Highland Park Grandmother Struck in Crosswalk by Elderly Driver Dies

January 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

One of five family members injured when they were hit by an SUV driven by an 87-year-old man as they crossed a Highland Park street has died, police said Monday.

Guadalupe Chavez, 59, the grandmother of the family, died Sunday. Her 10- year-old granddaughter Marina Carillo remained in critical condition, police said.

The collision occurred at 8:12 a.m. Friday in the 900 block of North Avenue 57, near Yorkdale Elementary School, Erik Scott of the Los Angeles Fire Department said.

Elderly driver may have pushed the gas pedal of his car, pictured, instead of brakes. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

Elderly driver may have pushed the gas pedal of his car, pictured, instead of brakes. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

A 32-year-old woman, a daughter of Chavez, and her two sons, ages 7 and 9, were listed in serious condition, LAFD Battalion Chief Steve Ruda said. The 10-year-old girl was a cousin, he said.

All three children were believed to be Yorkdale students.

It appears the elderly man — identified in broadcast reports as Luis Carbajal — accidentally stepped on the gas and ran a stop sign at the corner of Avenue 57 and Meridian St. and hit the pedestrians walking in the crosswalk, LAPD Officer Julius Wells told EGP at the scene.

The driver, who remained at the scene until picked up by a family member, was visibly upset. “He stopped in the middle of the street and he was just devastated,” Wilson Caraman, a nearby resident, told NBC4.

Officer Wells said the driver was not arrested because it appeared to be an accident and he did stop and was cooperating with police.

“He is going to have his license reevaluated and they are going to probably take it away, but that is up to the DMV,” Wells said shortly after the accident.

Whether that will change now that Chavez has died is unclear.

Police say the investigation is ongoing — patrol cars have been seen monitoring the area since the accident — and once it is complete police will turn over the investigation  to the District Attorney who will determine what action to take.

Program Mentors Students From Sophomore Year to Graduation

January 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

For many high school students and their parents, the road to college can be hectic and confusing. There are lots of forms to fill out, requirements to fulfill and tests to take. But if you are one of the 200 or so Montebello Unified School District students lucky enough to participate in the school district’s College Bound Today (CBT) program, those tasks may be easier due to the help and encouragement received from volunteer mentors.

At least that’s the word from students and their families who for the last two years have taken part in the mentorship program dedicated to guiding high school students on the road to college.

High school seniors met  Jan. 25 at Schurr High school to learn about financial aid. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

High school seniors met Jan. 25 at Schurr High school to learn about financial aid. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

MUSD’s College Bound program pairs sophomores with mentors who work with them until they graduate. Now, CBT is looking to double in size to nearly 400 students, but will need at least 85 more volunteer mentors to succeed.

“[CBT] adds another adult into a student’s life,” explains Andy Castillo, a former college counselor at Schurr High School and current Assistant Principal at Montebello High School. “It allows [counselors] to get to know the students sooner.”

The program is currently offered at Schurr, Montebello and Bell Gardens high schools, and will soon expand to include students at Applied Technology Center (ATC), the district’s newest high school.

ATC, which has opened one grade a year since it first opened and now goes through the 11th grade, will soon offer the CBT mentorship program to sophomores and juniors. CBT co-founder Dan Clement is hoping local college graduates and professionals will agree to volunteer one Saturday morning out of the month to help mentor the students.

“Its really nice to give back to students,” mentor James Do told EGP before meeting with his students Saturday. “I see myself as an information provider, but really more of a life coach.”

Students apply to the program in their sophomore year and the district picks 40 to 50 students who have demonstrated a desire to go to college from each high school to participate.

Although many of those chosen are top students, some are “middle of the road” and need the extra guidance to succeed, said Castillo.

“I think all of the students in the program would have gone to college anyway,” says mentor Robin Meyers. “But I think many of them will be going to better colleges than they would have had they not been a part of it.”

The program groups eight to nine students with three mentors, who meet with them weekly to talk about colleges, SAT’s, career choices and financial aid.

“The three mentors per group not only allows flexibility to the mentors, but it enables them to cover three times as many students,” Clement said. “They are able to develop a bond and there’s a trust there.”

The mentorships have the added value of helping to ease the workload of the high school college counselors who work alongside the program. Financial cutbacks have decreased the number of counselors at local schools, leaving those that remain with as many as 800 to 900 students assigned to them.

“When does one college counselor have time to meet with [all of] them and their parents?” asked Clement. “Normally that doesn’t happen until 12th grade and by then it’s too late.”

The mentorship “simplifies the college experience,” said Jonathan Palomino, a program coordinator. “[Mentors] turn the process from this monster and break it down into steps,” he told EGP.

Last Saturday, Schurr High School’s CBT junior and senior groups listened to a presentation on financial aid during their mentorship meeting. Parents were invited to attend the presentation which covered the federal student aid application (FAFSA), and helped parents learn more about paying for college.

What began two years ago as a group of “shy and awkward” sophomores, with not much to say, has grown into a group of seniors gleaming with pride as they talk to their mentors about acceptance letters and college life.

High school senior Derrick Lieu said the mentors not only “talked them through the process” of getting into college, they also “helped me learn more about myself and helped me discover my passions.”

“They [mentors] showed a genuine concern for my interests and my college career,” Lieu said. “Once [mentors] show that, they will build this unbreakable connection, which makes me think I will still be friends with them even after college.”

Mentor Amit Sen says he is grateful that his students have accepted him, and like many of his fellow mentors who watched their mentees grow into young adults, he is looking forward to attending their graduation.

“It’s more than getting into college, it’s developing these students into future contributors to the world,” Do said.

A reception will be held at Montebello High School on Feb. 23 at 2p.m. for prospective mentors to learn more about the program and the mentor’s role. By then, Clement expects to have completed the launch of Applied Technology’s CBT program and hopes he will have recruited the 75 to 85 mentors needed to launch this year’s sophomore class in the spring.

“In the past it has been manageable to recruit enough mentors, but this year we’re trying to double the size” of the program to include more students.

 

To learn more about the program or to volunteer as a mentor, contact Dan Clement at (213) 346-3281 or email dclement@communitypartners.org.

____
Twitter: @nancyreporting
nmartinez@egpnews.com
 

President Says Country On the Mend, But Problems Remain

January 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress and the American people Tuesday seemed to be just a little less contentious then his past speeches.

The same can not be said for the reaction to his words by members of Congress from the other side of the political aisle, perhaps because they’ve seen their low-approval numbers from the public, as has the president.

But saying he seemed less contentious does not translate to he has thrown in the towel.

Rather, while the president said he wants to work with Congress, he also noted he is willing to use his executive powers to move his agenda along if Republicans fail to act.

Our economy has improved, but as the president noted, the recovery is still not complete and many Americans still need government benefits to make ends meet, such as the longtime unemployed workers whose benefits ran out at the end of last year. We applaud the president for urging Congress to quickly approve another extension to prevent further harm to the economy. We urge legislators to now follow suit.

Many of the issues in this year’s speech are carryovers from last year’s State of the Union.

That’s the case for his call to adopt immigration reform this year. His comments were brief, perhaps due to the delicate nature of current negotiations on the topic which could result in Republicans releasing their own plan next week, but he did make an important point: “Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades.”

The president noted that income inequality is a growing problem in the country, and called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage for all American workers to $10.10 an hour. He said he would sign an executive order to raise it to that level for the workers of new federal contractors. He also told Republicans to stop wasting time trying to reverse the Affordable Care Act, and to put up strategies to improve it and cut costs if they think they can.

But the most poignant moment during his speech came during his introduction of Sgt. 1st class Cory Ramsburg, an Army Ranger wounded in Afghanistan during his 10th deployment. The president said Ramsburg never gave up, a lesson for all of us. The ranger received one of the longest standing ovations ever given by the Congress.

We don’t believe the criticism that the president’s address was short on details make sense, given that the speech is not meant to be a detailed proposal, but rather an overview of what the president feels is the state of our country’s social and economic status, and his plans for the future.

The Minimum We Can Do to Fight Inequality

January 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The political profile of economic inequality in America has certainly been growing. So has the political confusion over what overcoming inequality will take. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama’s latest State of the Union address may only add to that confusion.

Obama could — and should — have declared a clear and compelling agenda for combating the concentration of income and wealth that has left America so staggeringly unequal.

In part — small part — he did point to that broad, serious agenda we need. The higher national minimum wage he once again proposed would most definitely help hike the share of our national income that goes to working people.

And Obama’s announcement that all private businesses seeking federal contracts will soon need to start paying their workers at least $10.10 per hour offers a great example of how we can leverage the power of the public purse to rebuild a more equal nation.

But if we really want to overcome income inequality, raising the minimum wage would be the minimum we should do. To fix the ills that ail us, we can’t just look at the bottom of our economic pyramid. We have to look at the top as well.

Most Americans get this reality, as a new USA Today/Pew Research poll makes plain. Some 60 percent of us believe “the economic system in this country unfairly favors the wealthy.” Only 26 percent feel that the government should do “not much” or “nothing” to reduce the gap between the rich and everyone else. Average Americans want real action against our top-heavy distribution of income and wealth.

On the other hand, those wealthy Americans who benefit the most from this top-heavy distribution don’t want to see any action at all that jeopardizes their good fortune. Nor do the politicians these wealthy folks bankroll.

But these politicians have a problem. America’s grand economic divide has become too gaping to deny. So what do these politicos do instead? They spread confusion. They blur the distinctions between inequality, poverty, and opportunity. They reduce inequality to a matter of poverty and blame poverty on the absence of opportunity. If we just gave poor people more opportunity to succeed, their basic line goes, inequality would be no great worry.

This clever messaging totally rewrites our recent history. We don’t have a grand divide between the rich and everyone else — and a collapsing middle class — because poor people lack opportunity. We have an economy that’s stopped working for average people, middle class and poor alike, because the rich have rigged the economic rules in their own favor.

We need an anti-inequality offensive that takes on the rich and their capacity to rig the rules. For example, our billionaires shouldn’t be able to buy candidates and elections.

Instead of suggesting that kind of offensive, Obama simply ignored the political role the rich have played in his speech.

The blame for our current inequality? He pinned it on vague “massive shifts in technology and global competition.” But other major industrial nations have faced those same “massive shifts” and ended up with distributions of income and wealth far more equal than ours.

The difference between those nations and ours? Other nations have not let the rich set the basic rules for how “global competition” plays out within their borders.

Other nations, for instance, have tax rules in place that require the wealthy to bear a meaningful share of the tax burden. And other nations have labor relations rules that foster a healthy give-and-take between labor and management over the distribution of the wealth that modern economies create.

Back in the middle of the 20th century, we had rules like these here in the United States. But we’ve let the rich erase them. We’ve become, as a result, the most unequal major developed nation on the face of the Earth.

Amid this stark inequality, we can certainly try to “build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” as Obama proposed during his State of the Union address. But if we continue to let the wealthiest Americans — and the corporations they run — shove people down those ladders, out of the middle class, real opportunity in our country will eventually belong only to our most privileged.

 

OtherWords.org columnist Sam Pizzigati, an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow, edits the inequality weekly Too Much. His latest book is The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class. 

Environmental Leaders Are Looking More Like Scam Artists These Days

January 30, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

It’s getting tough to take environmentalists seriously. More and more, the leaders of the environmental movement — the “Kings of Green” — are emerging as a pathetic mix of liars, frauds, hucksters and hypocrites who are more concerned with lining their pockets off environmental hysteria than actually protecting Mother Nature.

Few would care if their dirty deeds didn’t impact others, but unfortunately, they do.

Schemes and fibs by environmental extremists like Al Gore, Tom Steyer and leaders at Google are killing jobs, increasing the price of energy, devouring tax dollars and threatening America’s energy independence — all in an effort to make a quick buck.

It’s hard to imagine that Al Gore, the most famous environmentalist of all, has any credibility left after many of his predictions have proven false and he has been unwilling to reduce his own carbon footprint. In his movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” the former Vice President erroneously warned that Artic polar ice caps would disappear by 2013. This year, Arctic ice coverage spanned more than 2,000 cubic miles — an increase of more than 50 percent from just a year ago.

Several years ago, I uncovered that Gore is more than happy to talk the talk when it comes to environmentalism, but appears unwilling to walk the walk. Public records proved that Gore devoured as much as 20 times more electricity at his Nashville estate than the average American household.

Despite his hypocrisy and poor record of environmental fortunetelling, Gore continues to push for a carbon tax, a sinister scheme that would cost tens of thousands of American jobs and squeeze the poorest Americans most as a result of price hikes to most every good and service imaginable.

Not that Gore is worried about the little people. He managed to cash in on the wave of global warming hysteria that he created, amassing a fortune of more than $200 million.

Gore isn’t alone in attempting to exploit environmental concerns for selfish reasons.

Tom Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund manager who made much of his fortune by investing in fossil fuels, now spends his days attacking the Keystone XL pipeline in hopes of blocking its construction. While Steyer claims that his opposition to Keystone is environmentally related — he has funded a series of dubious ads claiming as much – the reality is that the environmental charlatan is heavily invested in a competing pipeline and stands to make a mint if his pipeline doesn’t face competition from Keystone XL

There is one big difference between Keystone XL and the TransMountain oil sands pipeline in which Steyer is invested: Most of the petroleum produced as a result of Keystone would be utilized by the U.S. and Canada, while much of the oil sands carried by the Transmountain scheme would be shipped to China.

Allowing the completion of the Keystone XL pipeline would produce lower gas and energy prices for Americans, create tens of thousands of new jobs, generate millions in new tax dollars and reduce American petroleum imports from unstable and unfriendly nations by 40 percent — not that Tom Steyer cares about any of that.

Another leading player in the environmental movement is Google. The search engine giant heavily lobbies government to encourage risky and irresponsible environmental ploys like cap and trade policies, and believes the federal government should take money from America’s taxpayers to fund unproven gambles on green energy. Google has even authored an initiative hoping to shutter coal-powered electricity production facilities and dictate what types of cars Americans can drive.

Google is proud of its perceived environmental-friendliness. After all, it translates into dollars from customers who share the company’s supposed concern for the environment. Beneath Google’s green facade, however, the company’s executives are hiding a dirty secret. Google maintains a fleet of fuel-devouring planes that company officials use to fly to far-flung vacation hotspots such as Hawaii, Belize, Tahiti, Key West, Milan and Paris. Since the beginning of 2010, the planes owned by Google’s executives have burned through an average of 100,000 gallons of jet fuel every month.

To make matters worse, the planes have been housed at a taxpayer-funded NASA hangar and filled up with government-purchased jet fuel, saving the company millions of dollars in the process.

Al Gore, Tom Steyer and Google have all figured out how to exploit environmentalism for power and money, and they’re not alone. Plenty of companies and individuals have figured out ways who manipulate the public’s legitimate concern for the environment to make a quick buck, improve public perception, increase market share and lure lawmakers into passing legislation that benefits them.

The next time you find out that a business or individual professes to do something for environmental reasons, take a closer look; there’s a good chance that what’s best for the environment is the last thing on their mind.

 

Drew Johnson is a senior fellow at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational organization dedicated to a smaller, more responsible government. Visit TPA online at www.protectingtaxpayers.org.

 

County Launches Public Works Mobile App

January 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles County residents are now able to use a smartphone app to report graffiti and request pothole repairs, among other things, the Department of Public Works announced Tuesday.

The mobile app, dubbed “The Works,” has been expanded to connect user to the Department of Parks and Recreation, Public Health and Regional Planning.

Residents can report health or code violations or request maintenance at county parks or on hiking trails.

Users can also track service requests on the app, which can be downloaded for iPhone and Android operating systems at http://dpw.lacounty.gov/theworks.

Driver Leads Monterey Park Police on Pursuit

January 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

A man was booked at the Monterey Park jail Monday after leading officers on a 10-minute pursuit from that city to neighboring Rosemead, a police sergeant said.

The pursuit began at about 1 a.m. at Potrero Grande and Arroyo drives and ended about 10 minutes later in the 8000 block of Whitmore Street in Rosemead, said Monterey Park police Sgt. Paul Yniguez .

Officers tried to get the driver to pull over after he committed a vehicle code violation, Yniguez said.

“He went through mostly residential streets and the car eventually went into a dead-end and the suspect tried to run,” the sergeant said.

The officers chased the suspect and he surrendered without incident or injury, Yniguez said.

The suspect was being booked into the jail on suspicion of evading and reckless driving, both felonies and resisting arrest, a misdemeanor, he said.

Toddler Accidentally Run Over by Grandfather in Cypress Parck

January 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

An 18-month-old girl was run over and killed by a van driven by her grandfather in his Cypress Park driveway, and Los Angeles police investigated the case as an accident, police said Sunday.

The girl was struck around 1:50 p.m. Saturday in the 3500 block of Marmion Way and died at a hospital, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

The grandfather was backing the van down his driveway when the girl was run over, police said.

Call For Statewide Plastic Bag Ban Renewed

January 30, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

Plastic bags could soon be a thing of the past in California if a statewide ban proposed last week by local state legislators and a coalition of environmental, labor and business groups is passed.

Less than a month after the city of Los Angeles implemented its ban on single-use plastic grocery bags, Senators Kevin de Leon, Ricardo Lara and Alex Padilla were in Vernon last Friday to discuss Senate Bill 270, which would ban plastic bags throughout the state by 2015 and implement a 10 cent fee for recycled paper, reusable plastic and compostable bags.

“The plastic bag ban is a win-win for the environment, for California manufacturing and for jobs,” said De Leon, who represents the 22nd District that includes parts of the city of Los Angeles, East Los Angeles and Vernon.

In addition to helping the planet, the senators said the ban would promote California jobs and manufacturing. They said SB 270 would include financial incentives for businesses affected by the ban to maintain and retrain employees.

The conference was held at Command Packaging, a plastic manufacturer and recycler in the industrial city of Vernon, where environmental and manufacturing representatives joined the senators.

“This legislation sets the stage for California consumers to transition toward affordable reusable bags made in California from post-consumer recycled plastic and away from disposable bags,” said Command Packaging CEO Pete Grande.

Large grocery store chains will be required to take back used bags for recycling. The bill would also increase the percent of recycled content required in reusable plastic bags to 20% in 2016 and 40% by 2020.

“This compromise will bridge the gap and help move the economy forward into a green future,” said De Leon, who along with Lara last year opposed similar legislation authored by Padilla on the grounds it would cut jobs.

The current legislation includes $20 million in funding to help plastic bag manufacturers like Command Packaging retool their plants and retrain workers to produce recyclable bags, a provision that is being hailed by both business and environmental groups.

Joining the senators for the press conference announcing SB 270 were Ronald Fong, California Grocers Association, Pete Grande, President & CEO, Command Packaging, Jim Araby, Executive Director, United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council, Mark Murray, Californians Against Waste, David Allgood, Director of Southern California CLCV, Dan Jacobson, Environment California, Friends of the Los Angeles River, Irma Munoz, President, Mujeres de la Tierra, Ruskin Hartley, CEO, Heal the Bay, Surfrider and Pacoima Beautiful.

Baca Leaves Today: Interim Sheriff Replacement Named

January 30, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

Sheriff Lee Baca’s will end his long-time tenure at the helm of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department today, less than a month since announcing his retirement and just under a year before the end of his fourth term.

Baca, 71, has been with the department for 48 years. He and the sheriff’s department have been under fire over allegations of mistreatment of jail inmates, capped so far by the indictment of 18 former and current sheriff’s deputies in an ongoing federal investigation.

Announcing his plans on Jan. 7, Baca denied his decision to step down was prompted by the possibility of federal charges against him, and said he wanted to go out on his own terms and cited department morale.

“The reasons for doing so are so many,” Baca said at the time. “Some are most personal and private, but the prevailing one is the negative perception this upcoming campaign has brought to the exemplary service provided by the men and women of the Sheriff’s Department.

On Tuesday, the County Board of Supervisors appointed Orange County Sheriff’s Department Undersheriff John Scott as an interim replacement for Baca.

The board’s 4-0 vote, the result of several closed-door meetings, came less than 48 hours before Baca’s scheduled retirement date, which is noon Thursday.

Scott has 36 years of experience with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, last serving as its division chief of custody operations before retiring in 2005. He joined the Orange County force in 2008. ife, Alice, was a captain with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, but she has also retired.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky noted that Scott was hired to help turn around the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and has experience in crisis management.

“What we’re looking for is someone who’s not going to be a caretaker for the next 10 months, just marking time,” Yaroslavsky said. Instead, he said, the board wants Scott “to begin the process of reforming” the sheriff’s department and “teeing it up” for whoever voters elect as the next sheriff.

Scott said Tuesday he will not act as “a placeholder” for the next sheriff, but would begin working on reforms immediately.

Voters will elect a new sheriff either in a June primary or November run-off election to serve a term that begins in December.

The competitive field includes Long Beach police Chief Jim McDonnell, former sheriff’s Cmdr. Bob Olmsted, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and former Lt. Patrick Gomez, as well as Assistant Sheriffs Todd Rogers and James Hellmold and Los Angeles police Detective Lou Vince.

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