Aztec Dancers Honor Leader

January 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

(EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Xipe Totec, a Northeast Los Angeles area-based aztec dance group, on Jan. 27 hosted a celebration to honor their leader Lazaro Arvizu for his more than 40 years of dedication and teaching of Mexico’s Danza Azteca. Several other aztec dance groups traveled from near and far and danced for about four hours on pavement near the Cypress Park Recreation Center on Pepper Avenue. Pictured: Dozens of dancers came out to honor Lazaro Arvizu, pictured on the left.

Orozco: He Kept a Close Watch Over His Town

January 31, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

“Bill” Orozco passed away overnight on Jan. 24. at the age of 63. (Photo courtesy of the Orozco Family)

For at least three decades, William “Bill” Orozco immersed himself in the political goings on in Los Angeles County, at times as a political consultant or community activist, other times capturing it with his camera.

On January 24, at age 63, Orozco died unexpectedly, apparently in his sleep, according to long time companion Nancy Anne Nuno.

His cause of death is unknown; the Los Angeles County Coroners Office is performing an autopsy.

Pat Orozco, Bill’s sister, told EGP that her brother’s death came as quite a shock. “I spoke to him the day before and then I got a call at 4:00 a.m. telling me he had died,” she said. “He had been fine, it didn’t seem like he had any major thing wrong with him, just the normal things that come with age,” she said.

Since his passing, “I’ve been getting so many phone calls. I knew he was involved in politics and knew a lot of people in politics, in office, but so many of the people that are calling are telling me about what he did for them personally,” she said. “That was Bill, he had such a good heart.”

During the 1980s Orozco worked as an aide to former California State Senator David Roberti. In the years that followed, he worked as political strategists and consultant on a number of high-profile election campaigns as well as some campaigns that many saw as a long shot, but which he saw as a chance to shake up the political establishment.

It was always about getting honest people into office and advancing the role of Latinos in the legislative process, a number of his friends have recalled since his passing.

“Nothing made Bill angrier than seeing entrenched politicians who took advantage of the system, especially when he suspected there were bribes involved or fixed contract bidding,” Los Angeles-based writer Tony Castro, author of “Chicano Power: The Emergence of Mexican America” and “Mickey Mantle: America’s Prodigal Son” blogged on his website.

“Bill always seemed to have the inside scoop,” according to Jonathan Sanchez, Associate Publisher and CEO of Eastern Group Publications/ “He had a long list of connections and sources who trusted him, and he would often call to give us the heads up that something was about to break,” Sanchez said.

“Than all of a sudden there would be news of an investigation and you’d realized Bill had connected all those dots a long time ago.”

Bill was never afraid to criticize those he thought were in the wrong, even to the point of seeing himself as a whistleblower, Sanchez said.

Over the years, EGP has published many of Orozco’s pictures, added EGP Publisher Dolores Sanchez.  “Bill never considered himself a professional photographer, yet there he was taking pictures of political events and rallies, community events, parades… capturing some very important moments in local history with the eye of a professional,” Mrs. Sanchez said.

“More than anything, he was a really nice guy, a really good guy.

“I took it hard when I learned he had passed away,” she said.

Bill was living in East Los Angeles with his 91-year-old mother Mary Orozco at the time of his death. He is survived by 6 adult children — Erick, Jimette, Joell, Nathalie, Albert and Meghan — and 7 siblings, Rolff, Steve, Lydia, Mary Lou, Irene, Pat and Celeste.

Escutia Calls for Probe of Sexual Abuse of Latino Students In LAUSD

January 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Former state Sen. Martha Escutia, now a partner at an Irvine law firm, called Monday for an independent investigation of what she called disproportionate sexual abuse of Latino students by teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The call came in the wake of claims that LAUSD teacher Robert Pimentel sexually abused children at George De La Torre Jr. Elementary School in Wilmington.

Escutia’s firm, Manly & Stewart, represents more than 30 children allegedly molested by teachers at Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles. She also noted that another teacher, Paul Chapel, abused students at Telfair Elementary in Pacoima.

“There now appears to be a consistent pattern of mass sexual abuse that has occurred almost exclusively in poor and largely Latino schools run by LAUSD,” Escutia said.

“We need to know why LAUSD is unable to protect children and why a majority of these sex abusers end up teaching at poor Latino schools,” she added.

Escutia expressed concern that allegations of abuse by Latino children and parents are ignored, and said undocumented parents of victims are reluctant to report abuse due to fear of deportation.

LAUSD attorney David Holmquist said the district has always worked to provide a safe environment for students, and it has conducted extensive reviews of its policies over the past year. The district updated its system of notifying state teacher-credentialing authorities when allegations arise and placed more specialists in the field to advise schools on misconduct issues. It changed its policy for notifying parents about abuse allegations and was working with Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, on legislation to allow faster dismissal of teachers accused of abuse.

“Anytime an incident like this occurs, it impacts our entire community,” Holmquist said. “Every child we serve is important, and we would never willfully place students in harm’s way,” he said.

“We would encourage Senator Escutia and Mr. (John) Manly to work with us to support statewide legislative reforms that will provide a safer learning environment for our students,” he said.

Pimentel, who was arrested Jan. 22, pleaded not guilty to eight counts of continuous sexual abuse and seven counts of lewd acts upon a child, for alleged assaults of 12 children under age 14. Police said he is suspected of assaulting as many as 20 children and one adult.

MUSD Appoints New District Superintendent

January 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

(Photo courtesy of MUSD)

The Montebello Unified Board of Education unanimously appointed Susanna Contreras Smith to serve alongside longtime Superintendent Cleve Pell, filling the superintendent position left vacant when former Superintendent Robert Henke retired last month.

The appointment was made during school board meeting held earlier this month.

Last July, MUSD hired Contreras Smith to serve as the District’s Associate Superintendent of Accountability and Compliance, a position that will not be refilled as a cost-saving measure, MUSD Board President Hector Chacon said.

“I want to commend the board on their unanimous decision to appoint Susanna Contreras Smith to join Superintendent Pell as Superintendent of MUSD,” said Chacon in a press release announcing her appointment. “With her demonstrated leadership and impressive resume, this move makes complete sense.”

Contreras Smith’s contract runs through June 2016. Pell’s contract, which was recently extended to June 2013, will now be extended to 2016 as well.

Both Superintendents will receive equal work and equal pay according to the District’s legal counsel, who at the last school board meeting said under the proposed contract agreements, Pell and Contreras Smith will each be paid $191,362.56; a pay bump for Pell who was receiving $189,000 a year.

The East Los Angeles native and Garfield Highs School graduate started her career in education 38 years ago as a MUSD instructional aide. Contreras Smith has two decades of experience in the classroom and as a principal, and formerly worked for 12 years at the El Rancho Unified School District, serving as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for two years before being promoted to the Assistant Superintendent of Education, a position she held for 10 years.

At the board meeting, Contreras Smith vowed to do her part to ensure that MUSD students are college and career ready.

Contreras Smith earned her bachelor and master’s degrees and teaching and administrative credentials from California State University, Los Angeles.

“Susanna and I will make a great team and we’re going to do an excellent job to keep this school district performing at its highest potential,” said Pell in the press release.

Justice Sotomayor Comes to Southland

January 31, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

(EGP photo by Hector Cruz Sandoval)

Thousands of people turned out last weekend for a chance to meet U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic ever appointed to the High Court, and one of only four women to sit on the bench. Sotomayor was in Los Angeles as part of national tour to promote her new book, “My Beloved World,” the story of her path from the tenements of the Bronx to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Pictured: Actress Eva Longoria (right) led a discussion with Sotomayor held Saturday at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.

Resurrection Plans Bus Tour to Raise $50,000 for Matching Grant

January 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Resurrection Catholic School in Boyle Heights needs donors to help them secure a $50,000 Educational Matching Grant; a fundraiser scheduled for Feb. 15 aims to raise the majority of those funds.

“We have never done anything like this before and it’s only because we have this opportunity, really a golden opportunity for matching funds; we can’t let it go that easily,” Monsignor John Morretta, Resurrection Catholic Church Pastor and school board member told EGP on Tuesday. Money raised will go toward tuition scholarships at the school, which has a policy to never turn away a student because of an inability to pay.

The school’s principal, Angelica Figueroa, and parents found and applied for the grant, said Moretta.

Last year, Resurrection School students were featured in a documentary on environmental justice. But the church has a long history of fighting alongside the community for environmental and social justice issues.

Now the school, where most of the students are low-income and Latino, is asking alumni, local businesses, elected officials and celebrities to help them raise the $50,000 needed for the matching grant.

Citing studies by the Universities of Notre Dame and Loyola Marymount, Moretta said the parochial school is a great alternative for students who are struggling in the public education system. The majority of children who attend Resurrection graduate from high school and go on to college, he said. “For minority children in the inner-city, the best chance for an education is a private school, so we are very proud of our record,” he said.

Resurrection currently serves 233 students from pre-kindergarten to 8th grade, but has a capacity to serve 310 students. Ninety-percent of the students enrolled meet the federal standards for a free lunch, he added. The standard is often used as a measurement of poverty.

The fundraiser will be a one-of-a-kind tour experience, according to Probation Commissioner Sal Martinez, a member of the Friends of Resurrection.

It will feature an open-top, sightseeing double-decker bus and surprise celebrity guests could be on board, he said, adding seating is limited.

“The trip route will include our favorite sons and daughters, elected officials, our local entrepreneurs, law enforcement leaders. The tour will feature historic sites in an effort to meet our goal. This is a great investment!” the group’s fundraising letter proclaims. To reach the ambitious matching grant goal before the March 1 deadline, tickets are ser at $300 per person.

The tour is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and will conclude with lunch at Resurrection School. To RSVP, contact Sal Martinez or Resurrection alumni Alessandra Selva via email at

People who cannot attend can still make a donation, said Moretta, adding they will be grateful for any amount since even a $10 donation will be matched.

Donations are tax deductible, checks should be made payable to Resurrection School and note the contribution is to the Educational Matching Grant, Tax ID 95-1643348. Visa and Master Card are also being accepted.

For more information visit

Latin Artists to Perform Free Pre-Grammy Concert in East L.A.

January 31, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

(EGP photo by Humberto Howard)

Fans of Grammy nominated Latin artist Quetzal and Los Cojolites will perform a free pre-Grammy concert Feb 9 at the Breed Street Shul in Boyle Heights.

Quetzal and Los Cojolites are both nominated for Grammy’s in the Latin genre division, for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album. The bands incorporate a style categorized as fadango jarocho, which mixes Spanish, African and Indigenous music and dance.

The free concert is being held to celebrate Grammy’s first time multi-nominations of fandango jarocho influenced albums, and will take place at 8 p.m. at the Breed Street Shul located at 247 N. Breed St., Los Angeles, 90033.

The event will also include special appearances by members of Ozomatli and La Santa Cecilia.

“We have all been connected through the fandango practice but also through the ongoing commitment we have to our communities by the projects we continuously create and engage in together,” said Martha Gonzalez of Quetzal.

Highland Park Parklet Opens Saturday: Two More to Follow

January 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Councilmember Jose Huizar, who represents the 14th District, has announced that the first of three parklets designed with community input will open this coming Saturday in Highland Park.

Located on York Boulevard near Ave. 50, the York Boulevard Park opening will include a community celebration at 1 p.m., according to Huizar. Another parklet opening will take place on Feb. 7 at 639 S. Spring St. (near LA Café) in Downtown L.A. and the third parklet will open Feb. 16 at 4910 N. Huntington Dr. in El Sereno near the Food 4 Less Supermarket. The parklets in Northeast LA are the result of two pilot projects done in collaboration with Living Streets L.A.

Man On East LA Roof Keeps Sheriffs at Bay for Hours

January 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

A burglary suspect trying to elude a bail bondsmen ran onto the roof of a house in East Los Angeles on Jan. 25 and refused to come down for several hours before surrendering.

Michael Vargas, 37, was taken into custody about 11:30 a.m. at the scene of the standoff, which began about 7 a.m. near the 5300 block of Grace Place, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reported.

Vargas had attempted to elude the bail bondsmen by hiding in the attic, and then he climbed out onto the roof, where he became stranded, authorities said.

Deputies surrounded the single-story house and placed a ladder against the building, but the shirtless man remained atop the structure.Eventually, he surrendered, and was handcuffed without further incident.

Immigration Reforms Makes Sense

January 31, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Finally, the issue of comprehensive immigration reform has come to the forefront of public and legislative discussion, and appears to be on track for some meaningful action.

What is missing from the discussion though seems to be the fact that it has become an imperative for the U.S. to start to gather and work with information that actually reflects reality.

The Internal Revenue and Social Security Administration have been dealing with nebulous numbers as to what the actual labor force numbers are. By legalizing the status of people working in the county without authorization, we will get a truer picture of our economy.

In our view, people who are able to account for their earnings will be more likely to comply with other reporting requirements, such as registering an automobile for example. The fact that everyone in this county will be able to have a Social Security number, we believe, will increase tax revenues through payroll deductions.

State and local governments will also be able to identify and document automobile ownership, regulate insurance coverage and take advantage of all the information that comes with having a legal driver’s license provides. Air travelers will all be better identified and counterfeit Social Security numbers will decrease as people are able to gain legal status.

If comprehensive immigration reform is achieved, the country will also finally be able to avail fully itself of the talents and education for which it has paid.

These are just a few of the benefits to be derived from documenting the existence of those whom are now for all intents and purposes Americans living in an underground world.

While it’s noble to speak of moral obligations and uniting families — and we agree with all of those reasons— the fact is that this country will derive a greater benefit economically from legalizing those it has already absorbed.

There is no greater benefit to a nation than all of the people who live there being citizens with the obligation to be a contributing member of society.

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