“Peter Pan” at the Pantages Theatre

January 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

(Courtesy of Pantages Theatre)

Through Jan. 27

7:30pm—See Two Time Emmy Award Winning Peter Pan at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood: Tony Award® nominee Cathy Rigby takes flight in this all new production filled with timeless magical moments and a captivating hook. The legend you thought you know, is now the adventure you never dreamed possible…Cathy Rigby is PETER PAN! Recommended ages 4 and up. The Pantages is located at 6233 Hollywood Blvd, LA 90028. For ticket prices and information, go online to BroadwayLA.org or Ticketmaster.com.

DMV Study Is More Proof the All Drivers Should Be Licensed

January 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A new report by the State Department of Motor Vehicles to us stands as confirmation that our stance that all drivers of automobiles in the state must be licensed in order to protect the public is right on target.

To get a driver’s license in California, you must first pass a written test as well as a behind the wheel driving test. Doing so ensures at least a minimum level of competency to operate a vehicle on public streets. Every driver in California should be required, and allowed, to meet that obligation.

Anything less puts us all at risk, a fact confirmed in the DMV’s latest report.

According to the Department, unlicensed drivers are nearly three times as likely to cause a fatal crash.

While many proponents of driver’s licenses for undocumented drivers see it as a moral issue, we see it as a safety issue.

Too often unlicensed drivers don’t have the basic skills they need to be able to understand or even care about traffic laws and motorists safety. We see it everyday, and pay for it in higher insurance premiums.

The prospect of getting a driver’s license after meeting licensing and insurance requirements is a price that most unlicensed drivers, including those in the country illegally, would be willing to pay if given the chance.

In our view, a vast majority of the drivers who flee after hitting a pedestrian or another vehicle do so because they are driving illegally. Yes, some of them are driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, so a driver’s license might not make any difference in those cases. But it would make a difference in those cases where the accident was really an accident, and the driver is licensed.

So we hope that those who are opposed to giving a driver’s licenses to someone solely on the grounds that are undocumented, will they take a closer at the DMV study findings and see that their stance is one that puts all of us at greater risk of being harmed by an unlicensed driver.

Of Cowardice and Connecticut

January 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Tough laws stall

To no avail,

Risky guns

Are still for sale.

After the biggest massacre at an elementary school since 1927, President Barack Obama at first assured those of us in Connecticut that America needed to reconsider its gun laws. It was just that now isn’t quite the time. Wrong. Now is the time, as popular demand has since demonstrated.

If a morgue full of Sandy Hook’s first-graders wasn’t enough to get us busy, just what stimulus do we need? Newtown aside, already 30,000 Americans die from guns every year.

It’s courage that’s been missing. OK, at least 45 percent of Americans claim to have a gun at home, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they all support assault rifles or concealed weapons on the street (or in college classrooms). The vast majority of gun owners are as responsible with their weapons as they are with their cars. They cringe at massacres just like you and I do.

Nor are average gun owners the enemy. The real enemies, brethren, are the manufacturers. They make a bundle on sales and invest heavily in the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That pair (knowing which side their bread is buttered on) constantly seeks to fend off any kind of regulation of the gun industry.

Their overall campaign theme is to make Americans fear for their lives and consequently pursue that warm fuzzy feeling of safety that some get from owning a gun — even though you’re more likely to be killed by your own gun than by someone else’s.

Anyway, most owners are not likely to be much inconvenienced by the gun safety proposals now gaining momentum in America. No. 1: Require criminal and mental health background checks. No. 2: Ban large ammunition magazines. No. 3: Ban assault weapons. No 4: Require all owners to be licensed before they may operate a gun, as with cars. No. 5: Microstamp bullets so they can be traced after a crime is committed with them. No. 6: Close the gun show loophole responsible for making 40 percent of firearm sales exempt from otherwise requisite background checks.

Does it take courage for a politician to promote such a mild package? I suppose. Common sense is often a frail defense against the industry’s emotional personal attacks. But this is the nature of all politics. Candidates have to deal with them every day. Historically, each issue eventually presents its own best moment for resolution, and who would argue that the time is not ripe for resolving our gun problem.

Photos of dead children may not have much impact on defenders of so-called “gun rights,” but they do tend to outrage everyone else.

Further, little kids are only the most dramatic face of the problem. The vast bulk of those 30,000 annual victims are older, but that hardly makes their deaths less lamentable.

Unfortunately America’s violent culture doesn’t help matters. As president, Obama has set a remarkably unhealthy example by deploying drones to bump off suspected adversaries around the world — without benefit of trial. Similarly, our country operates military bases in scores of other nations to “keep the peace.” The idea that you arm yourself to keep peace is pervasive.

So yes, in such a setting it does take political courage to tighten the screws on our Wild West culture. But that’s part of being in elected office. Here in Connecticut, we’ve got this to say: Let’s get on with it.

OtherWords.org columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut.


Filling Solis’s Shoes Won’t Be Easy

January 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

As President Barack Obama’s second term begins, change is coming. Change to his cabinet, that is.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is the latest of the administration’s leaders to announce her resignation. Obama’s cabinet was already becoming more male and pale. With Solis, the first Latina to hold a cabinet-level post, stepping down, the White House risks losing even more diversity.

She will be hard to replace in many ways. Solis made her mark by ensuring the voices of working people were heard at the Department of Labor. The daughter of immigrant, blue-collar, union workers, Solis has been a watchdog for American workers — recovering stolen wages, investigating unsafe workplaces, and pressing hard for programs that shored up our workforce in the Great Recession.

It was Solis who strengthened the Department of Labor’s enforcement of wage and hour violations, through which over 300,000 workers recovered approximately $280 million in unpaid wages and overtime. It was Solis who aggressively enforced workplace safety regulations. It was Solis who secured critical relief and protections for immigrant workers who risked speaking out against abusive conditions on the job. And it was Solis who oversaw economic recovery projects, including programs to retrain 1.7 million workers with new job skills and administer unemployment benefits, a vital safety net for millions of workers struggling to get by.

Solis has been key to making invisible work visible again at the Department of Labor by bringing the perspective and values of workers to policymaking. She understood that the problems her mother had as a nanny are many of the same problems facing domestic workers today. That’s one of the many reasons why she initiated a rule change that would include 1.8 million home care workers in wage and overtime protections. And while this long-overdue rule is still pending, the next Secretary of Labor should enact it and implement it robustly.

It’s unbelievable that the people who we rely on to care for our loved ones are not required to receive a minimum wage or overtime pay. When Congress expanded minimum wage requirements and overtime protections to “domestic service” workers in 1974, certain types of care workers — elder care aides, live-in nannies and home health workers — were explicitly excluded. Since then, the home health sector has grown exponentially, but these regulations haven’t changed.

Today in this country, someone turns 65 every eight seconds. This year alone, approximately 4 million Americans will become senior citizens, marking the beginning of an unprecedented aging wave that will place an incredible strain on our already struggling health care system. To keep up with our aging population, studies suggest we must create 1.6 million new care jobs by 2020. Our current and future caregivers deserve to have their jobs protected by our nation’s labor laws.

Looking back, Secretary Solis’ tenure was filled with unprecedented victories for workers and working families. The next Secretary of Labor must continue on her path by ensuring our economic policies and regulations work for working people. The next labor chief should put workers ahead of big business interests and bring worker organizations and unions to the policy table alongside employers.

And, most essentially, Obama and the next Secretary of Labor must follow through on the work that is still incomplete — so that basic rights and protections can be extended to all workers in this country. So that laws are modernized to reflect the changing nature of work in this country. So that people who work hard in this country have enough to make basic ends meet. So that workers can retire with dignity. So that we can truly rebuild our economy.

Sarita Gupta is the executive director Jobs with Justice and the co-director of Caring Across Generations, a campaign for quality care and support, and a dignified quality of life for all Americans, across generations. CaringAcrossGenerations.org. Distributed via OtherWords.org.

We Don’t Need a Secretary of Militarism

January 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The chicken hawks are out in force these days, attacking Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s choice for Secretary of Defense.

He’s too reluctant to use force, they say. He favors negotiation over sanctions and sanctions over bombs, they say. He doesn’t like Israel enough; he’s an anti-Semite.

Who’s saying these terrible things about a man who, when he served in the Senate, was considered a fairly reliable conservative vote albeit one with a mind of his own?

It’s the usual suspects (plus John McCain, that rare breed: a man who has seen war but is still spoiling for a fight). William Kristol, editor of the right wing clarion The Weekly Standard, is leading the charge. This is the same Kristol, you’ll remember, who discovered Sarah Palin when she was a virtually unknown governor, sitting on her front porch in Alaska, where, as Tina Fey told us, she could see Russia from her house.

He thought she’d make a wonderful president-in-waiting of the United States some day, so he introduced her to his Republican friends, who agreed. Are we supposed to take a guy with judgment like that seriously? Do we care whom he wants for Secretary of Defense?

Or perhaps you’d prefer Elliott Abrams, an architect of the Iran-Contra scandal, who would have spent time in jail without a presidential pardon from George H.W. Bush. He’s the one pressing the anti-Semitism angle and making up stuff to do it. His good buddy in the smear campaign is Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s quixotic presidential run.

Come on. Let me tell you about Chuck Hagel. He wasn’t my favorite senator — too conservative — but he represented Nebraska, a very conservative state.

He was, however, an intelligent, reasonable man with a reputation for honesty. In the Senate these days, that qualifies for sainthood.

He and his brother served a bloody tour in Vietnam, where they took turns saving each other’s lives. He returned home and eventually realized that war is a terrible answer to any question and should be undertaken reluctantly, as a last resort. That’s the way he thought as a senator (he was an early critic of the Iraq invasion, for example) and that’s the way he promises to think as Pentagon chief.

This drives the right wing crazy. (I sometimes think right-wingers view thoughtfulness as a character flaw.) Conservatives favor Dick Cheney’s rhinoceros-in-a-china-shop approach to foreign affairs.

Not that progressives are happy with the nomination either. Hagel is just way too right-wing for them on a variety of issues. (Progressives tend to think no one who can actually get confirmed by the Senate is worthy of public office.)

Nevertheless, Hagel, whose chief task will be to cut the military down to a more manageable, less expensive size, is an ideal man for the job.

He’s in the grand tradition of American men of war who became champions of peace later in life. It’s a line that stretches back to George Washington and claims politicians as diverse as Dwight Eisenhower, George McGovern, John Kerry, and Colin Powell.

It includes too my favorite Civil War General, William Tecumseh Sherman. While absolutely ruthless in war, he had no love for it. At the end of the war he said:

“I confess, without shame, that I am sick and tired of fighting — its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies…tis only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated…that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.”

In other words, the Cheneys, Kristols, and Abrams of the world.

I like the idea of having a Secretary of Defense who knows war intimately. I like the idea that there is a voice in our councils saying: “Wait a minute. Let’s think this through. Maybe there’s another way.”

Hagel could be that voice.

OtherWords.org columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


County Seeks Volunteers for Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count

January 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Each year volunteers cover approximately 4,000 square miles in Los Angeles County for the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count—the nation’s largest count of homeless individuals and families. Volunteers are need for the count that will take place this year from Tuesday, Jan. 29 to Thursday, Jan. 31.

The Homeless count is used to better target services and housing assistance that will help the homeless get into safe and stable housing, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. To sign up or for more information call (213) 225-8411 or visit www.theycountwillyou.org .


Big Rig Catches Fire, Paralyzes 5-Freeway In Commerce

January 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A big rig hauling squash experienced brake failure and caught fire on the northbound Santa Ana (5) Freeway Wednesday morning, closing three of four lanes for nearly two hours, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The fire broke out around 2:40 a.m. in the area of Atlantic Boulevard, and three of four northbound freeway lanes were closed around 3 a.m. so that the rig’s cargo could be offloaded, the CHP reported.

The lanes were reopened at 4:49 a.m., but the Atlantic Boulevard offramp remained closed to allow for debris cleanup, according to the CHP. There were no reports of injuries.


Man Gets Life Sentence for Gang-Related Murders in East LA

January 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A gang member convicted of murdering two men in a gang-related shooting in East Los Angeles was sentenced Jan. 11 to two consecutive life prison terms without the possibility of parole.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen also tacked on another 50 years to life in prison for Christopher Lee Savala, a 33-year-old member of a gang in Bell, who was found guilty Dec. 6 of first-degree murder for the March 31, 2008, shooting deaths of Benjamin Renteria and Diego Vargas.

Savala shot the two men after confronting them about where they were from when they came to pick up Vargas’ brother-in-law in neutral territory in the 1200 block of South Herbert Avenue, according to Deputy District Attorney Sarika Kim.

Savala was arrested later that evening by deputies from the Los Angeles County sheriff’s Norwalk station. He has remained jailed since then.

Along with the murder charges, jurors found true the special circumstance allegations that there were multiple murders and murder to further the activities of a criminal street gang, along with gang and gun use allegations. The District Attorney’s Office had decided before the trial not to seek the death penalty against Savala.


City Terrace Barricade Suspect Escapes

January 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

*Update: 20-year-old Joel Estrada was arrested by the Sheriff’s Department on Jan. 18, he allegedly barricaded himself in the home on Jan. 16. The fire that damaged the home is believed to have been sparked by teargas canisters fired by SWAT deputies.

A man who allegedly fired a gunshot in his City Terrace bedroom following an argument with his mother barricaded himself inside Wednesday, leading to a SWAT standoff and eventually a fire in the house before authorities could move in, only to find the suspect gone.

Deputies went to the house in the 1000 block of North Alma Avenue around 2 a.m. in response to a call of shots fired, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Irys Alvarez said. When they arrived, the man’s mother said she had argued with her adult son and that he was holding a gun, Alvarez said.

The woman said her son went into his bedroom and fired the weapon, Alvarez said, adding that the gun was discharged prior to deputies arrival.

The man was seen walking inside the residence, but he disregarded commands to come out, she said. A SWAT team was summoned and nearby residents were evacuated from their homes.

At 8:43 a.m., a fire broke out in the home and was doused in about 20 minutes. It was unclear if the fire was started by the suspect or teargas canisters that had been lobbed into the residence by SWAT deputies.

Deputies moved into the home a short time later, after obtaining a search warrant, but the man wasn’t inside.

Officials said the man was believed to be about 20 years old.A neighbor told reporters at the scene the suspect was a “good kid” but was dealing with some “issues.”

Affordable Housing Issue Raised in L.A. Mayor’s Race

January 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If elected, three of Los Angeles’ leading mayoral candidates will make creating affordable housing one of their top priorities, said City Council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry and City Controller Wendy Greuel at a candidates forum last week focused on housing issues.

Economist Raphael Bostic moderated the forum had City Councilmembers Jan Perry, pictured left, Eric Garcetti, center, and City Controller Wendy Greuel, pictured right. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

About 500 people, many with ties to non-profit organizations or the candidates, attended the Mayoral Candidates Forum on Affordable Housing held at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, where all three candidates in attendance agreed that the city has an affordable housing shortage and expressed a commitment to do something about it.

Councilwoman Perry said she is a “true believer in affordable housing.” Greuel said she would be the “Housing Mayor of Los Angeles,” and Garcetti vowed, “I will end homelessness in Los Angeles.”

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The Jan. 11 forum presented by the Housing For A Stronger Los Angeles, a coalition of housing industry professionals, was intended to give the public an opportunity to listen to the candidates’ position on affordable housing policy, as well as how they will address the city’s “affordable housing crisis” if elected Los Angeles’ next mayor, said Robin Hughes, Co-Chair of the Housing for a Stronger Los Angeles Steering Committee and president and CEO of Abode Communities, a non-profit affordable housing development company.

Economist Raphael Bostic, of USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, moderated the forum; candidates were given the forum questions in advance of the event.

Other mayoral candidates, including attorney and radio broadcaster Kevin James were excluded from the forum because they had not raised $1 million or met other criteria, Bostic explained.

Tony Salazar, Co-Chair of the Housing for a Stronger Los Angeles Steering Committee and President of McCormack Baron Salazar West Coast Operations, noted the diversity of the individuals in the audience: for- and non-profit developers, banks and equity investors, construction workers, attorneys, concerned citizens, advocates, government agency representatives, social services organizations and foundations.

“It’s the first time such a big, diverse group has come together to fight for a single issue and that’s providing and building more quality, decent and affordable housing for low-income families,” Salazar said. “On this issue, we are all on the same side. Everybody in this group and every organization they represent, we are all collectively together, standing up for the affordable housing industry… creating and maintain such housing takes all of us working together because none of us can do it alone. That’s what we’ve learned, none of us can do it alone.”

Explaining the context for the forum, Bostic said Los Angeles has some of the steepest rental rates in the county. He said the foreclosure crisis has added many new renters to the market, which has pushed rental rates up. At the same time, he added, while rents went up by about 20 percent, income levels in the last few years have actually declined by 4 to 5 percent.

“In many markets in the United States, the problem with affordability is one that is a demand-side issue, people don’t have enough income and if they don’t have enough income, they can’t pay enough rent. In Los Angeles, it’s also a supply issue…” Bostic said.

While building more affordable housing would address the issue of supply, funding sources are becoming less available. Since 2008, public funding sources for affordable housing have dropped by $72 million, Hughes said.

During the forum, all three candidates supported restoring the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) to $100,000 million. The fund was established in 2000 in order to create affordable rental housing for low- and very low-income households through loans for new construction or for the rehabilitation of existing residential structures, according to the Los Angeles Housing Department website.

All three candidates also drew from pervious experiences and gave examples of projects or capacities where they supported the creation of affordable housing. Both Garcetti and Perry gave numerous examples of new and refurbished housing in their districts, while Greuel highlighted her work as a former federal housing administrator and as an aide to former Mayor Tom Bradley on the issues of housing and homelessness.

Perry, Garcetti and Greuel also answered questions about creating more housing along new transportation corridors and helping families who are foreclosed on.

Attendees like Guadalupe Gonzalez, housing organizer for Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, found the forum very engaging. Gonzalez, however, declined to point out which candidate was most impressive on the topic, stating her organization has not yet endorsed a candidate in the March election.

Abode Communities also has not endorsed a candidate, Hughes said. Abode is responsible for the recently constructed Rio Vista Apartments in Glassell Park, as well as Bell Gardens’ new senior apartments Tierra Bella that will complete construction in the upcoming months.

Hughes told EGP affordable housing developers like Abode depend on federal and state subsidies to finance the majority of project costs, the other 15 to 25 percent of project costs are private loans. Housing subsidies allow developers to charge rents that are affordable to families who earn 30-60 percent of the median income, she said.

While inflation is an issue in Los Angeles, the primary issue is supply, “How do we create more housing?” Hughes told EGP.

A video of the complete forum filmed by Barbara Pressman Public Relations can be seen at http://www.barbarapressmanpr.com/index.php/press/hfasla-forum


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