LAPD Looking For Attempted Kidnapping Suspect

March 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Police released a composite sketch of a man who allegedly tried to drag a local high school student into his car near Cypress Avenue and Silver Street in Northeast Los Angeles late last week.

According to police, the 16-year-old Cypress Park girl, a student at Los Angeles River High School (located at the Sotomayor Learning Complex), was running late to class at about 8:20am on March 14 when a man suddenly grabbed her as she passed his pickup truck.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Policía de L.A. Busca un Sospechoso de Intento de Secuestro

The teenager managed to escape, but not before suffering minor injuries as she tried to fight the suspect off, police said during a press conference last Friday morning.

“We are not describing the injuries at this time due to our investigation, but I can tell you that she fought off the suspect and ran,” Northeast Juvenile Detective Marco Rodriguez told EGP.

The girl said she had not seen the suspect, who appeared to be in his 20s, before. She also described him as Hispanic and an English-speaker, Rodriguez said.

LAPD

Police say they don’t believe the incident is connected to the deaths of two Lincoln Heights area women, Bree’ana Guzman and Michelle Lozano. “We have no evidence or information leading us to believe that it is tied to any of those cases at the moment. Robbery Homicide Division is handling the other cases and I do not know the particulars in those” cases, Rodriguez said.

The suspect is described as Hispanic, about 5 feet 7 and 180 pounds, with acne or chicken pox scars on his face. He had a light beard at the time of the incident.
His vehicle is described as a faded red Toyota pickup truck with scrap metal or tools loaded in the rear.

Police are asking that anyone with information on the attempted kidnapping call Northeast Division detectives at (323) 344-5741, reference case number DR# 12-11-00622.

Police are urging the public to observe some potentially life saving tips when walking to school or other locations, such as always walking in groups, taking a route with high pedestrian and vehicle traffic, removing earphones and not texting or talking on the phone while walking. Looking distracted could make you a target of opportunity, according to police.

“Our victim did the right thing. It is never recommended to comply and go into the vehicle, Rodriguez said. “Yelling, fighting and running were the appropriate response for our victim.”

First-of-its-Kind Stormwater Facility Opens In Northeast LA

March 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A large metal plate covering a manhole looks out of place in a grass field at a park in Garvanza, a small community in Northeast Los Angeles in the same area as Highland Park.

It could look like a potential hazard to some, but many in the community are very excited about its location, and see it as a local asset.

The metal plate is one of the visible signs of a recently completed $3.8 million underground stormwater system that will capture and clean the water that comes from the nearby Avenue 63 storm drain. The system is the first-of -its kind in Northeast LA, and a step toward the city’s goal of improving the water quality in the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River, according to city officials.

Two underground tanks, each with the capacity to collect 2 million gallons of stormwater — or the equivalent of two Olympic-size pools — have been installed below the field at Garvanza Park, said Dept. of Public Works Bureau of Sanitation Director Enrique Zaldivar, during a press conference on Thursday.

Children try out the new exercise equipment. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

The stormwater captured in one of the tanks will be used to irrigate Garvanza Park while the rest will be released into the ground to “recharge the water table.”

Thursday’s event also included a ribbon cutting ceremony for other park enhancements, including a new irrigation system, 12 new trees, drought-tolerant grass, and new exercise equipment.

Members of the Garvanza Improvement Association thanked city officials for the projects, which over the years have also brought a skate park, little league field and two playgrounds.

“Imagine every community being able to benefit from rainwater capture, from recreation, from a kids zone, from a place to have a picnic, open space …” Tina Gulotta-Miller said.

“I am so happy, you have no idea how happy, to see what is going on at this park,” said Rosa Rivas.

Residents had been fighting for improvements since long before Jose Huizar became their city council representative, Rivas said, thanking the councilman for his support and efforts to bring about these latest improvements.

The park had to be partially closed for two years so construction crews could install the underground stormwater capture facility, which looks like a one-story concrete building.

North East Trees Director Mark Kenyon thanked the children at the event for letting them dig up their park for the underground project. He explained the importance of water conservation as the Earth’s temperature “starts to warm up,” and the need to use less energy to bring water to the region. He also talked about the importance of cleaning the water in the Arroyo Seco watershed that leads to the LA River.

Kenyon and others noted the recent passing of North East Trees founder Scott Wilson and his many contributions to local conservation efforts such as habitat restoration, including his teachings about environmental stewardship.

“The new Garvanza Park Rainwater Irrigation Project will improve the environmental health of our local community while the new exercise equipment will improve the physical health of its residents. I want to thank the Bureau of Sanitation, the Department of Recreation and Parks, the Garvanza community and especially, North East Trees, for their assistance in making today possible,” Huizar said.

The City of Los Angeles has two other stormwater capturing facilities, and two more in the works, according to Huizar’s office.

The project was funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency, State Propositions 40 and 13, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Stormwater Pollution Abatement fund.

In addition, about $22,000 in Quimby Park improvement funds was used for the fitness equipment, according to Huizar’s office.

Students from nearby Garvanza Elementary School were also at Thursday’s event. Following the formal presentations, Board of Public Works Commissioner John Choi encouraged the students to lie down on the grass, and listen to the water below.

EDITORIAL: LAFD Needs More Transparency, Not More Cover Ups

March 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

It seems as if transparency is always in danger when information about public entities is not to their liking.

The latest government agency feeling threatened, and rightfully so, is the Los Angeles City Fire Department. Rather than responding to criticisms over the department’s failure to be truthful in how it reports its data with a plan to remedy the situation, the LAFD has instead decided to become even less transparent.

On Tuesday — though they did do some back peddling on Wednesday— LAFD officials issued a notice that it will no longer release any information to the media regarding calls for service to the fire department for fires, ambulance and paramedic service, or other items the media usually gets from the departments’ public information office. Rather than inspiring confidence in the department, their decision only makes us wonder what else they are trying to hide.

There is no doubt that the information they are now trying to squelch should be available to the public, especially since it’s the public that pays for the fire department.
This edict will also result in a lot of misinformation and more media helicopters flying around emergency incidents, as news crews try to gather information not provided by the department.

LAFD claims City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has instructed the LAFD not to give out information about its activities.

The worry of course is that information could eventually be used in lawsuits brought against the department for failing to respond to an emergency situation within the acceptable timeframe.

The LAFD’s admission that its response times were longer than what they had reported to the public and city council, potentially endangering life and property, only begs for greater transparency in how the department does its job.

The LAFD and city attorney need to understand that they work for the public and need to provide information to the public’s information providers.

Mayor Villaraigosa and the city council should act swiftly to get to the root of the problem, and stop the department from covering up its failures.

Open Letter to East L.A. Residents

March 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Related Op-Ed: Open Letter to Ben Cardenas and the Unincorporated East Los Angeles Community

The East L.A. dream of self and local governance goes beyond the actual incorporation of a city. As we reflect upon the past four and half years of hard work and unwavering determination of Cityhood supporters, we have come to realize that we’ve accomplished many of the goals we set out to achieve from the beginning.

East L.A. has experienced 40 years of neglect; lack of meaningful economic investment and less than full time accountability that has financially handicapped a community that should otherwise be one of the top 10 cities in L.A. County.

Consequently, the result of these less than ideal conditions that our beloved East L.A. has experienced over the past 4 decades was used against our fight for change and the right to choose our future.

Although LAFCO’s decision to disapprove our Cityhood application and not grant us an extension for further examination of the finances was beyond disappointing, all is not lost. As a matter of fact, much was gained from our efforts:

—Through the Cityhood movement we, the residents of East L.A., paid to bring the so rightfully deserved and long overdue (38 years) economic data and budget to our community— information that residents in all our neighboring cities enjoy on an annual basis at no cost. Let us all be proud that We did it!

—Through the Cityhood movement our community now enjoys a level of accountability non-existent before we shed light on the exorbitant and out of sight costs for services that we currently pay for, but without direct oversight through the lens of taxpayer equity and community development.
We, the residents, were not afraid to question the status quo in pursuit of accountability.

—Through the Cityhood movement we served as a catalyst for community investment that goes beyond just replacing new street signs, but rather resulted in more capital improvement projects.

May I remind us all that many of the current infrastructure projects you see today coincidentally began after our Cityhood movement started.

—Through the Cityhood movement many residents have come to realize that true civic engagement goes beyond merely busing a susceptible minority to meetings for the sole purpose of representing a deceiving “opposition” and to stand against a righteous cause.

Cityhood has civically engaged thousands of past and present East L.A. residents to courageously dream of a brighter future and created a platform for ALL to exercise their free will and truly discover what it means to stand For something.

Before Cityhood, very few dared to see past our community’s current state of financial dependency.

While the entrenched status quo argued that we cannot self govern; East L.A. residents have proven through their efforts that we have begun to SELF-GOVERN!

While it was argued that we don’t have the means for self-sufficiency; East L.A. residents have proven through their efforts to be SELF-SUFFICIENT!

Cityhood created a safe PLATFORM for ALL voices to be heard; and challenged all to live beyond the past and bravely envision the march into the future.

Thus, as we all reflect on our accomplishments, it is evident that Cityhood is far from over… I venture to say WE are barely getting started!

Let us all come together to build upon our achievements and continue to foster the level of free thinking that inspires our children and future generations to boldly live the present where the power of self-sufficiency and self-governance become the reward of a brighter future…

Let us get started … Together in Progress!

Benjamin Cárdenas
ELARA President & Proud East L.A. Resident

Transparency, the Cure for Scandal

March 22, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

“My child was cyber-bullied by one of her classmates,” says a mom from one of the local school districts in Los Angeles County. Fortunately for this mom she knew what to do. Thanks to One Million NIU trainers Camille and Anna, this parent made a screen print of the cyber-bullying message and took the issue up with the school principal. The perpetrator of the cyber-bullying was subsequently suspended and peace of mind was restored to the child being bullied.

Many cyber-crimes are being committed against and targeted at our children, which makes it imperative to get parents the on-line tools they need to protect their children on the Internet. Commissioner Timothy Simon of the California Public Utilities Commission told me, “law enforcement’s number one issue is identifying predators who are attempting to do bad things to our children posing as someone they are not.”

The One Million NIU Initiative is teaching parents across the state how to protect their children from these on-line predators. One mom from the Duarte Unified School District told one hundred parents, community members and administrators in the audience at her One Million NIU graduation ceremony, “there are a lot of sick people out there” and was thankful the school district and the NIU Team joined forces to teach her how to better protect her child from on-line predators. No doubt, knowledge begets transparency, and those school districts that have embraced the NIU Initiative are reaping significant benefits for their parents and the children in their schools.

Which begs the question: What in the world is going on at LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District)? Parent’s worlds have been rocked by the recent sexual abuse allegations at Miramonte Elementary School and at another school in the district. According to some parents who currently have children enrolled in LAUSD schools, not enough is being done to create the transparency needed to make the schools safer. The newly formed – cornerstone parent component of LAUSD, Parents as Equal Partners Advisory Committee, is supposed to be the vehicle to create the transparency, giving parents a voice and access to the system. However, based on the two meetings I have attended, as a parent advocate and concerned citizen, LAUSD seems to be going in the opposite direction of greater transparency.

“Parents as Equal Partners Advisory Committee (PEPAC), has made quorum on only one occasion in it’s almost 9 months of existence,” said Roberto Fonseca, the President of the District Advisory Committee (DAC) for LAUSD. The DAC is a state mandated parent Title I committee. With two armed and uniformed school police officers stationed at the door during the PEPAC meetings, our undocumented parents appear to be unwelcomed, even though a sizeable share of the hundreds of millions of dollars in Title I funding is a result of the undocumented families attending LAUSD schools. Beyond the unwelcoming nature of the PEPAC meetings are it’s diversity challenges. Not a single parent on the Executive Committee is Latina. LAUSD’s student body is comprised of more than 80% Latinos.

PEPAC was not elected/formed by the parents of LAUSD. In fact, PEPAC has less than 4 parents, in a committee of 30 adults, who have children currently enrolled in the district. A former Judge who now has a child attending LAUSD schools said, “PEPAC has violated both Brown and/or Green Acts in each of the meetings they have convened.” Given the public nature of both the building and the funding to which the PEPAC has oversight, this could possibly warrant an investigation by the state.

These intolerable circumstances must be corrected immediately. This can be accomplished with greater parent access and increased ownership avenues for parents. A cure could be to create a position for parents equal in hierarchy to the Superintendent of LAUSD. In so doing, the elected School Board can hear directly from their parents, in an official capacity. Precedence for this position is the Special Counsel appointed in 2004, where the LAUSD school board voted to get their own attorney. Here, they get their own parent advocate, a key to increasing transparency and the immediate safety of our children. Parents: their money, their schools.

L.A. Ortega is president of the non-profit corporation Community Union, Inc, which provides computer technology training and computer redeployment programs to youth and adults from 8 Community Technology Centers located throughout the greater Los Angeles region. He can be reached at Lortega@communityunion.org.

Council Members Skeptical of LAFD Information Policy

March 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Two members of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee reacted with skepticism Wednesday to a new policy by the Los Angeles Fire Department to withhold basic information about fires, medical calls or other emergencies it responds to.

LAFD Chief Brian L. Cummings issued a statement late Tuesday saying the department was limiting the information — such as incident locations and injury information — to conform with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, a medical privacy law.

City Councilman Mitch Englander, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said the new policy does not seem to make sense. He called a special committee meeting for 2 p.m. Friday to discuss the issue and other problems facing the LAFD.

“I understand that under HIPAA laws, there is some information that should be withheld in terms of names. That’s one issue. But not disclosing specific addresses and locations, I have a real problem with, particularly from a matter of public safety.

“If we have to alert people or the media that there’s a major incident going on, people want to avoid the area, we have to do evacuations of the area, because of a bomb threat or something else, I don’t know how you withhold that information,” Englander added.

The abrupt policy change came as the department has been criticized in recent weeks for misleading city officials about its response times. The department has also disclosed recent dispatch problems that led to several 9-1-1 calls going immediately unanswered.

Public Safety Committee Vice Chair Jan Perry called the new policy “shocking,” adding that “it’s critically important on major incidents to share location information.”
If the department is trying to cover up dispatch problems, Perry said, “we can not allow that to stand.”

The department policy began over the weekend, when the LAFD stopped providing locations for emergency calls such as fires and traffic collisions.

On Tuesday, the department sent out a media alert that it had doused a house fire, but failed to provide the location of the blaze. A department spokesman later declined to provide a location on a collision between a food truck and a car in downtown Los Angeles, citing the new policy.

The department appeared to ease up on the policy slightly Wednesday, providing a street name and block number where an electrical fire occurred, and confirming an evacuation that took place at West Adams Preparatory High School west of downtown due to a nearby electrical problem.

Cummings said the department is “only permitted to release Protected Health Information for the purposes of treatment, billing and operations under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, without the patient’s permission.”

“The department is currently seeking written advice from the city attorney relative to the release of incident-specific PHI to a variety of internal and external sources including elected officials, commissions, the media and associated stakeholders,” Cummings said. “The city attorney has preliminarily opined that the department should immediately cease the practice of releasing PHI to any source not specifically authorized under the Privacy Rule’s treatment, billing and operations exemption.”

However, Chief Deputy City Attorney William Carter said the City Attorney’s Office has not changed its legal opinion in recent years on how to abide by medical privacy laws when releasing information about medical emergencies to the public.

“The City Attorney’s Office does not have a practice or pattern of ordering media blackouts,” Carter said. “We don’t give orders to the police chief, and we don’t give orders to the fire chief.

“The city attorney provides legal advice and recommendations to our client just as with every other department. We don’t make policy,” Carter added.

Englander said the timing of the new policy could not be worse.

“We’re looking for more accountability, more truth in disclosure. We’re looking for more answers and for the department to be more transparent,” Englander said. “Now’s not the time to come out with something that they want to keep from the public, no matter what that is.”

At One Time, She Was the Top Latina In Broadcast Television Management

March 22, 2012 by · 4 Comments 

Well known for her civic and religious activities as well as her distinguished career in communications, Diana Munatones passed away at Arcadia Methodist Hospital last Saturday, March 18. She was 66.

According to her family, she was surrounded by family and friends when she died.

Born in Greeley, Colorado on March 12,1946 to the late Reverend Jose and Lily Padilla, Munatones’ early years were spent following her father’s ministry throughout the Southwest, living in Texas and New Mexico before finally settling in Los Angeles; Diana was thirteen.

Diana Munatone

After completing college, which included studying Journalism and Public Relations East Los Angeles College and earning her B.A. and M.A. degrees in Spanish from Cal State Los Angeles in 1970, Munatones embarked on what would be a distinguished career in communication management.

In a statement announcing Munatones’ passing, family and friends recalled that Diana started out as a television production assistant, and worked her way up through the various ranks of television to become a producer, host, writer and director of many cable, local and network television programs in English and Spanish.

Her broadcast career started in 1973 at KCBS, formerly known as KNXT Channel 2, a CBS owned and operated television station as the host of “Bienvenidos,” and co-host of “It Takes All Kinds.”

In 1977 she joined KNBC TV as a reporter and associate producer and host of the “Today Show.” She was also associate producer for the Emmy Award nominated “Noticiero Estudiantil” on KLCS Channel 58 and staff teacher for Emmy Award winning English version Student News. She was also host/producer for “Summer Faire” on the local PBS station.

By 1977, as Director of Community Broadcast Relations at KNXT and Director of Special Projects for CBS Inc, Munatones was the highest-ranking Latina in television broadcast management.

Munatones also had a lifelong relationship with the Los Angeles Unified School District, first as a student and years later as LAUSD’s Director of Communications. She was hired in 1988.

While at LAUSD, she worked with KLCS-58 television developing a weekly newscast of district news both in English and Spanish. She also produced special programs for the school district, supervised Internal Communications, Public Information and created LAUSD’s Translations Unit. She retired from the District in 2009 as a site coordinator/teacher.

Munatones was married twice, the first time in 1965 to Conrad Munatones. She would keep Munatones as her professional name while married to the now deceased Robert E. Brimberry.

Diana was involved with many civic and religious groups, raising money for needy people, groups, and organizations, including the Latin American Assemblies of God churches pastured by her father (deceased) Rev. Jose Padilla, where she served as the charitable contributions director. While with the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, she personally identified and selected 25 local ethnically diverse community groups to receive the Foundation’s first $16 million in grants.

Munatones also produced many fundraising events, such as telethons for community groups and television and theater premieres such as Zoot Suit with Edward James Olmos in conjunction with CBS/KNXT.

Munatones was appointed to serve as a member of the Foreign Policy Advisory Commission under President Jimmy Carter. She was a member of the Board of Directors of Centro de Ninos, the Mexican Cultural Institute, and served as an advisor on grant writing and proposal editing for individuals and institutions. She was also a member of the
Order of Eastern Star Hollywood Chapter 21 in South Pasadena and Order of the Amaranth Golden Crown Court No. 2 Masonic Center in Rosemead, CA.

She is survived by her daughters Cozette and Sharon, her son Brian and daughter-in- law Stefanie Munatones, grandson Jonas Benedikt Munatones, 5 sisters and 2 brothers, their spouses, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Details of a Celebration of Diana’s Life Memorial Service scheduled for April 18th, 2012, have not yet been released. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to be made to Centro de Ninos, Inc. and “Hooked on Jesus” Huron Rescue Mission in Munatones’ name.

Students Take Charge in Commerce, Bell Gardens

March 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Hundreds of high school seniors from Commerce and Bell Gardens took over their city halls last week, shadowing city workers and assuming leadership roles as council members for a day.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOLEstudiantes Asumen Control de los Consejos de Commerce y Bell Gardens

Students took on local issues such as the city budget, transportation policies, and local crime statistics at the annual student government day held on March 15.

Thirty-six Commerce students participated in government day. (Photo by Jason Stinnett)

This year 36 students participated in government day in Commerce. “At first, the [students] were like, ‘What is this?’ but they quickly found it was an eye opening look at how city government works,” said Commerce Teen Center Supervisor Lucinda Blancarte, who has organized the government day event in Commerce for the past twenty years.

The student council members discussed city matters that pertained to their own lives, such as the city’s youth employment program, the library’s scholarship program, and recent changes in shuttle transportation policies that could affect how youth get around the city.

In Bell Gardens, 170 students took part in government, according to Bell Gardens city worker Monse Palacios. The mock student council took on actual agenda items that were approved by Bell Garden’s city council, she said.

The students also shadowed employees for 45 minutes, and took in a presentation by Ernie G, a motivational speaker, during a luncheon.

170 Bell Gardens students participated in government day. Left to right: Priscilla Silva, Leslie Rea, Abigail Carrera, Mariana Ortega, Christian Botello. (Photo Marco Barcena)

Students apply to participate in the Bell Gardens and Commerce government days. Mock city council members are chosen based on those applications.

At a recent Montebello Unified school board meeting, Board Member Gerri Guzman suggested the district hold its own government day event to teach students about how school districts work.

Suspect in Eastside Standoff Walks into Police Station, But Not to Turn Himself-In

March 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

(EGPNews) – A man in his 30’s eluded police in an early morning standoff, only to eventually walk into the Hollenbeck Police Station and be arrested.
He did not intend to turn himself in.

The suspect, who has not been identified, allegedly threatened his girlfriend with a weapon, and triggered a stand off with police, according to Sgt. Rick Colombia, assistant watch commander for Hollenbeck.

The incident, which was later turned over to a SWAT team, began at about 2:55 a.m. on Sunday, March 18, near Wabash Avenue and Mott Street, and prompted the evacuation of some nearby homes, Sgt. Kevin Moore told City News Services.

When the SWAT team entered the home where the man was believed to be holed up, they did not find him. However, roughly 20 minutes after the area was cleared, the suspect walked into the police station, Colombia told EGP.

The man told officers he wanted to file a police report against his girlfriend and while answering a series of questions for the report, the officers “realized it was the same guy” who initiated the standoff a few hours earlier, Colombia said.

The suspect is in custody and faces charges for criminal threats. He claimed his girlfriend assaulted him, but no charges were filed against her because there was no evidence, Colombia said.

‘Avenues’ Gang Members Engage in Highland Park Shootout

March 22, 2012 by · 5 Comments 

(EGPNews) – Three known “Avenues” gang-members were arrested over the weekend after a gunfight that left a bystander injured.

The three alleged suspects — Javier Melendez, 26, Mauricio Melendez, 24, and Jose Luna, also 24 — were on the sidewalk near the Fallas Paredes shopping center On Figueroa on Friday night, drinking and flashing gang signs to passing vehicles when one of them pointed a gun at security guards in a car in the parking lot, according to Northeast LAPD Detective Rick Ortiz.

Seeing the threat, the security guards exited the vehicle and a shooting ensued, Ortiz told EGP. Ortiz said police believe the security guards were acting in self-defense.
An innocent bystander in a nearby home was hit in the arm by a stray bullet, Ortiz said.

The incident remains under investigation. Melendez, Melendez and Luna are charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

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