Woman Pleads No Contest in Boyle Heights Cyclist Death

March 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

A 21-year-old Los Angeles woman pleaded no contest Tuesday to vehicular manslaughter and other charges stemming from the death of a cyclist in Boyle Heights.

Wendy Stephanie Villegas pleaded no contest to one count each of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing injury and leaving the scene of an accident in connection with the crash early Sept. 14, 2013, that killed Luis “Andy” Garcia, 22, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Villegas was driving home when she struck a group of cyclists in Boyle Heights, according to Deputy District Attorney Nick Swertlow.

Garcia was killed after he was dragged for several hundred feet by a car behind Villegas’ vehicle, the prosecutor said.

Two others were injured.

Villegas is facing three years and eight months in state prison, with sentencing set April 22 in Los Angeles Superior Court, according to the prosecutor.

Monterey Park City Hall to Reopen Fridays

March 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Monterey Park city hall will reopen on Fridays beginning April 1, now that the city has done away with previously imposed furloughs that forced a cut in employee hours. 

City hall hours will be Monday through Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

City hall was closed for the past three years due to a 10% budget furlough in the wake of the recession.

Monterey Park city hall is located at 320 W. Newark Ave. For more information call (626)307-1323.


Garcetti Unveils Website to Track L.A. Spending

March 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

With his proposed budget due out next month, Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a website that provides information about the city’s spending history.

Garcetti said the online site “gives residents a better way to see how their tax dollars are being collected and spent, making L.A. city government more transparent and accountable.”

The website, at www.lamayor.org/openbudget, contains graphs and charts for budgets from 2009 until the current year, as well as details on revenue and spending in each city department.

The website cost $25,400 to produce, according to Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman.

City officials are projecting a $242 million budget deficit for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana released a report last week that recommended the city work to eliminate its structural deficit by 2018, grow its reserves, reduce the city’s vulnerability to lawsuits, hire civilians to take over some work now being performed by sworn police and firefighter, and use technology to cut costs.

Santana also recommended that city leaders back efforts to negotiate with city employee unions for agreements that would result in no raises for at least three years; change salary levels, including lowering entry-level pay; and employees paying 10 percent of their health care premiums.

The Possibility That Marijuana Could Be Legalized Should Have Local Officials Scrambling to Prepare

March 27, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

Given the possibility that multiple initiatives to more broadly legalize the sale, use and growing of marijuana could make it to the statewide ballot later this year, it seems to us the prudent thing to do is start developing local policies to control where and when pot can be smoked or otherwise consumed in public places, just as we have for alcohol and cigarette use.

All you have to do is take a look at how ill-prepared Los Angeles was for the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries, and still is, to know that same lack of planning could result in even more problems, and not just in L.A.

City Attorney Mike Feuer says his office is investigating and closing down unauthorized pot dispensaries, but those efforts are reactive, not proactive, akin to trying to “put the genie back in the bottle,” as the saying goes.

Not only has there been confusion over permitting, but there has also been very little policy regarding important concerns like proper ventilation, and the impact of second-hand smoke flowing to neighboring businesses and passersby, including children.

The possibility that voters could approve legalization this year or next should have elected officials and local policy makers scrambling to begin to develop local control measures in their jurisdictions.

Liquor store operators can not allow alcohol consumption in or around their premises; there are controls on the number of alcohol licenses allowed in certain areas and controls on signage advertising product availability, as well as other dictates when there are security concerns. The same should hold true for pot shops and where marijuana can be consumed.

In Highland Park, a pot shop on Figueroa and Avenue 59 is located right next to a bus stop and a community clinic, where babies, pregnant women and school students catch the bus. They are exposed to the fumes from the shop and its sometimes-careless patrons. Despite restrictions on hours of operation, this dispensary and others like it remain open long after the closing time specified in operating regulations.

Imagine if there were no regulations at all.

How Medicaid Fails Hispanics

March 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The White House recently began a Spanish-language media blitz encouraging people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act (the ACA or “Obamacare”)—which, for the lowest-income Americans, means Medicaid. Having a Medicaid card in your wallet is better for your health and well-being than having no coverage at all. But it’s also worse for your health and well-being than just about any other form of health insurance in America.


The fundamental problem with Medicaid is that, despite its high costs, it yields low-quality health outcomes for the millions of low-income Americans who must rely on it. In 2009, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said, “Medicaid is a caste system. It is unfair to poor people and it is unfair to taxpayers.” For the Hispanic community—which includes many lower-income people and even more taxpayers—the senator’s comments ring truer than ever.

Medicaid produces poorer coverage, poorer care, and poorer health than private insurance. The ACA is massively expanding Medicaid, further stressing the resources available to enrollees. It also forces a substantial number of people out of private insurance and into a broken program.


Hispanics and Medicaid

Hispanics are especially likely to fall into Medicaid. According to a 2013 Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) report, 30 percent of nonelderly Hispanic-Americans were enrolled in the program, compared with 15 percent of nonelderly, non-Hispanic Caucasian-Americans. According to the report, around one in four Medicaid enrollees is Hispanic, and close to one-third of nonelderly Hispanics are uninsured altogether.

These numbers understate the present and future importance of Medicaid for Hispanics—and of Hispanics for Medicaid. According to another 2013 KFF report, almost 14 million uninsured Americans who are eligible for Medicaid and related public programs are not enrolled. And a recent study by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests that millions of uninsured Hispanics may qualify for Medicaid. The ACA aims to increase Medicaid enrollees by about 15 million—a large share of whom may likely be Hispanic.


Medicaid’s Problems

So why is Medicaid such a problem for Americans in general and Hispanics in particular?

Many who sign up for Medicaid are surprised to learn that enrolling in the program does not guarantee a critical component of health: access to care. Medicaid pays doctors and hospitals less than almost any other insurance program. So, many providers—often the best ones—refuse to accept Medicaid patients. Patients get lower-quality care, and they wait longer to get it. Many give up in frustration and resort to seeking care in emergency rooms, where they encounter an entirely different set of problems. The ACA will inevitably worsen this problem by increasing demand for Medicaid services, while at the same time driving down the number of doctors willing to take Medicaid patients.


Even when a Medicaid recipient does get care, there is often little or no improvement to his or her actual health. A forthcoming book from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, “The Economics of Medicaid: Assessing the Costs and Consequences,” cites a series of medical studies in which Medicaid patients who received care ultimately were no better off than the uninsured; in some cases, their health outcomes were worse.


Under the ACA millions will lose access to private insurance coverage and instead find themselves with inferior coverage under Medicaid. For example, in any state that chooses to expand Medicaid, a family of four earning between $23,850 and $31,721 will lose eligibility for subsidized private insurance and, practically speaking, will have no choice other than to sign up for Medicaid.

For those who work for small businesses that cannot afford to provide insurance, Medicaid is also the likely fallback. Eligibility depends on income and family size, so those just starting to climb the economic ladder and those with larger families are likelier to end up in Medicaid. In industries like construction, where income rises and falls, employees may find themselves on Medicaid in some months, but not in others; many will bounce back and forth between Medicaid and private insurance—sometimes several times per year—as their income fluctuates or family members move in or out of the house.

Expanding health insurance coverage is a worthwhile objective, but society must never lose sight of the real goal: better health. Medicaid is a proven failure in achieving this goal, and there are better, fairer approaches available. One approach would be for the federal government to give states greater power to address the specific needs of their local communities. Another would be to structure Medicaid so that recipients could shift into private coverage and care. We can—and we must—seek better alternatives rather than expand an ineffective and deeply unfair program.


Dr. Robert F. Graboyes is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a coauthor of the forthcoming Mercatus Center book “The Economics of Medicaid: Assessing the Costs and Consequences.” Dr. Mario Villarreal is Economics Program Officer at the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University.


The High Price of Laziness

March 27, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

I know I shouldn’t be, but I am shocked by Americans’ laziness.

We look for the closest parking spot to the gym so that we don’t have to walk those extra few steps. We indulge in watching more cooking shows, yet actually cook less than ever. We invented the drive-thru.

Now, nearly one in five American coffee drinkers is too lazy to make coffee.

There are foods that are very complex and difficult to make. Coffee isn’t one of them. I understand why someone wouldn’t want to make homemade butter or those little French macarons. I get why my mom only made her cheese blintzes for very special occasions. That stuff takes work.

I dread my annual tomato sauce canning marathon, and I only do it because the amazing sauce that results makes easy, delicious meals all year long. And once I put all that work in, I don’t share my sauce with just anyone.

But, coffee?

I make it several times a day. And I’m pretty lazy — I’ve been known to eat whole unpeeled carrots Bugs Bunny style to avoid cutting and cooking them. If I can make coffee, anyone can.

A traditional drip coffee maker requires a few steps. Add water. Measure coffee. Grind coffee. Add filter. Place grounds in filter. Press “on.” Wait. Your coffee is ready.

You can further reduce the required work by purchasing pre-ground coffee, or – better yet –getting a coffee grinder that does the measuring for you.

For lots of folks, that’s still too much work.

Nearly 20 percent of coffee drinkers now use coffee pods. With specialized coffee makers and compatible “pods” of individual serving sizes of pre-ground coffee, one reduces the task of making coffee to: Add water, insert pod, press start, throw pod away. Fancier machines also let you add milk to make various espresso drinks.

These newfangled coffeemakers don’t come cheap. A Keurig will run you $80 or more, and Nespresso makers start at $149. Once you’re invested, you have to buy the related brand of pods — K-cups for Green Mountain Coffee’s Keurig or Nestle’s Nespresso. That alone would be my deal-breaker, because I don’t like either brand of coffee.

In their defense, Keurig offers a refillable pod for $15 (the price of my entire coffee maker) so you can add your preferred type of coffee. Which puts the onerous work of measuring and grinding back into your coffee-making process.

While it’s easy to make fun of Americans’ drive to save time in the kitchen, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. In fact, sometimes time-saving steps constitute efficiency and ingenuity, not laziness. But in this case, the new pod systems result in a staggering amount of waste and may potentially harm your health.

According to a recent Mother Jones article, all of the K-cups sold in 2013 could circle the earth 10.5 times. And every single one now resides in a landfill. Nespresso’s pods are aluminum. They have a program to collect and recycle used pods, but unless their customers actually take them up on this, it’s little more than good PR.

Then there are the health questions generated by making your coffee in little plastic pods (in the case of K-cups). The cups are made of #7 plastic, a catch-all category of “Other” plastics not included in numbers 1 through 6. Keurig refused to tell Mother Jones what type of plastic it used, or whether or not it contained possibly-carcinogenic styrene.

These new brewing systems are little more than a clever method a few companies have discovered to sell more of their own crappy coffee, without regard for the trash they create and their potential impacts on their customers’ health.

Let’s take the waste and potential health hazards out of our coffee. We don’t need to trash the planet just to get a morning buzz.


OtherWords.org columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. 


Editorial Cartoon

March 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 


LADWP Offers Saturday Hours to Fix Billing Mix-Ups

March 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Four Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customer service centers will open on Saturdays for the next eight weeks, starting with this weekend, so customers can resolve billing problems.

A major overhaul of DWP’s billing and customer information system in September led to tens of thousands of inaccurate or late bills being issued to customers. The utility has also reported a revenue shortfall after many of the bills issued in recent months went unpaid.

The Saturday hours will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Crenshaw, Van Nuys, Watts and West Los Angeles centers.

Interim Executive Director of Customer Service Randy Howard said the utility is “tackling our billing problems head-on” by offering more hours for customers to speak to customer service representatives at the four regional centers.

Staff at the customer service centers will be able to receive payments, process service order requests, answer questions about billing and resolve billing issues.

The customer service centers hosting Saturday hours are:

Crenshaw Customer Service Center, 4030 Crenshaw Blvd.;

—Van Nuys Customer Service Center, 6550 Van Nuys Blvd.;

—Watts Customer Service Center, 1686 E. 103rd St.; an

—West Los Angeles Customer Service Center, 1394 S. Sepulveda Blvd.

DWP customers can also get questions answered by visiting www.ladwp.com/ContactUs or calling 1-800-DIAL-DWP (1-800-342-5397).

Callers to the phone line can opt for the utility to call them back once a customer service representatives becomes available.

Community Calendar: March 27, 2014 – April 2, 2014

March 27, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

“Viva El Mariachi Femenil” Exhibit and Concert Saturday at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse. The exhibit follows over 100 years of women in mariachi music through photographs, videos and personal interviews. Exhibit concludes at 5pm with a concert featuring performances by Mariachi Divas de Cidy Shea, Trio Ellas and more. The exhibit is free and tickets for the concert start at $35. San Gabriel Mission Playhouse is located at 320 S. Mission Dr., San Gabriel, 91776. For tickets, visit www.mariachiwomen.org or call (626) 308-2865.

This Week:

Thursday, March 27

Times Vary-AARP Movies for Grownups Will Host Free Screenings of the New Movie César Chávez in Los Angeles. Free screenings continue March 28 and 29. Admission is free, but seating is limited. For more information and to RSVP, call (877) 926-8300 or go to http://aarp.cvent.com/CesarChavez_LosAngeles.


Friday, March 28

6:30pm—Grand Opening of Humane Society’s Pets for Life Center in Boyle Heights. Learn about pet services to be provided at site: 2940 E. 1st St., LA 90033.


Saturday, March 29

9am-12pm—Community Planning Forum/Open House In Boyle Heights. City planners will share information on three citywide initiatives to help shape the future vision for the city: Mobility Plan 2035 for transportation and safe streets; Plan for a Healthy Los Angeles, a new public health initiative to create communities where the healthiest choice is the easiest choice; and re:code LA, a comprehensive update of the City’s 1946 Zoning Code. Drop in any time. Forum will be held at Boyle Height city Hall:2130 E. First St., LA  90033.


9am-Noon—First Annual Southeast Wellness Festival in Maywood. The free festival will promote wellness, art and fitness through bike rentals, health screening, fitness clinics, healthy food market, a community art show, entertainment from local musicians and more. The event is hosted by the Maywood Lions Club, South Gate Chamber of Commerce and Florence Firestone Merchants Association. Festival will be held at Riverfront Park: 5000 Slauson Ave. Maywood 90270. Formore  info, call (323)567-1203.


9am-Noon—Students to Sell Produce at MUSD Farmers Market in Bell Gardens. Ten of the district’s gardening clubs will sell fresh, organic produce including celery, tomatoes, kale, strawberries, zucchini, and lettuce at Bell Gardens Intermediate School. Free health and wellness services will be provided as well as compost recycling and planting demonstrations. Entertainment will be provided by DJ Andres Hortua, the BGE ICES Marching Band & Stomp and the BGI Generation Dance Team. Bell Gardens Intermediate is located at 5841 Live Oak St. For more information, contact John Garza at (562) 927-1319.


11am-4pm—A Taste of Dance: Movie Moves hosted by The Music Center. Learn the moves of “Flashdance,” “Dirty Dancing,” “Saturday Night Fever,” and more. Cost is $1 for every 20-minute lesson. The Music Center is located at 135 N. Grand Ave. in downtown Los Angeles. For info, call (213) 972-3335.


5pm—“Viva El Mariachi Femeni” Exhibit Concert at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse. The exhibit follows over 100 years of women in mariachi music through photographs, videos and personal interviews. Exhibit ends with a concert featuring performances by Mariachi Divas de Cidy Shea, Trio Ellas and more. The exhibit is free and tickets for the concert start at $35. San Gabriel Mission Playhouse is located at 320 S. Mission Dr., San Gabriel, 91776. For tickets, visit www.mariachiwomen.org or call (626) 308-2865.


Monday, March 31

6-8pm—Metro Public Hearing on ExpressLanes Pilot Program at Union Station on March 31 the Fred Harvey Room. Public is invited to give feedback on program designed to alleviate congestion on LA County’s busiest freeways. For more information, including other hearing dates and sites, go to Metro.net.


Tuesday, April 1

6pm—Cesar Chavez Birthday Celebration at the East LA Library. Public invited to celebrate Chavez’s birthday by watching vintage films on the life of the civil rights leader. Mariachi Zapopan will perform. Refreshments provided by Los Amigos of the East LA Library. East LA Library is located at 4837 E. 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90022. For info, call (323) 264-0155.


To submit an event 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, email advertise@egpnews.com or call (323) 341-7970. 


Dodgers Express Bus Starts Union Station Shuttle Service Today

March 27, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

For the fifth year, baseball fans will have the option of taking a shuttle bus from Union Station to games at Dodger Stadium, beginning with today’s exhibition game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The Dodger Stadium Express bus, now featuring radios on board, is free for people with game-day tickets. It will start running 90 minutes before the first pitch and continue for 45 minutes after games, according to Metro and the Dodgers.

“This clearly is a win for the Dodgers and their fans, a win for the environment and a home run for the region,” said Diane Dubois, Metro’s board chair. “Think of all those cars that didn’t go to Dodger Stadium because people took buses instead.”

More than 186,000 fans took the Dodger Stadium Express last year, setting a record, according to the Dodgers. In 2012, Dodger Stadium Express service logged nearly 136,000 riders.

The fares of ticket-holding fans are covered under a two-year, $1.1 million Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee grant.

The newly installed radios will enable fans to hear Dodger baseball broadcasts when traveling to and from the stadium, according to Metro.

The shuttle will have two drop-off points – one behind left/center field and at the upper parking deck near Lot P, as part of an effort to speed up service, Metro officials said.

Those without a ticket can pay a one-way fare of $1.50 to catch a ride.

When the Dodgers play the Angels Thursday and Friday, fans will be able to take Metrolink Train 609 or 689 on the Orange County Line. A special train will depart Union Station an hour after the end of the game. The service also will be available when the teams play back-to-back games, starting Aug. 4.

The Dodgers regular-season home opener is April 4 against the San Francisco Giants.

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