A public memorial service for Board Member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, who died last month, will be held this Saturday at Washington Prep High School (Auditorium) 10860 S. Denker Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90047 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
First elected in 2003, the veteran educator began her career with LAUSD as a special education teacher at Drew Middle School in 1973, and quickly moved up, working as head counselor of Edison Junior High, and as principal of Horace Mann Jr. High. She promoted to senior administrative positions, but in 1991 returned to her first love, a school. In her last position with the District, she served ten years as the principal of Washington Preparatory High School.
Limited street parking is available surrounding the campus, additional parking at no cost at Los Angeles Southwest College. Free shuttle service will begin at 8:30 a.m. Immediately following the memorial service, shuttles will return to the college.
Most people take for granted that when they turn on their faucet water will come pouring out, but its likely few of them ever think about how water arrives in their homes, or how the state’s water reservoir levels are doing.
But given California’s record-low rainfall and depleted water reserves, that could soon change.
[UPDATE] (1/17) : Gov. Jerry Brown proclaimed a State of Emergency Friday, telling state officials to prepare for drought conditions and directing state agencies to use less water. The proclamation will have state officials assist farmers and those communities that are economically impacted by the dry conditions. The governor is also directing state agencies to hire more firefighters and create more water conservation awareness.
That’s welcome news to a large number of local and state elected officials across California who have been pressing the governor to make the declaration, citing the impact the lack of rain is already having on agriculture, as well as the potential danger of wildfires and possible water rate hikes due to the growing scarcity of the valuable resource.
Lawmakers and non-profit agencies are stressing that the state is dealing with a “mega drought” that may lead to tighter water restrictions on residential and other uses.
They are concerned that the federal government, which has a big say in how the state’s water resources are allocated, could clamp down even more when snowpack levels are taken again in February.
Last week, the Los Angeles County Independent Cities Association, (ICA), which includes nearly 50 local cities, including Los Angeles, Montebello, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Vernon and Monterey Park, voted unanimously to ask the governor to declare a state of drought in California.
Aubrey J.D. Bettencourt is the Executive Director for the California Water Alliance, a nonprofit, non-partisan organization dedicated to advocating ways to relieve the water emergency afflicting the state. She told EGP California is experiencing its third “dry” year in a row.
“It’s not just [about] low rainfall, it’s that reservoirs levels are so low,” the lowest since the 1970s, she added.
Bettencourt says the state is facing many challenges with its water supply and how the water system is managed. She told EGP the state’s water system infrastructure is in need of large-scale improvement, but emphasized that all the current talk about water bonds and building tunnels to improve the Delta is about changes that will take 30 or so years to realize, and does nothing to help the current water crisis or improve how the system is managed today.
On Monday, the Fresno Bee reported Gov. Brown — who also happened to be the state’s governor during California’s 1976-1977 historic drought year — said he would work with farmers who are deeply concerned with major losses to California agriculture. When asked directly if he would declare a drought emergency, Brown said, “we’re getting ready.”
In a letter to the governor last month, Sen. Diane Feinstein urged the governor to declare the drought and to call on President Barack Obama to issue an emergency declaration, which could lead to more water transfers and the relaxation of some state and federal regulations.
The governor said Tuesday the declaration has been delayed because he wants to make sure it will give the state the flexibility to move water around, from areas with more water to those that are facing more critical shortages.
According to the State’s Department of Water Resources, only two of the state’s water reservoirs are currently filled to their historical average. The remaining are at less than half the level needed to deliver drinking water in their respective locations.
What this means for consumers is a reduction of water allocation to cities that could lead to water rate increases and/or rationing.
“Its basic supply and demand,” said Bettencourt. “It could become more expensive for these cities.”
Water companies would either have to pass the increased costs onto their consumers or find other ways to reduce other budget expenses to address the sudden increase in rates. Water rate hikes impact everyone— residents, manufacturers, businesses, and school districts — anyone who uses water in anyway.
Across California, cities like Montebello, South Pasadena and San Diego have already approved water rate increases in response to increases in wholesale water costs. Others like Bell Gardens have yet to do the same.
But not passing on the costs to customers could leave Bell Gardens, with a water system in needed upgrades and 19 years without rate hikes, to have to dig into their reserves or make cuts elsewhere.
Bell Gardens City Manager Phil Wagner told EGP declaration of a drought emergency would not have an “immediate impact” on water rates, citing the reserves from their water provider.
However advocates of the declaration say rate hikes are not the only thing people should be worried about; they should also be concerned that the quality of the water they consume may be negatively affected because the lack of new rain prevents the water stored in the reservoirs from being “recharged” after sitting undisturbed. It leads to the brownish water that Bettencourt compares to the quality of coffee from the bottom of the pot.
She says an emergency drought declaration would not only ensure that safe, clean water is transported throughout the state, but would call on the federal government to create maximum relief that could prevent this situation from happening in the future by instilling the “most relaxed system allowed under the law,” referring to the environmental laws that require a percentage of water to be allocated for wildlife under the Endangered Special Act.
She says “terrible decisions” on what to do with the water that was in the upstream reservoirs, or the surplus from the previous year, are contributing to the heightened problems today,
“If it were to rain we need to be ready to store the excess in our available reservoirs and not just let it [flow out] to the sea,” she said.
Wagner says if a drought is declared, Bell Gardens would have to be “water wise” and educate their residents to help conserve water by following “common sense” rules such as turning off the faucet while brushing teeth and reducing the use of water on lawns and cars.
Bell Gardens Assistant City Manager John E. Oropeza told EGP the city has previously taken steps to conserve water throughout the city. One example is the recycling of water for their golf course and other parks and recreation uses through efficient sprinkler systems.
But Bettencourt says the biggest impact on water conservancy will come from realizing how important the issue is in the first place, and holding elected officials accountable for exploring options to prevent droughts in the future.
The independent cities association’s president, Mario Guerra, told EGP the unanimous vote seeking a drought declaration was a “no brainer.”
“Our water is an economic [issue] both for businesses and cities,” he said.
Representing 48 cities with an estimated seven million residents, Guerra said people will see the impact “really soon” if they don’t begin conserving.
“Residents will see the affects trickle down,” Guerra said.
Bettencourt says the next step is to ensure the governor follows through on the declaration and the federal government is held accountable in making water conservancy and management in California a priority.
“The first six months are so critical in seeing what will happen during the dry season,” she said. “This is crunch time.”
The granddaughter of a migrant worker and founder of a Los Angeles bank was nominated by President Barack Obama yesterday to lead the Small Business Administration.
Maria Contreras-Sweet, 58, founded ProAmerica Bank in 2006 to cater to small- and mid-sized Latino-owned businesses. The job of SBA Administrator, which has been vacant since last year, is a cabinet-level position and requires confirmation by the Senate.
Prior to opening the bank, Contreras-Sweet was the first Latina to hold a state cabinet position, serving as secretary of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. She oversaw 42,000 employees and a budget of $14 billion during her five years in the position.
Contreras-Sweet also helped found private-equity firm Fortius Holdings, served on the Board of Blue Cross of California and was an equity partner in the 7UP/RC Bottling Co.
“Maria knows how hard it is to get started on a business – the grueling hours, the stress, the occasional self-doubt – although I have not yet seen self-doubt out of Maria,” Obama said. “So not only did she start small businesses, but those have also been her customers, and she understands all too often that the lack of access to capital means a lack of opportunity.”
Contreras-Sweet, “whose mother worked long hours to support Maria and her five siblings,” has personally experienced the “challenges that working families and recent immigrants face,” Obama said.
Contreras-Sweet, born in Guadalajara, Mexico, moved with her family at age 5 to the Los Angeles area, where her mother worked in an El Monte chicken-packaging plant.
According to Obama, Contreras-Sweet said her grandmother, who toiled as a migrant worker in Mexico, told her that if she “worked hard, studied, stayed in school, that someday” she would get to work as an office secretary and “really make her proud.”
Gary Tobin, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, said Contreras-Sweet “is highly regarded in Los Angeles and throughout the state of California,” reported the Washington Post.
“She is articulate and passionate about helping small businesses,” Tobin said in an interview with the newspaper.
Contreras Sweet is also a founding member of HOPE – Hispanas Organized for Political Equality – a nonprofit group aimed at increasing the role of Latinas in politics, and the attention paid to issues affecting Latinas.
She is also a current member of the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce Board of Director.
“Maria is an excellent choice to head the SBA,” said fellow chamber board member Jonathan Sanchez, associate publisher of Eastern Group Publications, publisher of this newspaper.
“Her vast and personal experience in business and finance, together with her understanding of the issues that impact small businesses, including those particular to Latino-owned small businesses, will be a tremendous asset to the agency and the Obama Administration in dealing with ongoing issues in the economy,” Sanchez said. “She is someone who can bring people together to resolve issues.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also hailed Contreras-Sweet’s nomination, describing her as a “dear friend” and “trailblazer.”
“Maria brings together a rare resume of excellence and experience in both the private and public sectors, and President Obama has made an excellent choice to help accelerate economic recovery in our country,” he said. “I can’t wait to work with Maria on helping small businesses start and grow here in Los Angeles.”
Contreras Sweet was nominated to succeed Karen Mills who left the position last August, If confirmed, she will join Labor Secretary Thomas Perez as the only other Hispanic in the president’s cabinet during his second term.
A park in Boyle Heights has undergone a much-needed makeover thanks in large part to help received from one of the city’s top sports franchises, the Los Angeles Clippers.
State Street Recreation Center in Boyle Heights gets thousands of visitors each year and on Monday hundreds of park users turned out for the unveiling of upgrades sponsored by the Clippers FIT Campus Program. They were joined by some current and former L.A. Clippers players, Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar and representatives of the California Endowment.
Many of those at the event were also there to spend some time mingling and playing with the professional basketball players, a rare opportunity in the predominantly Latino working class community.
“We really appreciate when the private sector steps up and provides resources for our parks,” Huizar told EGP. “…Because in the last few years the parks have been among the most drastically cut of all the departments” in the city.
Refurbishments at State Street Recreation Center include new equipment for the toddlers’ playground, a new adult fitness area, resurfacing the basketball court and installing new poles and backboards.
“We received about $150 thousand from the L.A. Clippers foundation,” Vicki Israel, Assistant General Manager at the Department of Recreation and Parks told EGP. “We know the California Endowment did a partnership with L.A. Clippers foundation to provide the donation,” she added.
The Clippers FIT Campus Program is one of several programs the Clippers Foundation has collaborated on with the Department of Recreation and Parks locally, according to documents provided.
The program’s goal is to “enhance the quality of life of children, reinforcing the importance of healthy lifestyle through exercise and nutrition.”
Huizar said the FIT Campus Program gives local children interested in playing basketball the opportunity to improve their skills. “The fit program is after school and the Clippers foundation helps provide people, resources and the personnel for the program,” Huizar said.
Clippers players at the center Monday showed the children some of their “tricks” and shared experiences and anecdotes about their lives growing up. “I wish I had a court when I was their age. I hope they take advantage of it,” Clippers player Jamal Crawford told EGP.
Crawford emphasized that a park is necessary in all neighborhoods. “It’s essential, this is where you feel safe, you go on the playground, the basketball court…you can bring your friends and play with them, have some exercise instead of being out in the streets,” he said.
Nearly 100 thousand people live in the eastside neighborhood. For some of the residents, seeing L.A. Clippers team members playing with their children was “surreal.” So was the realization that the professional basketball team had chosen their Boyle Heights’ parks to be one of just three locations they would spend money to upgrade in 2014.
Boyle Heights resident Omar Gonzalez told EGP he was very happy that his son Omar Jr. had the opportunity to play with the Clippers players Monday.
“I think it is great because he looks up to them,” said the father. “He really looked forward to this and he kept telling me the whole week” we had to come, Gonzalez said.
He said he hopes to see more of these types of events because “it is kind of rough to grow up here [in Boyle Heights]” and it’s good for the community.
Huizar told EGP the basketball court is used day and night. A lot of people even play when the lights are off, he said.
“So when the L.A. Clippers stepped up to help the kids, that is a huge step and we need to take our hats off” to acknowledge and to thank those foundations and private sectors groups that make the investment, he said.
Members of the Clippers combination dance team and cheer squad were also on hand to dance and instruct the local youth, adding to the liveliness of the event.
Despite Monday’s officials ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening, according to Israel some of the upgrades have not yet been completed. “We [still] need to add a shade structure above the playground,” she said.
All of the repairs are expected to be completed by mid-February, Israel said.
Huizar, who lives two blocks from the State Street Recreation Center and says he knows first hand that the park has been “neglected for years” and has experienced many ups and downs, says it is very satisfying to now be celebrating because “this is one of the ups.”
The Southland’s air-quality management agency approved stricter guidelines Friday on emissions of arsenic and other toxic substances from lead-acid battery recycling plants.
The action by the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s board was targeted at the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon and the Quemetco Inc. facility in Industry, which are the only two lead-acid battery plants on the West Coast, according to the AQMD.
“These measures will further strengthen the toughest air pollution rule in the nation for lead-acid battery plants,” according to William Burke, chairman of the AQMD board.
The new requirements limit arsenic emissions from the plants to 25 pounds per year, with the allowable concentration dropping to 10 pounds per year by 2015. Benzine emissions must be limited to 450 pounds per year. By Feb. 1, the ambient concentration of arsenic cannot exceed 10 nanograms per cubic meter.
Exide will have to install additional air pollution control equipment and make other modifications in order to comply with the new rule. AQMD estimates the total cost of the installation and maintenance of the new equipment to be $1.83 million annually.
Last month, in a letter to the AQMD, Exide said it was concerned the changes to Rule 1420.1 being proposed by the air quality distinct may not be realistic.
“The rule purports to set “technology-based” mass emissions limits, but recent testing at Quemetco raises serious concerns about whether those limits can actually be achieved,” states the letter signed by Exide Environment, Health and Safety Director Frederick Ganster.
Ganster noted that in order for the plant to satisfy the artificial negative pressure requirement, Exide would have to consistently introduce cool air into the furnace, which would affect thermal efficiency and bring in added Nitrogen.
Since April, Exide has reduced arsenic and benzene by more than 95%, according to a 2013 rule staff report.
“During the past year we have implemented significant capital investments and operational changes to further reduce emissions and protect public health and we are pleased the District has reported improved results for our facility,” said Robert M. Caruso, President and CEO of Exide Technologies, in a statement.
However, late last week, in a statement cited by ABC7, Exide officials said they are now confident the plant will be able to meet the requirements.
“Exide is making significant investments to upgrade the recycling facility, comply with regulatory limits and protect public health,” according to ABC7.
“The company generally supports the new rule for arsenic that (AQMD) is considering today and believes it will be able to achieve the new limit,” the statement reads.
Vernon Mayor W. Michael McCormick applauded AQMD for toughening their emission standards.
“The City of Vernon remains fully committed to working cooperatively with AQMD to protect public health and to improve air quality for our city’s workers, residents and the hundreds of thousands of residents living in our nearby communities,” McCormick said in a written statement.
State regulators over the last year have stepped up enforcement of air quality and toxic substance control regulations at Exide in response to the facility’s repeated higher than safe emissions of lead and arsenic, known neurotoxins.
The reports of the unsafe emissions have led to protests by residents in surrounding communities who worry about their increased risk of cancer and other health issues due to the company’s emissions.
The Exide Technologies plant was shuttered for about two months last year in response to an order from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, which cited health risks from arsenic emissions.
The plant reopened last June when a Los Angeles Superior Court judge determined that the operator of the plant had made pollution-control upgrades. Exide officials argued that the company’s profitability was threatened by the shutdown, saying the supply of lead from the facility was crucial.
The latest rule was proposed last year in response to the Health Risk Assessment, which found that Exide was causing an “unacceptably” high cancer risk for 110,000 Southeast Los Angeles County residents.
AQMD is also seeking a temporary order of abatement to stop Exide’s smelting operations until it improves its air pollution control systems. The case is currently being heard by AQMD’s independent hearing board, which is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks.
Exide is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of lead-acid batteries. The company has said it will spend more than $7 million over the next two years to upgrade the Vernon facility.
Seismologist Lucy Jones will devote much of her time this year to preparing the city of Los Angeles for its next big earthquake, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Tuesday.
The announcement comes as the city reflects on the aftermath of the Jan. 17, 1994, Northridge earthquake on its 20th anniversary. It also comes less than one day before Mother Nature handed the region a reminder that this is earthquake country, in the form of a magnitude-4.4 earthquake whose epicenter was 3-miles northwest of Fontana in San Bernardino County.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or damages, but the temblor was felt, with one police officer comparing it to the impact of a car crash.
Friday marks two decades since a magnitude-6.7 earthquake centered in Northridge shook Southern California at 4:31 a.m., resulting in 57 deaths, more than 5,000 injured and more than $20 billion in property damage.
“The truth is, while Northridge was a bad earthquake, the big one could be a lot worse,” Garcetti said at an event to discuss Jones’ role with the city.
“We’ve gone 20 years here in Los Angeles since the last big earthquake, and because we haven’t had a recent reminder of the power and the damage of earthquakes, too many in our city have stopped thinking about how we can best prepare,” he said.
Jones, a familiar figure and go-to expert with the U.S. Geological Survey, has been a visiting researcher at Caltech’s Seismological Laboratory since 1983.
She has “educated millions of Californians on what to do after earthquakes, how to prepare for aftershocks, and prepare ahead of time for earthquakes and the `big one,”’ Garcetti said.
Jones will remain a federal government employee, but said the USGS is “donating the majority of her time this year” to working with the city.
“We put 10 million people on top of 100 faults” in Los Angeles County, with the area representing a quarter of the earthquake risk faced in the country, she said.
The disaster-preparedness measures developed in Los Angeles can become a “prototype” used by other cities and regions, she said.
Jones will work with the city through February to prepare a “statement of problems and consequences,” then spend the following three months gathering input from the public and consulting with experts.
Jones will complete a draft of recommendations by August, and deliver a refined set of recommendations by the end of the year, Garcetti said.
Councilman Mitch Englander, who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee and represents the Northridge area, is also making a special presentation on the 20th anniversary of the Northridge earthquake in City Council.
The council also considered a package aimed at improving earthquake safety, moving to continue discussions on a potential bond program to pay for the retrofitting of quake-vulnerable buildings and the identification of buildings that are especially at risk of collapsing during a major earthquake, including wood-frame “soft-story” residential buildings erected before 1978, “non-ductile” concrete buildings constructed prior to 1976.
Friday’s regular City Council meeting has been canceled to enable council members to attend a commemoration ceremony for the earthquake’s anniversary, according to Council President Herb Wesson’s spokesperson, Ed Johnson.
State health officials are warning Californians that many California counties, and other states, are reporting a rise in the number of patients who are critically ill with influenza, including healthy young adults, and are advising residents to take steps to prevent infection.
The H1N1 strain appears to be the predominant strain circulating so far in California and the country, according to health officials.
“The H1N1 virus, which emerged during the 2009 pandemic, causes more illness in children and young adults, compared to older adults. It causes severe illness in all age groups, including those younger than 65 years of age. This year’s influenza vaccine protects against the strains circulating in the state, including H1N1,” according to California’s Department of Public Health.
“It is not too late to get the flu vaccine,” urged Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state health officer. “A yearly flu vaccine is the most important step in preventing influenza. It’s important to remember that unlike other vaccine preventable diseases, it is necessary to get a flu shot every year.”
The vaccine is still widely available at doctors’ offices, health clinics and many pharmacies, according to the health department.
An influenza vaccine is especially important for pregnant women and other people at higher risk for severe influenza.
“It’s impossible to predict the severity of a flu season, but the best way to prevent spread of the flu is to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Chapman.
In addition to being vaccinated, it’s crucial to practice good health habits. If you become ill, you should take actions to stop the spread of germs, including staying home when you are sick; covering your coughs and sneezes; washing your hands with soap/water and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
You can also protect your health by eating a nutritious diet and getting enough sleep, say health officials, who also strongly advise that you contact your physician if you think you have the flu.
A city of Commerce based company that manufactures louvers, access panels, metal cabinets and door frames has been fined $43,000 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for violations of the Clean Water Act, it was announced Tuesday.
As part of the settlement agreement, Air Louvers will pay $43,000 for the violations, according to the EPA announcement. The manufacture is also being required to spend an additional $25,350 for equipment upgrades at the facility.
Air Louvres was found to be improperly releasing wastewater from its metals finishing operations into the L.A. County Sanitation District sewer system. An investigation launched by the EPA in August 2010 discovered wastewater discharged by the manufacture from May 2006 to January 2011 exceeded federal limits for copper and zinc—in violation of federal pretreatment requirements. The standards, according to the EPA, were adopted to “protect municipal sewer systems and wastewater treatment plants from adverse effects of toxic discharges,” and to keep the toxics from reaching the Pacific Ocean.
“Toxic wastewater flowing into the Los Angeles sewer system can reach the Pacific Ocean,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “To protect the environment, the federal Clean Water Act requires companies to treat their wastewater before they discharge it.”
Upgrades ordered for the facility include the installation of water recycling and evaporation equipment that will eliminate all wastewater discharges from the manufacturing plant, according to the EPA statement.
The proposed consent agreement is subject to a 30-day comment period and final agency approval. The 30-day public comment period ends on February 12, 2014. A copy of the consent agreement can be found at: http://www.epa.gov/region9/enforcement/pubnotices/. For more information on The Clean Water Act, visit www.epa.gov/lawsregs/.
The City of Commerce hosted its 2nd Annual Royal Tea Party Saturday at Bandini Park. Children ages 3 to 10 from “across the land” of Commerce came to the party dressed in their prince and princess finery, and were treated to the reading of fairytales by Miss Commerce, Shanese Perea.
The event was created to help children improve their social skills and self-esteem by spending quality time with Miss Commerce and her Royal Court over tea and cookies, said Commerce spokesperson Jason Stinnet via email.
At the end of the event, the Royal Tea Party group took photos to create a “keepsake with all the children in the land.”
Emmy award-winning host and local radio personality Carlos Alvarez and long-time L.A. reporter, Ofelia de la Torre are the hosts of “Tu Mundo Hoy,” the White Memorial Medical Center’s (WMMC) new health focused television show now airing at 2 p.m., Monday through Friday on Spanish language station KBEH-DT Channel 63.
White Memorial, located in Boyle Heights, sees the hour-long TV show as an opportunity to take the vast knowledge of its health professionals to a larger community.
“We’re excited to bring Tu Mundo Hoy to our community. The program will present local experts to discuss topics such as the latest news on Health Care Reform (ObamaCare), disease prevention and other timely topics to help give viewers a clear understanding of the issues,” says Sara Rubalcava-Beck, WMMC’s Director of Marketing.
According to White Memorial, Tu Mundo Hoy provides viewers with information they can use as they face a variety of health issues, helping them to better understand and enhance their well-being.
White Memorial doctors and services will be a regular feature of the show, which will provide health education on topics such as how to prevent diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other chronic illnesses.
The show, which will be air in Spanish, will also offer segments that specifically address issues related to Hispanic’s overall health and well-being, White Memorial’s statement says.
White Memorial, which in December completed a yearlong celebration of its 100 year anniversary, has long been viewed as a vital health care provider and safety net in the Latino community, and for low-income families in general.
“The hospital is a thriving part of the neighborhood, presenting health fairs and other community services throughout the year. The launch of Tu Mundo Hoy brings health education right into Latino homes, giving viewers information they can use on subjects they are concerned about, thus, extending the services of the hospital,” says the TV show announcement.
Tu Mundo Hoy is produced by CentroNetProductions. Veronica Nichols, CentroNetProductions’ Director of Business Development, adds, “We’re breaking down issues that are affecting the daily lives of Latino’s to really get our audience in-the-know.”
The first season of the new television show will run through October 2014. For more information about WMMC and Tu Mundo Hoy, go to the website www.whitememorial.com.