Monterey Park Residents to Vote on Transfer of Fire Service to the County

June 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Fifteen years ago Monterey Park residents voted against transferring city-run fire services over to the county. Next week they will weigh in once again on the issue during a special election that has both sides of the issue claiming misinformation and scare tactics are being used to sway voters.

A fire engine and paramedic ambulance is stationed in the city-run Fire Department station, next to Monterey Park’s City Hall. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A fire engine and paramedic ambulance is stationed in the city-run Fire Department station, next to Monterey Park’s City Hall. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

If approved, Measure FF would amend the city’s municipal code to allow and direct the city council to negotiate a contract with the County of Los Angeles to take over operation of Monterey Park’s fire department.

In 1998 voters defeated two measures — one allowing a transfer to the county and a second instituting a parcel tax to pay for the move. A new tax is not part of the equation this time around however, and voters are being told that contracting fire and ambulance services out to the county will save the city millions of dollars.

It’s a heated issue in the city that has long prided itself on being one of the few remaining small cities with its own fire department. Opponents to the measure on the July 2nd ballot claim its little more than a manipulative move by the city’s firefighters to increase their personal finances at the expense of city residents.

Backers of the measure, which does include strong support and lobbying by the city’s fire fighters, claim that a 2011 feasibility study and an independent analysis, along with a preliminary proposal from the county, show Monterey Park could save nearly $30 million over 10 years, and that does not include additional savings to the city’s pension fund when fire fighters are transferred to the county’s payroll.

Fire Captain Matt Hallock argues that response times would improve and the overall number of firefighters responding would increase with additional support from the two nearest county-run fire stations.

Opponents fear they will lose control over their fire and paramedic services if they are turned over to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Many of the city’s elderly, who have long been very vocal on the issue, are particularly worried that it will take ambulances longer to get to them in an emergency, said resident Linda Wilson.

And while the county’s proposal looks like it could save the county money right now, opponents say there is no guarantee that rates won’t skyrocket down the road, financially devastating the city.

EGP talked to representatives of the Monterey Park Firefighters Association,  who are for the measure and members of the Concerned Citizens of Monterey Park who oppose the change. EGP also talked to City Manager Paul Talbot about the measure’s financial impact to the city, response times, staffing and what the measure would mean for the city’s ambulance service.

 

Financial Impact and Potential Savings

The cost to fund the city’s fire department for the 2012-2013 Fiscal Year (FY) was $10,583,185. A May 2012 county fire department proposal to Monterey Park put the estimated fee for providing fire and ambulance services to the city for the 2012-2013 FY at $8,191,512, a savings of over $2.6 million per year hailed by proponents of Measure FF. They estimate that even with a 5.5% cost inflation increase, the city would still save over $2.9 million per year for the next 10 years.

Resident Bob Gin told EGP that the projected savings outlined in a presentation by the fire chief to the city council do not take into consideration that costs could increase considerably because they are based on the health of county and other contracting cities’ budget, and not Monterey Park’s. Monterey Park resident Nancy Arcuri said fire personnel have a vested interest in making the change, which would increase their pay and benefits to county levels, and provide more promotion opportunities.

Talbot told EGP that Monterey Park has come out of its past financial woes, and currently has a balanced budget.

He said the potential $30 million in savings over 10 years does not tell the entire story, and told EGP that the high cost of converting from a city-run fire department to one run by the county makes it unlikely that the city will see any real saving for at least five years. No one knows for certain whether the proposed numbers will accurately depict the economic times ahead, he said.

Fire Chief Jim Birrell‘s city council presentation put the one-time conversion cost, which includes uniforms, facility and equipment conversion, change in dispatch and the cost of transferring accrued sick and vacation leave at nearly $1.3 million, after a $254,800 vehicle credit from the county.

Ongoing cost would also include $937,569 in estimated worker’s compensation open claims, an amount that could increase or decrease when as cases are settled.

The city’s ambulance service currently costs $1,755,129 to operate, however fees for the service cover about $1,057,000 of that amount. Proponents point out that the $700,000 operating deficit would go away if FF is approved, but opponents counter that the county will achieve those saving by contracting with a private company, not by county fire personnel providing ambulance service.

Removing fire services personnel from the city’s public safety pension fund will force the city to join a more expensive state pension pool, increasing pension costs for police personnel by $276,695.

Proponents said that number is misleading and does not take into consideration a $1.3 million saving to future retirement costs when fire services personnel transfer to county, and the city will no longer have to transfer $357,111 from its General Fund to make up for a funding shortfall.

Talbot clarified that residents have already approved a special property tax that brings in about $5 million a year to pay for the city’s pension fund, but added that those funds, including a $3 million surplus, must stay in the pension trust and cannot be used to pay for other city expenses or the transfer of the fire department to the county.

 

Impact on Department and Response Time

More firefighters? Fewer firefighters? It seems the answer to that question depends on how you want to look at the question.

The city’s three fire stations are currently staffed by 17 firefighters, including four rescue/ambulance trained paramedics, during a single shift. The county’s proposal would drop that number down to 12. Fire Captain Rob DeRosa said that isn’t an issue because additional support would be available from two fire stations outside the city, one in San Gabriel, the other in East Los Angeles, which means as many as 12 more firefighters would be available to the city in the event of an emergency, something already available under mutual aid agreements between municipalities.

Talbot pointed out that while city fire stations will be leased to the county, they will remain city owned and Monterey Park will still have to pay for all “major” maintenance costs. Talbot told EGP that no city has ever gone back to running its fire department at the end of its 10-year contract with the county because its just “too expensive.”

Resident Shih Lan Chao told EGP that response times should stay the same or improve because the county has agreed to keep all three fire stations in the city open, and the proximity of county fire stations located right outside of Monterey Park. Currently the city’s average response time is 5:17 minutes, while the county’s is 4:52 minutes.

Resident Jeff Schwartz told EGP past experience with the county tells him not to trust those numbers.

“Both sides can make their arguments,” said Talbot, adding that county averages do not include actual numbers from the city or take into consideration the reduction of fire personnel at the stations.

“The city may have a faster time but the County could have more people on the scene,” Talbot said.

 

Paramedics and Ambulances

The city currently has two rescue ambulances staffed by firefighters who for the most part respond to medical calls and can also transport patients to a hospital, Talbot said.

While the county’s proposal provides for two paramedic squads in utility style pickup trucks, they are not equipped to transport patients so the city would be required to contract with a private company for ambulances staffed with Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) to transport patients when needed.

Resident Rosemary Riedy told EGP that changing over to private ambulances has to increase response times, and having EMTs instead of paramedics respond to incidents does not provide the same level of service.

Captain DeRosa said contracting with an ambulance service has the added benefit of allowing a patient who only needs basic life support decide which hospital the patient will be taken to, rather than requiring them to go to one of the two hospitals in the city. Private ambulances also free up firefighters to respond to other calls, they say.

 

Election Costs

What’s the rush? question opponents who say the special election is already costing the city money and the measure hasn’t even passed. The price tag for the special election is about $100,000, according to Talbot.

Firefighters told EGP they thought they had collected the needed signatures in enough time to get it on the regular ballot, but according to Talbot they were not within the required timeframe causing the need for a special election. They point out that the $60,000 for the ECSI financial study, and the $24,000 County conversion study were paid for with union dues and not city revenue.

Monterey Park Mayor Teresa Real Sebastian told EGP that she is remaining neutral on the issue, but cautioned voters to do their homework and not just vote one way or the other because someone tells them to.

“It’s up to the residents to look at the facts and make their own decision,” Real Sebastian told EGP. “This isn’t a choice of the council, it’s a choice of the people.”

 

To review city documents regarding the measure visit the city’s website at http://www.ci.monterey-park.ca.us.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Monterey Park’s Mayor Teresa Real Sebastian as the mayor of Montebello.

Reyes Reflects On 12-Year Vision

June 27, 2013 by · 2 Comments 

Los Angeles Councilman Ed Reyes has represented the First Council District for three terms, but at the end of this week term limits will force him to leave office after 12 years serving L.A.’s geographically smallest, but most densely populated district.

L.A. Councilmember Ed Reyes, center, will be leaving his office after representing the first district for 12 years. (EGP Photo Archive 2009)

L.A. Councilmember Ed Reyes, center, will be leaving his office after representing the first district for 12 years. (EGP Photo Archive 2009)

Reyes has been recognized by his colleagues on the city council and by the County Board of Supervisors as well as several local community groups in the days leading up to his departure, but for Reyes, the accolades, while sweet, are not just an acknowledgement of his accomplishments, but a reminder that there is still work left to be done on some of his projects.

The Ed P. Reyes Riverway — a small park under construction in Lincoln Heights that was recently named in his honor — is perhaps the most visible, and literal sign that he has left his mark on the city, but Reyes, who has a background in Urban Planning, was also the lead on several infrastructure projects that helped transform some local neighborhoods and laid the foundation for other projects still unfolding.

Reyes, 54, was elected to the city council in 2001, following a decade on the staff of his predecessor, Mike Hernandez. He was twice reelected and endorsed as his successor his chief of staff, José Gardea, who lost his bid for office last month to veteran legislator Gil Cedillo.

“It’s a 24/7 job that allows you to be a public servant if you believe in that philosophy as opposed to being a politician,” Reyes told EGP, reflecting on his time in office.

His office packed up, boxes neatly piled, Reyes told EGP that he has been feeling a bit nostalgic looking over old documents: One of the concept designs printed on a large board and used at public hearings years ago that shows the Chinatown Metro Gold Line Station as it was conceived— represents one of numerous large-scale projects built during his tenure.

“I didn’t hold a lot of press conferences, I didn’t do a lot of celebrating. I felt like the less I talked about it, the more we would get done. and that’s what ended up happening,” he said. That philosophy, however, has left some unaware of the totality of changes that have taken place during his time in office, and others have complained that too much of his time has been spent on big projects rather than the day-to-day issues like street cleaning.

The Los Angeles River, a central and ongoing focus of Reyes’ office, is an example of one of those big projects.

In 2001 he established and served as chair of the Los Angeles River Ad Hoc Committee, which later led to the city’s adoption of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan that is now the lifeblood of efforts to convert the river from a concrete eyesore to a thriving ecological environment and recreational destination, and to revitalize river adjacent communities.

“The water is what brought the river to life as we started as a pueblo, but as time passed it became a dump site, a place people move away from,” Reyes told EGP, explaining he saw the opportunity to reassess how the space was being used, which has led some of his supporters to call him a “visionary” who saw the possibilities that had escaped other elected officials.

Other large-scale infrastructure projects during his tenure include the building of two police stations, Olympic and Rampart, libraries in Cypress Park, Chinatown, Highland Park and Pico-Union, and the $160 million Northeast Interceptor Sewer tunnel to prevent sewage overflow and protect the health of families and children.

For his entire 12 years in office he has been a member of or chaired the PLUM (Planning, Land Use Management) Committee, which put him in a position to influence land use issues not only in his district but across the city.

A long time proponent of mixed-use, mixed-income housing developments, Reyes told EGP several years ago that not only are those projects an effective way to meet multiple needs and reduce traffic in highly dense neighborhoods, they are also a viable way to helps decrease economic and ethnic segregation and the negative stereotypes and attitudes they produce. Since being elected, 27 mixed-use housing projects have been built in the district, some adjacent to local transportation hubs, including the Gold Line station in Lincoln Heights.

Two parks, the Los Angeles State Historic Park (also known as The Cornfields) next door to Chinatown and the Rio de Los Angeles State Park in Cypress Park, added 80 acres of open space to his district.

During his 10 years on the Public Safety Committee he helped start safe route to school maps, secured funds for LAPD units and technology, led neighborhood clean-ups and supported gang prevention programs, in particular the clean up of MacArthur Park.

Today, Reyes laments that he’s run out of time to oversee the completion of several projects, including the Riverside Bridge construction now underway, but adds the project was delayed for good reason, to add a bike plan.

The sale and purchases of a couple of lots in the district—one which in recent days has involved a controversial dispute between the incoming Cedillo and a dealership—were also issues Reyes was pushing to the last moment this week.

The construction of the Highland Park Transit Village, implementation of the Corn Field Specific Plan, “there’s a whole list of things I wish I could see to fruition,” says Reyes.

His plans for the future are still uncertain but he told EGP he’s looking for a vehicle that would allow him to continue the work he has started. Reyes said he has worked closely with Mayor-Elect Erik Garcetti, who he shared a district border with, and would welcome a chance to join his administration.

Implementing the LA River Master Plan, teaching up and coming professionals who want to learn community development, are also among his job interests, he said.

Reyes is most proud of the maturation of community leaders and networks in his district since taking office. He cites as an example residents in the Pico Union area who he helped learn about the civic process and who later came back to hold him accountable for his decisions.

“I don’t mean to sound corny, but in the eyes of these people, I see the eyes of my parents: Immigrants, hardworking individuals who leave the comfort of their own country,” in search of a better life, Reyes said.

His failure to convince eight other council members that CD-1 needed more funding for maintenance crews because of its density, which made it hard to keep trash under control, still bothers him. They saw it as resources being taken away from their district, he said.

He says his only regret is not doing a better job of protecting his family from the hostility that sometimes comes with public office.

“Individuals think its okay to go after your family. [My children] were very little when they [the harassers] started. When I supported The Walls Las Memorials, people would bang on my wife’s car and scare my kids,” he said, referring to the conservatives who objected to his support of the AIDS/HIV awareness monument in Lincoln Park.

Asked if he had any advise for his successor, Reyes said only that he needs to “forgive and forget” those who did not support his election.

“He [Cedillo] has to make decisions based on his priorities. In the campaigning, I’m not sure how much he values planning and development work and the concept of community development—just based on what he has said in the past—but there has to be the realization that it is not about him or me, it’s about the community.”

Time is precious and the four-year term will go by fast, he warned.

“I hope that he [Cedillo] sees the advantage of continuing programs” that will in the long run, Reyes said. “I hope the best for him because if he succeeds, the community succeeds.”

As a parting thought, Reyes told EGP he has to thank all the volunteers in the district who have labored to stimulate change. Without them, it would not have been possible.

 

High Court Ruling Clears Way for Same Sex Marriages

June 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Southland supporters of same-sex marriage were celebrating Wednesday, with the U.S. Supreme Court clearing the way for same-sex unions to resume in California, although the high court fell short of setting a precedent that would legalize gay marriage across the country

In a 5-4 ruling, the court found that backers of Proposition 8 – which was approved by California voters in 2008 and banned same-sex marriage – lacked legal standing to challenge a lower court ruling that found the measure unconstitutional.

“We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to,” according to the court’s ruling, penned by Chief Justice John Roberts. “We decline to do so for the first time here.”

Roberts was joined in the majority by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia.

Since Proposition 8 supporters had no standing, the court did not issue a ruling on the merits of same-sex marriage or Prop. 8, but merely let stand the original federal court ruling striking down the measure. The Supreme Court’s action means same-sex marriage will be legal in California, but not across the nation.

Jeff Zarrillo, a Burbank resident and one of the original plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit challenging Proposition 8, celebrated the court’s decision in Washington, D.C.

“I look forward to growing old with the man I love,” he told a cheering crowd outside the U.S. Supreme Court building.

The nation’s highest court Wednesday also struck down a key portion of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which was enacted in 1996 and defined marriage solely as a union between opposite-sex couples. The court ruled that the act was unconstitutional by denying federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

Officials in West Hollywood, which is home to a large gay and lesbian community, planned to hold news conference to celebrate the court’s ruling. A community rally wass planned at Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards at 5:30 p.m. yesterday.

The Orange County Equality Coalition planned to hold an evening rally at the old county courthouse in Santa Ana.

“Today history is being made,” West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land said. “Striking down of DOMA ensures all marriages are treated equally and that all married couples have the same federal benefits, programs and protections.”

But Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, which supports Prop. 8, said Wednesday’s rulings were an attack on the institution of marriage.

“The high courts’ refusal to correct the unconstitutional rulings of lower-court judges and the dereliction of duty by constitution-bound state officials demonstrates that not only is natural, man-woman marriage no longer respected, but neither is our republic and system of written laws,” Thomasson said.

In March 2000, California voters approved Prop. 22, which specified in state law that only marriages between a man and a woman are valid in California. But in May of 2008, the state Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutional because it discriminated against gays, and an estimated 18,000 same-sex couples got married in the ensuing months.

Opponents of same-sex marriage quickly got Prop. 8 on the November 2008 ballot to amend the state constitution, and it was approved by a margin of 52.5 percent to 47.5 percent.

In May 2009, the California Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8 but also ruled that the unions of roughly 18,000 same-sex couples who were wed in 2008 prior to its passage would remain valid.

Same-sex marriage supporters took their case to federal court, and U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled in August 2010 that Proposition 8 “both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.”

Backers of Proposition 8 – ProtectMarriage.com – appealed to the 9th Circuit, because then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Attorney General Jerry Brown declined to do so. The appellate court heard arguments in 2011 but put a decision on hold while it awaited a state Supreme Court ruling on the ability of Prop. 8 backers to press the case forward despite the state’s refusal to appeal.

The state Supreme Court decided that Prop. 8 supporters had legal standing, so the 9th Circuit moved ahead with its consideration of the case, hearing more arguments on a motion by Prop. 8 backers asking that Walker’s ruling be thrown out because the judge was in a long-term same-sex relationship that he had not disclosed.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the proposition’s primary impact was to “lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California.”

“It stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously possessed to obtain and use the designation of ‘marriage’ to describe their relationships,” according to the court’s decision.

“Nothing more, nothing less. Proposition 8 therefore could not have been enacted to advance California’s interests in child-rearing or responsible procreation, for it had no effect on the rights of same-sex couples to raise children or on the procreative practices of other couples.

“Nor did Proposition 8 have any effect on religious freedom or on parents’ rights to control their children’s education; it could not have been enacted to safeguard those liberties.”

That ruling led to the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On its website, officials with ProtectMarriage.com, said they would continue defending Proposition 8 and noted that they were “pleased” the Supreme Court effectively overturned the 9th Circuit ruling overturning the measure.

“For the more than 7 million Californians who have seen their vote stripped away from them, little by little, over the course of five years, that decision is gratifying,” according to the group. “While it is unfortunate that the court’s ruling does not directly resolve questions about the scope of the trial court’s order against Prop 8, we will continue to defend Prop 8 and seek its enforcement until such time as there is a binding statewide order that renders Prop 8 unenforceable.”

Lorri Jean, executive officer of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, said the court’s ruling restored a fundamental right for same-sex couples.

“More than, by rejecting Section 3 of the ridiculously named Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that all legally married couples are entitled to the same federal rights, protections and responsibilities,” Jean said. “That means lesbian and gay seniors who lose their spouse will finally receive the same Social Security survivor benefits as a spouse in a heterosexual marriage. And binational spouses will be entitled to the same humane immigration policies that other married couples enjoy.”

 

After Passage of CA’s School Finance Plan, Focus Shifts to Implementation

June 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Less than a week after the state Legislature approved a sweeping school finance reform plan that will funnel additional funds to low-income students and English learners, the state’s finance chief says school districts will have to spend the extra funds in a way “that shows improved outcomes” among their students.

Ana Matosantos, the director of the Department of Finance, was speaking during a telephone briefing with nearly 450 participants from around the state, including journalists, school officials, finance experts and parent advocates.

The turnout for the briefing, convened by EdSource and New America Media, reflected the intense interest generated by the passage of the most far-reaching reform of California’s school financing system in decades. Its central feature is a local control funding formula which provides a base level of funding for all districts, with additional funds for high-needs students to take into account the higher costs of educating them.

“The law is very clear that the dollars that are being provided through supplemental and concentration grants have to be spent on supplemental services for the students for which they are being provided,” Matosantos said.

But details of the plan and its implementation must still be worked out for the nearly 1000 districts enrolling 6.2 million students, and it is evident that the transformation of a convoluted school finance system will be complex, raising multiple questions for local officials and communities.

Michael Kirst, president of the State Board of Education, noted in the briefing that the plan delegates a great deal of control to local districts to spend funds as they see fit, marking a decisive shift from the rigid top-down requirements imposed by Sacramento and Washington over the past decade.

“A lot of accountability (for how funds will be spent) will not be stage managed from Sacramento,” he said. “People will have to get active at the local level to make this (funding plan) meet their needs.”

At the same time, he said, the law approved by the Legislature last week gives considerable powers to the State Board of Education to establish procedures for how to hold school districts accountable for the money they will receive.

Members of the board are appointed by Gov. Brown. In fact, Kirst also served as president of the board during Brown’s first term as governor in the 1970s.

By early next year, Kirst said, the board will draw up a “template” for the “local education plans” that school districts are required to draw up under the new school funding laws, based on public hearings and parental and community input.

Later in the year the board will develop a “rubric” for a range of accountability measures – such as attendance rates and how well students are prepared for college – that local districts will be expected to meet.

In his briefing presentation, Jonathan Kaplan, senior policy analyst at the California Budget Project, which for decades has advocated on behalf of policies that benefit low-income Californians, described the reform plan as a “major step forward.”

But he emphasized the need for parents and other “education stakeholders” to hold school districts accountable for ensuring that funds are equitably spent.

He also pointed to “a decade of disinvestment” in California’s schools, and said that the school finance plan still falls short of what many regard as an “adequate” level of funding to ensure that children succeed at their optimal levels.

“The Local Control Funding Formula is about dividing the school funding pie,” he said. “Now the question facing California is how we can make the pie larger.”

With the abolition of multiple separate streams of “categorical” funding that districts had to spend on specific programs, officials emphasized that districts will have far greater flexibility in how they spend state funds – beginning in the coming school year.

Said the Department of Finance’s chief deputy director Michael Cohen, “We are moving to a unified stream of money that is the most flexible that California has ever seen in allowing districts to choose what highest and best use of the dollars are.”

 

Story appeared at New America Media. Have questions about implementation of the new school funding plan? Send them to edsource@edsource.org and we will seek answers from the Department of Finance and other experts.

 

County to Start Child Welfare Commission

June 27, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

The Board of Supervisions Tuesday voted 3-2 in support of creating a blue ribbon commission to protect children in the county.

Reacting to a string of child deaths in cases where social workers failed to remove children from dangerous environments, Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael Antonovich called for the new commission, one in a long series of groups designed to fix the Department of Children and Family Services.

“Once again, DCFS is under scrutiny for alleged mismanagement of foster family agency contracts and for the recent death of Gabriel F. (age 8), who was allegedly tortured and abused by his mother and her boyfriend. In Gabriel F.’s case, there appear to have been repeated reports of abuse and neglect preceding his death,” read the motion by Ridley-Thomas and Antonovich.

Gabriel Fernandez’ mother, Pearl Sinthia Fernandez and her boyfriend, Isauro Aguirre, have been charged with murder in the boy’s death. Aguirre allegedly beat the boy, who was hospitalized May 22 with BB pellets embedded in his lungs and groin, a cracked skull, broken ribs, burns, bruises and two missing teeth. The 8-year-old died two days later. His mother stood by during the assault and did nothing, according to prosecutors and police.

The tragedy refocused attention on DCFS, as the Los Angeles Times reported that the county had conducted six different investigations into the boy’s welfare before his death.

But Supervisor Don Knabe, citing “countless commissions, groups, panels and advisory boards,” said the county had more than enough information on how to solve problems in the child welfare system and just needed time to implement solutions.

“By my approximate count, at least 859 suggestions have been provided, most of which say the same thing: we must ensure that our social workers have manageable and realistic caseloads, we must give our employees the training and resources they need to be effective, and we must end our relationships with service providers who abuse our funds. We are drowning in recommendations.” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky agreed that the commission would only be a distraction to getting existing recommendations instituted.

“We need at some point to let the director breathe and do his work,” Yaroslavsky said of DCFS Director Philip Browning. Browning told the board when he took the position in September 2011 that it would take at least three years to implement changes, Yaroslavsky told his colleagues.

But Ridley-Thomas said the commission was “not intended to reinvent the wheel, rather the intent is to get the wheels turning and get DCFS and related agencies moving forward.”

Based on the vote, each of the supervisors is expected to appoint two members to the commission by July 1.

The commission will be charged with reviewing obstacles to reform and effective performance and report back to the board by year-end.

“Don’t mistake activity for achievement,” Yaroslavsky said, quoting the late, great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. “This is activity, this is not achievement.”

Reyes Reflexiona sobre su Visión Durante los Últimos 12 Años

June 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

El Concejal de Los Ángeles Ed Reyes ha representado el primer distrito del ayuntamiento (CD-1) durante tres términos, pero debido a los límites de mandato, a fines de esta semana se le obliga dejar el cargo después de 12 años consecutivos de servicio al distrito del ayuntamiento que es el más pequeño geográficamente pero el más densamente poblado de la ciudad.

En los días previos a su salida, Reyes ha sido reconocido por sus colegas en el consejo municipal y por la junta de supervisores del condado, así como por varios grupos de la comunidad local, pero para Reyes, los elogios, aunque son dulces, son más que un reconocimiento de sus logros, son un recordatorio de que aún falta trabajo para completar algunos de sus proyectos.

El pequeño parque Ed P. Reyes Riverway – que esta actualmente bajo construcción en Lincoln Heights y que recientemente fue nombrado en su honor – es quizás el signo más visible y literal de la huella que Reyes deja en la ciudad.

Pero Reyes, quien tiene experiencia especializada en el Urbanismo, también encabezo varios proyectos de infraestructura que han ayudó a transformar barrios de la zona, y preparó las bases para otros proyectos aún en marcha.

Reyes, de 54 años de edad, fue elegido por primera vez al concejo municipal en 2001, tras una década como empleado de su predecesor, el ex concejal Mike Hernández. Reyes fue reelegido dos veces y respaldó como su sucesor a su jefe de gabinete, José Gardea, quien fue derrotado por el legislador veterano Gil Cedillo en la elección el pasado mes.

“Es un trabajo de 24-horas 7-días a la semana que te permite ser un servidor público, si usted cree en esa filosofía en lugar de ser solo un político”, dijo Reyes a EGP, reflexionando sobre su tiempo en el cargo.

En su oficina vacía donde cajas estaban cuidadosamente amontonadas, Reyes dijo a EGP que sentía un poco de nostalgia repasando viejos documentos. Uno de los documentos es un diseño de concepto que se utilizó durante las audiencias públicas hace años que muestra la estación del barrio Chino del tren ligero Línea Dorada de Metro tal como fue concebida. Este diseño actualizado, representa solo uno de los numerosos proyectos de gran escala construido durante su mandato.

“No realice una gran cantidad de conferencias de prensa, no celebre mucho. Mi pensamiento fue lo menos que hablé, más lo que podía hacer y eso es lo que sucedió”, dijo Reyes.

Esa filosofía, sin embargo, dejó a algunas personas sin el conocimiento de la totalidad de los cambios que tomaban lugar durante su tiempo como concejal, mientras que otras personas se quejaban de que gran parte de su tiempo se invirtió en grandes proyectos en lugar de los problemas del día a día como la limpieza de las calles.

El Río de los Ángeles, un enfoque principal de la oficina de Reyes, es un ejemplo de uno de esos proyectos.

En 2001, Reyes fundó y se desempeñó como el presidente del Comité Especial del Río de Los Angeles, que más tarde dio lugar a la adopción por la ciudad del Plan Maestro de la Revitalización del Río de Los Ángeles. El plan maestro se ha convertido en el alma de los intentos de transformar el río, de ser una monstruosidad de concreto, a un próspero entorno ecológico y un destino recreativo, que puede revitalizar las vecindades adyacentes.

“El agua es lo que trajo vida al río, así fue como comenzamos como un pueblo, pero con el paso del tiempo el río se convirtió en un vertedero, un lugar del cual la gente se aleja,” dijo Reyes a EGP. Reyes explicó que él vio la oportunidad de reevaluar cómo se estaba utilizando ese espacio, lo cual causó que algunos de sus partidarios lo llamaran un “visionario”.

Otros proyectos de infraestructura a gran escala durante su mandato incluyen la construcción de dos estaciones de policía, en Olympic y Rampart, bibliotecas en Cypress Park, Chinatown, Highland Park y Pico-Union y un túnel interceptor de $160 millones para evitar el desbordamiento de aguas residuales y proteger la salud de las familias y los niños en el noreste de la ciudad.

Durante los 12 años de su mandato, Reyes fue miembro o presidente del Comité municipal de Planificación y Ordenamiento Territorial, lo cual lo puso en una posición para influir las cuestiones de uso de terrenos en toda la ciudad, no sólo en su distrito.

Un defensor desde hace mucho tiempo de los desarrollos de vivienda de uso mixto y de ingresos mixtos, hace varios años Reyes dijo a EGP que esos desarrollos son una forma efectiva para satisfacer las múltiples necesidades de la comunidades, reducir el tráfico en los barrios de alta densidad, y también son una forma viable para disminuir la segregación económica y étnica, y los estereotipos y actitudes negativos que estos producen.

Desde que fue elegido, 27 proyectos de viviendas de uso mixto se han construido en CD-1, algunos al lado de los centros de transporte locales, incluyendo la estación de la Línea Dorada en Lincoln Heights.

Además, dos parques, el Parque Estatal Histórico de Los Ángeles (también conocido como los campos de maíz) al lado de Chinatown y el Parque Estatal Río de Los Ángeles en Cypress Park, añadieron 80 acres de espacio abierto a su distrito.

Durante sus 10 años en el Comité de Seguridad Pública, Reyes ayudó a iniciar mapas de rutas seguras para niños que caminan a sus escuelas, ayudo conseguir fondos para tecnología y unidades para la policía de Los Ángeles, dirigió limpiezas de barrios y apoyo programas de prevención de pandillas, en particular, la limpieza de MacArthur Park.

Hoy, Reyes lamenta que se ha quedado sin tiempo para supervisar la realización de varios proyectos, incluyendo la construcción en marcha del puente Riverside, pero añade que el proyecto se retrasó por una buena razón, para añadir un camino para bicicletas.

La construcción de Highland Park Transit Village, la aplicación del Plan Específico Corn Field, “hay toda una lista de cosas que me gustaría poder ver terminar”, dice Reyes.

Sus planes para el futuro aún están inciertos, pero él dijo a EGP que está buscando una opción que le permitiera continuar con el trabajo que se ha iniciado. Reyes dijo que ha trabajado en estrecha colaboración con el Alcalde Electo Eric Garcetti, y daría la bienvenida a la oportunidad de unirse a su gabinete.

Implementar del Plan Maestro del Río de LA y ser profesor para futuros profesionales que quieren aprender acerca del desarrollo de la comunidad, están entre sus intereses laborales, él dijo.

Reyes dice que entre sus logros, se siente más orgulloso de la maduración de los líderes y de las redes comunitarias en su distrito desde que asumió el cargo. Como ejemplo menciona a los residentes del área Pico Union que aprendieron acerca del proceso civil y que más tarde volvieron a recordarlo de sus compromisos.

Aún le molesta su fracaso en convencer a otros ocho miembros del consejo que su distrito necesitaba más financiación para mantenimiento debido a que la densidad hace difícil mantener la basura en las calles bajo control. Los otros concejale no quisieron ceder recursos porque significaría menos fondos para su distrito, él explicó.

Sin embargo, su único arrepentimiento fue no haber podido mejor proteger a su familia de la hostilidad que a veces viene con un cargo público, Reyes confesó.

“Las personas piensan que está bien molestar a tu familia. [Mis hijos] estaban muy pequeños cuando [los acosadores] comenzaron. Cuando apoyé The Walls Las Memorias, la gente golpeaba el techo del coche de mi esposa y asustaban a mis hijos”, dijo, refiriéndose a los conservadores que opusieron a su apoyo del monumento de SIDA y VIH en Lincoln Park.

Cuando se le preguntó si tenía algún consejo para su sucesor, Reyes dijo que su sucesor tiene que “perdonar y olvidar” a las personas que no apoyaron su elección.

Republicans Out Negotiate Democrats on Immigration

June 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Immigration Reform Bill crafted by the U.S. Senate is not all that it started out to be – an acceptance of the fact that a majority of the people living in the U.S. without documentation have become Americans, whether their legal status acknowledges it or not. Or that there is no humane, much less logistically and financially feasible way to send the estimated 11 million undocumented people back to their home countries.

Originally we believed that any proposed legislation would ultimately include a reasonable path to citizenship for those who had not committed any crimes, had not become a burden to the U.S. by collecting welfare, and paid their taxes.

Reasonable seems to be a word that is sadly missing in this debate.

As efforts to bring about comprehensive reform to our immigration system got underway, we thought legislators in the nation’s capitol would surely recognize the merits of allowing young people, who through no fault of their own were brought illegally to the U.S. as children but had graduated high school, stayed out of trouble, served the country in the military and for all intents and purposes are American, gain legal status.

The last election must have convinced them that Latinos, and according to a number of national polls a majority of U.S. citizens, strongly favor a path to citizenship for the undocumented.

It was reasonable to expect that the path to citizenship would involve rigorous steps and compromises, including fines, paying back taxes, and criminal background checks.

But the Democrats in the Senate have allowed themselves to be out-compromised by Republican members in order to get legislation passed.

The new proposed legislation is meaner in scope: “Ok we’re going to let some of you stay but it’s going to cost you.”

It’s placating of so-called security concerns by adding another $46 million to “control the border with Mexico,” is overkill.  We don’t need another surge of people crossing the border illegally, but there is no need to double the size of border patrol forces so they are standing shoulder to shoulder along the border.

In what can only be viewed as a punitive move that will serve as a boon for the Social Security Trust Fund, Republicans have also convinced Democrats to agree not to give the undocumented credit for any of the social security payments they made prior to legalization, curtailing their income in retirement years.

This latest Immigration Reform compromise will likely pass in the U.S. Senate this week.

Democrats and immigrants will then have to grit their teeth and see what punitive requirements House Republicans have up their sleeves.

Boehner’s House and Immigration Reform

June 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If they still object to the Border Security set up with this amendment, their rationale for opposing immigration reform “is for some other reason,” says Senator John McCain.

This after two Republican Senators from Tennessee and North Dakota offered a huge amendment to the immigration reform bill costing billions of dollars. For what? To man the border with 20,000 more Border Patrol agents and billions more in technical support and toys.

Realistically, this “” might not even be necessary when the bill’s massive guest worker permit is implemented SURGE in agriculture and other basic industries like hospitality and construction. Ditto E-verify.

It is no surprise to this writer that the Senate voted 67 to 27 to proceed to a final vote without filibuster of the 1200 page immigration reform bill, SB 744. The surprise is that it took adding $30 billion in spending to attract a solid block of Republican votes. So said former Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs on Meet the Press.

Now, even as various House of Representative committees are working up individual bills on segments of immigration reform, there are dire political warnings that if an Immigration Reform bill doesn’t make it to the President’s desk for signature with a heavy Republican stamp of approval on it, the Republican Party will never win another national election.

An interesting view of what faces Republicans is a comment made by veteran GOP Presidential campaign guru, Mike Murphy:  that he was a “fanatic on the issue of immigration reform” with a Republican brand on it because he said, he is “tired of watching Democratic Presidential inaugurations.”

The small loud cabal of Senate Republicans that bad-mouthed the entire reform effort did not sway the Senate but the question is, how many in the House have they swayed.

Of 435 members 218 House votes are necessary to pass any bill. Thus, numerically there are three ways a House vote can go on immigration:

1. John Boehner and his leadership must convince, force or deal with 110 or more GOP members to vote for it thus living up to the “Hastert Rule” of not bringing a bill to a vote unless a majority of GOP House members are in support.

2. Boehner can count on a Democratic bloc of 190 to support reform and turn the House loose to vote conscience which would then produce a minimum of 29 Republican votes (probably close to a hundred creating a solid bi-partisan yes vote) to join the Democratic bloc in passing reform.

3. Assuming the bill then passes, Boehner and Nancy Pelosi would choose a Conference Committee to meet with a Senate Conference Committee to structure an acceptable compromise. That compromise would then go back to both houses for approval or defeat.

It is at this stage that Boehner could invoke the Hastert Rule without, I think, much of a problem. The result would be presented to the President for his signature.

How to get there is the problem, much of which seems to have been overcome by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and John Hoeven (R-ND) when they came up with the “Border Surge” as it has been labeled.

Senator McCain is right, with these added resources of billions for Border Security, how can anyone be opposed to immigration reform?

The complaints will now be that the government will not enforce the new law as it has not enforced existing laws. That, of course, is not true. Has the government intercepted hundreds of thousands of illegal border crossers and sent them back? Yes, it has. Has the government arrested and deported hundreds of thousands of criminals and others under President Obama? Yes. Thus, that argument is speculative also specious, based on five years of heavy enforcement experience.

In these precincts, the “Border Surge” must strengthened with a competent e-verify system that all workers will have to pass and adequate agriculture work permits and permits for hospitality and construction industries.

The Congressional Budget Office’s generally positive report on the Senate Bill suggests some problems in unemployment and static wages for today’s underclass of school dropout workers but that is why we have a minimum wage. States can and do raise minimums. As for unemployment, immigrants have little to do with that as studies have shown.

Balancing out these negatives are economic growth, mushrooming productivity and a growing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that will create more jobs, more prosperity and more tax revenue, which in turn will cut, projected deficits by almost a trillion dollars in two decades.

One man is the key to this happening.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), number two in Presidential Succession, is that man. The entire political future of the United States and our two party system is on his shoulders. Will he step up and save the two party system and the Republican Party?

I think he will.

Contreras’ books are available at amazon.com 

Sealing Youth Offender Records Brings ‘Chance at a New Life’

June 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Joy riding, staying out past curfew, drinking in public — to me it was all just harmless fun. But to civil society it was breaking the law, and I paid the price. After 13 months of serving time in juvenile hall, paying off restitution fees, and doing community service, I thought I was in the clear. I soon found out that wasn’t the case.

I was tired of dealing with the system. I was ready to change my life. I tried applying for part time jobs at Subway, Radio Shack, McDonalds, Jack in the Box, Century 21, and a few other places. But after 30 days of checking the “I have a criminal record” box on job applications, I still hadn’t been called back for any job interviews. I was ready to give up.

I realized that even though I’d legally paid my debt to society, my criminal record condemned me to a life of continuing to pay for the mistakes of my youth, over and over again.

And then a friend told me I could seal my juvenile criminal record. I barely believed him, because no probation officer or judge ever told me I could have a fresh start. I reached out to a community organization in San Francisco to see if he was right, and it turns out he was. A caseworker helped me submit my paperwork to get my records sealed.

Being given a clean slate felt great. I ended up landing a few jobs. I worked for the Department of Public Works and Brothers Against Guns, an organization that works to reduce violence. Having those jobs taught me the importance of taking advantage of good opportunities, and just cherishing what you have. I’m grateful to that case manager and to other community-based organizations that look out for kids in trouble.

But many youth aren’t lucky enough to find the support of local community-based organizations. And many more aren’t even aware of their rights or the services that are available to help them.

Young people coming out of juvenile detention into today’s job market need more than just a pat on the back and a friendly “good luck finding help.” Every youth should have the opportunity to go into a job interview feeling like they have a fair chance, like I eventually did.

When I found out that there is a state bill, AB 1006, that would require probation officers and courts to provide information to juvenile offenders about how to seal their criminal record, I went to Sacramento to show my support.

 

The California Senate Public Safety Committee is one of two key committees where all the crime bills are voted on. When state assembly member Mariko Yamada, the author of AB 1006, motioned for me to join her up at the podium, I went up and testified to the room full of people dressed in business attire why I believed young offenders should be informed about their right to start over with a clean slate by sealing their juvenile records.

I shared with them things I’d learned from my own personal experience: that feeling defeated, before you even apply for a job, is what can cause a person to go crazy. It’s enough for some youth to lose all hope of finding a job, and they will resort back to what they know best – a life of crime to pay the bills.

I was fortunate enough to have a support group and a mentor to guide me in the right direction. But we can’t assume that all of California’s youth will be helped by community organizations. We need probation officers in every county to give youthful offenders the information they need to seal their records so they can find work.

When I finished my testimony, I asked the politicians to vote in favor of AB 1006. Some seemed to not care — when I spoke, it seemed like they wanted to be somewhere else, and they voted “no” when the time came, without hesitation. Others, however, expressed some concern for the issue being raised, and ultimately the bill did receive enough “yes” votes to pass the Senate Public Safety Committee.

But state politicians still have two chances to vote the bill down, and I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure they know how important this issue is. Because sealing juvenile records not only means getting a fair shot at employment, it means giving young people like myself a chance at a new life.

 

David Cunningham, 23, is a youth contributor to New America Media (NAM) and a member of the California Council on Youth Relations, a NAM project that brings youth voices to policy discussions in the state capitol.

 

Montebello Joins List of Cities Where West Nile Virus Found

June 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The City of Montebello is one of 13 areas where public health officials last week confirmed the West Nile Virus to be present.

The Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District (GLACVCD) confirmed the positive mosquito samples just a couple of days before the start of National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, which runs through June 29. So far, the district has confirmed a total of 26 WNV-positive mosquito samples for 2013, with the biggest jump coming just last week.

The West Nile virus, which can cause fever, headache, body aches, nausea, or a skin rash, is transmitted to people and animals through the bite of an infected mosquito. While only one in five persons with West Nile will exhibit symptoms, in rare cases, one out of 150 people infected will need to be hospitalized, say health officials. Severe symptoms include high fever, muscle weakness, neck stiffness, coma, paralysis, and possibly death.

There is no cure for West Nile virus.

“The widespread increase in West Nile virus activity this week is a reminder that the summer mosquito breeding season is here and residents need to take measures to protect against mosquito bites and disease transmission,” said Truc Dever, Director of Community Affairs for GLACVCD.

He said National Mosquito Control Awareness Week is an opportunity for the “district to emphasize the importance of mosquito control and disease prevention.”

Positive samples have so far been collected in Norwalk, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, Bell, South Gate, Artesia, Cudahy, Van Nuys, Valley Village, Pico Rivera and Montebello.

Prevention is the key to stopping the spread of the virus, say vector control officials.

People can protect themselves and their family by following the “Three D’s of West Nile virus prevention”:

Dump/Drain

Eliminate or report standing water on your property because that’s where mosquitoes breed.

Dusk/Dawn

Avoid outdoor activities when mosquitoes are most active.

Defend

If you are outdoors when mosquitoes are biting, wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts and apply insect repellent containing EPA-registered active ingredients such as DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, and Oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Birds help spread the virus and dead birds can be a sign that West Nile is present, so health officials are also urging the public report dead bird sightings to the California Department of Public Health’s toll-free hotline at 877-WNV BIRD, or on-line at www.westnile.ca.gov.

 

For more information, please contact the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District at (562) 944-9656 or visit www.glacvcd.org. 

 

Next Page »

Copyright © 2014 Eastern Group Publications, Inc. · Log in