Shops at Montebello Restaurant Robbed

January 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A lone gunman robbed an Olive Garden restaurant and five employees in a San Gabriel-area shopping mall Monday, making off with an unknown amount of cash.

Deputies responded to a call of an armed robbery at the restaurant in The Shops at Montebello about 8:15 a.m., according to the Sheriff’s Department.

The male suspect entered the restaurant before it opened and accosted several of the employees, according to Lt. M. Rodriguez of the Major Crimes Bureau in a written statement.

No injuries were reported, he added

The suspect held the five employees at gunpoint and stole an unknown amount of cash , wrote Rodriguez.

Media reports that the employees were locked in a refrigerator could not be confirmed, according to investigators.

Detectives were reviewing surveillance video from the restaurant and the nearby Montebello Mall in an effort to identify the suspect.
Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Major Crimes Bureau, Lieutenant Rodriguez, at 562-946-7008 or Temple Station at 626-285-7171. If you prefer to provide information anonymously, you may call “Crime Stoppers” by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477), or texting the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or by using the website

Iconic Statue Restored After Years of Neglect

January 15, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

In the mid-1800s, Florence Nightingale worked tirelessly to organize and train nurses to care for English soldiers wounded during the Crimean War, setting the path for the founding of modern nursing.

A century and a half later, however, a sculpture of the nurse overlooking the lake at Lincoln Park, located just east of downtown Los Angeles, has faced its own battles, the target of vandals and graffiti taggers for years.

Lea este artículo en Español: Estatua es Restaurada Después de Años de Abandono

The statue of Florence Nightingale has been at the park for eight decades, and fell into disrepair after years of neglect and outright vandalism; its hands, nose and lamp smashed off, graffiti damaging the paint. For years, however, complaints to the city requesting the statue be restored were ignored. The city also turned down the offer from Azusa University’s nursing history conservation program to restore and relocate the statue to the school’s campus because the statue is a “city asset.”

That has now changed.

Councilman Gil Cedillo and supporters unveil the restored sculpture of Florence Nightingale at Lincoln Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Councilman Gil Cedillo and supporters unveil the restored sculpture of Florence Nightingale at Lincoln Park. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Last week, Los Angeles Councilman Gil Cedillo, who represents Lincoln Heights where the park and statue are located, was joined by dozens of community members and nurses from different medical entities for the unveiling of the fully-restored nearly 9-foot tall statue, its face, hands and lamp restored to their former beauty. Graffiti was removed from the sculpture and its title-bearing plaque.

“This is an important step for us in recapturing public space,” remarked Cedillo during the ceremony.

Third generation Lincoln Heights resident Stephen Sarinana-Lampson told EGP he brought the sculpture’s disrepair to Cedillo’s attention during his 2013 campaign for office, explaining that the statue is very dear to many of those living in the area that Cedillo hoped to represent.

While few people may actually know the history behind the woman who has come to be known locally at the “lady of the lake”—including some of those at the senior center a few feet away—they are accustomed to her presence and have grown quite attached the statue, explains Sarinana-Lampson.

“This is something that my mom used to see when she was a kid and for me to be around it as I grew up too,” he said.

Sarinana-Lampson told EGP he is very happy the statue was not moved and that the local landmark is back in “all her glory.”

Florence Nightingale is a “patron saint” of sorts in the nursing profession. Her work is credited for improving unsanitary conditions at a British hospital where wounded soldiers died from infectious diseases rather than their wounds. Under her supervision, the number of soldier deaths was reduced by two-thirds.

After the war, Nightingale continued her work and wrote about her experiences, reforming the delivery of healthcare worldwide. She died in London in 1910.

The renovated statue depicts a nurse Florence Nightingale. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The renovated statue depicts a nurse Florence Nightingale. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

The sculpture by David Edstrom was commissioned during the New Deal Era of the 1930s by the Federal Art Project and sponsored by the Hospital Council of Southern California.

It was then given as a gift to the City of Los Angeles and with the approval of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Commission, it was accepted into the City’s Art Collection in 1937.

Work to restore the statue was started in the summer of 2014 and took 6-8 weeks to complete, according to Felicia Filer, director of Public Art for the City of Los Angeles.

However, a few days before its scheduled unveiling in September of last year, it was vandalized again, Filer told EGP.

“We brought the conservationists back up and worked internally on a project to prevent that from occurring again,” she said, adding that the total conservation cost was $20,350.

Cedillo does not think fencing off the statue to keep it from being vandalized again is a good idea, and told EGP he hopes people will understand that all the sculptures and memorials at Lincoln Park are a part of history and should be maintained for generations to come.

“I’m trusting that the pride of the community, the vigilance of the community, will be enough to persuade people from coming and disrespecting the public space,” he said.

Cedillo told EGP that the restoration is just one of the many improvements his office is working with the Departments of Recreations and Parks and Cultural Affairs to bring about at the park, which also includes a recreation center, swimming pool, and the Plaza de La Raza cultural and art center.

The councilman said plans call for re-opening the closed swimming pool, fixing the sidewalks around the park, adding more parking for employees, cleaning restrooms and restoring other sculptures and memorials at the park, including The Wall Las-Memorias HIV/AIDS memorial.

“We will transform this [park] back to what it should be; public recreation where people can come and have some solace,” he said. The park is one of the city’s many “gems,” said Cedillo, noting it has been enjoyed by generations of Angelenos.


Twitter @jackieguzman


Bell Gardens Has Yet to Address Water Rates

January 15, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

It will not stop the bleeding, but a new service contract approved Monday by the Bell Gardens City Council is expected to improve operation of the city-owned water system while reducing costs at the chronically deficit-plagued system by $10,000 a year.

The savings are a small step forward considering the council has for years avoided making any long-term adjustments or decisions to reduce the water utility’s $400,000 annual operating deficit, forcing the city to cover the shortfall with revenue from its General Fund that would otherwise go toward other city services and expenses.

Thirty percent of Bell Gardens’ residents buy their water from the city; the other 70% get their water from Golden State Water, which is privately owned.

Staff from Park Water Company check water quality at a water system facility. (Park Water Company)

Staff from Park Water Company check water quality at a water system facility. (Park Water Company)

For the last year and a half, staff has repeatedly told the council that the deficit is unsustainable and the aging system is in need of costly repairs. Staff has advised the council to raise water rates, which have not seen an increase for 20 years, or to consider selling-off the system to an outside entity.

However, fearing that approving either of the recommended remedies would result in higher rates that low-income residents would be hard-pressed to pay, the council voted to hold off on selling the utility and has failed to raise rates.

In the meantime, “We have to continue to maintain the system” to avoid a major catastrophe City Manager Phil Wagner told the council during its first meeting of the year.

The city will pay Park Water Company $230,198 a year to manage the utility, but none of the funds will be used for long overdue infrastructure repairs, or to cover costs if “something major” happens, such as water main leaks or breaks or damage to piping, according to Wagner.

While the council’s approval of new service provider will save some money, raising water rates “is a whole other discussion,” Wagner said.

Customers of the city’s other water provider, who have seen their rates increase multiple times throughout the years, are subsidizing the rates being paid by the city’s 1,650 water utility customers.

According to city documents, selling the water system would generate enough money to pay off the city’s outstanding bond debt, recover the city’s investment and potentially repay a portion of the amount subsidized by the general fund.

Since purchasing the water system in 1991, Bell Gardens has been paying nearly $20,000 a month to maintain the system and over half a million dollars annually to pay off a $5.2 million bond to fund past system improvements.

For now, however, it seems the council is not ready for that level of change, even though the system’s operating deficit continues to threaten the city’s financial stability and has in the past contributed to a deficit in the general fund.

This week’s board’s approval will have minimal impact on those costs, but will allow the city to switch from its long-term billing, customer service and meter reading provider to a contractor that will provide “better service” at a lower cost, said Wagner.

“By lowering the [service provider] contract [cost], we are relying a little less on the general fund,” said Public Works Director Chau L. Vu about the small change in direction.

The city will also pay the new contractor a onetime fee of $25,837 to exercise the valves and map out the water system to prevent valves from getting rusty and breaking, said Vu.

The transition is expected to be complete by the end of the month.

Proposed Merger of County Health Services Decried

January 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A proposal to consolidate the county’s public health, mental health and health services departments drew fire from mental health advocates and others Tuesday.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich proposed the consolidation as a way to “enhance patient care and access” and “streamline bureaucratic processes.”

Dozens of mental health advocates argued that consolidating services would ultimately short-change mentally ill patients.

“Large health systems have not typically provided enough focus on mental health,’ said Brittney Weissman, executive director of the Los Angeles County Council of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

When mental health services were previously grouped with general medical care, “mental health became a stepchild,” she said.

Many who said they live with mental illness praised the Department of Mental Health for helping them dramatically change their lives.

Some opposed the plan outright, while others urged the board to get feedback from stakeholders, invoking the slogan “Nothing about us without us.”

“We all agree about having stakeholders in the process,” Antonovich said.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding, who headed the Department of Public Health for 16 years, warned that if his old department became a division of the Department of Health Services, it would “jeopardize the health of Angelenos” as “public health has a fundamentally different mission than DHS.”

Still, Fielding said it was “well worth considering” an umbrella agency over all three departments to promote coordination and collaboration.

The Department of Public Health is responsible for managing outbreaks of communicable diseases; runs programs to promote health goals such as childhood vaccination; and inspects restaurants and nursing homes. It is designed to serve all 10 million county residents, Fielding told the board, rather than the roughly 10 percent of residents that make use of county clinics and hospitals run by DHS.

The union representing county healthcare workers signaled its potential support, calling consolidation a “bold idea.”

“Done right,” the change could cut through bureaucratic red tape and improve patient care, said Bob Schoonover, president of Service Employees International Union Local 721.

Supervisors Hilda Solis, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl each expressed support for breaking down walls between departments.

Schoonover voiced his confidence in Dr. Mitchell Katz, who runs DHS and could be chosen to lead an umbrella agency. No permanent replacement has yet been hired for Fielding, who retired last year.

Dr. Marvin Southard, who has run the Department of Mental Health since 1998, said he would work to make sure that Los Angeles County remained a “national leader in providing for hope, wellness and recovery” in whatever organizational structure the board put in place.

Katz told the board he envisioned “three independent departments working together,” each with its own budget. He said no jobs should be lost as a result of the new structure.

In an interview with City News Service, Katz offered more details.

The three departments would work “as equals … each helping each other to do a better job,” Katz said.

Staffers would be more likely to collaborate to solve problems if they were part of a single agency with a common set of priorities, he said.

“We don’t have to shake everything up,” said the DHS director, but he pointed to substance abuse as a problem that typically requires attention from all three departments.

One  ”compelling” statistic, Katz said, is that those suffering from serious mental illness have a life expectancy roughly 20 years shorter than non-sufferers. This is true even though they typically die not from suicide, but medical causes, he said.

Supervisor Don Knabe stressed that the proposal amounted to a “look-see,” saying he had fielded many calls about the issue by telling constituents to “take a deep breath.”

The board directed a working group to report back in 60 days with a potential structure for consolidation, a timeline for implementation and drawbacks to integration. The group was asked to gather input from various stakeholders.

At Ridley-Thomas’ urging, the group will consider merging the Sheriff’s Department’s medical services bureau, as well.

L.A. Realigns Fire Dept. Authority

January 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Hoping to improve response times by an agency once criticized for providing misleading statistics about how quickly it reaches emergency scenes, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Monday the Los Angeles Fire Department has been divided into four bureaus.

Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas called the change “long overdue and critical in our efforts to maintain our position as a highly regarded fire service leader and the community-focused organization we strive to become.”

The realignment of authority is similar to the system of bureaus used by the Los Angeles Police Department, and will allow greater geographical cooperation between the two departments during emergency situations.

Fire truck at the Highland Park Fire Station.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Fire truck at the Highland Park Fire Station. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The Central Bureau, led by Deputy Chief Phillip Fligiel and based at Fire Station 3 at 108 N. Fremont Ave., will cover downtown and the area surrounding it.

The South Bureau, led by Deputy Chief Daren Palacios and based at 638 S. Beacon St. in San Pedro, will cover the harbor area and South Los Angeles.

The Valley Bureau will be based at Fire Station 88 at 5101 N. Sepulveda Blvd. and led by Deputy Chief Daryl Arbuthnott.

The West Bureau will be led by Deputy Chief Joseph Castro and based at Fire Station 82 Annex, 1800 N. Bronson Ave.

Garcetti said each deputy chief will be held responsible for improving response times and keeping “in closer contact with their communities while making the city more resilient by aligning emergency operations across departments.”

Each bureau’s performance, including response times, will be evaluated under the FireStatLA program, in which data about fire department activities are collected and analyzed.

The fire department has been plagued by questions over the accuracy of its response time data, ever since department officials admitted in 2012 the data they had been releasing showed that firefighters were responding faster than they actually were.

Officials at the time blamed the inaccurate data on a faulty process for crunching the times recorded in their dispatch system.

Fire Department officials recently began releasing monthly response time data, at, that they said has been triple-checked by an internal statistician, and by two outside experts.

Will Seahawks Repeat as Super Bowl Champions?

January 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Seattle Seahawks and quarterback Russell Wilson advance to the NFC Championship game for the second year in a row, this time taking on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in Seattle.

A win Sunday would put the Seahawks in position to try to repeat their crushing 2014 Super Bowl 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos at Super Bowl 49.

Seattle is coming off a decisive 31-17 second round playoff win over the Carolina Panthers. Wilson passed for 268 yards, throwing three touchdowns to advance.

The Seahawks will have to contain Green Bay’s big playmakers, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, runningback Eddie Lacy wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randel Cobb, a job they performed easily in their opening game of the season.

Seattle QB Russell Wilson (pictured) passed for 3,475 yards and 20 touchdowns with 7 interceptions, and rushed for 847 yards and 6 touchdowns during the 2014 regular season.  (Photo by Fred Zermeno)

Seattle QB Russell Wilson (pictured) passed for 3,475 yards and 20 touchdowns with 7 interceptions, and rushed for 847 yards and 6 touchdowns during the 2014 regular season. (Photo by Fred Zermeno)

The Packers secured their NFC championship appearance with a tough 26-21win over the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday; a controversial call by officials making the difference in the NFC divisional-round playoff.

Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll led Seattle to its first Super Bowl championship last year and has a two-year 25-7 winning record. He’s 4-0 in playoff games at home, which bodes well for the team on Sunday.

With Russell Wilson at the helm and running back “the Beast” Marshawn Lynch, wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Luke Wilson, the Seahawks’ offense has the edge over Green Bay’s defense.

In the AFC Championship game, the Indianapolis Colts will take on the New England Patriots on their turf at Gillette Stadium.

The Patriots’ 35-31 comeback win last Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens earned them their spot in the championship round.

The Colts are coming off a 24-13 win in hostile territory over the Denver Broncos.

Stats give the Patriots the edge going into Sunday’s game, a combined three season total of 144-66 points over the Colts, but the Patriots win last week was more impressive than the Colts’.

The winners of the NFC and AFC championship games will meet Feb 7 in Glendale, Arizona for Super Bowl 49.

Truck Fire Snarls Freeway Traffic for Hours

January 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A big rig fire prompted the closure of the westbound San Bernardino (10) Freeway in the University Hills area east of downtown Los Angeles for nearly six hours Tuesday, causing major congestion as crews checked the structural integrity of an overpass.

Firefighters were sent shortly after 11 a.m. to the freeway at Eastern Avenue, about a quarter-mile west of the Long Beach (710) Freeway. It was unclear what caused the blaze, with the truck driver saying he came to a stop beneath the Eastern Avenue overpass when he saw flames shooting out of his engine.

The westbound lanes and the Eastern Avenue overpass were finally reopened about 4:30 p.m. after Caltrans checked them out, but the Campus Road on-ramp remained closed as diesel fuel was being removed.

According to Caltrans, the damage to the overpass was only cosmetic.

The big rig was hauling a load of televisions and other appliances. There were no injuries.

Once the truck fire was doused, a Los Angeles County Fire Department Urban Search and Rescue team was brought in to check for flames in the bridge above the truck.

Smoke could be seen coming from some vents on the underside of the bridge. The structure was built with a wooden casing that could have been damaged by the fire, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Keith Mora said.

A county Department of Public Works crew was also sent to the scene to keep diesel fuel leaking from the truck from running into storm drains.

In December 2011, a tanker truck caught fire under a bridge over the Pomona (60) Freeway in Montebello, causing extensive damage to the structure and requiring its demolition and replacement.

The Paramount Boulevard bridge over the Pomona Freeway was closed for five months, and the structure was replaced at a price of $40 million — with the cost covered by the Federal Highway Administration.

Volunteers Sought For Homeless Count

January 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is seeking 6,000 volunteers to assist with the 2015 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, which will be held Jan. 27-29.

Volunteers will be dispatched from 87 regional deployment centers to targeted census tracts throughout Los Angeles County to record the number of homeless people, vehicles used as homes and homeless encampments observed.

Volunteers will select their preferred deployment center when they register at

The count will be conducted in the San Gabriel Valley and Eastern Los Angeles County from 8 p.m.-midnight on Jan. 27; in West Los Angeles and the South Bay from 8 p.m.-midnight on Jan. 28; in the Antelope Valley from 6-10 a.m. on Jan. 29; and the San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita Valley, metropolitan Los Angeles and South Los Angeles from 8 p.m.-midnight on Jan. 29.

The count will follow definitions of homelessness established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which include people living in places not meant for human habitation such as cars, parks, sidewalks and abandoned buildings.

A simultaneous count by service provider staff will enumerate homeless individuals and family members staying in emergency shelters and other homeless programs.

In conjunction with the three-night street and shelter count, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority will perform a detailed demographic survey to collect information critical in planning and assigning resources for homeless programs and services, it says.

The survey will capture such demographic data as age, gender, ethnicity, individual and family homelessness, duration of homelessness, and veteran status. Additional demographic data seeks to identify reasons why individuals became homeless, services utilized and benefits received.

“The 2015 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count is a critical opportunity to gain information about the size and scope of the challenge we face to house community residents experiencing homelessness,” said Executive Director Peter Lynn.

“We use this information to better target our homeless service resources. Volunteers will make a difference in their community, and the lives of their homeless neighbors, by committing four hours of their time.”

The homeless count is conducted every two years. The 2013 count found more than 39,000 homeless men, women and children.

Additional information is available by emailing

New ELAC Football Coach Has Big Plans

January 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

East Los Angeles College will have one of the premier football programs in the state, says new Huskie Coach Eric Marty.

“I believe that East Los Angeles College, with its location and resources, can have a tremendous impact on its players, the community, and become one of top football programs in California,” says Marty, who last season was an assistant coach and the offensive coordinator at Moorpark College in Ventura County.

Though only 28-years-old, Marty’s experience as a player and coach is extensive and impressive. Prior to Moorpark, he spent two seasons at Oklahoma Panhandle State University and two years coaching offense for two separate professional teams in Europe’s Italian League. Both of his offenses finished in the top two in nearly every statistical category.

New East Los Angeles College football Coach Eric Marty is aiming to lead the Huskies to prominence by building one of the top community college programs. (Photo by Mario Villegas)

New East Los Angeles College football Coach Eric Marty is aiming to lead the Huskies to prominence by building one of the top community college programs. (Photo by Mario Villegas)

The Washington native was also a three-years starting quarterback at Chapman University in Orange where he broke six school passing records, leading the Panthers to a 14-8 record as a starter, and consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1995-96.

“It is my vision and desire to build a program so organized, so efficient, and so purpose driven that it is able to radically transform the lives of its players,” Marty said. “And I believe that if a program can demand accountability (academically as athletes, and as men of character) that this type of transformation in its players is inevitable and that there will be a windfall of success on the field and in the classroom.”

Key to his success, said Marty, will be recruiting, player development and academic progress, focusing on the game’s X’s and O’s, and maintaining ELAC’s success transferring players to four-year universities.

“Our vision will be realized by concentrating our focus, energy, and resources

on those four core areas,” Marty said.

Before Marty’s arrival, Moorpark was a dismal 3-17 over two seasons. He not only helped rejuvenate the offense, but also the entire program, which improved enough to go 5-5 in his first season in 2013 and in 2014 his offense finished 14th in the state in total offense.

Longtime Columnist Al Martinez Dies at 85

January 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Former Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News columnist Al Martinez died

Monday at West Hills Hospital of congestive heart failure, the newspapers reported. He was 85.

Martinez was a Times columnist from 1984 to 2009. He wrote columns for the Daily News from 2009 to 2013 and for the website LA Observed in 2013 and 2014.

Martinez had “an extraordinary ability to take something very personal and spin it out beautifully to make you laugh or weep,” Sue Hodson, curator of the 2012 Huntington Library exhibit “Al Martinez: Bard of L.A.” told The Times.

Martinez was “the voice, not just of Angelenos, but of Everyman and Everywoman,” Hodson said.

“He captured bits of humanity in his writing, writing eloquently, gracefully and movingly of the human situation. He told universal stories and wrote about what unites us.”

According to The Times, Martinez joined the paper in 1972 as a reporter and contributed to three Pulitzer Prize-winning efforts — a 1983 series on the growth of the Latino population in Southern California, 1992 coverage of the Los Angeles riots and 1994 reporting on the Northridge earthquake.

Martinez was born on July 21, 1929, to Oakland, married fellow San Francisco State student Joanne Cinelli when he was 20 and soon joined the Marine Corps. He served in the Korean War from 1950-52 as a rifleman and combat correspondent.

Upon returning from the war, Martinez briefly attended UC Berkeley but left to join the Richmond Independent as a reporter. He moved to the Oakland Tribune in 1955 and stayed until 1971.

In addition to his wife, Martinez is survived by a daughter, Linda; a son, Allen; and six grandchildren. Another daughter, Cinthia, died in 2011.

Services are pending.

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