Monterey Park Raises Funds For Sister City Struck By Typhoon

January 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

(EGPNews) — A relief campaign is underway for Monterey Park’s typhoon-ravaged sister city of Nachikatsuura, Japan.

Typhoon Talas struck Sept. 3, 2011, leaving 34 residents dead, 55 missing and extensive damage to hundreds of homes. Among the residents killed were the wife and daughter of Nachikatsuura Mayor Shinichi Teramoto. His home was completely washed away.

The Monterey Parks Sister City Association is seeking donations large or small to help in the sister city’s recovery efforts. Checks payable to the Monterey Park Sister City Association can be mailed to c/o Sally Yamada, Treasurer, 1517 El Camino Dr., Montebello, 90640. Questions can be directed to David. K. Ikeda at (213) 505-6736.

Nachikatsuura was Monterey Park’s first sister city, established in 1968, and relations between the two cities have included a student exchange program.

January 12, 2012 Issue

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Tiempo Critico para Registrarse para Votar por Correo en la Elección Presidencial de México

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Durante las últimas semanas, las caravanas de inmigrantes mexicanos que viven legalmente en los Estados Unidos han estado viajando a Tijuana y otras ciudades Mexicanas para solicitar un credencial de elector, en algunos casos acompañados por organizaciones, con la esperanza de lograr votar en las próximas elecciones presidenciales de México.

Read this story IN ENGLISH: Time Crunch On For Mexicans In U.S. to Vote In Mexico’s 2012 Election

Una credencial de elector es un requisito para votar en México, y por ley, sólo pueden ser emitidos en territorio mexicano por el Instituto Federal Electoral (IFE), una organización pública autónoma, que lleva a cabo las elecciones federales. Sin credencial de elector, los mexicanos que viven fuera del país no pueden emitir un voto ausente por correo.

La fecha límite para registrarse para votar por correo es el domingo, 15 de enero. La fecha límite no se aplica a los ciudadanos mexicanos que deseen regresar al país para votar.

Martín López, activista mexicano en Los Ángeles, ha estado ayudando a compatriotas mexicanos a inscribirse para votar a través de la página web del IFE, www.VotoExtranjero.mx para la próxima elección presidencial mexicana de 2012. Hace diez días, 10 personas asistidas por organizaciones locales realizaron el viaje de ida y vuelta desde Los Ángeles a la frontera, y ocho personas más estaban programadas para hacer el viaje ese mismo día, dijo López a EGP la semana pasada.

Felipe Sánchez, inmigrante mexicano que no se identifica como activista, ha estado ayudando a los votantes mexicanos, que legalmente pueden cruzar la frontera, para registrarse para votar.

“Hay varias historias… hemos tenido a personas de la tercera edad  que trajeron su credencial de elector con la fotografía de cuando tenían 18 años de edad, es grande la diferencia en su apariencia”, dijo Sánchez.

Numerosas organizaciones locales—tales como Vamos Unidos USA, The Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, Federación de Clubes y Organizaciones de Zacatecanos, y MORENA—han estado trabajando para conseguir mayor participación por electores en el extranjero.

Pocos inmigrantes mexicanos que residen en los Estados Unidos cruzan en realidad la frontera para votar, dijo Juan José Gutiérrez, de la Coalición de los Plenos Derechos de los Inmigrantes y Vamos Unidos USA. Los que lo hacen van por razones simbólicas, no porque sea más conveniente, él dijo.

Gutiérrez y otros activistas alegan que el requisito del credencial de elector en México priva de derechos a la mayoría de los ciudadanos mexicanos residentes en el extranjero que son elegibles para votar, porque no pueden regresar al país ya sea por su estado de inmigrante o por el costo del viaje.

Para obtener un credencial de elector, un ciudadano mexicano debe presentar los documentos requeridos a la oficina del IFE en México, luego hay un período mínimo de dos semanas de espera para que la tarjeta sea aprobada y emitida. Para los mexicanos que residen legalmente en los Estados Unidos pero no cerca de la frontera, el costo de comprar un boleto de avión, faltar al trabajo y financiar los gastos de hasta seis semanas mientras esperan que la tarjeta sea emitida no es algo asequible, dijo Gutiérrez.

“Aunque las autoridades mexicanas presumen de lo mucho que han avanzado en el proceso democrático en la medida en que los mexicanos votan en el extranjero, aún queda mucho trabajo por hacer porque los derechos democráticos no están completamente extendidos por el gobierno mexicano para que los mexicanos voten en el extranjero”, dijo Gutiérrez EGP.

El resultado es la negación sistemática del derecho al voto de la mayoría de la población de edad de votar que vive fuera del país, dijo Gutiérrez.

“Se le impide votar al setenta por ciento… sólo aquellos que tienen visas o ciudadanía de los Estados Unidos y viven cerca de la frontera de México con Estados Unidos, y están dispuestos a ir a una oficina del IFE y superar todos los obstáculos, puede obtener una tarjeta de identificación para votar por correo, él dijo.

Desde 1917, la Constitución mexicana garantiza el derecho al voto a todos los mexicanos, incluidos los que viven en el extranjero, por lo que el actual sistema electoral es inconstitucional, insiste Gutiérrez.

“En lo que a mí respecta, todas las elecciones mexicanas que se han realizado son ilegítimas porque se ha excluido una importante población en edad de votar en el extranjero, especialmente en los Estados Unidos”, él dijo.

Funcionarios del IFE estiman que en California, cerca de 5.000 ciudadanos mexicanos y las personas con doble ciudadanía de Estados Unidos y México, ya se han inscrito para votar por correo.

La mayoría son probablemente del área de Los Ángeles, como fue el caso en 2006, cuando 12.000 votos se originaron en el área de Los Ángeles, de acuerdo con el Consejero Electoral del IFE Francisco Javier Guerrero Aguirre y la Coordinadora del Voto en el Exterior Dalia Moreno.

Los electores mexicanos que viven fuera del país y que con éxito se registraron para votar recibirán sus boletas por correo a partir de abril. Las boletas deben ser recibidas por el IFE para el 30 de junio—un día antes de la elección.

Desde octubre, IFE proporciona asistencia en la oficina del consulado a aquellos que ya cuentan con un credencial de elector pero necesitan asistencia para registrarse por medio de la Internet. Foto de EGP por Gloria Angelina Castillo

2006 fue la última elección presidencial mexicana y la primera vez que el gobierno mexicano, a través del IFE, permitió el voto ausente de mexicanos en el exterior. Cincuenta mil se inscribieron para votar desde el extranjero, pero sólo alrededor de 32.000 votaron, dijo Guerrero Aguirre. México elige a un presidente cada seis años.

IFE fue creado hace 21 años después que los mexicanos en ambos lados de la frontera presionaron para reformar el proceso electoral en México para que fuera más transparente.

Varios activistas alegan que miles de votos fueron descalificados en el año 2006, cambiando el resultado de las elecciones presidenciales, y “robándole” la presidencia a Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Otros dicen que Felipe Calderón fue electo en forma legítima.

Mientras que el IFE reconoce que el proceso por correspondencia actual es demasiado restrictivo para los mexicanos indocumentados y legales que viven en los Estados Unidos, sólo el congreso de México puede cambiar los requisitos, dijo Guerrero Aguirre a EGP.

IFE considera que hay dos posibles formas de abordar el problema: encontrar un mecanismo para emitir credenciales fuera de México, y permitir la votación presencial en ciertos lugares. El cambio tendría que ser aprobado por el Congreso de la Republica de México, que no parece dispuesto a apoyar este alcance para ampliar el número de votantes mexicanos en el extranjero.

“Creo lo que hace falta ahora es una mayor voluntad política por parte de los partidos políticos mayoritarios en México para entrarle ya sin tantas excusas a un modelo que permite que participen de manera mayoritaria los Mexicanos”, dijo Guerrero Aguirre. “Creo que ha habido precaución en tono a un modelo restrictivo por razones que son entendibles: el gran volumen de mexicanos que viven en los estados unidos, el impacto que estos podrían tener en el proceso político y las propias dificultades técnicas y económicas para poder llevar acabo un modelo de estas características.”

El presupuesto del IFE en el extranjero fue reducido en un 60 por ciento por el Congreso en comparación a la elección de 2006, señaló Moreno. Pero han hecho “más con menos”, llevando a cabo dos “innovaciones”, ella explicó.

A diferencia de 2006, el gasto del votante para enviar una boleta de ausente era $8 a $12, este año no hay cobro. Y durante varios meses, el IFE ha colocado módulos de asistencia en los consulados que sirven a una gran población mexicana, cómo aquí en Los Ángeles. Estos cambios resultaron de las recomendaciones formuladas tras las elecciones del 2006, dijo Moreno. IFE también ha reclutado 60 organizaciones locales para difundir información, ella agregó.

El presupuesto del IFE se redujo debido a que la poca respuesta de los electores residentes en el exterior en 2006 no justifica el costo de la campaña anterior, señala la Dra. Emily Acevedo, profesora adjunta de la Universidad de California en Los Ángeles.

Ella dice que la tarjeta de credencial de elector es un punto fuerte en el sistema electoral de México, que ayuda a prevenir el fraude electoral. Además de tener una foto del elector, la tarjeta también tiene huella digital de la persona.

Mientras se debaten más estrictos requisitos de identificación de votación en los Estados Unidos, el requisito de identificación para los ciudadanos de Estados Unidos que desean inscribirse para votar desde el extranjero varían de estado a estado, de acuerdo con Kate Meadows  del Programa Federal de Asistencia Electoral. Mientras que los ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos no pueden votar en persona en lugares fuera del país, pueden votar utilizando el proceso de votación en ausencia, dijo.

“Mientras que algunos estados no exigen una tarjeta de identificación con una Solicitud de Tarjeta Postal Federal (FPCA, por sus siglas en inglés) otros estados aceptan licencia de conducir del estado o número de identificación del Estado—o exigen el número de seguro social del votante”, dijo Meadows en un correo electrónico.

La apatía de los votantes, sin embargo, es un problema serio en los Estados Unidos así como lo es para los mexicanos que viven en el extranjero. Para los mexicanos en los Estados Unidos que no son inmigrantes recientes, la apatía puede ser debido a que ya no tienen fuertes lazos con México, o planes para el regreso. Es posible que no sientan que tienen un interés en la seguridad y la viabilidad del gobierno de México, dijo Acevedo.

La desilusión de los votantes con el gobierno mexicano es también un problema. Muchos inmigrantes creen que el gobierno es corrupto, en algunos lugares indistinguible del crimen organizado. Por lo que toman una actitud de “¿por qué molestarse en votar?”, señalan algunas personas.

No está claro cuantos posibles votantes mexicanos viven fuera del país, pero el IFE estima que 2 a 3 millones en los Estados Unidos podrían ser elegibles para eventualmente obtener un credencial de elector.

Guerrero Aguirre señala un doble fenómeno: hay mexicanos que no votan en los Estados Unidos y que no votan en México, “entonces dejan en manos de otro las decisiones y eso es evidentemente lo peor que le podría pasar a un ciudadano,” él finalizó.

Se insta que los ciudadanos mexicanos que poseen un credencial de elector se inscriban a más tardar el sábado, 14 de enero, para emitir el voto en ausencia. Para mayor información visite www.votoextanjero.mx, llame al 1-866-986-306 o envíe un correo electrónico a cove@ife.org.mx

Esta nota fue traducida a Español por Marvelia Alpizar, traductora independiente y periodista bilingüe. This story was translated to Spanish by Marvelia Alpizar, freelance translator and bilingual journalist, she can be reached via email at malpzar@gmail.com

Empleados Suertudos de una Escuela de Commerce Ganan la Lotería por Segunda Vez

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

La primera vez que sucedió, todos recibieron un nuevo comienzo.

Becky Castro pagó sus deudas de tarjetas de crédito y de un par de préstamos. Otros usaron sus ganancias para pagar sus hipotecas, facturas médicas, y la matrícula universitaria de sus hijos.

“Si hablas con cada persona, obtendrás historias diferentes”, dijo Castro, uno de once empleados de la primaria Bandini que se ganaron $12 millones en el SuperLotto en febrero.

El viernes pasado, la mayor parte de los mismos empleados, incluyendo Castro, lograron ganar por segunda vez, esta vez un premio de $262.743 en la lotería MEGA Millions.

Read this story IN ENGLISH: Commerce School Employees Win Lottery Twice

El grupo de dieciséis que ganó esta vez incluye nueve de los ganadores originales de febrero. La mayoría han jugando la lotería juntos durante los últimos tres años. El grupo está formado por empleados de oficina y administradores de la escuela, empleados de tiempo completo tanto como trabajadores de tiempo parcial.

“Todos del grupo tenemos una perspectiva muy positiva. Nuestra lema es ‘Estamos jugando para ganar.’ Después de ganar por primera vez, simplemente creíamos, sentíamos que iba a suceder de nuevo”, dijo Castro.

El billete ganador fue comprado en Arrow Liquor, ubicado en 2177 South Atlantic Boulevard en Commerce. El billete hizo juego con los números 48, 24, 51, 56 y 30, sólo le faltó el número Mega 45.

Entre los ganadores de primera vez esta la Directora de la Escuela Deanna Plascencia, quien dijo que la generosidad de los ganadores fue lo que les volvió a traer suerte.

Ella dijo que después de ganar la primera lotería, los empleados de la escuela utilizaron parte de sus ganancias para comprar un nuevo sistema de sonido para reemplazar el antiguo que sólo amplificaba la mitad de lo que se decía.

El nuevo sistema de sonido ahora se utiliza para realizar reuniones en honor de los estudiantes que logran sus objetivos de rendimiento mensuales, para eventos especiales y oradores, y para asambleas de espíritu escolar.

“Los ganadores de la lotería son gente muy generosa. Cuando ellos ganan dan a otros. Ellos creen que si uno da, recibirán”, ella dijo. Los empleados ahora están decidiendo que será el regalo que le comprarán a la escuela.

Plascencia, que era escéptica antes de unirse a la piscina de la lotería, ahora está poniendo su fe en otro triunfo de la lotería para los empleados de su escuela.

“A la tercera vez es la vencida y esperamos hacerlo de nuevo y hacer algo aún más especial para la escuela”, ella dijo.

La Lotería de California es un sistema estatal para recaudar fondos para las escuelas de California, más de 94 centavos de cada dólar gastado por los jugadores se destina a escuelas y colegios públicos, premios, y pagos a negocios que venden los boletos.

Alcaldesa y Concejal de Bell Gardens Inician Nuevos Mandatos

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

El salón de reunión del ayuntamiento de la Ciudad de Bell Gardens se llenó a capacidad el lunes con los partidarios de la alcaldesa Jennifer Rodríguez y el concejal Pedro Aceituno, quienes tomaron el juramento de cargo para un nuevo mandato en el consejo de la ciudad después de ser reelegidos en noviembre.

El Asesor del Condado de Los Ángeles John Noguez administro el juramento a la alcaldesa Jennifer Rodríguez y al concejal Aceituno. La posición de alcalde de Bell Gardens es seleccionado por un voto de la mayoría del ayuntamiento, y no por los electores. Foto de EGP por Gloria Angelina Castillo

Rodríguez y Aceituno fueron acompañados por sus parejas, hijos y padres, al tomar el juramento administrado por el Asesor del Condado de Los Ángeles John Noguez.

Read this story IN ENGLISH: Bell Gardens Mayor, Councilmember Sworn-in

Este es el tercer mandato de Rodríguez, quien fue elegida por primera vez al consejo en 2003, y el cuarto mandato de Aceituno, que fue elegido por primera vez en una elección especial de destitución en 1999, según la oficina de la secretaria municipal.

El concejal Pedro Aceituno y Rodriguez que fueron elegidos por votantes en noviembre. Foto de EGP por Gloria Angelina Castillo

La reunión del 9 de enero fue la primera reunión del consejo para el año 2012, también fue la primera reunión desde 28 de noviembre, cuando las tensiones relacionadas con las elecciones aún estaban elevadas.

Durante la reciente reunión hubo un raro momento de cordialidad cuando el Concejal Daniel Crespo, que a menudo se enfrenta con Rodríguez, la felicitó a ella y Aceituno por sus campañas exitosas, derrotando a las dos candidatas que él había apoyado durante la elección.

“Trabajaron muy duro durante esta elección y se ganaron los votos que recibieron”, dijo Crespo, “Felicidades”.

Highland Park Celebrates Historic Route 66 Sign

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Almost 80 years ago, the “Manning’s Coffee Store’s” metal, neon and opal glass sign was installed on the roof top of what today is a Salvadorean and Mexican food restaurant on Historic Route 66 in Highland Park.

Manning’s was a leading chain of cafeterias and restaurants with 40 locations in nine western states, 19 of which were located in Los Angeles, according to sign restoration organizers.

Manning¹s Coffee Store sign is located on the roof of Las Cazuelas restaurant on N. Figueroa Street in Highland Park. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Amy Inouye of Future Studio/Chicken Boy poses with the switch shortly after the sign was relit on Tuesday night. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

(L - R) Victor Mendoza, David Rivera and Victor Yac of Vick Electric bask in the spotlight for doing the electrical work to get the sign operating again. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

In fact, today’s Starbucks are modeled after Manning’s in the West Coast, according to local historic preservationist Nicole Possert.

“This roof top sign in Highland Park is the last remaining evidence of Manning’s Coffee in the entire City of Los Angeles, it’s the only sign that we have found keeping that piece of history connected to California, the West coast,” Possert said at the relighting ceremony on Tuesday.

Manning’s was one of the first tenants at the location, which was newly constructed in 1936. The coffee shop closed in the late 1950s, she said.

Eric Lynxwiler of the Museum of Neon Art (MONA) explained that often these historic signs are forgotten and fall by the wayside. “Not only is it a rarity that this sign still stands … but technically there’s nothing like it in Los Angeles. We’ve seen neon signs all over the nation, but very rarely do we see a combination and slumped glass. The words “Coffee Store” makes this sign even more unique …” Lynxwiler said.

Las Cazuelas owner Carlos Lopez told EGP he has been actively helping efforts to restore the sign since the inception of the project about four years ago. The 25-year-old restaurat has financially committed to keeping the sign lit for some time, he said.

Lopez said taking down the dilapidated sign was never an issue because it’s on top of the tall building and “out of sight.” The fact that it was easy to ignore is “why it’s still standing,” he said.

“It’s a beautiful sign, we love it,” he said, joking that Las Cazuelas now needs to start serving some roast reminiscent of Manning’s Coffee.

The sign, located on North Figueroa Street, between Avenue 57 and Avenue 58, was restored using all the original materials, except the neon tubing that was destroyed. The building owners are Kong and Julie Fong.

The Manning’s sign joins the Highland Theatre sign that was relit last year. Two smaller restoration projects are currently in the works, according to Amy Inouye of Future Studio/Chicken Boy.

The sign was restored with grants from National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Los Angeles County Preservation Fund, and community donations, according to Inouye.

Cities Scramble to Make Sense of End to Local CRAs

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The elimination of redevelopment agencies will not be an easy cut for cities that have become dependent on them over the years to create revenue for city services.

When redevelopment agencies all across California cease operation on Feb. 1, a successor agency, usually the city itself, will be in charge of winding down the agency’s debts and assets. City officials say they will be forced to sell off all of their assets including real estate purchased in preparation for specific projects.

Some of the first casualties in the weeks leading up to the elimination of redevelopment agencies will be city and redevelopment agency employees, as well as economic development projects that were put on hold while the state supreme court ruled on whether the law passed by Gov. Jerry Brown to eliminate redevelopment agencies was constitutional.

Just before the start of the new year, city officials learned that the state supreme court had not only ruled in favor of the elimination of the agencies, but also against a provision allowing cities to keep their agencies in exchange for a significant fee.

Cities that had agreed to pay the fee in order to keep their agencies are now scrambling to deal with what some officials have termed the “worst case scenario.”

They are now trying to convince state lawmakers to extend the deadline for eliminating redevelopment agencies. Senator Alex Padilla (D-San Fernando) is expected to introduce a bill this week.

In the meantime they are hoping the legislature comes up with a replacement for redevelopment, which has for the past sixty years given cities the ability to participate in public-private economic development, and to create affordable housing.

“Without immediate legislation to fix this court decision, this ruling is a major obstacle to local job creation, economic development and affordable housing. It was not the legislature’s original intention to totally abolish redevelopment agencies, but the court has forced us to wait with our hands tied behind our backs hoping for a positive response from Sacramento,” Bell Gardens City Manager Phil Wagner told EGP.

In many cities, budgets are being re-examined. The salaries of several employees, including top city officials such as city attorneys and city managers, are at least partially paid using redevelopment agency funds, which will no longer be available after Feb. 1.

Monterey Park officials say they may need to cut back as much as $1 million in labor costs – an equivalent of ten employees – while Montebello officials estimate they are looking at half a million dollars in cuts. In Bell Gardens, officials say 2.5 full-time jobs funded by the redevelopment agency may be cut.

“[The dissolution of redevelopment agencies] will result in significant job losses. Just about every city I know will be laying off employees very quickly,” said Montebello Interim City Administrator Larry Kosmont.

Cities have long used redevelopment funds to pay for projects that generate more sales tax revenue, which can be used to fund city services, but that could change if an alternate plan is not found.

Kosmont, who sits on the California Redevelopment Association board and heads a consulting firm specializing in economic development, said taking away redevelopment is like “taking away your kid’s allowance, and your kid’s job.” Redevelopment is a city’s “most important tool for economic development,” he said.

Among the projects at stake is Commerce’s urban entertainment center next to the I-5 Freeway. It was expected to anchor a retail-oriented strip on Telegraph Road that is currently book-ended by the Citadel shopping outlet and the Commerce Casino.

The agency has been working on the project since the late 1990s. Last April, officials acquired the last of the 27-acres needed for the project. Commerce officials say when the agency is dissolved they will be required to sell off all of its assets, including the land on Telegraph Road.

At a Jan. 3 meeting, Commerce City Attorney Eduardo Olivo said there is a chance they could keep the properties, but “at a cost to the city.”

Monterey Park City Manager Paul Talbot also says they will attempt to proceed with some of their projects without redevelopment agency funds. The agency has been working on a downtown mixed-use development and a retail center next to the Pomona 60-Freeway.

“I don’t know whether or not [the projects] will be able to succeed financially,” he told EGP last week.

In a past interview, Talbot said cities use redevelopment funds to attract potential developers who may not initially look at projects as profitable.

Without their redevelopment agency powers, city officials say they will find themselves less able to attract businesses to the city or to induce development.

Officials in Montebello, which leases property to Costco, had been in talks with the wholesale membership warehouse to move forward with the construction of a gas station, but negotiations between the two may no longer be possible, said Montebello Planning Director Michael Huntley.

Huntley credited redevelopment agency powers for smoothing the path for top revenue generators such as Costco and Montebello Towne Center.

He said there is no way of knowing whether these kind of projects would have occurred without the influence of redevelopment agencies, but said it was nevertheless due to the efforts by the redevelopment agency that projects like Costco and the Montebello Towne Center came into fruition.

Huntley added that a developer was very interested in bringing an affordable housing project into the city when the ruling came down. “Unfortunately we’ve had to put them on hold, as we cannot enter into legally binding agreements,” he said.

At least one affordable housing project will continue moving forward. According to Wagner, the Abode senior homes project in Bell Gardens will not be negatively impacted by the elimination of redevelopment agencies because the project will be funded using Bicycle Casino funds.

EGP reporter Gloria Angelina Castillo contributed to this story.

Council Declines Takeover of Redevelopment Agency in L.A.

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The City Council severed ties today with the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, a move top policy advisers said would shield the city budget from $109 million in costs but is not likely to fully protect the municipality from lawsuits.

After a lengthy debate, the council decided – on a 9-3 vote – against becoming the so-called successor agency in charge of liquidating the CRA/LA, a task required by a recent state Supreme Court ruling.

The move leaves the city with little control over the fate of 86 major projects, including many affordable housing developments, worth about $4 billion in total development costs.

The city has until the end of the month to decide whether to put the agency’s housing assets under the charge of its Housing Department.

The California Supreme Court in late December upheld a state law that eliminated the 400 redevelopment agencies across the state, which use increases in property tax revenue to fund development projects mainly in blighted parts of cities.

The law passed by the Legislature required the elimination of the agencies by Feb. 1. It also forced local governments to establish successor authorities to dismantle the agencies.

The council had by Friday to decide whether to take on the responsibility, which would include absorbing all of the CRA/LA’s employee and administrative costs.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller warned in a report released late Tuesday that the salary and retirement costs for the 192 CRA employees could be as high as $109 million.

The law passed by the Legislature to dissolve redevelopment agencies did not provide enough protection for the city on employee and other liabilities, the report said.

“The reality of the situation is the CRA as we know it is dead,” Council President Herb Wesson said. “And I think it is time for us to take it off of the machine.”

The council approved Wesson’s motion for the city to begin immediately working with legislators in Sacramento to protect it from some of the costs and to request an opportunity to become the successor agency if the terms become more favorable to the city’s budget.

Councilmen Eric Garcetti, Richard Alarcon and Ed Reyes cast the dissenting votes, all saying the council did not have enough time to assess Miller and Santana’s report.”It is difficult to make a decision in 24 hours,’’ Garcetti said.

Alarcon argued it was unnecessary for the council to vote today when the deadline was not until Friday.
“We should use every minute of the day until the last minute to get more analysis,” he said.

Alarcon also chided the Executive Employee Relations Committee, which is jointly run by Wesson and Reyes, for moving begin the process of laying off CRA/LA employees.

“We should fight for these city employees. We should fight for the projects. We should fight in court if necessary,” Alarcon said.

Nearly all the council members were vocal in their opposition to the elimination of redevelopment agencies.

“This is a dark day,’’ said Councilwoman Jan Perry, who described herself as a strong supporter of CRA/LA. She said the move jeopardized more than 900 units of low-income housing and 3,000 construction jobs in her district.

Perry asked for a report back from legislative analysts on the possibility of creating a new redevelopment agency modeled after New York City’s.

Time Crunch On For Mexicans In U.S. to Vote In Mexico’s 2012 Election

January 12, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

During the last few weeks, caravans of Mexican immigrants living legally in the United States have been traveling to Tijuana and other border cities to apply for a Mexican voter identification card (credencial de elector), in some cases escorted by organizations hoping to get them to vote in Mexico’s upcoming presidential election.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Tiempo Critico para Registrarse para Votar por Correo en la Elección Presidencial de México

A voter registration card is required to vote in Mexico, and by law, can only be issued on Mexican soil by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), an autonomous, public organization that conducts federal elections. Without it, those living outside the country cannot cast an absentee ballot by mail.

The deadline to register to vote by mail is Sunday, Jan. 15. The deadline does not apply to Mexican nationals who want to return to the country to vote.

Martin Lopez, a Mexican activist in Los Angeles, has been helping fellow Mexicans register to vote through the online IFE’s website www.VotoExtranjero.mx for the upcoming 2012 Mexican Presidential Election. Ten days ago, 10 people helped by local organizations made the trip from Los Angeles, across the border and back, and 8 more people are scheduled to make the trip today, Lopez told EGP late last week.

South Gate residents show off their new voter identification cards. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Felipe Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant who doesn’t identify himself as an activist, has also been helping Mexican voters who can legally cross the border to register to vote.

“There are a lot of stories … we’ve had elderly voters come in who bring their voter identification card that pictures them when they were 18 years old, there’s a huge difference in their appearance,” Sanchez said.

Numerous local organizations—like Vamos Unidos USA, The Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, Federacion de Clubes and Organizaciones de Zacatecanos, and MORENA—have been laboring to get out the Mexican vote, he said.

Few Mexican immigrants who reside in the U.S. will actually cross the border to vote, says Juan José Gutiérrez of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition and Vamos Unidos USA. Those that do will do it for symbolic reasons, not because it’s more convenient, he says.

Gutiérrez and other activists allege that Mexico’s voter identification requirement disenfranchises a majority of Mexican citizens living abroad who are eligible to vote, but cannot return to the country either because of their legal status or the cost to make the trip.

To obtain a voter identification card, a Mexican citizen must present required documents to an IFE office in Mexico. There is a minimum two week waiting period for the card to be approved and issued. For Mexicans legally residing in an area of the U.S. but not near the border, the cost of buying an airplane ticket, missing work and financing expenses for up to six weeks while waiting for the card to be issued is not affordable, says Gutiérrez.

“Although Mexican authorities can brag about how much they’ve advanced in democratic process in so far as Mexicans voting abroad, much work remains to be done because democratic rights are not fully extended by the Mexican government to Mexicans voting abroad,” Gutiérrez told EGP.

The result is the systematic denial of the right to vote of the majority of the voting age population living outside the country, Gutierrez said.

“Seventy percent are effectively barred from voting … only those who have US visas or US citizenship and live near the US-Mexico border, and are willing to go to an IFE office and jump through all the hoops [can obtain a voter identification card to vote by mail], he said.

Since 1917, the Mexican Constitution has guaranteed the right to vote to all Mexicans, including those living abroad, so the current electoral system is unconstitutional, Gutiérrez insists.

“As far as I’m concerned, every single Mexican election that has happened is illegitimate because it has excluded a significant voting-age population abroad, especially in the US,” he said.

IFE officials estimate that in California, about 5,000 Mexicans citizens and individuals with dual US/Mexican citizenship have already registered to vote by mail.

The majority are likely from the Los Angeles area, as was the case in 2006 when 12,000 votes originated from the L.A. area, according to IFE Electoral Adviser Francisco Javier Guerrero Aguirre and IFE Mexican Voter Abroad Coordinator Dalia Moreno.

Mexican voters living outside the country that successfully registered to vote will receive their ballots by mail starting in April. It must be received by IFE by June 30—one day before the election.

2006 was the last Mexican presidential election and the first time the Mexican government, through IFE, enabled Mexicans outside the country to vote. Fifty thousand registered to vote from abroad, but only about 32,000 submitted a ballot, said Guerrero Aguirre.

IFE was created 21 years ago after Mexicans on both sides of the border pushed to reform Mexico’s electoral process by making it more transparent. Mexico elects a president every six years.

A number of activists allege thousands of votes were disqualified in 2006, changing the outcome of the presidential election, which they say would have been won by Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Others say Felipe Calderón was rightfully elected.

While IFE acknowledges that the current vote by mail process is too restrictive for undocumented and documented Mexicans living in the US and other counties, only Mexico’s Congress can change the requirements, Guerrero Aguirre told EGP.

IFE sees two possible ways to address the problem: find a mechanism to issue voter ID cards outside of Mexico, and allow in-person voting at specified locations. The change would have to be adopted by Mexico’s Congress, which appears unwilling to support outreach to expand the number of Mexican voting from abroad.

“I think what is needed now is a greater political will by the major political parties in Mexico, without any more excuses, to address the model that allows a majority of Mexicans living abroad to participate,” says Guerrero Aguirre. He says their reluctance is understandable, given the large number of Mexicans living in the US and the “impact they could have on the political process,” not to mention the cost and technical difficulties of implementing “a model with these features.”

IFE’s vote abroad outreach budget was slashed about 60 percent by Congress, notes Moreno.

Nonetheless, they have done “more with less,” carrying out two positive “innovations,” she said. In 2006, using an absentee ballot cost $8 to $12 for priority postage; this year there is no charge. And for several months, IFE employees have staffed help desks at consulate offices that serve large Mexican populations, like in Los Angeles.
The changes resulted from recommendations made following the 2006 election, Moreno said. IFE has also enlisted 60 local organizations to disseminate information, she added.

IFE’s budget was cut because of the lower than expected turn-out of voters living abroad in 2006 didn’t justify the cost of the previous campaign, according to California State University, Los Angeles Assistant Professor Emily Acevedo, Ph.D.

She says the voter identification card is one of the strong points in Mexico’s electoral system, and that it helps prevent election fraud. Besides having a photo of the voter, the card also has the person’s thumbprint.

While stricter voting identification requirements in the US are being debated, the identification requirement for US citizens who desire to register to vote from abroad vary from state to state, according to Kate Meadows of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. Although US citizens cannot vote in person at locations outside the US, they can vote using the absentee voting process, she said.

“While some states do not require ID with a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) other States accept State Drivers license or State ID number – or require the voter’s full Social Security number,” Meadows said in an email.

Voter apathy, however, is a serious problem in the US as it is for Mexicans living abroad. For Mexicans in the US, who are not recent immigrants, the apathy could be due to them no longer having strong ties to Mexico, or plans for returning. They may not feel like they have a stake in the safety and viability of Mexico’s government, Acevedo said.

Voter disillusionment with the Mexican government is also an issue. Many immigrants believe the government is corrupt, in some places undistinguishable from organized crime. So they take a “why bother voting” attitude, some activists say.

It is unclear how many potential Mexican voters are living outside the country, but IFE estimates 2 to 3 million in the US could be eligible for a voter identification card.

Guerrero Aguirre points out a double phenomenon: There are Mexicans who don’t vote in the US and who don’t vote in Mexico, that’s really the worse thing that could happen to any citizen, he said.

Mexican nationals who have a voter identification card can still register online to vote by absentee ballot by Saturday, Jan. 14. For more information, visit www.votoextanjero.mx, call 1-866-986-9306, or email cove@ife.org.mx

Asians Push to Consolidate Power On L.A. Council

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission got an earful from the diverse reaches of Council District 1 during its Saturday, Jan. 7th redistricting meeting.

Hundreds of residents attended the meeting held in Chinatown at St. Peter’s Italian Catholic Church.

While the district currently only includes a small portion of Koreatown, residents of the community turned out in large numbers to urge the commission to “unite” all of Koreatown in one district.

Koreatown is currently split between Council Districts 1, 4, 10 and 13. Several residents said the fact that not a single member on the city council is Asian, despite the city’s large Asian population, is evidence that the split has diluted their power and representation. The 2010 Census puts the Asian and Pacific Islander population at 15 percent.

A man who identified himself as a representative of the Little Bangladesh Improvement Association, a community located within Koreatown, also asked the commission to unite Little Bangladesh, currently split between two districts, as well.

The Asian communities in Lincoln Heights and Chinatown also called on the commission to keep their communities wholly within one district, and both communities in the same district.

While Lincoln Heights has long been a largely Latino community, the number of Asians, many of them Vietnamese, has increased substantially in recent years. In addition to their large Asian population, Chinatown and Lincoln Heights have many other similarities: The communities also share similar poverty rates, large immigrant and English-learner populations, one speaker said.

While discussion of creating a more solidly Asian district dominated the meeting, residents from other parts of the district, such as Northeast Los Angeles, also let the commission know what their ideal district should look like, at times disagreeing with others from their same neighborhood.

A resident of Glassell Park since 1965, Art Camarillo said Glassell Park should either be completely in CD 1 or 14, and not split into three districts — CD 1, 13, and 14 — as it is today.

Van De Kamp Coalition activist Laura Gutierrez, also of Glassell Park, said she would prefer Glassell Park not be in CD-1 because it’s the smallest of the three current districts currently dividing the neighborhood.

Highland Park resident Stanley Moore, on the other hand, has a different point of view. He was one of a handful of speakers who said having more than once council representative has its benefits. For example, it’s helpful to have financial support from three council members every year when area residents unite for the Peace in the Northeast March, which will be held for the fifth consecutive year this May, Moore said.

Similarly, community activist Jesse Rosas said Historic Highland Park should be “maintain[ed] as it is” in CD-14 and CD-1 because of the political support they get from having two council members supporting their goal to re-open the Southwest Museum.

Another Highland Park resident, however, called for keeping Highland Park whole, and in the same district as Eagle Rock.

Some residents verbally described the preferred boundaries of their neighborhoods, while others brought detailed maps to illustrate their maps preference. Residents can create their own maps at the commission website www.redistricting2011.lacity.org

Alicia Brown wants her small Solano Canyon neighborhood, one of the still surviving parts of Chavez Ravine, to remain in CD-1.

Echo Park, Pico Union, West Adams, Harvard Heights, and Arts District stakeholders also described problems with the current boundaries and asked to be tied to neighboring communities in one district or to be made whole.

Councilmember Ed P. Reyes, who currently represent the 1st Council District told EGP he thinks the meeting went well, and that a wide range of perspectives were presented by residents. “We’re hearing a sense of determination, in terms of how they define themselves,” he told EGP, noting that each sector of the district has it’s own point of view.

Former CD-1 councilmember Mike Hernandez was at the input meeting and acknowledged by more than one resident at the podium. CD-1 candidates Gil Cedillo and Reyes’ chief of staff Jose Gardea, both running to replace Reyes who is termed out, attended the meeting.

The 1st District currently includes the neighborhoods of Glassell Park, Cypress Park, Highland Park, Mount Washington, Solano Canyon, Elysian Park, Echo Park, Westlake, Angelino Heights, Lafayette Park, Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, Montecito Heights, and Pico Union.

The meeting was one of 15 public hearings held by the commission. The 21-person redistricting commission is tasked with redrawing the city’s 15 council districts by March 1, 2012. The final maps must be adopted by the city council by July 1, 2012, as required by the City Charter.

The commission’s main objective is to take into account the population changes in the 2010 Census when re-considering the boundaries of the districts. However, they must also abide by several legal criteria, including: the Equal Population Principal to ensure “One-Person, One-Vote;” The U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause that states race cannot be used as a predominant factor; The Voting Rights Act of 1965 that prohibits gerrymandering and Traditional Redistricting Criteria such as contiguity, compactness, existing boundaries, and communities of interest. The new maps will stay in effect until after the 2020 census.

For more information on upcoming meetings and the working timeline, visit http://redistricting2011.lacity.org/.

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