An informational presentation on the Metro Gold Line Eastside Access Project was made Tuesday, July 10, at the Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce. The project, comprised of 8 transit related, pedestrian and bicycle improvement projects, stretches from Boyle Heights to unincorporated East Los Angeles.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Se Planifican Proyectos de ‘Acceso al Lado Éste’
Eastside Access projects, funded by voter approved Measure R, revolve around the Metro Gold Line light rail stations that opened in 2009. While several of the projects are directly located at Gold Line stations, others are located along the route between the stations. The enhancements aim to increase Gold Line ridership on the eastside by strengthening connections between stations and surrounding communities, according to Metro Project Manager Laura Cornejo, who gave Tuesday’s presentation.
The enhancements also focus on improving access and safety, designing creative solutions for landscape, public art, lighting and signage on City-owned streets and sidewalks.
The projects around Boyle Heights’ Pico/Aliso, Mariachi Plaza, Soto and Indiana station, include: a plaza at 1st Street and Cummings; new sidewalks, trees and lighting along the 1st Street Arts District (between Boyle and Soto); a bike friendly streetscape between Cesar Chavez and 4th Street on Mott Street; several enhancements to the Evergreen Cemetery jogging path along 1st Street; and pedestrian friendlier curbs and sidewalks along Bailey at 1st and Pennsylvania. The plans also call for a small garden across from the White Memorial Medical Center.
In unincorporated East LA, the Gold Line’s Indiana, Maravilla, East LA Civic Center and Atlantic Boulevard stations will also receive improvements, but planning for those projects is still in the early stages, according to Cornejo.
The Boyle Heights Eastside Access projects have a Metro Community Advisory Committee (CAC), comprised by community stakeholders, who provide feedback on the project. The group’s next meeting is Thursday, September 22. For more on Eastside Access visit http://www.metro.net/projects/eastside/goldline_eastside_access/
Businesses interested in construction contracts can call the Equal Opportunity Department at (213) 922-2600.
Through Aug. 31, patrons and visitors of the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library can enjoy an exhibition of award winning student artwork in the library’s first floor main lobby.
The exhibition is made up of entries from the “Growing Up Chinese American” art contest, hosted by the Los Angeles chapter of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance.
The artwork was chosen for the library’s July/August “Artists of the Month” exhibit as part of an on-going collaboration between the library and the Alliance started when Bruggemeyer Senior Librarian Cindy Costales was inspired by the Alliance’s centennial calendar of student artwork. According to Winston Wu, the group’s vice-president, Costales wanted something for the library “that was not too costly but lively.”
In May, the Los Angeles chapter of the Alliance celebrated its centennial by hosting a similar art contest with the theme of Chinese New Years, which was also exhibited at the library.
The “Growing Up Chinese American” art contest started in 2007 and includes the students’ perspectives on the everyday matters in their lives, from childhood games to family gatherings, school and festivals.
Wu said that the quality of the artwork, even from the kindergartners is something to behold. He said that the various subject matters in the artwork, from detailed computer screens to the scene of a lotus festival show that “there’s a variety of what [the children] think about” in response to the contest’s theme and their own lives.
With such a focus on their own youth, its no surprise that the library’s younger patrons really love the artwork, Costales said.
“Youth look at it and they go grab their parents to look at it with them,” she said.
The Artist of the Month program was established by Friends of the Monterey Park Library and the Monterey Park Art & Culture Commission.
A band that found its sound and soul in El Sereno and fights for social causes in greater East Los Angeles is making its debut in New York this Friday at the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LACM), a showcase for up-and-coming Latino musical groups. For Las Cafeteras, it’s a chance to take their unique twist on traditional Mexican folk music to a larger audience.
“We began playing in a small community center in East Los Angeles, called the Eastside Café, which is no bigger than a garage,” band member David Flores told EGP Wednesday by email. “Fast-forward, and we are playing in the same conference as Calle 13, Ana Tijoux and some of the biggest names in Latino Music in New York!! WOW!!”
Las Cafeteras, named in tribute to the Eastside Café collective in El Sereno where the group formed in 2005, is scheduled to release their new CD, “It’s Time,” later this summer or in early fall. The seven-member band performs son jarocho music, a regional style of Mexican folk music.
Las Cafeteras’ Upcoming Local Performances:
—Thursday, July 12 at 7pm: Aloud Series at LA Central Library [Free], Downtown Los Angeles, for more information visit www.lapl.org/central
—Sunday, July 15 at 3pm at MOLAA (Museum of Latin American Art) in Long Beach, CA, for more information visit www.molaa.org
The group, however, unapologetically adds several instruments to create a distinctive sound—including the jarana, requinto, a quijada (donkey jawbone), a Native American drum and flute, and the tarima (wooden stomp box).
What does Las Cafeteras sound like? Their promoter compares them to Rage Against the Machine, Lila Downs, Ed Sharpe, Manu Chao and Ozomatli, and says they have melded a sound that is livelier than Veracruz’ usual Afro-Mexican son jarocho beat.
Las Cafeteras perform in English and Spanglish and their music includes an undeniable activist message about their experiences fighting for justice “in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles.”
Flores told EGP that the group is excited about the opportunity “to share our music with the East Coast and tell the stories of Chicano/as who live, love and struggle in Los Angeles.
“Maybe its coincidence, but several of the top names playing at the Latin Alternative Music Conference, like Calle 13 and Ana Tijoux, are also speaking and making music about the social issues affecting people all over the world.”
All of the band’s members have been organizers and activists involved in a variety of movements and struggles in the Los Angeles area, said Flores. “As artists, we believe that we have an important role in documenting the injustices happening at the time, but also highlighting the beauty of our culture and communities,” he said.
The group has no qualms about updating traditional lyrics with more contemporary references.
The first single off their new CD is “La Bamba Rebelde,” a twist on rock and roll legend Ritchie Valen’s 1958 hit La Bamba that not only sounds different, but also takes on the heated issue of immigration.
“Yo no creo en fronteras, Yo no creo en fronteras, yo cruzaré, yo cruzaré” the group sings, defiantly saying “I don’t believe in borders, I don’t believe in borders, I will cross, I will cross”.
“The meaning of ‘La Bamba’ is one of history’s mysteries. [But] to them it is an expression of ‘telling our modern realities through traditional sounds.’ It also represents how Latinos raised in the U.S. are returning to their roots,” according to the group’s press release.
They see La Bamba Rebelde as “a Chicano anthem that tells the stories of Latinos migrating and growing up in the U.S.”
Las Cafeteras has strong ties to the Eastside Café where its members participate in community projects and organizing, and where son jarocho workshops for budding musicians are held. The group recently performed at the May Day protests in downtown from a stage presented by the Occupy LA organizers, and participated in a fandango to celebrate the recent anniversary of “Mi Vida,” a Chicana owned store in Highland Park.
Today, ahead of their New York debut, local fans of Las Cafeteras can hear them live during a free concert at the Los Angeles Central Library in downtown LA. The show starts at 7 p.m.
For more information on Las Cafeteras visit Lascafeteras.com or visit the group’s YouTube Channel “Las Cafeteras” to hear some of their music.
State auditors noting an unusual absence of “key” Vernon leadership during their meetings with the city, said there was instead a “strong presence” by Latham & Watkins, the city’s legal consultants.
State Auditor Elaine Howle, who has served in the California State Auditor’s office for nearly 30 years, said it was “striking” that their meetings with Vernon were “run by Latham and Watkins, not necessarily… by city officials.”
In her experience, consultants in other cities take a backseat to top administrative and elected officials. But in Vernon, attorneys served as the representatives, right down to signing the city’s response to the audit’s findings, Howle said during a public hearing last week in Sacramento.
Howle’s report released on June 28 after a ten-month review painted a particularly grim financial picture of Vernon. Auditors said the city has been living with a structural deficit for at least two decades, had gotten itself into debt over a natural gas deal that went sour, and is now forced to raise its electricity rates because of its poor financial decisions.
City council members or city administrators usually sign the city’s response to their audits, Howle said. In Vernon’s response, Latham & Watkins attorney David Schindler lashed back, accusing Howle and her team of auditors of “misrepresenting the facts” and displaying a “lack of objectivity.”
During the audit, Latham & Watkins attorneys were responsible for “responding to some of the concerns, or listening, having my staff step out of the room, bringing my staff back in and then responding on behalf of the city,” Howle said.
According to the state auditor’s report, Latham & Watkins’ contract with the city dates back to 2003. The city paid the firm a total of $22 million for its services in the last five years, with fees jumping from around half a million a year to more than $4 million a year starting in 2007 and 2008. One auditor said the firm appeared to serve a “general advisory role” in the city.
As auditors were being steered toward consultants, Vernon’s high-ranking officials themselves appeared to Howle to be unqualified for their jobs. At last Thursday’s hearing, she openly questioned the Vernon finance director’s “ability to understand the complexity of the fiscal situation in the city,” suggesting that he be replaced, along with City Administrator Mark Whitworth, who is also Vernon’s fire chief.
Vernon spokesperson Fred MacFarlane pointed out the decision to replace the finance director or the city administrator would be up to the city council. “I think the city feels that the city council is well within its authority to choose the best, capable person,” he said, but defended the current administrator, saying that he has “conducted himself in fine fashion.”
He also said Finance Director Rory Burnett has “performed ably for the city and will continue to do so as long as the city council believes he’s the right person to handle those responsibilities.”
But even as the city points to the city council’s decision-making powers, auditors last week described Vernon’s elected officials as being ill-prepared to make decisions. They found that budget documents given to the city council hid two decades of general fund deficits, while the risks and benefits of financial investments were never properly explained to them.
From 2004 until 2012, the city issued eight bonds, totaling $1.3 billion, but the council got “little to no information that summarized or explained the fiscal impact and potential risks associated with the bonds,” causing auditors to wonder “who is in charge.”
Most of the over $500 million that remains to be paid back is for bonds taken out to pay for a 15-year supply of natural gas, which the city almost immediately lost money on when the value of gas dipped. The city also seems to have no real use for the supply, since it had sold the Malburg Generating Station, a power plant that the natural gas was supposed to fuel, say auditors.
The losses from the deal also had an impact on the city’s utility company, which has moved to raise rates in the past month, much to the chagrin of the Vernon business community.
Spurred by the possible threat of higher utility bills and taxes proposed by the city, members of the business community, for years preferring to stay out of city politics, have joined city commissions and packed city council meetings in the last year in search of more information on the bonds and the budget that auditors now allege were never properly presented to city officials.
Vernon Chamber of Commerce president, Marisa Olguin, released a statement Wednesday saying that the chamber’s mission is to keep Vernon “economically viable.” They agreed with the state auditor’s recommendations, calling it a “positive roadmap” for future reform. “We feel a stronger demonstration of transparency and a more public/private partnership with the business community is needed in this process,” she said.
During last week’s hearing, legislators again questioned whether Vernon could truly be reformed, to which one of the auditors, Donna Neville said, “It’s never going to be a real city like you imagine with a significant population. One of the things we think could help is engaging the business community more fully… it’s an industrial city and the kinds of services it offers supports industrial activities.”
Montebello fire officials are still investigating how Monday’s fire in the Montebello Hills oil fields started, but say the fire did not come in contact with any oil extraction operations, and was only burning brush.
Fire crews on Monday chased a brush fire across more than 10 acres of the Montebello Hills, putting out most of it by the evening. Crews kept watch over the embers into Tuesday morning.
The city’s fire marshal is working with Los Angeles County authorities to investigate the cause of the fire, said Montebello Fire Department Chief Tim Wessel. According to Montebello Fire Battalion Chief Kevin Collinge, the fire started just before 3 p.m. at the center of the hills near the Plains Exploration and Production offices. By around 6 p.m., the fire was completely “knocked down.”
Production was halted and ten people were evacuated from the site, according to a hazardous materials spill report submitted by PXP, the oil and gas company that owns and operates the oil fields. A company representative contacted the state’s emergency management agency, concerned the brush fire could “impact infield piping, potentially releasing oil and gas into the environment.”
An update at around 7:30 p.m. stated there was no release of hazardous materials, and no waterways were affected.
Earlier that day, a flames and a black plume of smoke could be seen close up from some backyards in the neatly-manicured, residential neighborhood overlooked by the Montebello Hills, and from as far as the baseball fields at Grant Rea Park. People at the Montebello mall and in adjacent cities also reported seeing and smelling smoke.
The fire was thought to be contained by an initial firefight, but the fire persisted, helped along by an eastward blowing wind that escalated it into a three-alarm fire.
By 5 p.m., the fire had blazed across at least ten acres of the hills, just missing the oil derricks operated by Plains Exploration and Production, an oil and gas company. Firefighting crews from eleven agencies, including Los Angeles County, Vernon and Monterey Park joined the Montebello Fire Department in fighting the flames. In total, 21 engines and more than 200 firefighters were on the scene.
Authorities say the fire did not reach homes and no one was injured, though two power poles were burned down, exposing live power lines. Water to put out the fire was being pumped from nearby Legg Lake, where helicopters were stationed.
Access to the burning brush was limited. They relied mostly on helicopters to dump water over the fire, Wessel said.
Onlookers gathered behind police cones and weathered the hot sun Monday afternoon to get a glimpse of the flames.
“Look, another one!” three-year-old Nacho Martinez alerted his mother, Griselda, to a helicopter zipping over the hills and cascading water over flames that had just engulfed a tree. Griselda and her three sons were on their way to the Grant Rea Park water park, but stopped short when they saw the smoke. “It’s not something you see everyday,” she said.
Christina Escamilla, 31, had her cell phone out to capture the scene, which caught her attention as she drove along Beverly Boulevard. “Something like that you notice right away,” she said, and when she got closer, she realized the fire was near the historical Sanchez Adobe where she frequently walks her dog.
The Montebello brush fire was just one of the many fire emergencies happening simultaneously in the Southland earlier this week, including a brush fire at Griffith Park, the ongoing fire in Palmdale, and a small fire along the 710 freeway near Vernon, an indication that the fire season is now in full swing. Montebello residents and observers on Monday worried about the possible hazards of having an oil field going up in flames in their backyard.
“It’s dangerous, and pretty scary… when oil meets fire, you never know what’s going to happen,” said Miguel Samano, who was in the neighborhood visiting his brother.
Meanwhile, Geni Garcia said she has seen small fires in the hills on occasion, but never this big. No evacuation of nearby homes was called, but the 27-year Montebello resident found the fire too close for comfort. She had ventured out with her son to get a closer look at the progress of the fire, worried that it was not subsiding. “We’re residents so we have to make sure it’s not getting too close,” she said.
The city Planning Department, in a report out Tuesday, laid out its opposition to a City Council proposal to temporarily ban big-name retailers from opening stores in Chinatown north of downtown Los Angeles.
The report is a blow to opponents of a proposed Wal-Mart in Chinatown, including labor unions, Asian American neighborhood activists and City Councilman Ed Reyes, who represent the area.
Wal-Mart is working to open a 33,000-square-foot grocery store at the corner of Cesar E. Chavez and Grand avenues that would employ 65 people, according to a company official.
Citing a risk to Chinatown’s cultural character and small businesses in the community, Reyes in March proposed an ordinance temporarily barring so- called formula retail stores larger than 20,000 square feet from getting permits necessary to open in Chinatown – an area bounded by the Harbor (110) Freeway on the west, Cesar E. Chavez Avenue on the south, Main and Alameda streets on the east and Cottage Home and College streets on the north.
The City Council approved the interim control ordinance, which banned new demolition or construction permits from being issued for big retailers on March 23. However, the Department of Building and Safety had issued Wal-Mart the final permits necessary to begin construction on its Chinatown location the day before the vote, a move attacked by the store’s opponents as suspiciously timed.
The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and United Food Workers Local 770 jointly filed a lawsuit last week seeking to block the store from opening. The suit alleged irregularities in the city’s permitting process.
Planning Department officials drafted the ordinance banning big retailers as required by the council’s vote in March, but, in a staff report, they recommended council members oppose the ordinance.
“Staff has not observed a proliferation of new formula retail uses in the area, and limited staff research has indicated this issue does not appear to have the urgency that would call for such a temporary suspension of new permits,” a team of city planners wrote in the report. “Furthermore, the imposition of (the ordinance) may have potential unintended positive and negative land use and economic consequences that are unknown at this time.”
The City Planning Commission is scheduled to weigh the department’s ordinance and accompanying recommendations today.
Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on what is perhaps the most significant legal victory for the health and wellness of the American people in the last 60 years.
The Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act carries with it great benefits for Americans, but will have an especially strong effect on Latinos, who are disproportionately uninsured. As we move toward full implementation of the law in 2014, more and more of its benefits will become clear. Overall, the law is doing three key things to improve our health care system: providing new consumer protections, expanding health coverage, and helping to reduce and control health care costs.
For too long, access to quality care has been a challenge for many Latino families for reasons that include growing out-of-pocket expenses, transportation issues, unaffordability or a shortage of health care professionals in the area. In fact, the Latino population routinely pays more in out-of-pocket health expenses and is more likely to dip into savings to cover health-related expenses than any other group. Under full implementation of the new law, affordable health coverage is a reality.
The Urban Institute estimates that the new law will help six million Latinos gain access to coverage that was previously unattainable due to factors such as cost or insurance companies’ ability to deny coverage. Consumer protections and state health benefit exchanges will make help coverage affordable and increase the quality of care for those in need of insurance and those whose coverage is inadequate. And the new law will continue to reduce costs by keeping individuals out of emergency rooms for routine care, provide access to preventive care, and stop people from delaying treatment.
One significant provision of the law that has stayed in place due to the Court’s decision allows the nearly 750,000 Latino young adults (age 19-26) to remain covered through their parents’ plan. Some additional common sense reforms eliminate exclusions based on pre-existing conditions and guarantee your insurance company can’t cancel your coverage due to illness, letting Latino families focus on getting well instead of worrying about how getting sick could lead to financial ruin.
We know the law is not perfect – for example, it does nothing to address the uninsured undocumented Latinos in this country – but it is a step in the right direction. Furthermore, the expected expansion of community clinics under the new law will be an increasingly reliable resource for all residents.
The Supreme Court’s ruling can help make health happen in our neighborhoods. It is a step forward in making affordable, quality health coverage available to all. In fact, by 2014 every American will be better off than they are today. And that’s a win for America.
Richard Figueroa is the Director of Prevention for The California Endowment.
For their fight;
Keep out of sight.
Officials and partisans who promoted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan early on favored “Support Our Troops!” as a rallying cry. The Pentagon propaganda machine even produced cute yellow magnets for our cars as Congress voted again and again to sustain those wars, all on our national credit card.
Meanwhile, the government did precious little to support the troops themselves. Basic personal and vehicle armor had to be arm-wrestled into the military budget.
But getting funding to prevent combat injury and death is a breeze compared to finding the money to repair injured brains or head off suicides. First of all, there must be an official admission that these problems exist at all. That’s painful for the government. Wars of conquest are most popular if they can be made to appear tidy, safe, just, and relatively cost-free.
Thus, it behooves commanders investigating non-combat deaths to dally as long as they can before begrudgingly classifying them as suicides. It’s also important to prop up every mentally injured soldier with drugs and to send him back to the front, rather than agreeing that he’s “wounded” and needs to be sent home for psychological treatment. Such injury statistics are intentionally made obscure.
So is the number of vets who get discharged for suffering “mental disorders.” This diagnosis means the government doesn’t consider them
“wounded” and doesn’t have to treat them. They are then free to do battle with the Department of Veterans Affairs over the nature of their disability and their place on that infamous waiting list for treatment.
For many veterans, this kind of combat is just as grueling as fighting insurgents. Although the care itself is generally agreed to be fine, the ordeal
to obtain it is often Kafkaesque. While the military can always find the money for new weapons programs, money for treatment is somehow always short. Destroyer budgets go on the credit card. Psychiatric care budgets must compete hand-to-hand.
Around 6,500 veterans commit suicide each year, driven by demons the rest of us prefer not to know about. Nightmares, sorrow, shame, and guilt can be self-reinforcing, especially when there is no one at home to share them. Plus, the effects are long-lasting. More Vietnam vets have now committed suicide than died in combat.
Female soldiers who become victims of sexual violence have it especially hard. The military tries to play down the number of rapes. Victims are often ignored, perpetrators are not prosecuted, and women who press their cases can find themselves diagnosed with a mental illness and discharged. And if the Department of Veterans Affairs is normally short of psychiatrists, you can imagine how fully staffed its OB-GYN departments are. Female deaths on duty are often attributed to ambiguous causes. Assault isn’t an acceptable category.
With the Pentagon’s emphasis on keeping all military engagements tidy, clean, and eminently worthwhile, it’s no wonder that real-life tragedies can get swept under the carpet. Suicide, homelessness, joblessness, jail, mental illness, Agent Orange poisoning, depleted uranium exposure, downsized benefits…they’re all simply collateral damage for our troops.
Meanwhile the war machine must keep filling its maw with new unsuspecting soldiers, using slick videos and shaky promises. Maybe all new recruits
should have to sign their papers in a veterans’ hospital.
OtherWords.org columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut.
Upgrades to a soccer field at John Anson Ford Park is one of several infrastructure and improvements projects Bell Gardens residents can expect to see in the new fiscal year, which began July 1.
The capital improvements are part of the 2012-2013 city budget approved on June 25 by the Bell Gardens City Council.
While the city is facing a budget deficit for the first time in years, the improvements are being funded primarily through federal and state grants earmarked for projects that improve or maintain infrastructure, such as roads.
The funds, however, cannot be used to close the city’s budget deficit.
The second phase of the synthetic turf project for soccer field 5, with a price tag of $700,000, will be funded mainly through County Prop A Bond Funds ($500,000), with several private donations closing with the remaining balance. The Bicycle Casino, which provides 42 percent of the city’s revenues, is donating $50,000 for the project, as are the US Soccer Foundation and Athens, a recycling and trash collection company. The Metropolitan Water District is donating $45,000 and the Water Replenishment District is donating $5,000.
Phase 2 of the project will include construction of a “storm drainage system, landscape mow strips, completion of the artificial grass field, decomposed granite pavement, concrete improvements, additional landscaping, irrigation and possibly benches, bleachers and trash cans,” Bell Gardens Public Works Director John Oropeza told EGP in an email.
The city’s other infrastructure projects include resurfacing of three streets: Florence Avenue from Emil to Elselinda/Ajax; Florence Place from Sudan Street to Scout Avenue, and Foster Bridge Boulevard. Each resurfacing project costs approximately $200,000 and funding comes from several sources including Measure R.
The streets around Suva Elementary will also benefit from half a million dollars in state and federal “Safe Routes to School” program dollars, which aims to create safer streets to promote walking and bicycling to and from school.
“The Safe Routes to School Project for Suva Elementary School includes installation of new highly reflective signage, in-pavement crosswalk flashing lights, solar-powered radar speed-feedback signs, pedestrian countdown devices and enhanced yellow-painted crosswalks and markings for school and pedestrian safety,” Oropeza said.
The city also has approximately $347,000, mostly from Gas Tax Funds and Measure R, for other street improvement projects. The areas are still to be determined.
Bell Gardens has also identified $540,000 in water system projects, including the splitting of shared water meters, as needed infrastructure projects. However, a funding source has not yet been identified.
“The City has several water main improvement projects identified in the Water Master Plan. There is some funding available for water projects only in the City’s remaining water bonds fund,” Oropeza said.
In 2010, the council voted against a proposed hike in sewer rate fees. The city’s Water System projects are unrelated to the Sewer System, the sewer system infrastructure upgrades continue unfunded, according to Oropeza.
To read a recent story on the Bell Gardens budget, visit EGPNews.com