Recent Violence Sparks Debate Over Gang Injunction ‘Tool’

May 7, 2015 by · 2 Comments 

Former gang member Abraham Colunga recalls the morning he was arrested for violating an order prohibiting gang members from associating with other gang members.

He said he was walking his daughter to school when he was suddenly taken into custody by police. His alleged crime? Being asked by a neighbor sitting in a police patrol car to notify his family that he had been arrested, a violation of a South Gate gang injunction.

He says the short conversation led to his arrest.

Lea este artículo en Español: Reciente Aumento de Violencia Provoca Debate Sobre Ordenes Judiciales 

“…I was taken to jail for 90 days,” he said during a forum in Highland Park last week where panelists debated the value of gang injunctions as a crime fighting tool.

Colunga says gang injunctions make it harder for gang members to turn their lives around, to get jobs, or to even be with family.

Panelists, representing the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, Los Angeles Police Department, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), gang intervention programs as well as two former gang members, all agreed gang violence is a serious problem, each coming at the issue from the unique perspective of their jobs and what they’ve experienced.

The forum, hosted by the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, was held at Franklin High School. It comes on the heels of a recent surge in gang related shootings in Northeast Los Angeles.

A panel of representatives of law enforcement, organizations and real testimonies spoke about the gang injunctions on Thursday. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

A panel of representatives of law enforcement, organizations and real testimonies spoke about the gang injunctions on Thursday. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Capt. Jeffrey Bert with LAPD’s northeast division attributed the rising violence to feuding between the Avenues and HLP gangs in Highland Park. So far this year, gang related crime is up 67% compared to last year, Bert said. There were 20 shootings between Avenues and Highland Park between February 6, 2015 and April 18, 2015; some of the victims were innocent bystanders.

In response, LAPD has stepped up the number of officers patrolling the area as some residents  call for greater gang suppression tactics.

Gang injunctions are such a tool, said City Attorney Arturo Martinez, who explained injunctions are civil court orders prohibiting gang members from congregating with each other or committing crimes on behalf of the gang enterprise. Considered by law enforcement to be one of the most effective legal gang suppression tools, gang injunctions detail activities that are restricted in a an identified gang territory, such as tagging, selling or possessing drugs or a gun, drinking in public or staying out after an imposed curfew: all activities one panelists said are already crimes and don’t need a gang injunction to be considered illegal.

There are currently more than 46 permanent gang injunctions in place in Los Angeles, according to the City Attorney’s website. Three target gangs in Highland Park: Avenues, HLP and Dogtown.

How gang injunctions are obtained and enforced has changed over the years in response to what they’ve learned, explained Martinez.

He said the department no longer lists the names of believed gang members on the injunctions. Instead, they target the gang as a criminal entity, similar to what the federal government did with the Mafia. To convict someone of a gang injunction violation, there must be sufficient evidence proving the person acted in a way that benefits the gang and harms the community.

“We have served 504 members of Avenues since April 2003, 51 members of Dogtown since January 2009, and 141 members of Highland Park since December of 2006,” and that contributed to the large drop in crime we had before now, Capt. Bert said.

Catherine Wagner of the Southern California Chapter of the ACLU said gang injunctions violate an individual’s right to due process. She said some people don’t know they are subject to the injunction until they are arrested for violating a misdemeanor and have to prove in court why the gang injunction should not apply to them.

The process “puts the burden on the individual to prove he or she is not a gang member” when it should be the government proving it has cause to curtail your rights, Wagner said.

She said the injunctions criminalize activities most people take for granted, like visiting a family member in the hospital or going to a park, even when there is no evidence of illegal activity going on, and that’s wrong.

According to Alba S. Cerda, director of youth violence and gang prevention with Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, there is a strong disconnect between whether a person thinks of them self as a gang member and what law enforcement thinks. Young people living in a neighborhood with a strong gang presence will know gang members, they may even be friendly and associate publicly with them, or live in the same house, she said. But that doesn’t mean they consider themselves a member of the gang or are engaged in criminal activity or doing the gang’s bidding, she said, explaining the dynamics are very complex.

“Gang injunctions in the City of LA are permanent. Violating the terms of the injunction is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or $1,000 fine,” Rob Wilcox, director of community engagement and outreach for the City Attorney’s office told EGP via email.

During the forum however, Martinez said there is a process for removing one’s self from the injunction order, starting with an application on the city attorney’s website. To date, 130 people have applied for removal. Wilcox said the process takes some time to complete and can vary case to case depending on how long it takes to vet the information submitted.

Cerda sees gangs as a public health issue that needs to be solved, not with restraining orders, but with prevention and guidance. She said poverty and quality of life issues contribute to gang involvement. Ninety percent of the families her program serves don’t have transportation; as many as five or six people share a one bedroom apartment, she said.

“Law enforcement strategies are inadequate, there has to be a balance” between prevention and enforcement, she said.

“Youth 10-15 are the most vulnerable,” either because they come from multi-generational gang member families or due to the extreme poverty, Cerda said. They suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome; … from being in a home where a raid takes place, Cerda said.

“We need to invest as much as we can” to keep young people out of jail, agreed Bert.

LAPD Northeast Division Lt. John Cook applauds organizations like Aztecs Rising in Lincoln Heights that provide prevention and intervention service in the northeast area.

“They take them to places where they have never been,” he said. “They help them find jobs and help them finish school.”

L.A. recently approved an additional $5.5 million for Gang Reduction Youth Development (GRYD) programs.

Gemma Marquez teaches at Burbank Middle School and told EGP that meetings that only give out statistics are worthless. She hopes LAPD participates more with the community and provides real resources.

Citing his work with Childrens Hospital and other community groups working on prevention, Bert said northeast police are working to build partnerships in the community.

But there’s no denying that gang injunctions are still an important law enforcement tool that is helping LAPD suppress gang activity, he added.

“It’s very easy to call about crime, but it’s harder to fight it,” said Bert.

—-

Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

Franklin HS Volunteer Coach Charged With ‘Lewd Acts’ Involving Students

April 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A volunteer football coach at a high school in Highland Park was charged today with sexually assaulting two students.

Jaime Jimenez, 46, faces a maximum sentence of nearly 30 years in prison if convicted of 23 felony counts — five counts of sodomy of a person under 16, six counts of oral copulation of a person under 16 and 12 counts of lewd acts on a child.

Prosecutors allege Jimenez, who was arrested Thursday, committed the crimes away from school grounds between August 2002 and December 2014.

Jimenez was removed from his post at Franklin High School, Los Angeles Unified School District officials said last week. They said the LAUSD was cooperating with the Los Angeles Police Department investigation.

Jimenez has coached football since 1998, and investigators believe he “may have victimized former students who are now adults and are urging them to come forward,” according to an LAPD statement.

Anyone with information about the case is urged to call LAPD at (323) 344-5742.

Hundreds March Against Violence

April 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Hundreds of people took part Saturday in the 8th Annual Peace in the Northeast march in response to the increase of shootings, assaults and domestic violence cases in the neighborhood.

Councilmember Gil Cedillo (CD-1) along with elected officials and LAPD officers kicked off the event at Franklin High School and walked to Sycamore Park where a resource fair took place.

(Photo courtesy of office of Councilman Gil Cedillo)

(Photo courtesy of office of Councilman Gil Cedillo)

Crime Hike Bolsters Mission of Peace in the Northeast March

April 16, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Northeast Los Angeles stakeholders will take part in an annual peace march and resource fair this Saturday to focus people’s attention on fighting violence in their neighborhoods.

The first peace march in 2008 was organized by area churches, community groups, and Northeast area police to counteract fear generated by a rash of violent crime that had claimed several lives.

Police estimated that two to three thousand people attended the event.

In many ways, this year’s peace march and resource fair have the same goal.

More than a dozen gang-related shootings over the last two months have caused police and the community to again mobilize efforts to combat the violence.

The march, which starts at 11 a.m. at Franklin High School and ends at Sycamore Grove Park where a resource fair will await, is being billed as a positive opportunity to meet neighbors and indentify resources for getting involved.

At a meeting hosted by the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council last month, Northeast area police said the community can no longer stay quiet about what they know. They urged residents to join Neighborhood Watch groups and to call police with information they have about crime in their neighborhoods.

Police said they can’t do it alone, and explained that groups like Aztec Risings are their partners in the community.

Aztec Risings is part of the Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) network, a public charity that collaborates with the city and community partners to reduce crime and violence in the city’s most gang-plagued communities. In the Northeast/Cypress Park zone, Aztecs Risings is in charge of providing gang intervention services to individuals and the community.

LAPD Northeast Division Lt. John Cook told EGP that his officers refer information about at-risk youth and families to Aztecs Risings, which then sends one of its 20 community intervention workers to offer help to crime victims and their families and to explain the different programs they offer.

Aztecs Risings tries to mitigate the tensions between rival gangs, said Cook. “They encourage gang members to participate in community events,” he added.

Peter Quezada, community intervention worker with Aztecs Risings told EGP that gang members  “play a deadly game” with real consequences, but too often they don’t realize it until something really bad happens, such as the recent shootings where innocent victims were hit by gunfire intended for rival gang members.

Quezada said that young people are easy targets because they  are lured by offers of drugs, alcohol, women, adventure, money, etc. They don’t realize the downside of those offers until they are in deep trouble, he said.

“There are many gang members that end up homeless,” Quezada said. “Once your primetime as a gang member has passed …you lose your family, your friends and because there is no income coming in, you end up in the street,” he said.

Most of the youth Aztecs Risings works with are between 14- and 25-years-old, but some are as young as 8, he said.

Quezada said those under 18 take part in a variety of positive activities, such as community events, painting murals, and recreational and extracurricular activities. Those over 18 are encouraged to find a job or get a high school diploma. They get help with resume building and are encouraged to participate in community events as well.

Quezada told EGP they also offer presentations in elementary, middle and high schools of the Northeast area.

The group will be taking part in the Peace March in the Northeast event Saturday.

Local council district offices will also help connect residents to their local Neighborhood Watch, or help set one up if none exist.

The fair will include entertainment, health information and a variety of family-friendly events.

For more information on the peace march, visit the Peace in the Northeast Facebook page.

Those interested in Aztec Risings’ program, can call (323) 441-0187 or visit them at 3516 N. Broadway Avenue 90031.

Pedestrian Fatally Struck by Gold Line Train in Highland Park

April 13, 2015 by · 5 Comments 

[Updated: April 16, 12:10 p.m.]

A pedestrian was struck and killed by a Metro Gold Line light train Monday morning in Highland Park.

At around 11:13 a.m., a Metro train traveling southbound struck a pedestrian at Avenue 61 and Figueroa Street, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The fatally injured man was in his 30s, said coroner’s Chief Craig Harvey. His name was not immediately released.

Los Angeles Police Department officials said the death was being investigated as a possible suicide.

Authorities were on the scene in Highland Park of a train-on-pedestrian accident on Monday. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Authorities were on the scene in Highland Park of a train-on-pedestrian accident on Monday. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Several witnesses at the scene said it appeared the man intentionally walked in front of the train. Ivan Gomez-Moron and Gena Lopez were both relaxing in the park just a few feet away and said they noticed the man—described as Latino, 35-40 years old—watching the trains pass by.

Gomez-Moron told EGP he at first thought the man was a “Metro or city employee” because he was wearing a blue shirt, blue pants, black shoes and carrying a bag, but noticed the man was acting suspicious.

“It looks like he was building courage to jump,” Gomez-Moron said.

The victim watched two trains go by then disappeared from sight when a third train passed by, witnesses said. Hearing the loud noise caused by the crash, Lopez and Gomez-Moran said they ran to investigate; that’s when they noticed the man’s bag on the ground where he had been standing.

“The Metro was making popping noises” and then it stopped, Lopez said. “That’s when I knew the train had hit him.”

Several other people said they too heard loud noises and then saw small pieces of debris flying in the air.

Gomez-Moron said he picked up the man’s discarded bag and noticed before turning it over to police that “there was a bible inside.”

None of the 70 passengers on board the train were seriously injured, Metro spokesperson Luis Inzunza told EGP. He said all the passengers were interviewed before being released.

The train’s female operator was in shock and transported to receive counseling services, according to Inzunza.

Buses were initially brought in to shuttle passengers between the Southwest Museum and South Pasadena stations until mid-afternoon, when service resumed with trains sharing a track at the Highland Park station. At about 5:30 p.m., service resumed on both tracks, but Metro spokesman Joe Lemon said service was still limited, with three-car trains running every 20 minutes.

Regular service has since resumed.

According to Lemon, The Gold Line is Metro’s safest rail line, said Lemon, adding that the two fatalities on the rail line since it opened in 2003 were both suicides. LAPD Officer Herrera said they are asking any witnesses of the incident to call the Northeast Station at (323) 344-5701.

[An earlier version of this article did not have the correct year the rail line opened.]

Information from City News Service used in this report.

Surge in Highland Park Gang Shootings Has People Worried

April 9, 2015 by · 6 Comments 

Two people were shot in broad daylight Tuesday in Highland Park near the 300 block of North Avenue 59 and Terrace Drive, just blocks from a parochial school and in an area of mostly single-family homes.

The shooting brings to 14 the number of gang-related shootings in less than two months, and the number of people injured to 11.

At 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to police, a suspect in a silver vehicle opened fire on the victims, still unidentified but described as two male Latinos, ages 19 and 22. The victims are said to be in stable condition, according to LAPD Commander Robert Argos.

Lea este artículo en Español: Incremento de Tiroteos en Highland Park Preocupa a Residentes

The latest shooting comes less than a week after worried residents packed a meeting at the Highland Park Senior Center to hear what police and city officials are doing to get the rash of shootings under control.

This is a turf war between two rival gangs – Avenues and HLP – but not all the victims are gang members, said Capt. Anthony Oddo of the Los Angeles Police Dept.’s Northeast Division. He said the majority of the victims injured are males between the ages of 18 and 29. None of the shooters have been arrested.

The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council hosted the April 2 meeting, with representatives of the two city council districts in the area, CD-1 and CD-14, Supervisor Hilda Solis and the city attorney’s office in attendance.

LAPD Commissioner Sandra Figueroa Villa, Commander Robert Arcos, and ranking officers assigned to the Northeast Division were also out in force, doing most of the talking, answering questions and taking criticism from residents.

We know there is a problem and we are getting reinforcements, including more patrol units and special teams from other areas, Oddo said.

He pointed out the boldness of the shootings, several of which took place in broad daylight with many people around.

A pattern repeated Tuesday.

And at 7 p.m. on Feb. 25 at the Highland Park Recreation Center where two innocent females were injured by gunfire police say was targeted at two HLP gang members, but missed its mark. The suspect or suspects are believed to be members of the Avenues, LAPD’s Northeast Gang Unit Lt. John Cook told EGP.

On March 22, a person in a car was shot at Garvanza Park. The shooting took place at 5 p.m. as a youth baseball game was being played at the crowded park. Police suspect the shooting was in retaliation for an Avenues’ shooting the night before, Cook said.

It appears HLP has targeted the Avenues 8 times, and the Avenue targeted HLP 5 times, Cook added.

Tuesday’s shooting was in HLP territory.

“We have people in the neighborhood, they are probably witnesses, but they are not coming forth” because they’re afraid, Cook said.

“It’s very rare that a shooting will happen in front of us” so we need the public’s help, he said.

Last week, Oddo said 105 arrests have been made in the Highland Park area during the same period, but none have led to the shooters.

LAPD officers explain when and where the 13 shootings happened at a meeting in Highland Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

LAPD officers explain when and where the 13 shootings happened at a meeting in Highland Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

You may not be sure if it’s important, but the smallest bit of information may lead somewhere, he said, urging people to call police. You can do it anonymously, he added.

Several residents complained they’ve seen this coming for months, noting the increase in graffiti and “cross outs,” the practice of one gang crossing out the tag of a rival that often leads to violent retaliation.

They said they call the graffiti in right away to get it cleaned up and to try to stop the violence that could come next, but wanted to know what else they could do.

Call in what you see, get to know your neighbors, form a neighborhood watch, were among the suggestions.

“We cannot do this alone, we need the community to get involved,” officers said.

In a neighborhood where there’s been a lot of debate over the value of gentrification, it should be noted that the majority of people at the meeting are long time Highland Park residents. Several people who spoke or asked questions said they have lived in the neighborhood for decades and remember all to well the violence of past gang wars.

We know the signs, said neighborhood council President Monica Alcaraz before asking those who have lived in the community for 20 years or longer to raise their hand: 80% did.

Residents expressed concern that the governor’s prison realignment and passage of Proposition 47 are sending criminals released early from jail back into their neighborhood.

One speaker said gang members are hanging out at homeless encampments and she’s heard the homeless are being paid with drugs to burglarize local homes and cars.

Resident Richard Marquez said it’s time to stop dancing around and talk about the real issue: Highland Park has a big problem with meth dealers and users and it’s big money. “Meth dealers pay taxes to gang members.” To stop the shootings you have to shut down the drug trade, he said.

Cook said they are closely monitoring gang members coming out of jail.

Former Highland Park resident Lily Herrera said she is worried about her mother who still lives in the neighborhood. She believes years of mistrust of the police is keeping people from saying what they know. “The community is afraid because there’s a barrier,” Herrera said.

She suggested LAPD explore more strategies to reach out to the community.

Teacher Gemma Marquez demanded to know why police are not regularly visiting local elementary schools to develop those relationships. Like going to the dentist twice a year to prevent cavities, police should visit schools twice a year to give at risk-students a positive view of police, she said.

“We know who the at-risk kids are,” she said. “We know the families, we see them as early as kindergarten.”

She also criticized officers for not notifying Garvanza Elementary to go on lock-down during the shooting at Garvanza Park. “Where were you! We should have been called.”

Oddo apologized for not considering students were still at the afterschool program at 5 p.m. when the shooting occured.

Cook told EGP it’s difficult for the Northeast LAPD Gang Unit—comprised of 15 officers and two sergeants—to participate in school appearances. “If we are called upon to go to a school to make a presentation [during the day] we will do it, but understand, that takes away our primary function to be out on the street when there’s criminal activity,” he said. “Shootings occur at night.”

That’s one of the reasons police turn over the names of identified gang members or at-risk youth to intervention groups such as Aztecs Rising, part of the Gang Reduction Youth Development (GRYD) program in Northeast L.A.

Cook said the LAPD Gang Unit tries to be at as many public events as possible, such as Aztecs Rising’s Easter Egg Hunt last Saturday or during the Summer Night Light Program. That’s the opportunity to talk to young children, he said.

According to Cook, police have identified two people involved in the Garvanza shooting “[who] may be the shooters in perhaps two or three other shootings.”

Residents can learn more about the violence and local resources at two upcoming events: the Annual Peace in the Northeast March and Resource Fair on April 18, and a forum on gang injunctions April 30 at the Highland Park Senior Center.

“The days of not getting involved have to end, said Oddo, “if they don’t, the shootings won’t stop.”

—-

Twitter @egpnews

@jackieguzman

galvarez@egpnews.com

jgarcia@egpnews.com

Surge in Highland Park Gang Shootings Has People Worried

April 3, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Worried about a rash of gang-related shootings in their neighborhood, residents packed a meeting at the Highland Park Senior Center Thursday night to hear what police are doing to get the situation under control.

A turf war between two rival gangs – Avenues and HLP – is being blamed for the 13 shootings, 9 people shot, in less than two months. Not all the victims were gang members, said Capt. Anthony Oddo of the Los Angeles Police Dept. Northeast Division.

He pointed out the boldness of the shootings, several which took place in broad daylight with many people around.

The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council hosted the meeting, with representatives of the two city council districts that cover the area, CD-1 and CD-14, LAPD Police Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa, Supervisor Hilda Solis and the city attorney’s office in attendance.

Ranking officers assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Northeast Division were out in force and did most of the talking, answering questions and taking criticism from residents.

Northeast police know there is a problem and we are getting reinforcements, including more patrol units and special teams from other areas, Oddo said.

But we are getting very little information from the public about the shootings and none of the shooters are in custody, he said.

“Victims are not talking to us … they are not gang members; they’re scared,” the captain said, adding the department needs the public’s help to stop the shootings.

There has been 105 arrests in the Highland Park area during the same period, but none have led to the shooters, he said, but he’s hopeful one may still lead to a suspect.

You may not be sure if it’s important, but the smallest bit of information, things heard from other people can be looked into and may lead somewhere, he said, urging people to call police with any information they may have.

Several residents complained they’ve seen this coming for some time, noting the increase in graffiti and “cross outs,” the practice of one gang crossing out the tag of a rival, which often leads to violent retaliation.

They say they call the graffiti in right away to get cleaned up to try to stop the violence that could come next, but wanted to know what else they could do.

Call in what you see, get to know your neighbors, form a neighborhood watch, were among the suggestions.

“We cannot do this alone, we need the community to get involved,” officers said.

Residents say they are worried AB 109 and the governor’s prison realignment, and passage of Proposition 47, are sending criminals released early from jail back into their neighborhood.

One speaker said gang members are hanging out at homeless encampments and  she’s heard the homeless are being paid with drugs to burglarize local homes and cars.

Resident Richard Marquez said it’s time to stop dancing around and talk about the real issue: Highland Park has a big problem with meth dealers and users, and it’s big money. “Meth dealers pay taxes to gang members” and the way to stop the shootings is to shut down the drug trade, he said.

“There’s a fight for the financial gain of the drug turf in the neighborhoods,” Marquez said.

Lt. John Cook is in charge of Northeast’s gang reduction unit and said they are closely monitoring the gang members coming out of jail.

Are there still gang injunctions in place? someone asked.

There are three gang injunctions—a court-issued restraining order prohibiting known gang members from congregating with each other— in place, (Avenues, Dogtown, HLP), but they don’t apply to new gang members, according to Cook.

Former Highland Park resident Lily Herrera said she is worried about her mother who still lives in the neighborhood. Years of mistrust of the police by residents is keeping people from saying what they know. “The community is afraid because there’s a barrier” when it comes to communication, she said.

She suggested LAPD explore more strategies to reach out to the community.

Teacher Gemma Marquez demanded to know why police are not regularly visiting local elementary schools to develop those relationships. “We know who the at-risk kids are,” she said. “We know the families, we see them as early as kindergarten,” and the police need to present a different view.

She also criticized officers for not notifying Garvanza Elementary to go on lock-down during a recent shooting at a nearby park. “Where were you! We should have been called.”

Oddo apologized for not considering students were still at the afterschool program at 5 p.m. when the shooting occurred.

LAPD has “very little coming in” from the community and that’s frustrating, said Oddo. He said his top priority is the violence in the Northeast, but said he needs people to call them when they see something.

Two upcoming events will provide more information and resources to the community: the Annual Peace in the Northeast March and Resource Fair on April 18, and a forum on gang injunctions April 30 at the Highland Park Senior Center.

Updated 04-06-15 to add LAPD Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa attended the meeting.

Highland Park Neighborhood Council Supports El Super Boycott

March 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council (HHPNC) approved a resolution March 19 supporting a union-backed consumer boycott of the El Super grocery chain, which has a store on York Boulevard in Highland Park.

The retail chain is locked in a labor dispute with the Southern California United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)—which represents about 575 employees at seven of El Super’s 49 stores in California, Arizona, and Nevada.

El Super grocery stores primarily cater to Latino consumers in low-income neighborhoods.

The HHPNC is the 17th Los Angeles neighborhood council to vote to support the boycott. More than 100 community groups have also passed resolutions urging people to not shop at El Super supermarkets, according to the UFCW.

Union workers at El Super stores have been working without a contract since September 2013, when a five-year bargaining agreement ended and negotiations to renew the contract broke down over wages and working conditions.

El Super “refused to negotiate a fair contract” for employees, according to UFCW.

HPPNC Secretary Johanna Sanchez told EGP that UCFW sought out the support of the 19-member council, which represents over 60,000 Los Angeles “stakeholders who reside, own property, or conduct businesses in the neighborhood.”

Los Angeles’ system of neighborhood councils advise the city on a number of issues, ranging from land use to traffic, and are increasingly taking positions on issues not directly related to city policies, but which some councils have said are related to quality of life and larger social issues.

Highland Park’s boycott approval was made without input from El Super, but not for a lack of trying, said Sanchez.

She said she contacted El Super headquarters several times via telephone and email to get the company to weigh-in. She also spoke with Jorge Palacios, assistant manager of the Highland Park store. The night before the meeting, Community Relations Manager Frank Aguirre Jr. finally responded and requested more information, which was “sent immediately,” Sanchez said.

“I provided both men the date and time of the meeting. I emailed the agenda … and no one showed up … and no one contacted us,” she said.

HHPNC’s resolution states the group supports the “creation of good jobs in our communities that provide living wages, adequate paid sick leave, seniority protections, and enough guaranteed hours so full-time workers can earn enough to support their families,” and therefore supports the boycott.

El Super’s “last, best, and final” offer made in April 2014 does not meet these goals, according to the union.

El Super decided not to “participate [in the meeting] upon learning that it was orchestrated by the same group that has launched a misinformation campaign against our stores and our employees,” company spokesman Frank Aguirre told EGP via email.

“While we respect the right of any group to express its opinions, the misinformation campaign launched by the UFCW is part of a misguided attempt to pressure El Super to re-enter into collective bargaining negotiations that El Super considers resolved.”

The majority of El Super stores are non-unionized. The 7 represented by UFCW were formerly Gigante stores and purchased by El Super in 2008. All of the stores had a union contract, and EL Super agreed to a new five-year contract following the purchase.

Mexico-based Grupo Comercial Chedraui, the country’s third largest retailer, owns 81% of Bodega Latina Corp., which owns and operates El Super. The retailer employs about 3,000 people in L.A. County, according to Rigoberto Valdez, vice-president of UCFW Local 770.

In February 2014, UFCW, backed by several community groups, launched a campaign to call attention to what it alleges are unsanitary conditions and out of date product being sold at El Super stores. One of several press conferences was held at the retail chain’s Highland Park store.

The neighborhood council based its decision on what it heard from the union workers, according to Sanchez, who admits she used to buy her produce at El Super but never noticed anything wrong there. “It wasn’t until recently that we heard of sanitation issues” in their stores, she said.

Fermin Rodriguez told EGP he was fired in January after nine years working at El Super Store #13 in Los Angeles. He said the retailer never allowed him to work full-time, only giving him 32 hours per week and on rare occasions, 36 hours.

“[El Super] does not want to pay higher salaries, but they [do] make a lot of money,” he told EGP. It’s “thanks to our labor the company is doing so well,” he said.

According to Aguirre, the majority of El Super employees are full-time, averaging 37.7 hours a week and both full- and part-time employees enjoy a slate of competitive benefits, “including medical, dental and vision plan options, a company sponsored 401k, and sick days that exceed current state requirements, among other benefits.”

UCFW launched the consumer boycott in December 2014 and is actively soliciting support from organizations and the city’s various neighborhood councils, particularly those in areas with an El Super store.

Some of the neighborhood councils that support the boycott are Mid-City, Central Alameda, South Central, Voices of 90037, United Neighbors, Watts, West Adams and Zapata/King among others.

The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council was scheduled to vote last night on a resolution to support the boycott.

Metro to Review CEO Candidates

March 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board will hold a closed-door meeting today to consider candidates to become the agency’s next CEO.

CEO Art Leahy announced in January that he will be stepping down April 5, when his contract with Metro ends.

It’s unclear if the board will choose a new CEO during the meeting.

Metro spokesman Marc Littman said if a decision is made, it will be announced following the closed-door session, which begins at 9 a.m.

Leahy, 65, has been the CEO for six years. He grew up in Highland Park and began his career in the transportation industry as a Los Angeles bus driver in 1971. He rose through the ranks of various agencies, and served a stint as CEO of the Orange County Transportation Authority. He also managed the transportation agency in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

During his tenure as Metro CEO, the agency introduced the Silver Line express bus service from El Monte to Artesia, the Orange Line extension to Chatsworth and a $1.2 billion upgrade of the Metro Blue Line.

He also led the city through two so-called “Carmageddon” events, during which the San Diego (405) Freeway underwent weekend-long closures to accommodate work on roadway improvements and widening in the Sepulveda Pass.

Leahy earns about $325,500 a year as Metro CEO. Littman said the salary for the new CEO would be negotiated as part of contract talks, and there is no set salary range for the position.

Man Fatally Struck by Driver in Highland Park

March 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

(CNS) – A 24-year-old man was allegedly speeding and drunk while driving a 2015 Chevy Camaro that crossed into opposing traffic lanes in the Highland Park section of Los Angeles, killing a 68-year-old man driving a Hyundai Elantra in a head-on crash, police said Sunday.

Firefighters and paramedics were dispatched to the collision in the 4600 block of Marmion Way at 9:40 p.m. Saturday, Erik Scott of Los Angeles Fire Department said.

The Hyundai driver died at the scene. He was identified as Samir Michel of Los Angeles, coroner’s Lt. Larry Dietz said.

The suspect – a Los Angeles resident whose name was being withheld – allegedly had been driving at least 80 mph just prior to the crash and suffered head trauma and an injury to a leg.

He was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, Los Angeles police Officer Norma Eisenman said.

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