Garcetti Appoints L.A.’s First Latino Fire Chief

July 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Forty-years after the hierarchy of the Los Angeles Fire Department and the union representing rank and file firefighters told the U.S. Dept. of Justice that requiring the department to hire Latinos, blacks and Asians would ruin one of the “most respected fire department in the world,” Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday appointed the city’s first Latino fire chief.

Assistant Chief Ralph Terrazas, a 30-year veteran of the LAFD, was chosen after a months-long nationwide search for a person to lead a department with more than 3,200 sworn personnel and nearly 300 civilian employees.

Terrazas’ appointment comes as the department faces a number of tough issues, including allegations of nepotism in its recruitment and hiring practices at the same time it is struggling to hire more women and minority firefighters. In March, the mayor temporarily halted hiring until the department could put new recruitment and hiring procedures in place. Hiring resumed earlier this month.

Garcetti said Terrazas has not only tactical and administrative skills, but the talent to navigate “choppy political waters.”

The mayor said he is “looking to Chief Terrazas to be my field general in reforming the fire department to ensure that it is the best-managed and the most cutting-edge in the nation.”

Terrazas said the mayor’s desire to “restore” the fire department “sealed the deal” for him in terms of accepting the job.

“I want to fight with the mayor to reform the fire department,” he said.

If confirmed by the City Council, Terrazas, 54, would oversee a plan to revamp the way the department is managed; the development of FIRESTAT, which will use data to look at trends in emergency calls and determine how to deploy firefighters and reduce response times; and a new recruitment process being created in conjunction with Rand Corp.

Terrazas said he wanted to work to overhaul the department and restore its reputation, saying

the agency will be “technologically driven.”

“The challenges are significant, I understand that,” Terrazas said, adding that he plans to be with the department for the “long haul.”

Terrazas established the department’s Professional Standards Division, and the mayor said he was instrumental in securing the passage of Proposition F, a $532 million bond to finance the construction of 19 fire stations.

Pending approval from the council, Terrazas would likely take over as chief in August. His salary would be $292,424 a year, according to the mayor’s office.

Former Fire Chief Brian Cummings announced his retirement last October, several months after the mayor asked all city department heads to re-apply for their jobs.

Cummings, whose tenure was marred by questions about the department’s response times, had been with the department since February 1980 and was appointed chief in September 2011 by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

James Featherstone, the general manager of the Emergency Management Department at the time, was named Cummings’ temporary replacement, and he was vying for the full-time LAFD post. Garcetti thanked Featherstone for his service, saying he stepped up when called upon. The mayor said he was now passing the baton to someone who can finish the improvements Featherstone started, with an emphasis on improving response times and diversity among the ranks.

Featherstone will return to the Emergency Management Department.

Frank Lima, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, the union representing LAFD firefighters, noted that the union has sometimes disagreed with Terrazas on major policy issues. But he added, “We trust that he will now realize the critical importance of working hand-in-hand with our rank-and-file firefighters, paramedics, dispatchers and inspectors in the field in order for our department to rebuild and for him to be a successful fire chief.”

Lima said that over the past five years, the LAFD “has been decimated, having lost nearly 600 firefighters and paramedics to retirement and attrition while only recently hiring our first new class of 58 firefighters.”

He said it will be imperative for Terrazas to stand up and fight for rank-and- file LAFD members.

“If he does, he will be successful and we will stand with him every step of the way,” Lima said.

How Do We Fight Back? Turn the Other Cheek? Take a Toke?

July 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

We must recognize that government is not the problem — we are. Government only works when people are involved and frankly we are not. We believe what the media tells us, ignoring that it is controlled by the one percent. Through the media and the outright bribes, the Kochs and their tribe control a majority of our elected officials — from local elected public officials to the Supreme Court, to the president.

Meanwhile, we dream of nirvana, a place of continuous pleasure. For many the consuming issue has become pot, and the dream that when it is legalized they can go to bed taking one last hit before they sleep, and then light up again to usher in another day.

 

They stumble through life with the more ambitious among them dreaming of becoming part of the system seeking to become “part of the solution rather than the problem.” This scenario is played out on Facebook with Chicanas/os posing with politicos smugly believing that they are doing their best for their people.

Tragically, the will to fight back has been taken out of them. They have been domesticated by the old biblical sayings such as turn the other cheek – and sayings that have never been followed such as “the meek shall inherit the earth” — rules written by the one percent to appeal to pendejos during the early stages of Christianity.

Even activists are conditioned to believe that it is futile to fight back – join the system instead of resisting it. They are reduced to just wanting to take their toke or take a vacation so they can escape reality.

The truth be told, it is frustrating to fight back. It is aggravating to constantly fight with vendors and government brokers over trivial problems.

 

My family just spent over a year fighting Kaiser Permanente over a claim that should have taken five minutes to resolve. The same is true of the Bank of America and the government bureaucracy that rely on frustrating you, knowing that very few people will fight back!

 

However, the materialist side of me has taught me that if I want to change things I have to fight for changes on earth and not nirvana. Materialism has given me a sense of community. It instructs me that the more education people have the more responsibility they have to change reality – change does not happen by escaping.

In the initial stages of Chicana/o studies, it was expected that full professors would take most of the burden of pressing the administration. They were the most protected by the institution. Unfortunately, this did not always happen and some complained that those at the forefront got all the credit forgetting that leadership requires visibility and sacrifice.

 

A factor in the success of CSUN’s Chicana/o Studies Department has been its refusal to turn the other cheek. It took criticizing Chicanas/os and Latinos who betrayed the interests of the student community. Although distasteful, Chicana/o Studies is currently criticizing the administration for disrespecting us and distorting the truth. The current controversy may take us over the cliff; however, the alternatives are to turn the other cheek or take a deep puff on a joint.

The truth has become an obsession with me. I am currently exposing a lack of respect by the California Attorney General’s office that is supposed to vet judicial appointments. I won’t bore the reader with a litany of judicial improprieties of the state and federal court system. However, the system supposedly vets judicial appointments to insure the appointment of impartial judges.

This past month I received an email from Michael E. Whitaker, a Supervising Deputy Attorney General in the Employment & Administrative Mandate Section of the State Attorney General’s Office. It began “I am in the process of vetting Judge Audrey Collins who has been nominated by Governor Brown to be an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal.” Whitaker wanted to speak to me.  I made arrangements for him to call me at my home.

However, Whitaker intentionally shined me on after I made my feelings about Collins known – evidently he was not serious about vetting her. I followed up with numerous emails that he ignored. In my email correspondence I made it clear that Collins was the most biased judge that I had encountered.

 

This was based on the fact that she did not recuse herself during my trial although she had personal and professional ties to the defendants — the University of California and its counsel. The defenses’ lead counsel was a personal and professional friend of Judge Collins and he wrote a letter of nomination for her during her appointment to the federal bench. The vice chancellor at the University of California Santa Barbara at the time of the controversy was her law professor at UCLA and she had professional and personal ties with the UC, i.e., she was active in the UCLA law alumni association that through Ralph Ochoa and others played a major role in my case. From the beginning she was antagonistic toward us.

At trial, Collins allowed her clerks to run wild; they sat and ate with defendants’ counsel. Her head clerk took a count for the defendants’ team and she seemed as if she were interviewing for a position with the UC. Collins’ rulings were questionable; she severely limited the number of documents my attorneys could present. As the plaintiff I had the burden of proof, and this was especially harmful because I had two causes of action.

When the draw of jurors appeared to go our way, Collins dismissed three minority jurors saying that it would not be fair to have too many minorities on the panel. At the time having minority jurors was an anomaly — rarely if ever were white jurors dismissed because there were too many white jurors on the panel.

At the end of the trial she had a group of mostly Latino prisoners led into the court room in chains and dressed in prison garb. Judge Collins was visibly shaken by the verdict that went in my favor. When my counsel spoke to the foreman of the jury he commented on how solicitous the judge was of the defendants but he thought it was like a criminal case where “the judge was required to protect the defendants’ rights.”  Collins never cleared this relationship up.

 

It is difficult to prosecute a case against someone that has “deep pockets.” The UC spent $5 million on the case. Evidently, Whitaker was not in the mood to hear the truth. So I feel that it is my moral duty to expose his office and his malfeasance. Once appointed, appellate judges for all practical purposes are on the bench for life.

If those of us who have benefitted most from the system do not complain and expose elected officials, judges like Collins and public officials like Michael Whitaker who should? Not everyone has equal access to resources.

 

A student once told me that she admired me because it seemed as if I was always getting arrested for a cause and that her father seemed mute. I pointed out to her that if her father missed a day of work, her family missed a meal whereas I could list the arrest on my resume as “community service.”

The problem was not her father, but the Latino leaders posing for photos – like my father used to say smiling, “como changos comiendo
caca.”

 

Rodolfo Francisco Acuña, Ph.D., is an historian, professor emeritus, and scholars of Chicano studies, at CSUN.

Illegal Immigration, How Many Will the Boat Hold?

July 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Two thousand two hundred and twenty-three people desperately tried to escape from the sinking Titanic. One thousand five hundred and seventeen perished, as they could not escape. Most of them could not escape because there were not enough lifeboats. There were boats for only eleven hundred and seventy-eight people. Sadly, the ship was not properly equipped with enough lifeboats.

 

Who in their right mind would have preferred the sinking ship to a lifeboat? No one wanted a sinking ship. People who drowned desperately wanted a lifeboat. Escape was impossible because there was no place to escape.

If I lived in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Central America or numerous other countries including Mexico I would be scratching and clawing to find a way out. Who wants to live in such places of violence and poverty? Millions are stuck and will never escape. Millions of people have found a place of safety and freedom in America. People keep coming and coming. Actually there will never be an end to the rush of people storming our borders for safety and freedom, as long there is a magnet to draw them here. Also the best of any lifeboats will sink. Even the Titanic sank. Do we sometimes think we are unsinkable? America is not unsinkable.

 

I think too much of America sits around glued to social media eating ourselves into the grave while more and more people are coming into our boat. Some of them are hard workers and will do their jobs rowing and keeping the boat afloat. Others are climbing on board staring at us wondering what we are going to do to save them from drowning.

There is room for more people in America, but, how much room do we have?

 

We don’t have room for more freeloaders. We don’t need more liars filling out claims for social security disability and then working cash only jobs to keep their government check coming. We don’t need more people on food stamps and Medicaid getting free food and medical rides at the expense of the working citizens. Unfortunately the boat is already crowded with Americans who have learned entitlements as a way of life. How many of these people can we take on before we sink?

 

There is room for people who will fill out their paperwork and come into our country documented. We have room for hard workers who will pay their taxes, and keep America strong and secure. Those who cross our border illegally are illegal. They are not going to fight for America’s freedom and values, serve in our military and keep America strong. They are lawbreakers and need to become legal.

We have kept the American boat of safety and liberty floating for quite a while. Millions have come here and tremendously contributed. However, how many illegals will the boat hold before we sink?

 

Glenn Mollette is an American columnist and author. Contact him at GMollette@aol.com.  

LULAC Misguided In Herbalife Fight

July 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

In the last week, I joined with many Latino immigrant and community based organizations around the nation to send an open letter to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to express “…our grave concerns regarding the refugee crisis of unaccompanied minors besetting our southern border with Mexico and the public posture and proposed actions articulated by President Barack Obama for his administration and the country.” We want to ensure that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus hears from community representatives and that we expect them to vigorously oppose any effort to undermine existing constitutional and statutory protections established in law and the nation’s history.

Our experiences with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), particularly many local chapters, have been positive especially during the leadership it exhibited during the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) debates in Congress from 1979 to 1985. We have worked well with LULAC members and chapters in California and other states for many years, as well. The fact that LULAC has local chapters in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas where the current challenge with unaccompanied minors has been greatest, could contribute greatly to understanding the situation and arriving at effective solutions. There is no question that like other pro-immigrant advocates, LULAC members are protesting current debates calling for the deportation of these children.

Only two months ago, members of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda released a report entitled, Detention, Deportation and Devastation: The Disproportionate Effect of Deportations on the Latino Community. Looking at the deportation rate from 1998 to 2014, the report focused on the crushing impact the separation of families had on the Latino community.

It is therefore very troubling that a civil rights organization such as LULAC would mount a campaign against a corporation, Herbalife, which is aligned with someone-William Ackman, who has profited financially from the increased deportations along our borders.

So who is William Ackman?

For the last year as the owner of Pershing Square Investments, William Ackman, has generated media attention accusing Herbalife of utilizing deceptive business practices targeting disadvantaged communities, particularly Latinos. Mr. Ackman’s campaign has found a supporter in Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director of LULAC. Mr. Ackman has been very public about his objective to shut down Herbalife in order to realize sizable profits for himself. Though lucrative for William Ackman, his Wall Street bet, if successful, would destroy the benefits provided to thousands of Latino families, both consumers and distributors of Herbalife products.

Mr. Ackman and Mr. Wilkes have waged this attack on Herbalife and its distributors, predominantly Latino, without ever conferring with the Latino immigrants who have had positive experiences with the company. This appears to be more about media coverage for Mr. Wilkes and cohorts rather than discerning the facts by dialoging directly with Latino distributors.

We question the motivations driving Mr. Wilkes to attack Herbalife considering the sizeable number of Latinos affiliated with the company who have had a positive experience. In contrast, while proclaiming he is holding Herbalife accountable, Mr. Wilkes displays a double standard by ignoring the legally documented abuses other corporate partners of LULAC have committed against Latinos, for example, Wal-Mart and Target.

Only Mr. Wilkes can explain why LULAC chooses to associate with the likes of Mr. Ackman considering its decades-long work and leadership on immigration policy during the 1980’s and its continued efforts to find a solution to current immigration reform challenges. But why would Mr. Wilkes expose LULAC to a campaign of misinformation being championed by a Wall Street billionaire who reportedly made an estimated $200 million from his shares in the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)?

CCA is the largest private prison company in the U.S., which includes detention jails of undocumented persons in various states. From 2009-2011, Mr. Ackman served as the largest single investor in CCA. During this time, CCA actively advocated expanding detention jails over the years in order to increase its profits. Simply put, the more Latino detainees, the more profits for CCA. To preserve this business model, CCA was active in Washington D.C. calling for government funding for detention centers. The company even joined a meeting where anti-immigrant proponents began crafting the language for SB 1070 in Arizona.

CCA is amongst the largest private contractors with the Department of Homeland Security for jailing immigrants and Mr. Ackman has made a hefty profit from this dirty business of jailing suffering and desperate immigrants, Latinos in particular. Mr. Wilkes has placed LULAC in a very precarious situation that deserves the attention of its honorable membership, and requires an immediate correction.

The charges and media attention on the matter of Herbalife, and Latinos, have served to undermine the very people LULAC was founded to support, defend, and represent – Latinos. LULAC needs to get back to the business of solving the historical problems bedeviling our community – a poor educational system at all levels, broken immigration policy, limited economic opportunities, declining homeownership, growing discrimination, and the prolonged economic crisis still undermining the Latino family. LULAC is currently hosting its national convention here in New York City and will include a workshop entitled, Deportation Nation: Immigration Reform Crisis and Opportunity. If there is any association with Mr. Ackman and LULAC, it should be reserved for discussion and censure during this session.

 

Nativo Vigil Lopez is an advisor to Hermandad Mexicana (founded in 1951) and the Mexican American Political Association (founded in 1963), and can be reached at nativolopez@yahoo.com.

LADWP Offers Cash for Grass

July 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles residents interested in replacing their green grass with drought tolerant turf grass may qualify for a landscape incentive program offered by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

To qualify, resident must first apply online. As of May, the single-family residential program provides a rebate of $3 per square foot of grass replaced with mulch, permeable pathways and drought tolerant landscaping.

For info visit www.socalwatersmart.com.

Gold Line Train Hits Car in Boyle Heights

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A Metro Gold Line train hit a car Tuesday in the Boyle Heights area, resulting in an injury, authorities said.

The crash occurred about 6:40 a.m. in the 1100 block of East First Street, said Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

A person in the car was injured and was taken to a hospital in unknown condition, Humphrey said. The circumstances of the crash were under investigation.

Trains were being delayed by about 15-20 minutes while crews worked to clear the scene, said Dave Sotero of Metro. Because of the collision, trains had to use a single track between the Little Tokyo and the Pico Aliso stations, Sotero said.

Two Killed in Monterey Park Car Crash

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A 19-year-old motorist and his 21-year-old passenger were killed when his speeding car slammed into a parked SUV in Monterey Park, police said Friday.

The crash was reported at 3:43 p.m. Thursday in the 500 block of Monterey Pass Road, Monterey Park police Lt. Eric Kim said.

Montebello resident Nicholas Ivan Gonzalez, 21, died at the scene, coroner’s Lt. Dave Smith said.

The teenager was speeding northbound in a white Infinity Q-60 when he lost control of the car, which overturned and crashed into a parked white 2010 Nissan Rogue, according to the Monterey Park Police Department.

Paramedics took the driver to Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, police officials said.

The name of the 19-year-old driver will be released pending notification of kin, coroner’s officials said.

No other vehicles or people were involved in the crash, according to police.

It’s unknown at this point if drugs or alcohol were a factor, authorities said.

CA Death Penalty Declared Unconstitutional

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A federal court judge in Orange County Wednesday declared California’s death penalty system unconstitutional, calling its administration so “dysfunctional” that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

In a 29-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, overturned the death sentence of Ernest Dewayne Jones, who was sentenced to death in Los Angeles in 1995 for the killing three years earlier of his girlfriend’s mother.

“Nearly two decades later, Mr. Jones remains on California’s death row, awaiting his execution, but with complete uncertainty as to when, or even whether, it will ever come,” Carney wrote. “Mr. Jones is not alone. Since 1978, when the current death penalty system was adopted by California voters, over 900 people have been sentenced to death for their crimes.

“Of them, only 13 have been executed,” he wrote. “For the rest, the dysfunctional administration of California’s death penalty system has resulted, and will continue to result, in an inordinate and unpredictable period of delay preceding their actual execution. Indeed, for most, systemic delay has made their execution so unlikely that the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death.

“As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on death row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary.”

Some of the blame is owed to the state’s underfunded death penalty system, Carney wrote. Some inmates wait three to five years on average just for an attorney to be appointed to handle their appeal, he noted.

A state bi-partisan commission “found the state’s underfunding of its death penalty system to be a key source of the problem. For example, the commission noted that despite the high volume of applicants willing to represent death row inmates from the security of an agency setting, the Office

of the State Public Defender’s budget has been cut and its staff reduced,” Carney wrote.

Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen, who is running for state Senate, called on lawmakers and the governor to spend more to improve the legal process for death penalty cases.

“While I strongly disagree with the decision and hope it is overturned on appeal, I urge the Legislature and the governor to immediately work to save and improve the death penalty law to protect it from future judicial edicts,” Nguyen said. “Other states have figured this out, so can California.”

Since 1978, ninety-four of the more than 900 inmates sentenced to death have died behind bars before execution could be carried out, Carney wrote. Thirty-nine inmates won appeals and were not re-sentenced to death. There are 748 inmates on Death Row awaiting execution or rulings on appeals.

“As the size of California’s death row grows larger and larger, so too do the delays associated with it,” Carney wrote. “Of the 748 inmates currently on California’s death row, more than 40 percent, including Mr. Jones, have been there longer than 19 years. Nearly all of them are litigating the

merits of their death sentence, either before the California Supreme Court or the federal courts.”

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, told City News Service that Carney’s ruling was a “big deal.” The next step legally depends on how the state responds, Chemerinsky said

“I assume if the governor and attorney general disagree with the ruling then they will appeal to the 9th Circuit,” Chemerinsky said.

After that, the U.S. Supreme Court may take up the case, Chemerinsky said.

“I think it’s a very courageous ruling based on the facts and the reality,” said Chemerinsky, who argued two death penalty cases before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal when he was a professor at Duke University.

“It’s a very important and well-reasoned decision,” Chemerinsky said.

“I think Judge Carney is right that the way the death penalty is administered in California is so arbitrary and capricious as to be unconstitutional.”

Los Angeles County’s former district attorney, Gil Garcetti, agreed, saying the ruling “proves that the death penalty is broken beyond repair.”

“It is exorbitantly costly, unfair and serves no legitimate purpose whatsoever. The only solution is to replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Garcetti said.

John Van de Kamp, former state attorney general and chairman of the bipartisan commission cited in Carney’s ruling, said recommendations were made to speed up the legal process.

“We provided recommendations to improve the system, including providing funds to hire more attorneys and judges to move cases through the appeals process more quickly,” Van de Kamp said.

“To date, none of our recommendations have been implemented.

“The facts are overwhelming and clear: California’s death penalty system is dysfunctional,” he added. “The lack of any meaningful progress to implement the Commission’s recommendations over the past six years adds fuel to Judge Carney’s decision today.”

Minimum Wage Question Could Go to L.A. Voters

July 17, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

A group of activists is hoping to get an initiative before Los Angeles voters, possibly by next year, that would raise the minimum wage to $15 for workers in the city.

The proposal was submitted to the City Clerk’s Office last week by John Parker, Jose Medina, Maggie Vascessenno, Scott Scheffer and Essie Crosby.

Their proposal calls for a $15 minimum wage that would go into effect immediately for larger employers, while smaller employers would have less than two years to do so. It also calls for the minimum wage to be raised in conjunction with future cost-of-living increases.

The proposal goes well beyond a measure being considered by the Los Angeles City Council that would increase the minimum wage to about $15 for some hotel workers.

The proposed citywide minimum-wage hike is still in its infancy. The city attorney still needs to write a title and summary for the initiative, and the proponents of the initiative would need to collect more than 60,000 valid signatures to get it qualified for the ballot, according to Maria Garcia of the City Clerk’s office.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has said he would sign an ordinance enacting a $15 minimum wage for hotel workers. But Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb said he could not comment on the latest minimum wage increase proposal, saying “we currently reviewing” it.

“Overall, Mayor Garcetti’s top priority is the prosperity of L.A. families, and the minimum wage plays a key role in the health of our communities,” Robb said.

California’s minimum wage rose to $9 this month, and is expected to hit $10 an hour by 2016.

Some business leaders have decried efforts to dramatically boost the minimum wage, saying it could result in fewer jobs as business owners struggle to control labor costs.

A consultant hired by the city to review the proposed wage increase for hotel workers concluded in a report that while some employees would benefit, others would suffer if hotel owners are forced to impose layoffs or hiring freezes.

July 17, 2014 Issue

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