L.A. Ranked High for Fun

September 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles’ plethora of entertainment attractions, dance clubs, fitness centers and restaurants help make it the 12th “most fun” city in America, according to an analysis released by the financial website WalletHub Monday.

The website also included bar accessibility, parks per capita and parkland acres in its analysis, which used 58 metrics to rank the nation’s 150 largest cities in their capacity to provide fun for their residents and visitors.

Los Angeles was first in dance clubs per capita, third in attractions, fifth in fitness centers and eighth in restaurants, but was still behind No. 1 Las Vegas and other California cities San Francisco (No. 7) and San Diego (No. 10).

The least fun city? That would be Oxnard.

Resolution Seeks to Officially Declare Los Angeles a ‘City of Sanctuary’

September 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Two City Council members introduced a resolution today seeking to brand Los Angeles a “city of sanctuary” dedicated to “protecting the human rights of all our residents.”

The move by Council President Herb Wesson and Councilman Gil Cedillo follows their receipt of a report on Thursday that civil rights attorney Peter Schey submitted to the Immigrant Affairs, Civil Rights, and Equity Committee, which Cedillo chairs and which Wesson is a member of. The report included a series of recommendations for the city to undertake in response to recent immigration policies announced by President Donald Trump.

While there is no legal definition of a sanctuary city, it generally applies to municipalities that limit cooperation with federal authorities on immigration enforcement. Embracing the term has become a way for cities to openly defy Trump, who has threatened to cut off federal funding to sanctuary cities.

“It’s a declaratory statement of our values, of our vision, of our commitments,” Cedillo told City News Service.

At the committee meeting Thursday, Cedillo said he intended to submit a sanctuary city motion, but what was submitted at the City Council meeting was a resolution. A motion generally changes an existing law or creates a new one, while a resolution is generally a public declaration that does not change or create any laws. Cedillo said he submitted a resolution because declaring the city a sanctuary does not require any change in laws.

It’s not certain when the resolution would come up for a vote.

Although Los Angeles has long limited its cooperation with the feds on immigration, it has not taken on the official label of sanctuary city, and it is unclear how much support the resolution will have from Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The mayor has resisted calling for Los Angeles to embrace the term because he says it is often used by those looking to harm cities that have friendly immigration policies.

“It is not a term that has meaning,” Garcetti said in an interview on radio station KNX Thursday. “I’m not going to buy into a frame that somebody else who’s attacking immigrants uses.”

Cedillo said he agreed with the mayor’s assessment but believed they could find common ground.

“We agree with the mayor. The mayor has been an extraordinary champion in this area, and has been absolutely responsive from the beginning, and I think we are in concert, and his points are well taken,” Cedillo said.

The Los Angeles Police Department has had a longstanding policy of not initiating contact with an individual based solely on his or her immigration status and does not give immigration agents access to its jails or inmates unless they have a federal warrant. Because of those policies, Los Angeles is often referred to as a sanctuary city, though it has never officially embraced the term as other cities have, including San Francisco and Santa Ana.

Schey, a civil rights attorney, argued in the report that Los Angeles has wide discretion in setting its own policies on immigration and that because none of its current laws are in violation of federal law, Trump’s “showboating about penalties against sanctuary cities has no basis in law and is primarily intended to dazzle his base and intimidate local officials.”

Schey also told the committee that embracing the term was an important symbolic move.

“People seem to have strong views on this name thing. My stance has always been that’s what’s important. Ultimately, yes, that sort of symbolic statement, ‘We are a city of sanctuary, we are a city of refuge,’ etc., I think it’s important. It sets a certain tone,” he said.

Cedillo said part of reason for introducing the resolution was in reaction to the Trump administration’s move Tuesday to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program which has shielded immigrants who were brought to the country illegally when they were children from deportation.

“With the changed circumstance, with the announcement on Tuesday, it turned out that we had a scheduled immigration committee meeting, and it turned out that we had a report from our advocate, and it turned out we had a deeper understanding of what it is to be a city of sanctuary,” Cedillo said. “We are confident there will be no fiscal impact on the city, no adverse consequences on the city and we want to send that message to the (DACA recipients) who are here to continue to be engaged in the civic life of this city.”

The resolution cites the LAPD’s policy on immigrant enforcement, Trump’s DACA announcement, and the city’s history of adopting policies protecting all of its residents regardless of immigration status as some of the reasons for the resolution.

Schey’s report also recommended the city take steps to help immigrants in the country illegally and DACA recipients from being detained by federal officials by facilitating legal advice and representation for them. The report also recommended the city enact a comprehensive anti-discrimination ordinance, and decriminalize minor offenses likely to be committed by low-income residents.

Shared ‘Celestial’ Experience Captivates SoCal

August 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Friends, families and colleagues put life’s daily routines on hold for a few minutes Monday as they tried to get a look at the first total solar eclipse in the United States in 38 years.

Although the eclipse reached “totality” in a roughly 70-mile-wide path stretching from Oregon to South Carolina, the Southland saw only about 62 percent of the sun obscured.

Nonetheless, the celestial event was not something to be missed, nor did it disappoint the thousands of star-gazers at the Griffith Park Observatory and dozens of other local venues who waited hours to view the eclipse in what turned out to be one of the biggest social media events in recent times.

Dozens of people showed up at the Montebello, East Los Angeles and other city and county of Los Angeles libraries.

They gathered as families or groups of friends, and a few lone individuals wanting to share the experience with other eclipse watchers.

At the East L.A. Library, four-year-old Nathan Solano, appropriately sporting a t-shirt with an image of the U.S. Flag — after all, this was the first time in history a full solar eclipse was exclusively visible from U.S. soil — was excited to put on his approved, solar viewing glasses. With his father watching, he got his first look in his young life at a solar eclipse, a “wow” moment that brought a broad smile to his face.

For Suzanne Johnson, who attended the viewing event at the Montebello Public Library, it was a chance to share a rare and exciting experience with her eight-year-old son Jacob Johnson Rico.

Johnson recalled seeing the 1978 eclipse at the age of nine. “It was a special moment” that she shared with her parents, Johnson excitedly told EGP.

“I want my son to have that same memory when he’s older,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t miss this opportunity to share it with him!”

While Johnson was reliving her childhood, others like Tracy Fish and Lilian Pineda were excited to be making first-time memories with people close to them.

Tracy on Monday sat in the grass with her nine-year-old son Connor, reading to him from a book about eclipses as they patiently waited for the solar event to begin. Connor, his eyes focused on the book, sat still as his mother read, eventually reacting excitedly to what he’d just heard; “Wow that’s amazing,” he said, his face lighting up as his mother showed him pictures of a solar eclipse.

While Tracy, a Montebello resident enjoyed the proximity of the viewing event, Pineda and her friend Jesus Tejada made the hour plus drive from Northridge to take part in the Montebello Library activities. They pair wanted to watch the eclipse from where they’d grown up, Tejada explained.

Solar-watchers at the East Los Angeles viewing event were treated to snacks as they watched live coverage of the eclipse on a large screen.

Outside the library, guests shared solar viewing glasses with those who didn’t have any. Others used handcrafted projectors of paper and foil to track the movement of the moon across the sun.

There for her first solar eclipse experience, East Los Angeles resident Ofelia Alonso witnessed the celestial phenomena through solar viewing glasses, photographing the image on her cellphone.

It’s “beautiful” she said, passing her phone to others so they too could see her captured moment in time.

Trump Supports Plan to Slow Down Legal Immigration

August 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

President Donald Trump announced his endorsement on Wednesday of a bill that halves legal immigration in the country over the course of a decade and eliminates United States’ annual Diversity Visa Lottery.

“This represents the most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century,” said Trump during a White House appearance.

The Reforming American Immigration For Strong Employment (RAISE Act), introduced in February by two Republican senators, would reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed in the U.S. by 41 percent in the first year and by 50 percent in year 10, according to the bills’ proponents.

It also slashes the number of refugees who can earn citizenship to no more than 50,000 per year.

“Priority will be given to applicants who speak English, can financially support themselves and their families, and contribute to our economy,” said Trump.

He said the legislation would help “create a merit-based immigration system,” which would “reduce poverty” in the U.S., “raise wages and save taxpayers billions of dollars.”

It will also “ensure that immigrants” who can enter “assimilate into the country, succeed and achieve the American Dream,” Trump added.

The bill was introduced in February by Republican Senators David Perdue and Tom Cotton, who attended Trump’s announcement at the White House Wednesday.

The most significant change would be limiting the ability of new citizens to sponsor other members of their family immigrating to the country, liming sponsorship to spouses or underage children.

Currently, U.S. citizens and permanent residents can sponsor a variety of family members for residency permits, including spouses, parents, siblings, and married adult children.

“Ending family-based immigration is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to halt growing American ethnic diversity that this system has fostered for more than half a century,” Martha Arévalo, executive director at CARECEN Los Angeles said in statement.

“Adult children and siblings already wait years or decades to come to the United States. Eliminating the chance for families to reunite with these relatives is cruel and nonsensical,” she said.

Cotton and Perdue’s plan would allow temporary visas for the elderly parents of U.S. citizens in need of caretaking, but would require the sponsoring child to guarantee the parents support and provide health insurance.

The bill would also eliminate the visa lottery, which allocates about 50,000 visas a year to citizens of countries that traditionally have low immigration rates to the U.S., and would limit the number of refugees received anywhere in the world to 50,000 annually.

“These two programs add little to the overall number of immigrants in the United States. Cutting them leaves no doubt about the racist undertones of this proposal,” according to CARECEN.

“Business owners have long complained that the employment-based immigration system, which the raise bill purports to help, is antiquated and in desperate need of an overhaul,” said Daniel Sharp, the organization’s legal director. “We agree.”

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard called Trump’s support of the RAISE Act “a cruel and brazen pander to anti-immigrant voices at the expense of American businesses and workers.”

She said, “A person’s value cannot be confined to a set of skills, no matter how much Donald Trump and the authors of the RAISE Act would like you to believe that.”

Roybal-Allard, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Appropriations, said Subcommittee, said if the president really wants to help American works, “he could prioritize legislation to bolster job training, create new jobs, and increase wages.” For immigrants and non-immigrants alike, and “reach across the aisle to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that treats immigrants humanely, keeps families together, secures our borders, and creates a path to citizenship.

“But he hasn’t.”

EGP staff writers contributed to this story.

Higher Minimum Wage Starts Today

July 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Starting today, Los Angeles area employers will pay a higher minimum wage and offer at least six days of paid leave benefits under city and county laws that will eventually increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The local laws require businesses with more than 25 workers to increase their minimum wage from the state-mandated $10 to $10.50 per hour. The hikes are taking place in Los Angeles and a few nearby cities, including Santa Monica and Pasadena, and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

Also going into effect today is a provision in the city’s minimum wage law that requires employers with more than 25 workers to offer at least six days of paid sick leave, which goes beyond the three days currently required under state law.

Smaller businesses have an extra year to implement both provisions.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti joined other city officials and speakers at the Boyle Heights Technology Youth Center to discuss the wage increase, which is the first step of a gradual minimum wage increase to $15.

A free resource fair was also staged today at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles for workers to learn more about efforts to enforce the new wage.

Garcetti said Los Angeles led the way for other local wage increases.

“Today, Los Angeles becomes the first big city in America to begin the climb to a $15-an-hour minimum wage,” he said. “Our decision to end poverty wages in L.A. caused a ripple effect that spread to six other cities in L.A. County, then statewide — and now New York state has followed suit.”

Under the city and county ordinances, the minimum wage will reach $15 per hour in 2020, with future increases pegged to the Consumer Price Index. Employers with 25 or fewer workers have an extra year to adjust to the new city wages, with the minimum wage reaching $15 per hour by 2021.

More details about Los Angeles’s minimum wage law is available at the city’s Office of Wage Standards website at http://wagesla.lacity.org .

The $10.50 minimum wage will soon apply to all businesses across the state with 26 or more employees. Under the state’s own phase-in of a $15 per hour minimum wage, the $10.50 wage goes into effect six months later than the city laws — on Jan. 1, 2017. The statewide wage is set to reach $15 by 2022 for large businesses and 2023 for small ones.

Rusty Hicks, who leads the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said today was an “exciting day for thousands — tens of thousands — of workers all across the city of Los Angeles (who) will see a pay increase from $10 to $10.50 per hour.”

Hicks, who co-led an effort to raise the minimum wage in Los Angeles, said the next step is to make sure employers start paying the new wages and provide the added benefits. He said that while some employers have raised concerns about the wage leading to job loss or fewer work hours, it will enable workers to “purchase basic necessities” from local businesses.

Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, said the multiple minimum wage laws going into effect throughout the county and the state can be confusing for businesses and are “causing quite a bit of consternation” among employers.

Waldman said business owners have told him they have had to reduce hours and benefits and lay off workers or put off hiring new ones in preparation for the wage and sick leave provisions going into effect today. City leaders, he said, have made only “empty promises” to reduce the city’s gross receipts tax to make it easier for businesses to cope with the higher wages.

“The politicians know what they can do to help business; at this moment they choose not to,” he said.

Waldman said the business chamber will be hosting a workshop on July 26 with City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office to help businesses get up to speed on how to comply with local wage laws.
 

Grand Jury: Plans for Homeless ‘Grossly Inadequate’

January 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

City and county agencies need to do more to help the thousands of people in the Los Angeles area who lack shelter during this winter’s El Nino storms, the county’s civil grand jury concluded in a report released Wednesday.

The panel’s report says plans submitted last fall by the area’s largest cities, including Los Angeles, are “unconscionable and grossly inadequate” in sheltering those who are forced to live on the streets.
The grand jury is “very concerned that the 2,772 shelter and surge capacity beds planned by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is just a fraction of the number necessary to shelter homeless people in severe weather,” the report states.

The panel recommended that the county and its 88 cities relax building and health codes to make more facilities available to shelter people who are homeless. It also suggested that funds be made available for supplies and equipment that give “minimal sheltering for homeless people who cannot be accommodated in shelters so that they might survive the rainstorms to come.”

The grand jury sent out surveys asking cities to detail their El Nino preparation plans, with Los Angeles responding that the city has 25,686 people who are homeless, 17,687 of whom are without shelter. There were 2,239 beds available in the city at the time of the survey, which needed to be submitted in November, according to the report.

Other cities were also surveyed, including Lancaster, Long Beach, Burbank, West Covina and Pasadena.
The greater Los Angeles area has an estimated 44,000 homeless people.

Vicki Curry, spokeswoman for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, said the report “underscores” the mayor’s own concerns and he will “take its recommendations into consideration as the city continues to address the needs of our homeless residents during these harsh winter months.”

The city recently increased the number of shelter beds by 50 percent and the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has create a map of homeless encampments that can be used during the storms, Curry said.

City and county officials said Wednesday they are focused on doing outreach to encourage people living on the streets — whether in cars, makeshift structures or tents — to use additional shelters that were made available in anticipation of the heavy rains.

County officials said there are 2,000 winter shelters, plus another 1,131 beds at seven additional shelters.

Despite the outreach efforts, the majority of the added beds are still available, according to county officials.

If there is a need to accommodate more people, more city and county buildings, such as recreation and parks facilities, can be converted into shelters, officials said.

Councilman Calls for ‘Indigenous Peoples Day’

November 13, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A city councilman called today for the creation of an Indigenous Peoples Day in Los Angeles, but stopped short of saying he wants the holiday to replace Columbus Day.

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who is part Native American, introduced a motion today to look into setting aside a day each year to recognize the history, culture and achievements of indigenous peoples.

The holiday is part of a wider movement around the country to replace Columbus Day, which falls on the second Mondays of October, with a day focused on Native Americans instead. Columbus Day is a federal holiday observed in honor of Christopher Columbus, who is popularly credited with discovering the Americas. Critics of the holiday have pointed out that millions of people were already living on the American continents when he landed, and that his arrival eventually led to many of those people being enslaved or their populations thinned.

Berkeley, Denver, Seattle, Anchorage, Portland and Albuquerque have already stopped observing Columbus Day and replaced it with Indigenous Peoples Day, according to a release from O’Farrell’s office.

But O’Farrell told City News Service today that while he has made it “pretty clear I’m not a fan of Columbus Day,” he is “open to all options” for the timing of Indigenous Peoples Day in Los Angeles.

Speaking at a City Hall luncheon event celebrating Native American Heritage Month earlier today, O’Farrell called the observance of Columbus Day a “travesty,” while Native Americans have historically been “devalued.”

O’Farrell, whose father is Irish American and his mother a member of the Wyandotte Nation tribe, said he grew up hearing teachers describing Columbus as a “great man.” But over the years, it has become “less acceptable to really even mention his name in a positive light,” he said.

The reasons for wanting to establish Indigenous People’s Day “is based on the folly of celebrating a man who brought nothing but catastrophe for native peoples when he first arrived in the new world,” O’Farrell told City News Service.

While O’Farrell was strongly critical of Columbus Day, he would not say if he supports abolishing it in Los Angeles.

His motion only calls for the City Administrative Officer to report back on creating the holiday, and asks the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission to report on the “historical importance and cultural impact” of establishing a “legal city holiday” recognizing indigenous peoples, and does not suggest the annual observance day.

The idea of abolishing Columbus Day faces some resistance from O’Farrell’s colleagues. Councilman Joe Buscaino, who is Italian American, released a statement saying that for families like his, “who immigrated to the United States, Columbus Day celebrates a commitment to cross an ocean and a border and start a new life in the new world.”

O’Farrell told City News Service that he is aware that some Italian Americans may have attachments to the holiday, but there are other better ways to celebrate Italian culture, arts, food and contributions.

“There is a complete disconnect and separation from any of that to Christopher Columbus,” he said.

For some Native Americans who attended the City Hall heritage month event, the holiday would bring more attention to a population that is often ignored, while Navajo tribe member Glenn Talley noted that a day like an Indigenous Peoples Day would “straighten out some of the issues of the past.”

Audit Finds Problems In L.A.’s Handling of Developer Fees

November 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The city of Los Angeles is failing to charge developers tens of millions of dollars in impact fees, and appears in some cases to have left millions of dollars in fees it has collected unspent, according to an audit released Wednesday.

“Development impact fees are some of the most important tools the state has given us to make the infrastructure improvements our city so desperately needs,” City Controller Ron Galperin said.

“These fees should be applied fairly and consistently, and should be spent wisely in the public interest.”

According to the audit, Los Angeles had $5.3 billion in permitted construction projects in the 2013-14 fiscal year, but collected less than $5 million in impact fees. By comparison, during that same fiscal year, San Francisco had $3.6 billion on construction and collected $96 million. Portland had just $1.5 billion in construction but collected $31 million, according to the audit.

Cities are permitted under state law to charge developers fees to the impacts of their projects — such as increased police and fire protection, traffic mitigation and public facilities such as libraries, parks, public art, child care and affordable housing.

Galperin said the city has a “haphazard” approach to applying and collecting the fees, causing confusion for developers and costing the city millions.

The audit also identified $54 million in impact fees that had been collected, but the money has been sitting various accounts with balances that haven’t changed substantially in three years, indicating the city wasn’t spending the money. Leaving the money unspent could open the city to legal
challenges that could require the funds to be refunded, according to Galperin’s office.

“The city’s haphazard application of the fees today is unfair to communities and to developers,” Galperin said. “Both have every expectation that the city will apply fees consistently and spend them to mitigate the impacts of development on our neighborhoods.”

The audit recommends that the city establish a comprehensive impact fee program and designate one department to take responsibility for ensuring the funds are properly used.

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