January 26, 2012 Issue

January 30, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Celebrate Lunar New Year Around Los Angeles

January 27, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Petting a lion is thought to bring good luck. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

Year of the Dragon Lunar New Year celebrations will be in full swing this weekend, with festivities going on in Los Angeles Chinatown and in Monterey Park.

The Chinese New Year Festival in Chinatown will happen this Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28-29 beginning at noon at the Central Plaza & West Plaza (943-951 N. Broadway, Los Angeles, CA). On Saturday, the festival runs 12pm-8pm, and on Sunday, it runs from 12pm-5pm.

The festivities will include the 113th Annual Golden Dragon Parade, on Saturday from 1pm-4pm, starting at Hill and Ord Streets, and ending at Broadway and Cesar Chavez. There will be artisan tables, storytelling, cupcake giveaways, and food trucks. METROLINK is offering a $10 weekend pass.

Monterey Park will hold a street festival to celebrate the Lunar New Year on Saturday and Sunday, from 9:30am-5:00pm. Over a hundred booths will be set up along Garvey Avenue between Garfield and Nicholson Avenues, featuring food and business vendors. The opening ceremony will occur at 11am and feature firecrackers, traditional Chinese lion dancing, and a dragon dance. Entertainment throughout the weekend will include folk music, dancing, and martial arts performances; as well as a carousel.

See related: Dragon Year Ushers In Hope For Tomorrow

Obama’s State of the Union: Eleven Sentences too Short

January 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

As President Obama delivered his third State of the Union Address, the 11 sentences he dedicated to addressing my current immigration status did little to instill in me any more optimism than did similar statements from the last State of the Union… or the one before that.

“Let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, defend this country,” Obama stated. “Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship. I will sign it right away.”

With that, Obama put the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors (DREAM) Act – which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students like me – back on the table.

But I wasn’t completely convinced. That’s because the optimistic picture Obama painted of the future of America doesn’t seem to include me.

As my graduation looms, the reality of being undocumented becomes increasingly stark. Unlike my U.S.-citizen classmates, I won’t be able to do basic things, not the least of which is working legally.

As the president spoke, among the coterie sitting next to the president’s wife was Juan Rose Redín, a former DREAM student who attended UCLA and is now a practicing attorney and U.S. citizen. His case demonstrates how an undocumented student can become an integral part of reinvigorating the American work force.

There are thousands of us.

Yet listening to the president lay out his “blueprint” for building “an economy that’s built to last,” I couldn’t help but think of friends with degrees in civil engineering or education, recent graduates and fellow DREAMers with the skills needed to energize domestic manufacturing and bolster the creation of green jobs.

But because of their immigration status, they remain in the shadows.

Of course the DREAM Act alone wouldn’t solve the problem.

If approved, the DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for only a select group of undocumented high school graduates who have enrolled in college or the military, and meet certain requirements. For example, they must have come to the United States before the age of 16, lived here for at least five years, be within a certain age group, and have “good moral character.”

But more undocumented students would be excluded from this than would actually benefit under the legislation. A Migration Policy Institute report found that although 2.1 million young people could potentially be eligible to benefit from the DREAM Act, in reality only about 825,000 would likely gain legal status under the bill.

With the niche population the federal DREAM Act targets, it would seem more of a moderate compromise capable of attaining bipartisan support, yet not even Democrats were able to gather the needed votes to pass the bill during the lame duck session in 2010.

Left with little sign of a possible vote this year, combined with a record number of deportations under the Obama administration (including DREAM Act students), the president’s speech seemed more aimed at garnering campaign support than enacting substantive change.

I am a supporter of our current president. However, the continuous stream of political rhetoric without clear action has slowly begun to eat away at me.

“The opponents of action are out of excuses,” he said. “We should be working on comprehensive immigration reform right now.”
Agreed. But Republican lawmakers continue to throw up what Obama termed “excuses,” and the possibility of any real reform seems out of reach.

For me, as for thousands of other undocumented students who are looking ahead toward graduation, the future has never seemed more uncertain.

Raul Rodriguez’s commentary is distributed by New America Media.org

What’s Wrong With Mexico’s 2012 Presidential Election?

January 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

What Mexicans living in the U.S. have wanted for a long time is the right to vote from here. The vast majority of Mexicans in the United States continue to be effectively prevented from voting in Mexico’s presidential election due to the lack of an effective mechanism to allow Mexicans to obtain voter registration cards in this country.

January15, 2012 concluded the period during which Mexican citizens residing in the United States could register to vote in Mexico’s Presidential Election on July 1, 2012. It’s estimated that several thousand Mexican citizens will surely vote by mail. However, it is unknown how many will choose to travel to their communities of origin in Mexico to vote on Election Day. This civic exercise indicates the seriousness with which Mexicans who reside in the United States assume their civic responsibility to elect the next president of the Mexican Republic.

Mexico’s Constitution extends the right to vote to all Mexican citizens who are at least 18 years of age, have obtained a voter identification card, and who have registered to vote by January 15, 2012. As a practical matter, federal authorities prevent the vast majority of Mexicans who reside in the United States from exercising their constitutional right to vote by mail by not allowing those citizens to obtain their voter registration cards while in the United States.

Before the 2006 presidential elections, we worked diligently and with dedication to get the federal authorities to authorize the appropriate budget to obtain voter registration cards from the United States, but the Mexican government refused to extend us that right. This year, Mexican officials said the requested political actions were imminent. Yet, as of today, those promises have yet to be fulfilled. The political consequences of those decisions are there for all to see.

In a little more than five months, there will be another presidential election in Mexico and 99 percent of all eligible Mexicans who could vote from abroad will not be able to vote, denying them the opportunity to participate in the democratic process. Mexico’s federal government is to blame for this sad state of affairs.

What Mexican officials should do is invest in the infrastructure to allow their citizens to vote from the United States. For example, a Mexican citizen currently living in Nome, Alaska, has to buy a round trip plane ticket to travel to Mexico and register to vote at an IFE-electoral module.  After he or she returns to Nome, Alaska, he or she then returns to Mexico to retrieve his or her voter identification card. Undocumented Mexican citizens cannot travel to obtain voter identification cards for obvious reasons. This effectively prevents any Mexican citizen living abroad from ever voting in Mexico’s Presidential Election.

The ongoing blockade against our right to vote from abroad in Mexico’s presidential election will soon reach a nearly 100-year milestone.

February 5th of this year marks the 95th anniversary when the Constitutional Congress proclaimed from the City of Queretaro the Political Constitution of the United States of Mexico.  Because it became the first political constitution in the history of humanity that acknowledged humanitarian rights, there’s no doubt that the occasion should be celebrated in a big way all across Mexico.

Be that as it may, Mexico’s Political Constitution will continue to be violated by the federal government due to its persistence in denying to millions of its best citizens the right to vote from abroad.

What is most tragic and unacceptable is the fact that Mexicans on this side of the border cannot participate in the celebration of the most important presidential election of the last 95 years.

Juan Jose Gutierrez is the President of Vamos Unidos USA, and the founder in Los Angeles of the Movement for National Regeneration (Movimiento de Regeneracion Nacional-MORENA).

Dragon Year Ushers In Hope For Tomorrow

January 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

At Thien Hau Temple in Chinatown, an “answer from the gods” promising a year filled with good luck, good health and better fortunes, can be found on the ground, says 38-year old San Gabriel resident Susan Hsieh.

It is Lunar New Year’s Eve at the Taoist temple, and a row of people are kneeling at the foot of an alter, their eyes shut tight as they vigorously shake a canister filled with numbered fortune sticks.

As they shake, they are concentrating on tough questions they have been mulling over. “You can ask about your marriage, your love life, or your career, or whatever you want to ask. The gods will have an answer for you,” Hsieh says.

Eventually a stick pops out onto the floor in front of them, bearing a number that corresponds to a paper square marked with Chinese characters. That piece of paper carries an answer from the gods.

Throughout the night, the desire for good luck filled the air as thickly as the incense in the massive, noisy temple. If crowds of people were not lining up to find out their fortunes, they were clamoring to touch costumed lion dancers in the hopes of catching some good luck.

Patrons check what their fortune says. The slip of paper is written in Chinese, and can be translated by temple volunteers. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

Lion dancing entertained temple-goers throughout the night on Lunar New Year’s Eve. Touching the lions is thought to bring good luck. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

Hsieh, an accountant, said she was there this year to ask the gods if she should move out of the country to find better job prospects.

She is among thousands who turned out to the Yale Street temple in Chinatown on Lunar New Year’s Eve, January 22, to ring in the Year of the Dragon with ear-splitting firecracker shows and lion dances, and to pray for better fortunes in the upcoming year.

Some are visiting for the first time, cameras in hand to capture a unique cultural experience. Others have been coming since childhood, brought there by parents or grandparents.

Even Los Angeles First District Councilman Ed Reyes made an appearance that night to participate in the festivities, and to light firecrackers that were facilitated by permits his staff helped to obtain.

Reyes said this was a chance to share a local community’s cultural traditions with all of Los Angeles. “This is an open door celebration, a chance to see everyone,” he said.

Some have long taken advantage of what Los Angeles has to offer. Gabriel Jimenez, 32, of Boyle Heights said he grew up visiting places like Thien Hau Temple and watching the annual parade with his family.

It was a fun activity for a family of six to do for free, he said. “We just ride the bus out here, walk around, try out all of the different restaurants, sample different arrays of cuisines, family style,” he said.

Jimenez brought his camera with him this year to document the experience. “Today, I’m just trying to capture people in prayer for the New Year. They’re isolated from their everyday environment. It’s kind of nice to celebrate that with them too,” he said.

Like some of them, he is wishing for good health for family, friends, as well as himself. “It wouldn’t hurt to make more money, as opposed to living check to check,” he added.

Huntington Park resident Adol Vergara, 42, is a fan of the holiday and tries to get those around her excited about Los Angeles’ Lunar New Year celebrations by inviting parents at the preschool where she works to go to the annual parade in Chinatown.

“I go to the Internet and I print out the flyer, and I put it in my school and I invite the parents to bring their kids to the parade every year,” she says.

She is wishing for peace this year, “because all around the world there are happening a lot of things, the problems in other countries, especially Mexico, a lot of problems with the narco traffic and all that,” and also for a better economy, because “well, the economy is not too good.”

Melissa Lim, 29, of Tarzana is Catholic but she visits the temple every year because of her Buddhist grandmother. “I grew up with it. It’s a tradition and a belief,” she said.

She was there to improve her family’s luck. “It’s been a bad year,” she said. She is also sharing the tradition with some younger members of her family, bringing her 13-year-old niece and 19-year old nephew with her to the temple this year.

Lim took the opportunity to fit in some good lessons. She winks at her niece and tells her, “we’re praying to study harder, to get better grades… super grades.”

Lim says her earliest memories of Lunar New Year visits to the temple with her grandmother are dominated by the memories of the sheer number of people who show up each year. “Everybody is trying to start a new year, a better year.”

See related: Celebrate Lunar New Year Around Los Angeles

Commerce Raises Concerns Over Proposed Railyard

January 26, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Officials in the industrial city of Commerce are wondering why they were not considered in an environmental impact study on a port project with potentially far reaching impacts on goods transportation throughout Southern California.

Mayor Joe Aguilar and the city council on Jan. 17 voted to submit a letter in response to the draft environmental impact study for the Southern California International Gateway, SCIG, a 153-acre intermodal facility near Carson and Wilmington, just four miles from the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Commerce Plantea Inquietudes Acerca del Propuesto Patio de Maniobras Cerca de los Puertos

Though located twenty miles away, the Port of Los Angeles railyard project could nevertheless have significant impacts on their city’s air quality, traffic volumes, and noise levels, say Commerce officials.

Commerce is home to four railyards, three of which are owned by Burlington Northern and Santa Fe, BNSF, encompassing 530 acres, as well as numerous warehouses and industrial businesses. The city is also surrounded by four major freeways – the I-5, SR-60, I-10 and the I-710.

A regional goods movement project such as the SCIG facility should include a study of how their city would be affected, say Commerce officials.

The Los Angeles Harbor Department, which owns the majority of the project’s land is working with privately owned railroad company BNSF to propose and build the facility by as early as 2013.

BNSF and the ports say they are responding to growing goods shipment activity and are in need of a new intermodal railyard to coordinate the distribution of the goods coming through the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

The yard will be used to transfer cargo between container trucks and rail, with the goal of moving more goods by rail. Project planners say their goal is to decrease truck congestion and delays.

In a draft letter, Commerce officials raised concerns that an environmental impact study of the project failed to show data on how their city, a major trade and goods movement hub, would be impacted by the project being proposed by BNSF and the ports.

The BNSF Hobart railyard in Commerce “is among the largest intermodal facility in the entire United States and is directly linked to both the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach,” Commerce Assistant Planning Director Alex Hamilton said at the Jan. 17 council meeting.

Commerce officials do not agree with the scope of the impact report, which only addresses a limited “affected area” close to the ports and does not look at places along the rail corridors connected to the proposed facility.

They also point out that Commerce’s BNSF Hobart railyard is mentioned throughout the project’s environmental impact report.

According to the city’s draft letter, the environmental impact report indicates that BNSF is planning to make changes at the Hobart Yard in Commerce in the event the SCIG project does not get built.

The benefits of the project are also based on general statements and not backed up by specific data, say Commerce officials. The report failed to look at how the project would affect traffic volumes on specific streets in Commerce that are frequented by trucks, they said, adding they are concerned the project may actually increase traffic locally in Commerce.

The project’s objective of promoting more rail shipment along the north-south Alameda Corridor, and lessen truck congestion on surface streets, is also concerning to Commerce officials.

In addition to creating more delays at rail crossings throughout Commerce, the increased reliance on rail could still have a negative impact on their city, which has for years dealt with ongoing concerns about the negative health impacts of railyards on its residents, officials say.

The city’s Northwest, Ayers, and Bandini Rosini residential neighborhoods are located next to the BNSF Hobart yard. The cancer rate is higher for residents living next to railyards, the city’s letter states.

In their letter, officials also raised the issue of environmental justice for Commerce residents, saying their 13,000 residents are “largely minorities” with a high percentage of low-income families and individuals.

The city is requesting that the port study the health impact of increased railyard emissions that could come from more rail traffic, and to propose mitigation measures.

East LA Cityhood In Limbo

January 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Backers of a four-year campaign to gain cityhood status for unincorporated East Los Angeles were left in limbo Wednesday, when the Los Angeles Local Agency Formation Commission (LA LAFCO) voted in favor of closing public participation and tabling the matter for two weeks.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: El Esfuerzo de Incorporar el Este de Los Ángeles se Queda en el Limbo

Related: VIDEO: East LA Cityhood In Limbo

The 9-member commission voted unanimously to approve LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky motion to table the issue until LAFCO’s Feb. 8 meeting.

ROOM DIVIDED: Opponents of cityhood greatly outnumbered supporters at Wednesday’s Los Angeles Local Agency Formation Meeting. Though they were not as well-represented at the meeting, ELARA, the organization spearheading the cityhood campaign, submitted 300 letters in support of allowing East Los Angeles residents to vote on whether to make their community a city. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

However, before the meeting ended, Supervisor Gloria Molina, in whose district East Los Angeles is located, and who until yesterday had remained publicly neutral on cityhood, said East LA’s finances cannot be denied. A new fiscal analysis will not be done, she said.

“Nothing in those numbers can possibly change, interpretations will always be made… One thing is clear, that is unfortunate, the numbers tell us clearly you can do it, but understand you are going to pay more for less. That’s what the numbers tell us,” Molina said eliciting applause from cityhood opponents, and boos from at least one incorporation supporter.

The postponement decision came after four hours of passionate testimony by both supporters and opponents of incorporation.

Business owner Yolanda Duarte, a member of the recently formed Save East LA Coalition (SELAC), said Molina’s comments were the “elephant in the room” — a $20 million deficit for the first year of cityhood and $7 million thereafter with fewer services.

Duarte and other business owners, who greatly outnumbered cityhood supporters in attendance, were unhappy with the postponment decision.

“It’s a travesty! I think any vote other than ‘no’ is an immoral vote. I think they know they are bearing us, I think the burden will be on them, I hope they can sleep at night,” Duarte told EGP.

Cityhood’s biggest supporter, the East Los Angeles Residents Association (ELARA) was also unsatisfied with the postponement, and Molina’s comments.

Molina has made it clear “where she stands on the issue,” ELARA President Benjamin Cardenas said.

“I’m obviously disappointed. I wish she supported the effort to, at a minimum, give everybody the right to vote…” Cardenas told EGP following the meeting.

“It’s unfortunate that they didn’t approve the negative declaration and direct their staff to come up with a blue print” [for making cityhood possible].

“But regardless of where they stand … Who does it hurt to make East LA economically viable? It doesn’t hurt anyone, but they don’t want to be charged with the task to do that,” Cardenas said angrily. He said it should be up to the county to put together a workable budget for East LA, and not them as was suggested during the meeting.

Incorporation of the 7.4 miles area bounded by the cities of Los Angeles, Commerce, Montebello and Monterey Park, and home to approximately 126,000 residents, most of them Latino, would make East Los Angeles the 10th largest city in LA County.

LA LAFCO’s executive officer recommended that the commission reject the incorporation request on the grounds that financial studies concluded East Los Angeles does not have “sufficient revenues to provide public services and facilities and a reasonable reserve during the first three years of incorporation,” as required by state law.

“East Los Angeles does not generate enough revenue to sustain a healthy and financially sound city,” wrote Paul Novak in his Executive Officer’s Report.

ELARA raised nearly $200,000 to pay for a fiscal study and audit to determine if the area could sustain itself financially should it become a city. They have repeatedly questioned the results of the study and a financial review, and say the reports authors failed to compare costs for the same services in other cities of the same size. Those cities are able to negotiate fees for service, prioritize spending and find other sources of revenues, ELARA says.

However, it is those studies that could prove to be the undoing of their cityhood crusade.

While a 2007 Initial Fiscal Analysis paid for by ELARA showed the area to have sufficient financial resources to pay for municipal services, a subsequent study, the Comprehensive Fiscal Analysis, which examined the area’s revenue and costs to the county during 2009, concluded that the proposed city of East LA would have a deficit of $19 million in the first year, and between $12 million and nearly $19 million in each of the next nine years. A State Controller’s audit of the same data found the proposed city is even less viable after it included $10 million more in law enforcement costs than found in the CFA.

ELARA hopes the commission will give their proposed cost-saving options serious consideration before ending their quest for cityhood. ELARA’s proposals include cutting the city’s transition year from 12 months to 7; renegotiating law enforcement, parks and library costs; implementing a solid waste fee and, possibly increasing the utility user tax. Wednesday they offered a new consideration, exploring if East LA would be eligible to benefit from Vernon’s “community benefit account” established last year as an effort to avoid disincorporation.

In the days leading up to yesterday’s LAFCO meeting, ELARA used email and social media to ask supporters to sign letters of support and attend the meeting. “Please take action now to let LAFCO know that we deserve more time to get real answers for our community,” ELARA wrote on their website and in email blasts.

Opponents also stepped up their efforts to defeat the incorporation effort. They contend the area cannot sustain the current level of services and have cited concerns of increased burdens on small businesses, fear of an increase in crime and concern that a local city council would be corrupt “like in the City of Bell.”

Some members of the business community, like the East LA Chamber of Commerce, have repeatedly highlighted the fact that East LA has a large number of small, mom-and-pop businesses, unlike neighboring cities that have large revenue generating resources like the casinos in Commerce and Bell Gardens, or the shopping mall in Montebello.

Nearly half of unincorporated East LA’s revenue comes from property taxes, according to the CFA.

Three previous incorporation attempts —1961, 1963 and 1974 — failed. In 1961 and 1975, a majority of residents voted against incorporation.

At the Feb. 8 meeting, the commission could disapprove the requested incorporation as recommended by LAFCO staff or grant ELARA a continuance of the hearing to further explore feasibility. It is still possible, though many believe it unlikely, that they could approve the incorporation request and direct staff to come up with a plan to make cityhood financially viable in accordance with state law.

If the commission rejects the proposal for incorporation and ends the effort, proponents can submit another proposal after one year.

Congress and the Constitution’s 225th Anniversary

January 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

There’s a major political event approaching this fall, and though I have no doubt it will be overshadowed by the elections, I hope you’ll carve out some time for it anyway. On September 17th, we’ll observe the 225th anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution.

It’s the document that set everything in motion, of course, creating the carefully balanced, three-branch representative government that we’ve come to take for granted. But 225 years is a long time, and it’s instructive to reflect on what’s happened since that piece of parchment was signed.

I’m thinking in particular of Congress, which the Framers considered to be so important they put it first, beginning with Article I, Section 1: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.”

The Framers wanted Congress to be the engine of law and policy in the United States. Fearful of replicating the monarchy from which they’d won their freedom, they wanted to keep the presidency from becoming too powerful, and so they created a powerful Congress with the authority to declare war, enact taxes, and set the budget.

They wanted to be certain that the voices of the American people had a prominent place in the legislature’s deliberations, and that debate, consultation, and a thorough airing of views were part and parcel of what Congress did. Congress was the keystone of republican government and the fount of policy leadership; the president — as George Washington insisted — was there to carry out legislative intention.

For periods in our country’s history, especially in its early years and in the years leading up to the Civil War, Congress did, indeed, play the leading role the Framers envisioned. Congress today — the “broken branch,” as two prominent congressional scholars called it a few years ago — doesn’t even come close.

It is now a reactive body, hampered by partisanship and ideology, lacking creativity, focused less on policy leadership than on catering to constituents and to those who can help its members get re-elected. The central actor in American government today is the president.

Everyone understands that 2012 is not 1787. Yet I fail to see how the Framers’ reasoning — that in a diverse democracy, power ought to rest with the representatives closest to the people — is out of date.

Quite the contrary. By any measure, our nation is poorer because Congress is not functioning as the strong, co-equal branch of government the Constitution envisioned. As we observe this milestone anniversary, it’s worth a pause to honor the Framers’ insight and wisdom, and to regret Congress’s inability to live up to their ideals.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

‘Green’ Jobs Proposal Melds Jobs and the Environment

January 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Residents of Ramona Gardens listen to presentations on creating green jobs. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

To a certain extent, low-income families are “green,” some recycle for cash and many practice water and energy conservation to reduce their utility bill, according to one speaker at the “RePower LA” Town Hall on Jan. 19.

But few take advantage of programs to weatherize their homes or trade-out light bulbs, showerheads for more efficient ones, according to Miguel Luna of Urban Semillas.

Luna said the city gave away energy efficiency kits but follow-up visits showed that many families had not installed them, noting there were many unemployed residents home to answer the door.

There’s a disconnect between educating about the value of energy efficiency products and the programs available, Luna explained. At the same time, he said, there is a large pool of unemployed residents who could inform residents and do the installations.

So far “Green” training programs have failed to produce a pipeline of jobs, even though large numbers of Angelenos could benefit from a lower utility bill, said several speakers during the RePower LA town hall meeting held at nonprofit Legacy L.A’s headquarters at the Armory in Hazard Park.

RePower LA, described as a broad-based coalition, is advocating for an expansion in energy efficiency programs that lower customer’s bills, help the environment and create jobs.

RePower LA says the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power needs to invest in more customer outreach on energy efficiency.

An investment in energy efficiency related jobs is an investment that would save LADWP from having to make costly infrastructure projects like a new power plant, said Jessica Goodheart. RePower LA director and a member of LAANE, the LA Alliance for the New Economy.

The department has begun working towards that end, but more needs to be done, she said.

Thirty-five individuals are currently participating in an entry-level training program with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 18.

Boyle Heights residents Saul Felomino and Steve Mata are currently in the program. Felomino previously worked as a construction worker and is now installing insulation in attics under DWPs weatherization program.

Mata, who said he lives a mile away from the meeting’s location, said he originally did not really know what he had signed up for, but says the job training program has improved his job prospects, his family, his fellow trainees and the entire community.

These types of jobs invalidate the old argument pitting jobs against improving the environment, said more than one town hall participant.

“What’s exciting about this program is that is provides a pathway to careers at the utility at a time when 30- to 40 percent of employees are at retirement age. The RePower LA Coalition is working with organizations like La Causa, Legacy LA and ELACC to make sure the training program draws from the communities that need the jobs most,” according to Goodheart.

LADWP General Manager Ron Nichols spoke at the meeting held in Hazard Park. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

LADWP General Manager Ron Nichols told EGP that the department hasn’t been filling in jobs that are left vacant, so a reduction in energy and revenues won’t necessarily cause layoffs.

However, while Repower LA says the DWP can invest in energy efficiency “with or without” a rate increase, Nichols has a different point of view.

He praised the training program but advocated for a rate increase that would amount to ten to 20 cents a month. A rate increase could help ensure the training program and other energy efficiency programs are consistent year after year, he said.

“I hear a lot that we gotta get out of coal in order to enable energy efficiency and renewable energy—it’s the other way around. Energy efficiency and expanding renewable energy enables us to get off of coal. That’s what we need to do and that’s what we’re working on doing to bring more jobs to Los Angeles…” he said.

East Los Angeles Community Corporation Director of Community Organizing Isela Gracian said jobs in energy efficiency are a great match for Boyle Heights and the eastside. “This program, the campaign to RePower LA focuses and really brings together a critical point in the neighborhood… the housing here is older, deteriorated, can really benefit from these types of programs, not only to improve the housing but to connect people to jobs.”

La Causa Executive Director Robert Zardeneta said RePower LA also complements their green building construction training program and sustainable homes work. Zardeneta compared the opportunity to create green jobs to an opportunity for a modern-day industrial revolution. “Over the past four years, 200 youth [have been] trained in our green building construction program. The unfortunate thing is only 22 of those youths are placed in green jobs… 66 homes were retrofitted… but we need more,” he said.

Ruby Rivera, of Legacy LA, said the jobs RePower LA is promoting could benefit residents of Ramona Gardens. “[It] would help them to further support their development and to support their families economically,” she said.

Bell Gardens Reorganizes City Council

January 26, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

(EGPNews) – Bell Gardens City Councilman Pedro Aceituno was named the city’s new mayor on Jan. 17 through a majority vote of the city council. He replaces Councilwoman Jennifer Rodriguez, who he campaigned with during their successful reelection contest last year. Both were sworn-in for new terms earlier this month.

This is Aceituno’s fourth term; he’s entering his 13th year on the council. He previously served as mayor from 2006 to 2007.

The city council also voted to keep Sergio Infanzon as Mayor Pro-Tem. Infanzon is the junior member of the council. He was elected in 2010 but first joined the Bell Gardens City Council as an appointee to complete the remainder of former councilman Mario Beltran’s term.

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