city attorney also strongly advised the city council not to discuss the shooting because there is a “threat of litigation” and a “pending investigation.”

A local political activist, Carlos Montes, spoke in support of Rodriguez during public comment at the Feb. 1 council meeting. “Causing a disturbance or breaking windows in my opinion is not a death sentence. In my opinion, the police overreacted to a situation that could have ended in a simple arrest,” he said, adding that an independent investigation of the incident should be conducted.

The shooting incident is being investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, as well as the Los Angeles District Attorney Justice System Integrity Division, a standard practice in cases of officer involved shootings.

Montes, a former Monterey Park resident now living in Alhambra, said the Sheriff’s own record with officer involved shootings has not been very good, and argued that law enforcement agencies will always defend their own.

“If you do not [conduct an independent investigation], the L.A. County Sheriff’s department may conclude that it was justifiable as they usually do, as they always do,” he said.

Montes, who describes himself as a Chicano activist, was involved with the Chicano Blowouts, a series of school walkouts in East Los Angeles protesting educational inequality. He was also part of the Brown Berets, an organization formed in the 1960s and 1970s by working class youth fighting a variety of issues affecting them, including problems with police harassment.

Monterey Park resident Greg Moss also weighed in on the shooting, saying he supports the police department.

“I think we’re fortunate that we have our own police department. I’ve made numerous calls to the Monterey Park police department in the years that I’ve lived here in Monterey Park, and I’ve found them to be very professional, [to have] very good response time,” he said. “They use good judgment and they’re very good about carrying out the laws to the best of their abilities… so I don’t have any doubt that the officers that were involved in the shooting were very saddened by having to take the action that they did, but they do have a right to defend themselves.”

Monterey Park police was involved in two shootings in the last year, according to Captain Harris.

On Easter Sunday, officers killed 63-year-old Edgar Battad during a gun battle on Newmark and Garvey. Last September, officers killed Samuel Liaw, 43, who, according to the Monterey Park police department, approached police with a butcher knife.

Both cases are still under investigation by the Sheriff’s department and the District Attorney’s office.

Map Does Not Sit Well With Northeast LA Residents

February 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Fewer than 100 people attended the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting meeting held Monday at Occidental College, where numerous Northeast Los Angeles area residents challenged new proposed district maps and called for boundary changes they said would better serve their communities of interest.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOLResidentes del Noreste de Los Ángeles Quieren Más Cambios a los Mapas de Redistribución

Earlier this month, the redistricting commission released draft maps that redraw the city’s 15 council districts to account for the population changes in the 2010 Census. Once approved, the district maps will remain in affect until 2020.

Across the city Angelenos are trying to make sense of new redistricting maps. Northeast L.A. residents had a change Monday to give feedback. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Under the proposed maps, Northeast LA could be split between three council districts — much as it is today. The new districts, seen by many as oddly shaped, would move Glassell Park into Council District 13, currently represented by councilman Eric Garcetti who is running for mayor of Los Angeles.

Mount Washington and Highland Park would become part of Council District 1, where Councilman Ed Reyes is completing his final term due to term limits. And while Jose Huizar’s 14th district loses those areas, the councilman gains most of Downtown Los Angeles.

At previous commission meetings, several Highland Park residents asked that their entire neighborhood— currently split between districts 1 and 14—be in a single council district. They got their wish, but the new maps are not a hit.

“When I see the map, I see CD-14 wrapping around this CD-1 area and it makes absolutely no sense,” said Highland Park resident and business owner Cathy Milligan. “We talk about having cohesive neighborhoods, well the Northeast is a single region and it should be treated that way.”

Milligan said she wants Highland Park to be in CD-14, where she has seen many improvements and an embracing of the arts; something she has not seen in CD-1.
Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council President Chris Smith said the new maps look like Highland Park was just carved out of Northeast LA. He said the Neighborhood Council wants Highland Park to be in the same council district as Eagle Rock.

Tony Bukta, who identified himself as a community activist from Glassell Park, said the new maps look as gerrymandered as they did 10 years ago, but added he thought CD-13 was a good fit for Glassell Park.

“Our experience has been, having three council people allows three people to ignore you instead of one. We are hopeful, however, that in the event that you respect the contiguous boundaries the city established when creating the Glassell Park area, that there is at least one person to go to with a higher degree of probability in achieving something…” he said.

Two smaller areas of Glassell Park assigned to CD-14 and CD-1 should also be moved to the 13th district, said Laura Gutierrez.

Mount Washington resident Stan Sosa told the commission that his neighborhood should be in the same district as other Northeast communities. A couple of speakers suggested that Boyle Heights be moved out of CD-14 in order to keep Northeast LA whole.

Speaking at the meeting, Huizar said he use to be in favor of a district having more than one representative, but has come to believe that it’s in a community’s long term interest to be in a single council district.

New Census numbers dictate that Council Districts 1, 13 and 14 grow by about 66,000 people altogether, and the crux is Northeast Los Angeles, he said.

Huizar said he was pleased with the addition of most of downtown to his district, where he has spearheaded a campaign to revitalize the Broadway business corridor.

While some speakers accused the commission of malfeasance, Commissioner Jose Cornejo, appointed by Councilman Tony Cardenas (CD-6), defended their work, which he described as laying out paperwork that was mismatched to begin with.

The final maps must be completed by March 1, 2012 and handed over to the City Council for review. They must adopt the final maps by July 1, 2012.

Public comments must be submitted by 5pm on Feb. 14. For more information, visit http://redistricting2011.lacity.org/LACITY/default.html

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