Bell Gardens Mayor, Councilmember Sworn-in

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Bell Gardens City Council Chamber was filled to capacity Monday with supporters of Mayor Jennifer Rodriguez and Councilman Pedro Aceituno who were sworn-in for another term on the city council after being re-elected in November.

Bell Gardens’ mayor is selected by a majority vote of the city council, and not by voters.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Alcaldesa y Concejal de Bell Gardens Inician Nuevos Mandatos

Rodriguez and Aceituno were each joined by their respective spouses, children and parents as they took the oath of office administered by Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez.

L.A. County Assessor John Noguez swore in Mayor Jennifer Rodriguez elected in November. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

L.A. County Assessor John Noguez swore in Councilmember Pedro Aceituno elected in November. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

This is the third term for Rodriguez who was first elected to serve on the city council in 2003, and the fourth term for Aceituno who was first elected during a special recall election in 1999, according to the city clerk’s office.

The Jan. 9 meeting was the City Council’s first meeting for 2012; it was also the first meeting since November 28 when election related tensions were still running high.

However, in a rare moment of congeniality, Councilmember Daniel Crespo, who often locks horns with Rodriguez, congratulated her and Aceituno for their successful campaigns, defeating the two candidates he had backed during the race.

“You worked very hard in this election and you earned the votes you received,” said Crespo, “Congratulations.”

EDITORIAL: Unintended Consequences of Killing Redevelopment Agencies

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

It appears that the governor and Legislature’s threat to close down Redevelopment Agencies across California has come to fruition.

In order to balance the state’s budget, Governor Brown decided to cannibalize local Community Redevelopment Agencies, CRAs, and usurp their treasuries.

Hoping to stop the loss of funds they use to attract businesses to their municipalities and to build affordable housing, the CRA agencies went to court to challenge Sacramento’s decision, but lost, and are now finding they must dissolve by Feb. 1.

Many of the cities are now facing the prospect of being financially unable to finish projects already in the pipeline that they planned to complete using CRA funds.

Many of these projects were for construction of affordable housing, retail and business districts that would not only have improved blighted areas and develop new sources of sales tax revenue, they would have created much needed private sector jobs.

While this may not have been the governor and Legislature’s intention, it is nonetheless the result.

We urge the members of the State Legislature to consult with city officials and to come to some agreement and legislative solution to fix this mess.

Animal-Rights Activists Like Me Aren’t Terrorists

January 12, 2012 by · 13 Comments 

I was three weeks away from taking the Law School Admissions Test in 2004 when I was arrested and charged with domestic terrorism.

I hadn’t hurt anyone or vandalized any property. In fact, the indictment didn’t allege that I’d committed any independent crime at all, only that I’d “conspired” to publish a website that advocated and reported on protest activity against a notorious animal testing lab in New Jersey.

In March of 2006, I was convicted of “animal enterprise terrorism,” sentenced to 52 months in prison, and ordered to pay $1 million in restitution to the lab for increased security, management time spent dealing with protests, and legal fees incurred obtaining injunctions against me and other protesters.

Incidentally, I’d been planning to focus on free speech when I got to law school.

Needless to say, now that I’ve finished serving my sentence at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, I’m more than a little wary of continuing my activism, as I fear that my speech may once again be deemed terrorism.

That’s why, as a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights in Massachusetts on December 15, I’ve asked a federal court to strike down the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech. This law punishes anyone who causes the loss of property or profits to a business or institution that sells animals or animal products, or to any business “connected to” an animal enterprise.

In short, it recasts as “terrorism” one of the primary purposes of protest and provides special protection to a particular class of businesses. This is no surprise. The Fur Commission USA, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, United Egg Producers, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and other pharmaceutical companies — all of which are protested by animal rights activists — lobbied heavily for the AETA.

The campaign I was involved in when I got arrested was enormously successful. Dozens of investors, customers, and service providers abandoned the New Jersey lab. It nearly went out of business several times, due in no small part to vigorous protests around the country.

The speech on our website was indeed controversial. When anonymous activists liberated 14 beagles from the lab, we cheered. When protesters demonstrated outside lab employees’ homes, we applauded.

This is the First Amendment’s strength — not its limit. The First Amendment doesn’t just protect uncontroversial speech. It protects speech that’s unpopular, contentious, and even shocking.

As the Supreme Court recognized more than 60 years ago, speech may “best serve its high purpose when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger.”

The animal rights movement will continue to induce unrest, as have countless other protest movements throughout history, and as the Occupy movement is doing today. But creating unrest isn’t terrorism, Unrest is the growing pain of extending rights, expanding compassion, and creating a better world.

When the government protects powerful corporate interests from powerful social movements, America abandons its high purposes, and we resign ourselves to conditions as they are.

Lauren Gazzola served 40 months in the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut for publishing a website that advocated and reported on protest activity against an animal testing lab. Learn more about the movement to abolish the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act at Distributed via

Axing Access to Community College Students

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The California Community Colleges Board of Governors this week unanimously approved a set of recommendations presented by the Student Success Task Force re-prioritizing the goals of community colleges.

The policies are intended to streamline academic pathways for students enrolled in California’s community colleges, discouraging those who meander and giving incentives for those who achieve stated goals. What it actually means for our 2.6 million community college students should give the rest of the state pause.

Ongoing budget cuts have forced our institutions to do more with less. While efforts to provide more academic guidance seem sincere, I’m not convinced that these top-down reforms won’t devolve into rubber-stamping and denial of access for those who need it most.

As an academic counselor I have worked with students ages 17 to 60, from tortoises to hares on the college track. Our community colleges should not be streamlined into one-size-fits all.

The task force, launched in January of 2011 by the state Board of Governors to boost completion rates, wants to tie funding and college access to performance. Reminds me of Monopoly; if you’re living on Boardwalk, it’s easy to get ahead, but if you’re a single mom struggling to get a college degree, like several of my students, it will be harder to pass Go and collect $200.

The new policies, put forward last November, penalize students who fall behind or deviate from their education plans, by doling out enrollment priorities and fee waivers to those who can stick to their goals. Who among us has a perfect track record with our New Year Resolutions?

Last month I met with two older students at City College of San Francisco whose medical problems set them back in school. One woman had been attending almost continuously since 1989, taking a course at a time, all the while juggling work and family responsibilities until back surgery forced her to miss a critical semester. Another student lost her job after her accident, and was unable to attend for three semesters. Both these women face great hurdles since they reentered City College after the graduation requirements had increased.

The policies of the task force will add further obstacles, blocking their ability to receive Board of Governor (BOG) fee waivers and demoting their enrollment priorities.

Those who take years to achieve their goals shouldn’t just be labeled scornfully as students for life. I have met with hundreds of students who work full time in childcare centers, retail stores, and low-wage jobs just to make ends meet. Many of them manage to take courses at night through grit and determination. Some have their own kids to care for.

And, sometimes, bad luck happens. These folks need our support as much as the sprinters who finish in two years.

The task force wants to cut state funding from what it deems frivolous courses. Sure, community colleges train 70 percent of our state’s nurses, while more than a quarter of UC grads and greater than half of Cal State students start out at the JC. But community colleges have a broader mandate, and courses like computer training and PE have benefits that aren’t always apparent.

Also, if the State Chancellor’s office begins deciding the courses that receive funding based on demand, it is possible that emerging programs, such as hybrid vehicle or green building technologies, may not be given a chance to succeed. The top-down approach may not work for our 112 community colleges throughout the state as it might for the CSU and UC systems.

It’s encouraging that the task force has already dropped some of the more drastic recommendations, i.e. taking funding away from noncredit courses in ESL and citizenship, and requiring students to pay full cost for courses not listed in education plans.

I’m fine with doing more education planning with our students, and giving some teeth to these course plans. But the task force also favors technical tools like those used by Netflix to “nudge students toward better choices.”

Getting an education isn’t the same as lining up your favorite movies. Let’s give our students – who also work to care for our kids and fight our fires – real access to college and a second chance for those in need.

A version of this commentary was posted Jan. 8 online at It has been updated to include the California Community College Board of Governor unanimous adoption of the Student Task Force recommendations, which will now be sent on to the State Legislature for approval.

Candlelight Vigil Held for Missing Lincoln Heights Mother

January 12, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

UPDATEKillings in East Los Angeles Fuel Rumors, Spread Fear

RelatedDumped Body is Bree’ana Guzman, Says Missing Woman’s Family

A vigil was held Tuesday night in Lincoln Heights for a 22-year-old woman missing since Dec. 26, the day after Christmas.

Bree’anna Jovette Guzman, the mother of two small children, disappeared after telling family members that she was going to walk to the Rite Aid Pharmacy a short distance from her home on the 2300 block of Humboldt Street in Lincoln Heights. The Rite Aid is located at the intersection of Pasadena Avenue and Avenue 26.
Guzman told her family she was going to buy cough medicine.

That’s the last anyone has seen of her.

Tuesday night, Guzman’s family and friends, along with others from the working class neighborhood, walked along the same route they presume Guzman took from her home to the drugstore.

Her mother, visibly shaken by her daughter’s disappearance, told a KTLA-9 reporter that her daughter had no reason to leave.

“All we have is hope, expectation …” said Bree’anna’s mother Darlene Guzman.

“What do you tell a child five years old that hasn’t seen their mother in more than two weeks,” family friend Lisa Carreone told KTLA-9.

Some of those joining the vigil said they did not know “Bree,” the name used by Guzman’s friends and family, but were moved by her story and felt, as one resident said, they “just had to do something.”

The family has blanketed the neighborhood with posters with Guzman’s picture, and asking anyone with information to contact the Los Angeles Police Department.

Guzman is described as a female Hispanic, with black hair and brown eyes.  She stands 5 feet 3 inches tall, weighs about 110 pounds, and was last seen wearing a blue jacket, pink shirt and blue jeans.  She has a tattoo on the back of her neck and a pierced lower lip.

Bree’anna Jovette Guzman has been missing since Dec. 26.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Guzman is asked to contact the LAPD Missing Persons Unit at (213) 996-1800.  During non-business hours or on weekends, calls should be directed to 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (1-877-527-3247).

Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (1-800-222-8477).  Tipsters may also contact Crime Stoppers by texting to phone number 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads) with a cell phone.  All text messages should begin with the letters “LAPD.” Tipsters may also go to, click on “webtips” and follow the prompts.

Former Bell Gardens Candidate Runs for Assembly

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A former Bell Gardens city council candidate now has her eye on Sacramento.

Christina Garcia says she will make a run for the 58th Assembly District seat, which includes Commerce, Downey, Montebello, Pico Rivera and her hometown of Bell Gardens, among other southeast cities.

“I have thought long and hard about running for political office. Although I don’t consider myself a politician, I do think it’s my responsibility to help clean up state government the same way we cleaned up local government in Bell. The people of the southeast deserve a government that works for them and their families,” said Garcia in a Jan. 6 statement announcing her candidacy.

Garcia, who calls herself a political reformer, made an unsuccessfully run for the Bell Gardens City Council in 2009.

According to Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters spokesperson Marcia Ventura,  Garcia is the first candidate to be issued papers for signatures in lieu of filing fees in the 58th district race, but the candidate nomination period doesn’t officially open until February and ends on March 9 to qualify for the June election.

Former Assemblyman Tom Calderon, who represented the 58th district from 1998 to 2002 has already announced his intentions to run for the recently re-drawn seat, and has received endorsements from numerous elected officials.

Assembly Majority Leader Charles Calderon, Tom’s brother, currently represents the 58th District but is termed out. Ron Calderon, also a sibling, is running for the 38th Congressional District.

Garcia said Calderon is part of the “Calderon dynasty.”

She says there isn’t currently a real discussion about ethical reform in Sacramento, and told EGP she sees a real opportunity to create change.

Though not a resident of Bell, Garcia in 2010 was part of the group that formed The Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, or BASTA, in response to the Bell corruption scandal. She often served as the organization’s spokesperson, sending out press releases and speaking to the media.

Her resume lists her as an associate professor at the University of Southern California, USC, and Los Angeles City College.

According to USC Media Relations Specialist Merrill Balasson, a Cristina Garcia “was an Assistant Professor in the English department of the College and was at USC from 9/1/95 until 2/29/96.”

Commerce School Employees Win Lottery Twice

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The first time it happened, everyone got a fresh start.

Becky Castro paid off her credit card debt and a couple of loans. Others used their money toward mortgage payments, a loved ones’ medical bills, and their children’s college tuition.

“If you spoke to each person, you’d get a different story,” said Castro, one of eleven Bandini Elementary school employees who won the $12 million SuperLotto Plus last February.

On Friday, most of those same employees, including Castro, claimed another win, this time a MEGA Millions prize worth $262,743.

The winning group of sixteen that won this time includes nine of the original winners. Most have been playing the lottery together for the past three years. The group consists of both full-time and part-time clerical workers and school administrators.

Montebello Unified School District employees discuss winning the California State Lottery on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ show. Front row, from left, Cris Guzman, Bertha DeLaCruz, Becky Castro. Second row, from left, retired Principal Karen Pugh, Karen Shahverdian, Principal Deanna Plascencia, Maria Argomaniz. (Photo by Mario Villegas)

“All of us in the group have a very positive outlook. Our saying is, ‘We’re in it to win it.’ After we won the first time, we just believed it, we felt it was going to happen again,” said Castro.

The winning ticket was sold at Arrow Liquor, located at 2177 South Atlantic Blvd. in Commerce. The ticket matched the numbers 48, 24, 51, 56 and 30, missing only the Mega number of 45.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Empleados Suertudos de una Escuela de Commerce Ganan la Lotería por Segunda Vez

Among the first time winners was School Principal Deanna Plascencia who said the generosity of the two-time winners was what brought them continued luck in the lottery.

She said after their first lottery win, the school employees used part of the winnings to purchase a new sound system to replace a failing one that amplified only half of what was being said.

The new sound system is now being used to hold assemblies for students who met monthly challenge goals, host special events and speakers, and spirit assemblies.

“The lottery winners are very generous people. When they win they give back. They believe if you give, you get,” she said. The employees are now deciding what they will buy next for the school.

Plascenci, a skeptic before joining the lottery pool, is now putting her faith in another lottery win for the school employees.

“Third time’s the charm and we’re hoping to do it again and do something even more special for the school,” she said.

The California Lottery is the state’s fundraiser for California schools, with more than 94 cents of every dollar spent by our players going toward public schools and colleges, prizes and retail compensation.

Delincuencia Sigue Desminuyendo, Según Cifras del LAPD

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Los delitos violentos y los crímenes contra la propiedad continuaron disminuyendo en Los Ángeles por noveno año consecutivo en 2011, informaron las autoridades.

Los delitos violentos se redujeron en 7,3% con respecto a 2010 en las áreas patrulladas por el Departamento de Policía de Los Ángeles (LAPD), señaló el 5 de enero en conferencia de prensa el alcalde de la ciudad, Antonio Villaraigosa.

De la misma forma, los delitos contra la propiedad disminuyeron 5,5% durante el año que terminó en comparación con el anterior.

Villaraigosa atribuyó la reducción de casi 6% en las principales áreas de la delincuencia al mantenimiento de un número suficiente de agentes, la aplicación de estrategias especializadas por parte de la policía y un programa de prevención y rehabilitación de pandillas, entre otros.

El jefe del LAPD, Charlie Beck, señaló la calidad del trabajo de la policía, el trabajo conjunto del LAPD con otras agencias locales, estatales y federales de control de la ley y la colaboración de la comunidad, como los principales factores para la disminución de delitos.

En los dos últimos años, el número de oficiales del LAPD no ha variado manteniéndose en 9.963, destacó Beck.

Durante 2011, los tiroteos disminuyeron 6% y las víctimas de disparos se redujeron en 4,4%. Con 298 homicidios, la ciudad continuó presentó una cifra similar a 2010.

Con relación a 2009, los delitos violentos disminuyeron 17% en las áreas controladas por el LAPD.

Los delitos atribuidos a las pandillas presentaron una disminución de 15,2%, los tiroteos relacionados con pandillas se redujeron en más del 9% y las víctimas de estos tiroteos disminuyeron 5%. Los homicidios atribuidos a las pandillas aumentaron en un 5,6% con un total de 170.

En el resto de las áreas del condado de Los Ángeles, controladas por el Departamento del alguacil y por policías locales, los homicidios disminuyeron en 12% en comparación con 2010, según cifras preliminares presentadas por el alguacil y la oficina forense.

Fracasa Iniciativa Contra la Ley ‘Dream Act’ de California

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Activistas a favor de los derechos de inmigrantes celebraron la semana pasada el fracaso de la iniciativa patrocinada por el asambleísta Tim Donnelly, que hubiese forzado un referendo sobre la ley que permite a estudiantes indocumentados obtener financiación para educación superior en California.

De acuerdo con lo informado el 6 de enero por Donnelly, su petición obtuvo 447.514 firmas de las más de medio millón necesarias para impulsar la iniciativa.

Una porción de esta ley, que entró en vigor el pasado 1 de enero, permite a indocumentados solicitar becas privadas en tanto que cuando entre en vigor completamente el año próximo autorizará las becas financiadas a nivel estatal y la ayuda financiera en universidades públicas.

Pedro Ríos, del Comité de Servicio de Amigos Americanos, una organización de defensa de derechos humanos de inmigrantes basada en San Diego, aseguró que este fracaso es una muestra de que el clima antiinmigrante de otras partes del país no se refleja en California.

Quienes típicamente apoyan a Donnelly, concentrados en el condado de Orange y Riverside, han perdido fuerza y organización en las organizaciones como los Minute Man, desbaratándose o uniéndose a grupos que tienen enfoques más amplios y no sólo de inmigración”, dijo Ríos a Efe.

Sin embargo, el que la propuesta haya estado a menos de 50.000 firmas representa, de acuerdo con el activista, que todavía se debe trabajar para que los inmigrantes puedan llevar sus preocupaciones directamente a sus representantes.

En un correo electrónico dirigido a sus constituyentes, Donnelly reconoció que no pudieron alcanzar las 504.760 firmas que necesitaban, lo que calificó como “noticias decepcionantes”.

“Pero no por ello es menos una alerta para el gobernador (Jerry) Brown, y para cada legislador demócrata que votó para crear un nuevo privilegio para indocumentados, mientras que el estado tiene un déficit superior a los 9.000 millones de dólares y no puede cumplir con sus obligaciones con los estudiantes de California”, añadió.

Esta no ha sido una buena semana para Donnelly, quien el miércoles fue detenido por la policía por tratar de abordar un avión en el aeropuerto de Ontario con un arma cargada, lo que está prohibido en el estado, y lo que es peor, admitiendo posteriormente que ni siquiera cuenta con un permiso de porte.

Por su parte el autor del Dream Act estatal, el asambleísta demócrata Gil Cedillo, dijo a Efe que el fracaso del referendo muestra que los votantes de California “lideran a nuestra nación hacia el futuro, no hacia el retroceso” y señaló que la ley busca reconocer el valor de los jóvenes del estado sin importar su lugar de nacimiento.

Los voluntarios que buscaban anular el Dream Act organizados bajo la organización “Stop AB 131”, tenían como meta reunir 750.000 firmas a fin de reemplazar aquellas que hubiesen sido consideradas inválidas durante la revisión luego de que fueran auditadas.

Estos voluntarios dijeron que su trabajo buscaba reflejar la posición de la mayoría de los californianos, citando una encuesta del periódico Los Angeles Times y la Universidad del Sur de California, conducida en noviembre pasado, que mostró que 55 % ciento de los votantes se oponían a esta ley.

La encuesta, sin embargo, también mostró que estas posiciones estaban fuertemente influidas por el grupo étnico de los 1.500 participantes, pues el 79 % de los hispanos apoya la ley frente a 66 % de los blancos que se opone a ella.

Para Ríos, los grupos anti-inmigrantes han tenido un impacto real en la política del estado en el pasado, pero durante los últimos tres años esto ha cambiado.

“El fracaso de esa iniciativa muestra que California está ofreciendo un modelo al resto del país sobre cómo valorar las contribuciones de inmigrantes”, indicó el activista.

Muerte de Ser Querido Aumenta el Riesgo de Sufrir un Ataque de Corazón, Según Estudio

January 12, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

La pena de perder a un familiar está relacionada a un mayor riesgo de padecer de un ataque al corazón, especialmente en los días recientes a la pérdida, según un nuevo estudio publicado en Journal of the American Heart Association.

“En este estudio encontramos que el riesgo de tener un ataque al corazón era 21 veces más alto en las 24 horas que siguen a la muerte de un ser querido, comparado con otros momentos y el riesgo se mantiene elevado en los siguientes días y semanas”, declaró el 10 de enero Elizabeth Mostofsky, una de las autoras del estudio.

El estudio de la Asociación Americana del Corazón con fondos del National Institutes of Health (NIH), encontró que entre quienes están en mayor riesgo de padecer de enfermedades cardiovasculares a una semana de haber perdido a una persona querida tienen la posibilidad de una en 320 de sufrir un ataque al corazón.

Los investigadores hallaron que el riesgo iba en disminución conforme pasaba el tiempo, de 21 veces mayor en el primer día a 6 veces mayor en la primera semana y continuaba disminuyendo de forma sostenida durante el primer mes tras la pérdida.

“Tomando en cuenta información de estudios previos, esperábamos encontrar una relación entre el dolor por una muerte reciente y problemas de salud, pero nos sorprendió un pico tan fuerte en el riesgo en el primer día y semana seguida a la pérdida y lo alto que se mantenía por el resto del mes”, dijo Mostofsky.

Los investigadores señalan que entre algunas de las causas relacionadas a este riesgo más alto, se da el hecho de que al principio del proceso de duelo las personas tienen más posibilidades de padecer de insomnio, perder el apetito y tener niveles más altos de ciertas hormonas, que pueden aumentar el riesgo de padecer de accidentes cardiovasculares.

Asimismo, según nota el estudio, las personas que están pasando por un momento de dolor por la pérdida de un ser querido pueden olvidar tomar sus medicamentos y quedar con ello más propensos a sufrir de un problema del corazón.

El estrés psicológico, como el causado por la muerte de un familiar o amigo cercano puede acelerar el ritmo cardíaco, la presión arterial y los problemas de coagulación, y con ello también aumentar los riesgos de un ataque, advierte el informe.

La investigación encontró además que los cónyuges de luto tienen mayor riesgo a largo plazo de morir de enfermedades del corazón y derrames cerebrales.

Los investigadores advierten sobre la importancia de que familiares y amigos cercanos a quienes han sufrido una pérdida dolorosa se mantengan atentos a cualquier síntoma o signo de un ataque al corazón.

“Los amigos y familiares de una persona que está de duelo deben brindar apoyo estrecho para ayudar a prevenir este tipo de incidente, especialmente al principio del proceso de duelo”, aseveró la investigadora.

Entre los síntomas de un ataque al corazón se encuentra la dificultad para respirar, el dolor o molestias en el pecho, sudar frío, sufrir de náuseas o sentirse aturdido.

El presente estudio, es el primero en enfocarse en la relación entre los primeros días y semanas tras la pérdida de un ser querido y el riesgo de sufrir de un ataque al corazón.

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