School Districts Approve of Governor’s Budget

January 13, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

With eighty percent of their budgets dependent on state funds, school districts are among the many agencies that follow the state budget process as closely as some people follow the stock market.

So when Gov. Jerry Brown released his budget proposal on Monday leaving K-12 education funds mostly untouched since, as he put it, schools have “borne the brunt” of cuts in the past, school district officials all over California breathed a guarded sigh of relief.

Montebello Unified School District’s finance superintendent Cheryl Plotkin reacted Tuesday to Brown’s proposal by calling it “very neutral.”

She also said it was “not rosy,” because the budget does not account for cost of living increases and rising costs of supplies and services – at least it was not a cut.

But with Brown’s budget proposal being just that, a proposal, much could still change.

For example, Brown’s budget for K-12 school districts assumes California voters will agree to a five-year extension of tax increases originally set to end this year.

If voters decide to reject the extension, then at least at MUSD, “we may have to make cuts,” Plotkin said.

“I don’t like taxes anymore than anybody,” she said, but the reality is that if they don’t get those funds there would be no way to keep programs going.

The tax extension “will be important to schools,” she said.

The Montebello Unified School District has made $10 million in cuts over the last five years, mostly through encouraging people in the district to retire, and then not hiring people to fill those vacant positions, she said. Meanwhile, those without a permanent job in the district were often at risk of being the first to be let go.

Last year, the school district’s superintendent left to run another school district, but Montebello Unified ended up filling his seat, not with someone new, but by assigning two assistant superintendents to take over the duties, managing to save some money in the process.

The district is also looking at “repurposing”  Laguna Nueva Elementary in Commerce, closing the elementary school program there and replacing it with other types of programs such as adult education classes.

The district’s interim budget sets revenues at $262.9 million, not quite enough to fully cover the $263.7 million in projected expenditures. Plotkin said the district has other funds to cover the difference, including stimulus funds and reserves, so this will not be an issue.

She says the district has $26.4 million in reserves, which it built up during the good years, but the state budget crisis over the past several years has forced the district to chip away at it to make up the differences in its budget.

On Monday, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines applauded Brown’s “attempts to protect education even as he proposed $12.5 billion in cuts to other areas in the budget.”

He agreed with Brown that school districts have taken the brunt of past cuts. LAUSD has been shoring up the effects of past budget shortfalls by “slashing budgets at district office, moving thousands of employees from 12-month to 10-month schedules, eliminating summer school for most students, and shortening the school year for all students,” he said.

Meanwhile, unions accepted unpaid furlough days and 5,000 district employees have been laid off, he said.
There are still some challenges for LAUSD, he said, including stimulus funding, which saved 2,000 jobs but is drying up.

Another is Brown’s proposal to voters to extend tax increases made in 2009. If it does not go through, the state will cut $2.2 billion from K-12 public education in California. LAUSD’s portion is between 10 to 20 percent, or $220 million to $440 million, depending on the formula used.

“He has left the deficit in the hands of the voters. If voters agree to protect education by extending increases to sales, vehicle and income taxes, we will be in a better position to address our current overall deficit,” Cortines said.

Whatever Happened to the Monterey Park Superfund Site Along the 60 Freeway?

January 13, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Clean up work on a Monterey Park Superfund site that motorists have grown accustomed to driving by along the 60 Freeway is expected to be completed in 2012, according to EPA officials.

Officials have secured almost all the settlement payments needed to pay for cleaning up the 190-acre Operating Industries, Inc., (OII) Superfund site, located at 900 Portrero Grande Drive.

The EPA announced on Monday a proposed $17 million settlement with 275 companies that dumped potentially hazardous materials into the former landfill, Around $700 million is needed to conduct the clean-up, and EPA attorneys have so far secured $600 million from 1,100 companies that contributed to the contamination.

“Today, landfills that accept hazardous waste must meet very strict design requirements. This was not the case with OII where hazardous materials were released into the environment,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region.

The major contaminators were identified early on and were required to pay a majority of the clean up costs. EPA is now working its way through the smaller dumpers, companies that through the years contributed between 4,200 to 110,000 gallons of waste each into the landfill.

Today, the former landfill is made up of grass-covered mounds sitting on either side of the 60 Freeway, between the Garfield Avenue and Paramount Blvd exits.

The site became a landfill in 1948 under the Monterey Park Disposal Co. and was purchased by Operating Industries, Inc in 1950. It took in residential and commercial waste, as well as liquid waste and hazardous materials. It was designated as a Superfund site in 1986.

During the first few years, the EPA worked to stabilize the site, which is divided by the 60 Freeway and includes a south and north parcel.

One of the first things the EPA had to do was put up a wall to keep the landfill from sliding into people’s backyards on the south parcel, which is right up against residential homes in Montebello.

This is the larger of the two sites, and because it sinks several inches each year, it is “not particularly suitable for much development,” said Fred Schauffler, Section Chief of the Superfund Division at the EPA.

“It is a very large mountain of waste, 275 feet high. It was where the large majority of waste was sent,” he said. The current owners of the site are looking at more unique options for developing the site, such as building a solar array to generate energy.

The 45-acre north parcel is in better condition, and is actually ready for development, Schauffler said. Only 10 acres still needed to be cleaned up when EPA arrived.

Rather than environmental reasons, it is the condition of the economy that has lately slowed the progress on a retail development of the site that has long been on the books for Monterey Park’s redevelopment agency, he said.

In all, the Superfund site has required “20 odd years of clean-up work,” Schauffler said. Enforcement has also been a lengthy process, as officials sort through the landfill’s records, trying to contact and secure payments from thousands of companies, some of which have closed, don’t have the ability to pay, or feel they did not contribute to the contamination.

“Part of what takes so long is that these are just large sites with multiple issues,” he said.

Suspect Dead, Deputy Trainee Critically Wounded in City Terrace Shootout

January 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A reputed gang member killed in a shootout with deputies in East Los Angeles that left a deputy trainee wounded in the face was identified yesterday, while the deputy remained hospitalized.

Nestor Torres, 37, of East Los Angeles, was killed in the shootout, according to sheriff’s Capt. Mike Parker. Deputy Mohammed Ahmed, 27, was hospitalized in critical but stable condition, Parker said.

Nestor Torres

“He is currently sedated,” Parker said in a statement late Wednesday morning. “His family is by his side. Doctors are assessing his condition and will determine what actions to take later today.”
Ahmed reportedly suffered a serious eye injury.

Ahmed’s training deputy, a 21-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, shot and killed Torres, Parker said. The lawman “has been a long-term field training officer,” Parker said. “He suffered mild injuries during the initial fight when Torres tried to shoot him, but he was not hospitalized.”

According to the sheriff’s department, Ahmed and his training officer were on patrol in East Los Angeles at about 7:18 p.m. Tuesday when they saw a person acting suspiciously in a parked car at North Brannick Avenue, near Floral Drive in unincorporated City Terrace.

They made contact with the Torres, a struggle ensued and Torres shot Ahmed in the face, the sheriff’s department reported. Ahmed’s training deputy, whose name was not released, returned fire, hitting Torres.

Ahmed and Torres were transported to County-USC Medical Center, where Torres was pronounced dead.

“After the shooting, investigators discovered Torres was in possession of two handguns,” Parker said. “Both handguns were recovered at the scene.”

Torres was on parole, having been convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and shooting at an inhabited dwelling, Parker said.

Senior Housing to Replace Bell Gardens ‘Eyesore’

January 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By consolidating three lots, approving costs for demolishing ‘blighted’ buildings, and adopting a resolution to use county bonds to finance construction and development, the Bell Gardens City Council on Monday sealed a deal to bring another senior housing project to the southeast city.

The three lots located at 5720-5722 Clara St. will be consolidated into a single 74,000 square foot parcel, to accommodate the building of a 65-unit affordable housing project for low-income seniors.

The site currently contains a vacant sixteen-unit apartment building and a vacant commercial building previously used as a medical office, according to Monday’s Bell Gardens’ agenda description. Demolition of the buildings is slated for the first Saturday in February, according to Aldo Schindler, community development director.

“The first part is to demolish the buildings that are there because they are blighted, and we’ve been having some complaints, people coming and calling saying there’s kids there smoking marijuana on the property, that there’s graffiti on the property, that there’s gang activity on the property, there’s homeless sleeping inside,” City Manager Steve Simonian told EGP. “We haven’t proven that all of that has occurred, but we’re spending a lot of resources going and checking all the time when we get calls.”

The city has been working with the developer, Abode Communities, Inc., for over a year and a half on the project, Simonian said.

Demolition is expected to be completed within 30 days and will cost the city $150,000, including lead and other toxin abatement costs. The council also adopted a Community Development Commission resolution authorizing LA County’s Housing Authority to issue bonds financing the construction and development of the project.

In Search of ‘Vision’ For Northeast Streets

January 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Residents of two local communities are in the process of developing “Vision Plans” for their Los Angeles city neighborhoods, attending workshops held recently in Highland Park and El Sereno.

The “Vision Plans” projects are being spearheaded by Councilman Jose Huizar and are focused on two commercial corridors in Council District 14, which he represents.

Still in the early stages of development, one of the plans is envisioning possible changes along York Boulevard in Highland Park. The other is examining new possibilities for Huntington Drive in El Sereno.

Stakeholders met in groups to map out their visions for Highland Park on Jan. 5. The ‘new York’ plan is specifically for the segment of York Boulevard between Avenue 50 and Avenue 56. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

About 70 El Sereno residents participated in the “Our Downtown” Vision Plan workshop held Monday at Barrio Action Youth & Family Center. Several dozen stakeholders participated at the Highland Park “new York” Vision Plan meeting held at the Glass Studio on Jan. 5.

In both communities, the goal is to design attractive and low-cost pedestrian improvements to encourage residents and visitors to see the areas as desirable public gathering spaces. Residents considered and gave suggestions such as installing identifying markers and implementing bicycle lanes.

Six possible projects were selected from the Jan. 5th “new York Vision Plan” meeting. They include: adding seating along York; green space at Avenue 50/York; an entry arch; street murals; seating deck or corner plazas.

A sub-committee has been formed to narrow that number down to one plan to be completed within twelve months, Huizar spokesperson Rick Coca told EGP.

The next “new York” meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 2, for the location call (323) 254-5295. For information the next “Our Downtown” meeting, call (323) 226-1646.

EDITORIAL: $20 Million Savings Could Add Up

January 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Twenty million here and twenty million there and pretty soon you’re talking about big money.

But to hear some of the comments being made in response to the Governor’s announcement that he plans to cut off thousands of state workers from their state-paid-for cell phones, one would think that a savings of $20 million is a pittance.

Or hardly worth the effort.


With health and human services, childcare and seats at our state colleges on the line, every penny counts.

Everyone agrees that cuts must be made to the state’s budget. Immediate action is needed to get state expenses under control. The problem is not everyone agrees on how we should do it.

This attitude that sees a $20 million savings as meaningless is what got government and taxpayers into the financial fix we’re in today.

“Don’t cut …, it costs nothing compared to… ”

“Don’t charge more for …, or you’ll drive everyone out of the state.”

You fill in the blanks.

In the old days, people were told that if they take care of their pennies, the dollars would take care of themselves. Today, some of the critics of the governor’s proposed budget say that by focusing on “little” things like cutting cell phones and not renewing auto leases, he is stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.

We disagree.

Too often, it’s the little things that drive expenditures out of control.

While the people in every state agency, department, fund, and program may think that they have already been cut to the bone, the facts are that more cuts are on the horizon.

Rather than looking at things like the loss of a cell phone as petty, we’d all be wise to start taking a hard look for the pennies that have fallen through the budgeting cracks.

We don’t know about you, but we would much rather see $20 million worth of cell phones get cut, than $20 million more for childcare.

Viviendas para Jubilados Reemplazarán ‘Monstruosidad’ en Bell Gardens

January 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Mediante la consolidación de tres lotes, la aprobación de los costes de demolición de dos edificios “deteriorados,” y la adopción de una resolución para utilizar bonos del condado para financiar construcción y el desarrollo, el Consejo Municipal de Bell Gardens el lunes selló un acuerdo para traer otro proyecto de viviendas para jubilados a la ciudad del sureste.

El proyecto de viviendas asequibles para jubilados “Terra Bella” será un edificio estilo español de dos o tres pisos de altura. Un gerente vivirá en el edificio, habrá una oficina de administración, una sala de reunión y una lavandería, de acuerdo a la ciudad. Imagen cortesía de la Ciudad de Bell Gardens


Los tres lotes ubicados en 5720-5722 Clara St. se consolidarán en una sola parcela de 74.000 metros cuadrados, para la construcción de un proyecto de vivienda con 65 unidades asequibles para personas mayores de bajos ingresos.

El sitio actualmente contiene un complejo de apartamentos vacío de dieciséis unidades y un edificio comercial vacío utilizado anteriormente como un consultorio médico, de acuerdo a la descripción de la agenda del lunes. La demolición de los edificios está programada para el primer sábado de febrero, de acuerdo a Aldo Schindler, director del departamento de desarrollo comunitario.

“La primera parte será la demolición de los edificios que están deterioradas—y hemos recibido numerosas quejas, indicando que hay jovenes en la propiedad fumando marihuana, que hay graffiti en la propiedad, que hay actividad de pandillas en la propiedad, y que hay personas sin hogar durmiendo adentro,” dijo el Administrador Municipal Steve Simonian a EGP. “No hemos comprobado que todo eso estaba ocurriendo pero si hemos gastado una gran cantidad de recursos y tiempo en investigar las quejas.”

La ciudad tiene más de un año y medio trabajando con el inmobiliario, Abode Communities, Inc., dijo Simonian.

Se anticipa que la demolición se completará dentro de 30 días y costará $150.000 a la ciudad, incluyendo el costo de la eliminación de plomo y otras toxinas.

El consejo también aprobó una resolución por la Comisión de Desarrollo Comunitario que autoriza que la Autoridad de Viviendas del Condado de Los Ángeles emita bonos de financiación para la construcción y el desarrollo del proyecto.

American Comic Book in Arizona

January 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Jared Lee Loughner may turn out to be certifiably mad. But it bears mentioning that the entire United States of America lately has shown signs of a low-grade lunacy—call it a willful inability to deal with reality.

Because we can’t face the complicated great world, we entertain ourselves with a political parlor game called “conservatives vs. progressives.”

After Sept. 11, as I recall, it took Rush Limbaugh only two days to switch from a discussion of our foreign enemies to his mocking attacks on the failures of “liberals.” Surely, for his listeners, there was something comforting in being able to hear their Rush rehearse his familiar domestic script at a time when, clearly, there was another script in the world sounding in a language Americans did not understand.

So, too, now: Within minutes of this weekend’s carnage in Tucson, Americans were blogging in both directions—either pointing accusing fingers at Sarah Palin or deflecting accusations against her for her “hair trigger” web page. After our national moment of mournful silence, we ended arguing about Michael Savage and Keith Olbermann.

You would have thought, after Sept. 11, Americans would have engaged in a serious conversation about the price we pay for our involvement in the Middle East. What price should we or must we pay for supporting Israel? What should our relationship be with the royal House of Saud?

Instead, of course, Americans ended up on talk radio arguing about whether Barack Obama is a Muslim. Lately, Americans have argued on talk radio about whether or not it is safety that dictates aggressive pat-downs at the airport or it is the liberal agenda run amok, intruding on our privates.

I am about to make a point so simple that I am astonished few in what we used to call the American Left, have bothered to say it. In fact, it is corporate America that is profiting mightily from the uncivil war Americans are waging against each other. The real players in the game are up in the luxury boxes. And they are not named Glenn Beck or Jon Stewart. They are executives at News Corporation and GE and Disney and Comcast (which will soon own MSNBC).

The plain fact is that the fierce entertainment of our national life—conservatives vs. liberals—will continue until the corporate big guys call a halt in the game.

In Arizona, these last several years, Governor Brewer and other state worthies have been noisily preoccupied by Mexico—or at least our side of the U.S. border. How to protect the state of Arizona from Mexican bandits and unwanted peasants? The sheriff in Phoenix is a regular on Fox News.

Fox News also sent the indomitable patriot, Sean Hannity, to the border to reinforce support for the valor of Minutemen who train their gaze southward. What Hannity did not discuss, during his stint on the border, was the way American drug addiction has destabilized various countries in the world, including Colombia, Afghanistan and, of course, Mexico.

Choosing to play their game of “liberals vs. conservatives,” Americans are not inclined to discuss what their drug addiction or Rush Limbaugh’s addiction, has done to the world. It is easier for Arizonans to be angry about Mexico.

Thus, too, Sarah Palin—paid by Fox News for her interviews—is disinclined to mention how unsafe Mexico has become because of right-wing support of the National Rifle Association. (The NRA, in order to protect our constitutional right to bear arms, is presently busy, protecting the right of various tawdry gun shops along the border to sell arms to Mexican drug terrorists.)

If the Right is inclined to hero worship in comic book America, the Left plays Sad Sack, entangled in a politics and upholding ideas that were worn out a generation ago.

For example, in Texas and Arizona, education officials have lately challenged the ethnic-centric schooling that passes as “education” in various Mexican-American high schools. Students are being schooled by their teachers in their own victimization. The students’ “role models” and their historical view of America always refers primarily and lastly to their own tribe. Of course, the excuse teachers give for such a parochial pedagogy is that Mexican-American students need to develop a sense of “self-worth.” It is an argument from the 1960s. And it feeds a delighted right-wing scorn.

The reason the Right is noisier than the Left in this strange game we are all forced to watch or hear is that the Right has big balloon figures, shouting radio personalities and politicians with gams. The dour Left has no balloons, just plenty of grump. Ironically, the Left ends up as obsessed, albeit negatively, with a cartoon creature like Sarah Palin as her devoted fans seem to be.

Which is where we find ourselves, after the carnage in Tucson–arguing about Sarah. We are trapped in an American comic book, underwritten by big corporate money, with characters who shout or misspeak in bubbles of noise while the world spins out of control.

Author and journalist Richard Rodriguez’ commentary for New America Media

Aún no Están Finalizados Los Planes para Reconstruir Garfield

January 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Los planes finales de diseño para la reconstrucción del auditorio y del edificio administrativo de la Preparatoria Garfield casi están listos para ser sometidos para revisión por la División del Arquitecto del Estado (DSA), la agencia estatal que evalúa y aprueba los requisitos estructurales y de seguridad antes de que la construcción pueda comenzar, según un oficial de alto rango de la división de instalaciones del Distrito Escolar Unificado de Los Ángeles (LAUSD).

El camino antiguo que llegaba a la entrada de la escuela hora esta tras un cerco con candado, al fondo se ve parte de una pared aún recta. Foto de EGP por Gloria Angelina Castillo

La demolición del edificio administrativo dañado en un incendio de 2007—que también destruyó el auditorio—se completó antes de comenzar el año escolar 2010-2011, dijo a EGP Neil Gamble, director ejecutivo de instalaciones de LAUSD.

Los diseños serán enviados al DSA en los próximos 30 a 60 días, dijo Gamble, pero la construcción no se prevé comenzar hasta el verano.

Imagen cortesía de LAUSD.


 “Originalmente cuando se construyó la escuela [el auditorio y edificio administrativo] era un edificio, ahora los estamos separando en dos edificios—con esencialmente un patio entre los dos,” él dijo el pasado 7 de enero.

El concepto de diseño final para la escuela en el Este de Los Ángeles fue elegido hace seis meses. La construcción tendrá una duración de 15 a 18 meses una vez que comienza, dijo Gamble.

Las oficinas administrativas de la escuela actualmente se encuentran en unos edificios modulares en el campus, al oeste de la parcela vallada donde la construcción se llevará a cabo.

Reporte: California Enfrenta una Escasez de Maestros

January 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California esta enfrentando una escasez de maestros. De acuerdo al reporte número 12 del Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning (Centro para el Futuro de la Enseñanza y el Aprendizaje), la crisis fiscal del Estado ha dañado tan severamente las posibilidades de contratar y entrenar nuevos maestros, que pudiera estarse arriesgando la calidad de la enseñanza por varios años.

Patrick Shields, director del Centro de SRI Internacional, comenta que la conclusión del reporte es que la fuerza laboral magisterial de California se esta agotando. El estudio encontró que los recortes al presupuesto durante los tres años recientes han dificultado que los maestros alcancen las crecientes expectativas de desempeño académico, y también que el Estado contrate nuevos profesores.

“Cuando los distritos han tratado de decidir que hacer en terminos de estos recortes al presupuesto, casi siempre han elegido no contratar maestros cuando hay plazas vacantes o despedir maestros, lo que significa, como la cantidad de estudiantes por supuesto no varia, que el tamaño de los grupos este creciendo.”

Shields declara que menos gente esta escogiendo abrazar la profesión de maestro. El reporte detecto una reducción del 40 por ciento, de la que se culpa en parte a los recortes presupuestales a las universidades de California, las cuales han cancelado algunos programas de preparación para maestros.

Shields agrega que los distritos han decidido despedir al personal no institucional, pero eso también afecta a los maestros.

“Como las enfermeras, los consejeros asistentes, los auxiliares institucionales, gente asi que puede ser de gran ayuda para los maestros, que se hace cargo de algunos problemas y permite que estos se concentren en la enseñanza,” él dijo.

Según Shields, se espera que las escuelas elementales de California reciban una afluencia de 200 mil nuevos estudiantes en los próximos años, justo cuando se este agotando el suministro de profesores en el estado.

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