Antonovich Wants State To Look At AltaMed CEO’s Pay

March 10, 2011 by · 5 Comments 

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors put off for one week a request by Sup.  Michael Antonovich to ask the State Auditor to evaluate the pay structure of one of the county’s largest non-profit health care providers.

Antonovich’s motion was made in response to a March 1st CBS 2 news report that called into question a large pay hike received by Cástulo de la Rocha, the president and CEO of AltaMed Health Services Corporation, at the same time the Commerce based provider is seeking to stop the state from cutting funding to adult day care centers.

According to CBS 2 Investigative Reporter Dave Bryan, in 2008 AltaMed’s Board of Directors approved raising de la Rocha’s total compensation package, which includes salary, bonuses and other benefits, from $396,000 a year to $797,429; a $400,000 increase.

AltaMed Health Services is one of the county’s largest “Private-Public Partners,” and Antonovich says he wants to make sure that taxpayer funds are being used “wisely.”

“This salary is very high and the increase over a two-year period is significant. Of particular concern is that this agency’s revenue is, in large part, based on public taxpayer dollars,” reads Antonovich’s motion.

During de la Rocha’s leadership over the last three decades, AltaMed has grown from a small East Los Angeles area health clinic to a $183,000 million dollar-a-year health care network with more than three dozen medical and dental clinics in Los Angeles and Orange County and seven adult day health care centers serving some of the region’s most vulnerable low-income residents,

De la Rocha defended his salary to CBS’ Bryan, saying it was AltaMed’s board of directors that approved the raise, which is “within the reasonable standards that are expected by the Internal Revenue Services.” He said he has spent 33 years building AltaMed.

In a written statement to CBS, the non-profit’s board of directors expressed support for their decision and de la Rocha’s tenure at the head of the organization.

“The board is confident that the CEO’s compensation is not only in line with industry norms, it is well deserved by this talented and tireless chief executive, who has devoted his professional life to building a network that employs nearly 1,900 professionals and annually serves the health care needs of close to 150,000 low-income patients,” the statement said.

Antonovich wants the Board to send a letter to the “Office of the State Auditor requesting the Bureau of State Audits to conduct an evaluation of the pay structure of this agency to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent appropriately.”

Cal State L.A. Providing Free Tax Return Service

March 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

If you earn $49,000 or less a year and are unable to fill out your own tax returns, you can get them done for free at Cal State L.A. on Saturdays through April 2.

For the 13th year in a row, accounting students certified by the IRS are providing income-tax preparation services to low- to moderate-income individuals through Cal State L.A.’s VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program.

VITA services for the 2011 tax season will take place on the third floor of Salazar Hall, room 343. It will operate on a first-come, first-served basis from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.  Appointments are not necessary.

To save time, tax filers are encouraged to get all necessary documents together before arriving. Since there are certain limitations and requirements that are mandated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), tax filers are encouraged to see what they should bring with them, as well what types of returns can and cannot be done. For details, go to http://www.calstatela.edu/programs/vita/ or call (323) 215-5486.

The number of volunteers trained to be part of the program was expanded from 60 last year to 90 this tax season, according to VITA site manager and director of marketing Frank Murguia.

“This was done in part to reduce the wait time of clients, as well as to expand the number of students who would receive real-world tax accounting experience, said Murguia who added they hope to process 500 tax returns by the filing deadline.

In 2010, the CSULA VITA program received the prestigious ‘Lowest Rejection Rate’ award from the IRS for the second year in a row and a Maria Shriver Letter of Recognition for providing outstanding services to the community for the past few years.

WRD Groundwater Festival This Saturday

March 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

For the fourth year running, the Water Replenishment District (WRD) will host its Annual Groundwater Festival, “Treasure Beneath Our Feet,” on Saturday at its headquarters in Lakewood.

The free public event is expected to draw as many as 4,000 participants, according to WRD. The festival aims to teach people about the importance of the groundwater supply, both in terms of quantity and quality in fun and informative atmosphere.

The festival will include family-friendly interactive educational activities for the whole family, as well as 40 exhibitors representing water companies, government agencies, environmental groups, the Aquarium of the Pacific, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and WRD’s award winning Eco-Gardener classes.

“We hope the public joins us this Saturday to help us celebrate our 4th Annual Groundwater Festival,” said WRD Board President Sergio Calderon. “This fun, educational and interactive event can be enjoyed by all as they learn about WRD’s mission to protect, replenish and preserve the ‘treasure beneath our feet,’ groundwater.”

The Groundwater Festival concludes National Groundwater Awareness Week, which runs from March 6th to the 12th. Locally, groundwater supplies nearly 40 percent of the region’s water consumption that is used by 10 percent of the state’s population.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  on Saturday, March 12, at WRD headquarters: 4040 Paramount Blvd., Lakewood, CA 90712.  For more information on WRD and the Groundwater Festival “Treasure Beneath Our Feet, ” visit www.wrd.org.

Dispute Leads to Murder

March 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles police are investigating the death of a Los Angeles woman after responding to a domestic dispute call just after midnight last Sunday.

When LAPD Hollenbeck patrol officers arrived at the home in the 2800 block of Fairmount Street, they saw a group of men holding down an older man who appeared to be the suspect. One of the men had been cut.

A woman was lying on the floor unresponsive suffering from a stab wound, according to police. Officers took the suspect into custody.

LAFD rescue personnel transported both victims to a local hospital where the woman was pronounced dead and the man was treated and released.  The woman was later identified as 48-year-old Narda Huerta.

Hollenbeck detectives say the suspect was Huerta’s boyfriend. The two got into a fight, and that’s when the suspect pulled out a knife and stabbed Huerta.  A relative of the victim tried to intervene, and was also stabbed, but still managed to wrestle away the knife, said police.

The suspect, whose name was not immediately released, was arrested and booked for murder.

Reyes Announces Reward in Highland Park Teen Shooting

March 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A $50,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the suspects responsible for gunning down a high school teen in Highland Park, Councilman Ed Reyes announced last week.

The shooting occurred on April 28, 2010 just after 4 p.m., on the sidewalk outside an apartment building in the 300 block of North Avenue 57.

Jonathan Val, 17, was standing in front of the apartment building when he was approached by three male Hispanics, according to police.

The front passenger of the vehicle fired numerous rounds at Jonathan, whom police said was mistaken for a rival gang member. Jonathan was hit twice, in the front neck area and back right thigh, before he fled on foot and collapsed on the street, police said. Jonathan was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“I urge anyone with any information about this vicious crime to please come forward,” said Reyes. “Please give Jonathan’s family and friends some peace of mind so they can begin the long, painful journey of healing.”

Anyone with information regarding these incidents is asked to call Northeast Homicide Detectives L. Governo or J. Carrillo (213) 847-4261, or 1-877-LAPD-24-7. Anyone wishing to remain anonymous should call Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (800-222-8477).

Fire Forces Evacuation of Patients at Monterey Park Hospital

March 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

About 100 patients were evacuated when an electrical fire broke out at Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park on March 3, but no one was hurt, a fire captain said.

The smoky fire was reported in a third-floor utility at 7:21 a.m. at the hospital at 525 N. Garfield Ave., and firefighters put it out in 13 minutes, said Monterey Park fire Capt. Matt Hallock.

Smoke was reported on the third and fourth floors, but the fire was confined to the utility room, Hallock said. The exact cause of the fire was under investigation.

About 70 patients were evacuated from the third floor, and about 30 patients were evacuated from the fourth floor, Hallock said. All were evacuated safely.

Hospital spokesman Erik Jiang said the emergency room was not affected, but some surgeries were postponed or rescheduled. Eight patients were transferred to other hospitals, he said.

A triage area was established under the hospital’s emergency plan, and about two dozen additional doctors were called in, Jiang said.

Community Calendar & Announcements March 10-16

March 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Friday, March 11

9:30am-3pm—“March into Health” Workshops to help East LA families make better food choices. Includes recipe tasting, information booths and healthy tips. Hosted by the UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) and Foundation for Early Childhood Education, at UCCE’s office: 4800 E. Ceser E. Chavez; LA 90022. For more information, contact Brenda Roche at (323) 260-3299, bkroche@ucdavis.edu.

Saturday, March 12

9am-3pm—Residents can dispose of their household hazardous and electronic waste at a free Countywide Roundup in Pico Rivera. Hazardous waste includes antifreeze, car batteries, and used motor oil. E-waste includes old televisions, computer monitors, and stereos. It will be held at the Southern California Gas Co located at 8101 Rosemead Blvd. Limit of 15 gallons or 125 pounds of household hazardous waste per vehicle. For more information, contact the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works at 1 (888) CLEAN LA or www.888CleanLA.com or the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County at 1 (800) 238- 0172 or www.lacsd.org.

9:30am-5pm—Go Green for St. Patrick’s Day Weekend (Sat & Sun) at Kidspace: 480 N. Arroyo Blvd, in Brookside Park, Pasadena, CA, adjacent to the Rose Bowl. Make art from recycled materials; then turn on your green thumb as you pot and plant seeds Tickets for children and adults are $10; children under 12 months and members are free.  For more information, go to www.kidspacemuseum.org.

Sunday, March 13

2pm—Celebrate International Women’s Day: “Speak Out Tribute to Female Rebels, round the Globe” presented by Radical Women at Solidarity Hall, located at 2170 W. Washington Blvd., LA 90018. $3 admission plus $10 for dinner at 4pm. For more info, call (323) 732-6416/

Monday, March 14

Noon-5pm—Last week for LAND MARK: A Group Exhibition including works by James Griffith, Mike Pace, Aili Schmeltz, and Christian Tedeschi at Occidental College Weingart Gallery, 2ND FLOOR, 1600 Campus Rd, L.A, CA 90042. Regular gallery hours will be held from Noon -5pm, Monday – Friday. For more information, contact Jason

Manley at (323) 259-1409, orjmanley@oxy.edu. For maps and directions visit http://www.oxy.edu/x119.xml

Wednesday, March 16

1-5pm—Free Southeast Housing Clinic in Bell Gardens presented by the LA Center for Law and Justice in collaboration with the Human Services Association. Residents, regardless of immigration status, can receive free legal advice, preparation of court documents and court representation. Tenants must meet income eligibility requirements for all adults in household; have proof of address and photo ID. Meet at Human Service Assoc. Bell Gardens Resource Center-Board Rm,-2nd Floor: 6423 Florence Pl. Bell Gardens, CA 90201. For more info, call (323) 980-3500, ext. 18.

Upcoming

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Thursday, March 17 at Mr. T’s  Bowl in Highland Park. Enjoy a diverse and eclectic group of performers including: Celtic/Irish folk group Banna Beag Mall; Mother Echo, Cowboy Soul and U Me & The Machine. 21 & Over. $5 cover. Mr. T’s is located at 5621-1/2 N. Figueroa St., L.A. 90042. For more info, call (323) 256-7561.

Monterey Park’s Sister Cities Commission International Ball on March 18 at 6:30pm. Event will include entertainment, music, and cuisines from Monterey Park’s five sister cities. Proceeds from the event will be used toward student exchange programs for each Sister City, including: Nachikatsuura, Japan; Quanzhou, People’s Republic of China; Morelia, Mexico; Yung Ho, Taiwan; and Yeongdeungpo-Gu, Seoul, Korea. Tickets: $50 each or $500 per table. For more information, call (626) 307-1388.

Schurr High School Music and Pageantry Program Spring Benefit Dance on March 19 featuring live music by Kokoro playing dance hits from the 60s to today. Dance will be held from 8pm to Midnight at the  Alhambra/San Gabriel Elk’s Lodge: 1373 Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel 91776. Advance tickets only: $25 per person. For tickets or more information, e-mail Karen at fundraising@schurrmusic.org.

Boyle Heights Historical Society’s Coffee and Conversation with author Bruce Kaji on March 20 from 11am-1pm at Keiro Home: 325 South Boyle Ave., LA CA 90033. For more information, call (323) 240-1888 or e-mail, info@boyleheighsthistoricalsociety.org

The Bell Gardens Police Activity League will hold “Oldies but Goodies” fundraiser on March 27 to benefit the boxing club. Featuring Chris Montez, Hank Castro,  Miss “Sabor A Mi” Ersi Arvizu, Chan Romero and music provided by “Innerforce “ RJ Rodriguez.  It will take place from 2 to 7 pm at A Mi Hacienda de Pico Rivera: 9613 Whittier Blvd, Pico Rivera, Ca 90660.  For tickets or more info, contact Josie Mejia, at (562) 631-6157 or Eva Reyes (562) 806-7696.

Announcements

Aspiranet Offers Free Foster Parent Training Classes Every Month for individuals and families interested in becoming foster parents in the Los Angeles area. To learn more or register for orientation and classes, call 1-877-380-4376 or visit www.aspiranetheroes.org.

Lincoln High School Class of 1991 Alumni Wanted for the 20 Year Reunion on Oct. 1, 2011. For more information, contact Sonia Puente at (562) 405-6926; Sandra Ramirez at    lhselites1991@aol.com; Albert Vallejo at AVallejo@usc.edu or through the class FB page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Lincoln-High-Class-of-1991/104296726274536.

To submit an event or announcement to the Community Calendar, e-mail calendar@egpnews.com. All submissions are subject to space availability. Paid advertising available for guaranteed calendar placement: for more information, contact advertise@egpnews.com.

Pay Up, Corporate Tax Dodgers

March 10, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Instead of cutting state and federal budgets, the United States should crack down on the corporate tax dodgers thumbing their noses at us.

Across the nation, states are making deep cuts that will wreck the quality of life for everyone to close budget gaps that total more than $100 billion.

But there’s a more sensible option. Overseas tax havens enable companies to pretend their profits are earned in other countries like the Cayman Islands. Simply making that ruse illegal would bring home an estimated $100 billion a year.

The next time you read a story about some politician bemoaning that “there’s no money” and “we have to make cuts,” just point to artful tax dodgers in our midst.

They include some of the banks that trashed the economy but gladly took our tax dollars to stay alive after the economic meltdown. Bank of America. Wells Fargo. Citigroup.

Goldman Sachs took a $10 billion taxpayer bailout but then gamed its effective tax rate down to one percent through what its shakedown-artist executives call “changes in geographic earnings mix.” Shame on them. Pay up.

Other Words.org

See that FedEx delivery van go by on the roads you paid for? Pay up FedEx! Don’t pretend you’re not making billions in the U.S. Don’t lie and tell us you made all those profits on some island with more palm trees than people. We know the demand for coconut delivery isn’t that big.

These corporations are heavy users of our taxpayer funded public infrastructure and property rights protection systems. They use our regulated marketplace, call upon our law enforcement system and judiciary to remedy disputes. They’re protected by U.S. police forces and firefighters. They enjoy all the privileges and benefits of tax-paying citizens. They just don’t pay their fair share for them.

So, ExxonMobil: the next time your gas station erupts in flames, why don’t you call the fire department on the Cayman Islands? Or when someone holds up the joint, how about calling the Luxembourg police, since that’s where you claim your profits so you don’t have to pay the taxes you owe Uncle Sam.

Hey, Pfizer. Without our remarkable taxpayer-funded system of patents and intellectual property rights protections, everyone and their brother would be making Viagra and undercutting your sales of little blue pills. Pay up!

Those of us who pay sales taxes and have income taxes withheld from our paychecks will bear the brunt of state and federal budget cuts in schools, public transportation, and recreational facilities. Our most vulnerable family members and neighbors will suffer thanks to cuts in mental health services, elder care, and Medicaid.

Oh yes, and children. Arizona is cutting health care for 47,000 children. California, New York, and Mississippi are cutting K-12 education funding. Hey, kids don’t vote. Nor do they have corporate lobbyists. An estimated 900,000 jobs will be cut, including teachers, firefighters, police officers, and medical first responders.

Boeing, you want another contract for a taxpayer-funded military jet? Well, pay up! Pay up General Electric, Mattel, Dow Chemical, Hewlett-Packard, and Cisco. Yes, we know you pay some taxes. But look these children who are losing their health insurance and teaching aides in the eye. Tell them you’re paying your fair share.

These global corporations will complain that forcing them to pay their fair share of taxes will “kill jobs.” Let’s be clear: the patriotic businesses that currently pay their taxes and have to compete against these tax dodgers are the employers we want. Forcing domestic banks, retailers, and manufacturers to have to compete against companies that can game the tax system undercuts U.S. jobs.

The next time you’re waiting longer for a bus or train than you should, or someone you know can’t get timely mental health or drug treatment services, remember the tax dodgers. The next time your car hits a pothole or your kid’s teacher loses her job, remember the corporations that are using armies of accountants to lower their tax bills.

In a democracy, if we sit back and just grumble, we get what we deserve. We’re chumps until we wake up and force our members of Congress to stop tax haven abuse.

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies. www.ips-dc.org

Moving Past the Jobless Recovery

March 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Most of the 15 million unemployed Americans want to be back at work. What Americans need first and foremost is to be able to go to work and bring home a paycheck. Two more of my friends just lost their jobs. I have two brothers-in-law who are out of work. They aren’t lazy. They’re willing to do just about anything.

How can we revive the middle class in America? We don’t need fancy cars or McMansions. We just want to have decent jobs and be able to pay our utility bills.

We need to send a message to lawmakers that we want policies that will revive the American Dream for the broad middle class. They need to stop giving tax breaks to companies that move jobs overseas. A jobless recovery—where CEOs get bonuses and tax breaks and middle class workers’ pensions get cut—isn’t a good deal.

Our political system runs on corporate donations. Which means that unless the public demands jobs, nothing will change. CEOs will keep getting richer. Jobs will continue to be outsourced. Insurance executives will enjoy tax breaks. And pharmaceutical companies will continue to make rapacious profits.

There are no shortcuts to bringing back the American Dream. But if we raise our voices and demand that our elected officials focus on bringing jobs back to Main Street, we can change the debate. Politicians must shift away from talking about belt-tightening, while handing out tax breaks to the wealthy, to debating how to invest in the future.

Politicians need to hear from the public that this isn’t the time to cut middle-class jobs. Tell them not to fire teachers, firefighters, or cops. If lawmakers want to balance the budget now–rather than take the common sense path of waiting until we are out of the recession–they should roll back lavish government subsidies to Big Oil, drug companies, the health insurance industry, bankers, and agribusiness. They could also let the Bush tax cuts expire for those who make more than $250,000 per year. This step alone would raise $40 billion over the next year.

Now that corporations can spend unlimited money to influence elections, Americans need to vote out politicians who work to pad the pockets of the wealthy while telling the middle class to tighten their belts.

Elizabeth Rose is the communications director of Campaign for America’s Future, which is bringing together thought leaders and grassroots activists for a Summit on Jobs and America’s Future on March 10. It’s also launching a new website, www.themiddeclass.org.

Vernon Watering Hole’s Future Tied to Its Grand Past

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For fifty years time stood still at La Villa Basque, a 1960s style coffee diner, bar and restaurant hidden in the industrial landscape of Vernon.

During its hey-day, both blue-collar and white-collar trades patronized the restaurant.

“They drank beer, and they drank martinis. They were the people who trucked the long haul, and the people who were there to entertain a million dollar client. La Villa Basque was all those things to all those people,” says Eric Lynxwiler, a long-time patron and urban anthropologist who gives tours in Los Angeles.

The restaurant itself was unique. It contained three different establishments in one – a coffee shop on one end, a traditional dining area in the middle, and a smoky bar at the other end.

Though La Villa Basque has been losing money in recent years, it has attracted a small but passionate contingent of fans, especially among those who appreciate its architecture, as well as its history. They say walking into the restaurant is like a “time warp.”

Former Vernon mayor Leonis Malburg opened the restaurant in February of 1960 for his wife Leonie. It catered to workers in the slaughterhouses and meatpacking industries who formed lines out the door, and it was where the city’s big wigs wined and dined with clients.

Malburg’s grandfather John B. Leonis helped found the city of Vernon in 1905. The restaurant is still in the family and until recently served the food of the Basque region in France, which was where the family originated.

For mid-century architectural buffs, La Villa Basque is a rare bird.

“It’s such a pristine and unique place. There’s not many of these places left,” says Adrian Fine of the LA Conservancy. The conservancy recently held a banquet at La Villa Basque to honor their volunteers.

Unlike other restaurants built around the same time, it did not fall victim to the “design flavor of the month” syndrome, with remodeling happening every five to ten years, he said.

The restaurant is so well preserved that its bar area was used in a recent episode of Mad Men, a television drama known for its fanatical attention to the historical details of the three-martini lunch era.

According to Fine, La Villa Basque is “special because it’s an intact period piece from the early 1960s,” with walls, floors, and fixtures that are all architecturally consistent.

So when the conservancy noticed signs of construction work happening at the site, alarm bells were sounded. They put out an alert, hoping to halt any destruction that they suspected could occur in the process.

They knew the restaurant was probably struggling, and with new management coming in, they were worried the restaurant would be gutted.

“We totally get that it needs to be a thriving business… It’s a very isolated site, we don’t want to stand in the way of that,” Fine said. “We would be happy to promote the site, encourage our members and supporters to come out, spend money…”

Lynxwiler says the restaurant needs “all the support they can get,” but he is worried that with just the remodeling that has already occurred in the banquet hall, the restaurant may be trying to attract a different crowd.

Members of the conservancy have since met with the new managers, says Joe Eagan, who handles the restaurant’s marketing and was a past manager of the restaurant. They are reassuring the preservationists that they are on the same page.

“We don’t want to compete with the Los Angeles club scene,” Eagan said. The new management will try to “attract a lot of designers, retro people who love history and the feel of the 60s,” he said.

They are “walking carefully” in terms of their upgrades, he says. The chef and menu has changed, and they may be doing some reupholstering. The banquet hall was a “fire-trap,” and most of the work will be “to bring it up to code,” he said.

The restaurant has a new name, Viveré, which means “dare to live.” Eagan says Malburg was “ready to call it quits” after 50 years, possibly closing La Villa Basque or selling it off, which would have been a more drastic measure that would have led to the restaurant actually being gutted. Instead they hired a new management company to spruce up the place.

“Vernon can be a mecca for the arts, as opposed to a mecca for the meat packers,” Eagan said.

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