Vernon Workers Fear Job Loss, Environmentalists See Hope in AB 46

March 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A Los Angeles city councilwoman on Tuesday found herself having to address feelings of “angst” brought on by a bill to disband Vernon, a neighboring city.

Speaking to a council chamber filled with workers, employers, union leaders and officials from the industrial city, Councilwoman Janice Hahn noted the concerns of “people who are worried about jobs” and “businesses who are worried about their bottom line.”

They have a right to be “afraid,” she said. Losing Vernon means losing a “structure they have come to know, maybe not love,” that has been a “provider of jobs, stability, the ability to feed their families and keep their own households going.”

Hahn made a show of insisting that State Assembly Speaker John Pérez – who was there to testify in support of his bill to dis-incorporate Vernon – report back to the city with an amendment to protect the 50,000 jobs believed to be in Vernon.

The bill must ensure the “stability of electrical generation rates, public safety services, land use regulations, and the current business tax structure,” or else Los Angeles will not support it, said Hahn, who recently announced she is running for Congress.

Hahn took her proposal to annex Vernon off the table in an attempt to remove suspicions that Los Angeles had ulterior motivations of going after potentially profitable resources in Vernon.

A man (center) stands in support of Vernon. He wears a sticker that says “Save Union Jobs.” (EGP photos by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

Pérez went to Los Angeles City Hall to garner support for his bill, AB 46, and he got it, with the city passing a resolution to support it. But ultimately the victory that day was reflected in the jubilation of the environmental justice groups who also helped to fill council chambers to capacity on Tuesday.

While Vernon employers, workers and labor representatives, one after the other, took to the public speaking podium to voice opposition to the bill, another large group of speakers, mostly representing environmental health and justice causes, were there to see to it that Los Angeles put its support behind Pérez’s bill.

“I’m a hundred percent for AB 46,” said Hector Alvarado, a resident of Maywood and member of the Padres Unidos de Maywood.

Tax dollars and the trust of the people in Bell were at stake when the corruption of public officials there was exposed. In the case of those who live in communities around Vernon, there is a belief that their health is at stake.

“We have asthma, allergies, and lots of sickness thanks to Vernon,” Alvarado said. He added later, “I’m also union. I’m also a worker.”

Isella Ramirez, who grew up near Vernon, believes Vernon allows polluting industries, while disregarding the health of surrounding communities. Ramirez is Co-Executive Director of East Yard Communities For Environmental Justice. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

Isella Ramirez, who represents East Yard Communities For Environmental Justice, also supports AB 46. While growing up in Commerce, a neighboring city that also has a large concentration of industry and businesses, she viewed Vernon as a “cloud of pollution and corrupt government.”

Upon returning from college, Ramirez was “greeted” by Vernon’s proposal to build a “toxic” power plant. “Thank god we were successful” in fighting it, but there is always the possibility the project will come back, she said.

“I hope that you really consider my niece… who is fighting cancer,” she told the Los Angeles City Council. “There is no scientific data for me to know that it comes from Vernon, but knowing the type of industries that are there now, enjoying the benefits that the corrupt city of Vernon gives them, I know that they have something to do with it.”

She believes doing away with Vernon will help ensure “companies that are corrupt and that don’t care about the community’s health and the workers’ health are no longer here,” near communities like the one she grew up in.

While most who opposed the bill argued it would be a job killer, one Vernon property owner took some time during his public oral to dispute the claims being made by the environmentalists in the room.

“People make it sound like Vernon is polluting in excess of other cities in the region,” said Steve Freed, a property owner in Vernon. “That’s just not true. Vernon is mandated by the same federal and state pollution standards that every other municipality is mandated under, so nothing can be built in Vernon that doesn’t receive state and federal approval on the environmental issues. In fact it is important that you know that.”

Pérez went to Los Angeles city hall with environmental issues in mind, inviting activists and politicians who have long fought against Vernon on environmental issues to a press conference prior to the meeting.

County Supervisor Gloria Molina and others called Vernon many names on Tuesday. She accused Vernon of “masquerading as a city, when it is in fact nothing but a company town.”

She also called Vernon a “bad neighbor to all of its surrounding cities and communities.”

She said she fought the “Vernon incinerator” project “for almost decades it seems.” In recent years Vernon proposed a 943-watt power plant that was dubbed the Southeast Regional Energy Center.

She says the city has a history of trying to thwart efforts to intervene in the project by hiring “very expensive lobbyists and lawyers and others to keep us out of the process.”

Vernon officials say they ultimately pulled the plug on the project because of opposition from surrounding communities, but it was actually unable to obtain the emission credits necessary to approve the project. Molina says the surrounding communities were lucky to have been able to “build a coalition to overcome” the project, and to have “strong state and regional laws” backing them.

Vernon officials often say the natural gas power plant would have taken other, dirtier power plants off-line, but Molina says the one they proposed is just as dirty.

“It wasn’t power that was just going to be going here [for local use]. It was power they were going to be selling to other parts of the state, so it was again a city, who was just not allowing any kind of public discourse,” she said.

Though Vernon is subject to the same outside environmental regulations as any other city, Molina feels the city has not shown a commitment to protecting the health of its neighboring communities and its workers. “Had it been exclusively the decision of Vernon, we would have been left with the pollution that the Vernon Power Plant would have created,” she said.

Father John Moretta of Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights, on right, supports AB 46. (EGP photos by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

Pérez also invited Father John Moretta of Resurrection Church in Boyle Heights, a community activist who fought against the proposed power plant project to speak.

“It took us three years to defeat that. And the power plant was estimated to kill some thirty-three people in a year,” while Vernon “made no intervention to make any changes that accommodate our health,” he said.

Moretta does not believe that with the current political structure, the situation would be any different, “because the bottom-line has always been with the city of Vernon, the money.”

EGP published a story last week about several labor unions’ support of Vernon. This and other related stories are available at EGPNEWS.COM

Agente del Alguacil Fuera de Servicio es Apuñalado en el Este de Los Ángeles

March 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Un oficial del alguacil del Condado de Los Ángeles, que estaba fuera de servicio, el 26 de febrero balaceo a un presunto sospechoso que apuñaló a otro diputado y que luego se lanzó al otro en el Este de Los Ángeles. Según un teniente del alguacil, el incidente se desarrollo después de que el sospechoso y otros dos hombres enfrentaron a los oficiales del hecho de simplemente estar en la zona.

El apuñalamiento y tiroteo que involucró a dos agentes del alguacil se produjo alrededor de las 3:50 am en la cuadra 4500 de East Third Street, dijo la Teniente Kimberly Unland de la Sede de la Oficina del Alguacil.

“Dos oficiales fuera de servicio y dos amigos civiles iban caminando hacia sus vehículos en un estacionamiento cuando fueron enfrentados por tres sospechosos que exigían saber lo que los oficiales y los acompañantes estaban haciendo en el área”, dijo Unland.

Los dos grupos discutieron y los agentes se identificaron, Unland dijo.

Los sospechosos—quienes han sido identificados como Antonio Carlin, de 24 años de edad, Michael Gómez, también de 24 años, y Alexander Galarza de 22 años—dejaron de discutir con los agentes y comenzaron a alejarse, Unland dijo.

“En ese momento los oficiales comenzaron a caminar hacia sus vehículos”, dijo Unland. “Cuando uno de los oficiales se acercaba a su vehículo, el sospechoso Carlin de repente se le acerco de nuevo y sin provocación, saco un cuchillo y apuñaló al oficial en el abdomen”.

Unland dijo otro que el agente vio el apuñalamiento, sacó su arma de servicio y ordenó a Carlin que se detenga y se deje caer al suelo.

“El sospechoso Carlin se negó y se hecho hacia él con el cuchillo todavía en su mano”, dijo Unland. “El oficial, temiendo por su seguridad, disparó una ronda de su arma de servicio, hiriendo al sospechoso Carlin en el abdomen”.

El oficial herido fue trasladado a un hospital donde fue sometido a cirugía y fue listado en condición estable.

Carlin también fue sometido a la cirugía y también se encontraba en condición estable, Unland dijo. Al salidar del hospital, Carlin será arrestado y fichado por intento de asesinato de un policía.

Nadie más resultó herido. Un cuchillo fue recuperado en el lugar, Unland dijo.

Gómez y Galarza fueron arrestados por intento de asesinato de un policía. Cada uno esta tras las rejas bajo una fianza de un millón de dólares.

Breves de la Comunidad

March 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Condado de Los Ángeles

La Autoridad Metropolitana de Transportación del Condado de Los Ángeles (Metro) el 24 de febrero anunció que esta en negociaciones para comprar la Estación Union en el Centro de Los Ángeles. La compra de $75 millones incluye 38 acres de terreno y el hogar de Amtrak, Metrolink, los trenes ligeros Metro Rojo, Morado y de Oro, y además varios autobuses que proporcionan servicio al Condado de Los Ángeles. Se anticipa que la venta se finalizará en abril. La estación “Union Station” fue construída en 1939 y es un punto prominente nacional registrado por su importancia histórica.

Centro de Los Ángeles

El 25 de febrero el Concejo de la Ciudad de Los Ángeles apoyo una asignación de $1 millón para el proyecto de una tranvía en el Centro de Los Ángeles. El proyecto “Downtown L.A. Streetcar” es una asociación privada y pública para revitalizar el corredor Broadway. Los fondos aprobados de manera unánime deriven de la Medida R y financiarán las fases de ingeniería y análisis del impacto sobre el medio ambiente. El proyecto liderado por el Concejal José Huizar también incluye financiamiento por la Agencia de Redesarrollo Comunitario de Los Ángeles (CRA/LA). Actualmente se esta solicitando una subvención federal. La construcción podría comenzar tan pronto como el año 2014. Para más información visite

Noreste de Los Ángeles

El juicio de un ex capitán de bomberos de ciudad de Los Ángeles continua. David Del Toro, de 54 años, el 24 de febrero, negó haber golpeado y estrangulado a una mujer cuyo cuerpo fue abandonado en una calle de Eagle Rock en 2006. Del Torro fue acusado de haber matado a la mujer después de que un camino de sangre desde el cadáver desnudo y ensangrentado llegó a la camioneta del ex capitán que estaba estacionada en su hogar a menos de una milla del cadáver. Del Torro ha negado haber matado a la mujer y dijo que no hubo ninguna mala voluntad entre los dos. Además Del Torro dijo que no ha temido cooperar con la investigación porque no hizo el crimen. Él insiste que fue incriminado por el verdadero asesino. Como bombero, Del Toro trabajo en varias estaciónes de la zona incluso la estación de bomberos de Lincoln Heights.


Bell Gardens

Ayer, 2 de marzo, se inauguró la gran apertura del Centro de Recursos de Empleo y Educación de Bell Gardens. El centro proporcionará información a residentes con la asistencia del varias organizaciones cercanas. El centro esta ubicado en 6423 E. Florence Place #103, el número de teléfono es (323) 585-4579

Commerce, Monterey Park Elections: Don’t Vote For Strangers, Part II

March 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

You have your ballot, but have you figured out who you’ll pick? To help introduce you to the people trying to win your vote, EGP interviewed nearly every candidate in the Monterey Park and Commerce elections set for Mar. 8.

The candidates run the gamut from experienced leaders to eager newcomers. Each has an interesting story, as well as important views on local matters that affect you directly. This is the second half of the interviews published last week. The first half is here.

Commerce Election: Two Seats Open

Elizabeth Flores
“With 1,800 businesses and companies, there should be a job for everybody in this city – plus another city,” says 35-year resident and council candidate Elizabeth Flores.

The unemployment rate in Commerce should not be over 20 percent like it is now, she says. “People have families. They need to pay for their homes. People are losing their homes. That shouldn’t be,” she says.

Flores doesn’t think it would be “very hard” to get a committee together, to put together a list of available jobs each month, and pass them out on flyers to residents. The problem is city officials often seem to forget the people they serve, she says.

“The city belongs to everybody,” she says. “It doesn’t belong to council members. It belongs to the residents.” She tells people that council members “are there to listen to your concerns, not just to sit up there looking pretty.”

Though reluctant at first, Flores said she decided to run because it would give her more power to help those who go to her with their problems.

Flores admits she appeared nervous speaking publicly at a recent candidates’ forum, but says she has no problem being assertive when she has to be.

She walks in her neighborhood every morning and feels she is very approachable. “I think I’m friendly. I’ll speak to anybody,” she says.

Flores moved to Commerce in 1975 when her daughter was one and a half years old, and currently works as a substitute teacher. She has also served on the city’s Library and Education commissions.

Jose Acero
Twenty-eight year resident and council candidate Jose Acero says he did not think twice about helping a neighbor chase down a burglary suspect last September. “I care about my community. If I didn’t care about my community, I could have easily just made a phone call,” he said.

Acero is a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy so facing down a suspect came naturally for him. But he was also off-duty and driving to celebrate a sixteenth year anniversary with his wife, he said.

Acero says he will bring the same attitude if elected to city council, taking quick action in protecting residents’ access to city services and getting city staff to better respect those who cannot afford recent fee hikes.

Though some people view the new fees as tolerable, he says, “the truth is… there is a large group of people that are not okay with it.”

Acero says he would introduce a waiver system, which would still charge people who can afford the fees, but allow others to apply for exemptions based on their income.

“We should not marginalize people,” he says, because in his experience, it only causes those who are pushed aside to “make poor decisions,” sometimes to the point of breaking the law.

Meanwhile, a new $50 fee for putting up a tarp in residents’ yards violates the “private rights of our citizens,” he says. The city is running the program “as though it were a [homeowner’s] association.”

Together with his slate running mate George Kevanian, he is running a “simple” campaign by not taking any financial contributions and focusing on convincing one voter at a time through a door-to-door campaign.

Ray Gordy Cisneros
Candidate Ray Gordy Cisneros’ reputation often precedes him, but he says residents are usually surprised when they meet him personally. They tell him, “You’re a lot different than what people say you are.”

Cisneros completed his last council term in 2005 amid accusations that he was a child molester, allegations he says are false, and the discovery of child pornography on his city-issued laptop, for which he has denied responsibility. He says the authorities investigated and found nothing.

Cisneros says he is forging ahead, asking people to really look at his record as a councilman. “Nobody ever said Gordy was a bad councilman,” he said.

When he was on council, things got done, he said. He was part of the council team that helped establish the teen center, and the YMCA daycare, and he claims credit for being part of the early talks for expanding the Citadel Outlet to what it is now, and says he helped to initiate the urban entertainment center project. He was one of the first to respond to the Commerce derailment, and he also helped the city weather a budget crisis back in 2001, he says.

He wants to bring “mobile” city council meetings back, holding meetings at different locations, as the city did when he was on the council.

While the accusations continue to dog him in his campaigns, he says “what’s kept me going all these years is my faith in the truth.”

“I’m not saying it hasn’t been a difficult campaign. It has been,” he says, but he tries “to be truthful and upfront” when talking to people.

Cisneros adds there is a double standard because two council members are now facing accusations of their own. “I’m not the one being investigated by the District Attorney’s office, and I’m not being indicted by a federal grand jury,” he said.

Cisneros has worked as a public affairs consultant in many political campaigns, including school board and assembly races, and says he has been part of every campaign in Commerce since 1972.

Jaime Valencia

Candidate Jaime Valencia says the current council majority uses “personal feelings to run the city, when they should be using professional feelings.”

He suspects some officials make decisions based on whether they like a person. “I don’t have to like someone to work with that person,” he says. “If it’s good for the city, I’ll work with that person.”

As a councilman he will include all neighborhoods in Commerce. Veterans Park, Bristow Park, and Ferguson neighborhoods are often neglected, he says. “They feel abandoned… They call and complain for certain city issues, and it might take a long time to take care of, or sometimes they just forget,” he says.

Valencia says he would also be good at bringing businesses into town because of his business experience and connections.

Another major issue that concerns him is what he calls the “corruption in the city.” He points to one councilman who was indicted by the federal grand jury, and says another is being investigated. This was what motivated him to run for council, he said.

Valencia works as an accountant for the Commerce Casino and as a club promoter. The latter job has caused some controversy, and despite what the flyers circulating through town say about him, he has never smoked nor taken drugs, and he does not drink alcohol, he says.

He disputes the ‘party’ image, saying he became a club promoter when he was putting his life back together after a life-changing motorcycle accident. Before the accident, he enjoyed a job as a lifeguard at the Aquatorium. A friend introduced Valencia to the club promoter job, and he discovered that he was good at meeting and talking to people.

Shawn Estrada
Candidate Shawn Estrada began learning more about the city he grew up in while jogging or walking around town, talking about city issues with people who recognize him from his career as a boxer.

“They are surprised to know I live in Commerce,” says Estrada, who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “I have a lot of pride in the community,” he says, often telling people he meets that he lives “right here down the street on Wilma Avenue.”

Estrada grew up in the Bristow Park area bordering East Los Angeles, and was raised with many brothers and sisters, “sometimes living in East Los Angeles, and sometimes in Commerce.” He trains in the gym at Bristow Park.

He decided to run because he “felt it was time for a change.” With all the investigations into city council corruption, Estrada says he just wants to be a good representative for the city.

He says he will work with the Sheriff’s Department to get them out to patrol the Veterans Park and Bristow Park areas to control the drug and gang activity there. “I had a brother killed in gang violence… I don’t want no family to go through that… losing a brother is a hard thing to go through,” he says.

He feels he learned a great deal about the city and the residents through this campaign. “It is an honor just to campaign, an honor to throw my name in the hat. Whether I win or lose, for one person to even vote for me, I consider it an honor.”

Please see the last issue or online at EGPNEWS.COM for profiles of George Kevanian, Denise Robles, and Joe Aguilar.

Monterey Park Election: Three Seats Open

Robert Gin
Candidate Bob Gin says the existing city council needs to get beyond its habit of “beating issues to death.” Instead they should be “keeping our libraries open, and keeping our fire and police departments afloat.”

Gin thinks the discussions on the budget went on for too long. “I understand budgets are important, but you can only get so much blood out of a turtle,” he said.

The city council should question the staff, he says, but ”we shouldn’t be micro-managing our city,” he says. “If we hire a city attorney, if we hire a city manager, we should allow them to do the work. We’re not the experts. We’re the elected body here to make sure we’re spending the money correctly.”

Gin is currently in his eighth year as a member of the Alhambra Unified School District Board of Education where he and other board members were tasked with bringing a $170 million budget down to a $125 million budget, he said.

Gin says he will bring to city council his experience in running a business. “Being a business owner, you have to watch your money carefully, or you lose your business. You watch how you spend the money, and you don’t overlap services, or hire two people for the same job.”

Gin recently retired from running a liquor store in Inglewood. Originally, “it was my parent’s store, we worked it together,” he said.

Gin has also had deep involvement in various cultural events and activities around Los Angeles, including running the Dragon Boat Festival in Echo Park for nearly 40 years, and helping to start the Chinatown Teen Post back in 1969 when he was a college student.

Mitchell Ing
When Incumbent Mitchell Ing is accused of not being a team player, he responds that his team “isn’t with the city managers and the attorneys,” it is with the “residents of Monterey Park.”

He also does not “scream” or “holler.” He and other council members accused of “bickering” at council meetings are presenting facts exposing planning commissioners who don’t live in the city, city officials who engage in conflicts of interest, and city attorneys over-charging the city.

“There are some council members who don’t add anything to the meetings,” he says. “They just sit there, and they’re quiet.”

Some council members “grandstand” during budget discussions by saying they will not layoff city workers, even when they are facing a budget deficit, he says.

“If your budget is based on personnel,” there should be no grandstanding, Ing said. Other council members pointed to a large reserve in the city coffers that could have been used to prevent the layoffs, but a large chunk of the reserves were designated for disasters and other specific uses, he says.

Ing believes the reserve money the city “spent ten years saving” should not be used to fill a financial gap, especially with the economic recovery going at such a slow pace.

He also says the city needs to bring in more national retail stores that attract regional customers and the city’s own residents. “Just imagine how many lunch specials Monterey Park would have to sell in a restaurant” in order to match the same kind of sales tax revenue brought in by bigger ticket items like cars, says Ing.

Where to shop around town is the number one issue for residents, he says. There are residents who have lived in Monterey Park for fifty years and they never shop in the downtown area on Garvey because there is nothing there for them, he says.

Ing earned a degree in economics from UCLA, and an MBA from Cal State L.A. He began his banking career in Monterey Park 23 years ago, and has provided over 500 home loans to families in the surrounding areas, as well as small business loans, he says.

Joe Ray Avila
Candidate Joe Ray Avila calls himself a “white Mexican hill-billy.”  His mother is a “southern Belle” from Tennessee, and his father was an “Orange County Mexican,” he says. He is a hill-billy, because he lives in the urban hills.

Avila is known to ride up and down those hills and around the neighborhood on rollerblades. You might see him rolling by during his campaign.

Avila is a self-employed handyman who can “fix things and build your dreams.” His favorite refrain is, “I’m a handyman, a simple man, hey, they call me the handyman.”

When his father died, and the contractors were not doing their jobs and ripping off his family, he decided he would fix up the house himself, he said. “I really don’t advertise, but I keep busy,” he says of his livelihood.

Avila has decided to run for city council because he is tired of parking tickets being given out to people for parking on the wrong side of the street on street sweeping day.

The street sweepers can go around the parked vehicles like they used to do, he says. “The city needs money, but they don’t need to tax people for petty things,” he says.

“People have to pay their property taxes. Some older people have a fixed low income. There should be no more taxing of the people,” Avila says.

He also says the city’s codes are too strict. “If businesses want to paint their stores purple or peach, they can’t do it. It’s like a homeowners association… some people might want to go for a unique style because it’s their business, their little signature to the outside world, ‘come try my spot,’” he says.

He wants to get “translators for everybody” to help people communicate when they shop at stores where shopkeepers use a different language. He wants to break down mis-communication and help existing businesses, such as the local hardware stores, sharpen up so they can compete with big retailers like Home Depot and Mission Hardware.

Please see the last issue or online at EGPNEWS.COM for profiles of Teresa Real Sebastien, Hans Liang, Walter Sarnoi, and Anthony Wong. EGP made several attempts, but was unable to secure an interview with Luis Estrada in time for this publication.

La Arquidiócesis de Los Ángeles Cambia de Liderazgo

March 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A partir del pasado domingo, 27 de febrero, la arquidiócesis de Los Ángeles—la más grande arquidiócesis católica del país—está dirigida por un arzobispo hispano, José Horacio Gómez.

En una misa especial en la catedral de Los Ángeles se realizó la transición entre el arzobispo Roger Mahony y el nuevo prelado, el mexicano José Horacio Gómez.

Foto Cortesía de Victor Aleman /

Ese día Mahony se jubilo al cumplir 75 años y arzobispo Gómez, quien cumplirá 60 años el 26 de diciembre, iniciará su arzobispado en una arquidiócesis de 5 millones de católicos, cerca de 75 por ciento de ellos hispanos.

Cercano a los inmigrantes hispanos desde su infancia por su contacto con ellos en la finca de su padre y luego durante sus primeros años de ministerio sacerdotal, el arzobispo Mahony deja un importante legado de defensa de sus derechos.

El nuevo arzobispo no sólo se une a su predecesor en la defensa de los inmigrantes sino que, siendo él mismo inmigrante, entiende muy bien la situación de muchos de ellos.

Nacido en Monterrey (México), de padre mexicano y madre estadounidense, arzobispo Gómez llegó a Estados Unidos en 1987, siendo ya sacerdote, para servir a las comunidades hispanas de San Antonio y Houston (Texas).

En 2001 fue nombrado obispo auxiliar en Denver (Colorado) y en 2005 como arzobispo de San Antonio donde se desempeñó hasta el año pasado cuando fue nombrado arzobispo coadjutor de Los Ángeles.

Como presidente de la Comisión de Asuntos Migratorios de la Conferencia de Obispos de Estados Unidos, arzobispo Gómez manifestó en entrevista con Efe su claro compromiso de seguir trabajando por una reforma migratoria, como una “necesidad del pueblo hispano y de la nación”.

El arzobispo Gómez—autor del libro sobre el sacerdocio “Men of brave heart”—también se centrará en la importancia de la educación de los católicos en su propia doctrina, la responsabilidad de los padres en la educación de la fe de sus hijos, el impulso a las vocaciones sacerdotales y el fortalecimiento del papel de los laicos en la Iglesia, entre otros.

“La doctrina de la Iglesia Católica realmente te ayuda a mejorar como persona y a participar en la vida de la sociedad positivamente”, destacó el nuevo arzobispo.

En 2005 fue elegido por la revista Time como uno de los 25 hispanos más influyentes de Estados Unidos y en 2007 figuró en la lista de “Hispanos Notables”, que publicó la cadena de noticias CNN con motivo del Mes de la Herencia Hispana.

Los Angeles Forecast: More Jobs, Less Revenue

March 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

In an economic forecast released yesterday, Los Angeles’ chief accountant predicted the unemployment rate would drop slightly in the next fiscal year — but so would city revenues.

“I’m pleased that our local unemployment rate is projected to drop from 12.4 percent to 11.7 percent; however, there are still far too many Angelenos out of work and we project that the city’s economic growth will be slow and sluggish in the coming year,” City Controller Wendy Greuel said.

She estimated the city would receive $6.34 billion in revenue during the fiscal year 2010-2011, which begins July 1 — which is $130 million less than what the city expects to receive in the current fiscal year.

The city’s general fund, which pays for basic services such as police and libraries, is expected to take in $4.25 billion in revenue, according to the economic forecast, representing a decrease of $126 million since 2006-07.

“The mayor and City Council cannot — and should not — count on an increase in tax revenue to help balance the city’s massive budget deficit for next year,” Greuel said.

“While we anticipate tax revenue for the current year to be dramatically lower in almost every category, we project that four of the seven tax revenue streams will actually increase next year,” she said.

“Unfortunately, the anticipated decrease in property tax will outweigh any other revenue increase.”

Councilwoman Jan Perry said the forecast will prompt her colleagues to draft another austerity budget for the next fiscal year.

“The expectation that I think we take as a group is probably the most conservative, so that as we plan going forward, we (make) assumptions that we are still under the most onerous circumstances,” she told City News Service.

The council recently rejected Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s plan to lease several of the city’s parking garages for the next 50 years to create a new revenue source. Perry said other alternatives will have to be considered.

When asked whether those alternatives would include additional layoffs, she replied, “Everything, everything is on the table.”

CD-14 Election Comes Down to Collective Vision to Survive and Thrive

March 3, 2011 by · 3 Comments 


Councilmember Jose Huizar and Challenger Rudy Martinez respond to questions from the audience during a candidates forum presented by the Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday night. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)


The closing remarks in the last debate before next Tuesday’s election, gave insight into what the local city council contest boils down to: two candidates—both guilty of accusing the other of legal and moral wrongs—trying to sell their vision to the diverse communities of CD-14 that runs from Boyle Heights to Eagle Rock.

Before a crowd of about 100 people at the Boyle Heights Senior Center on Tuesday night, incumbent Jose Huizar, an experienced councilmember defending his record, tried to gather confidence in his abilities and plans for the future, while challenger, Rudy Martinez, a small business owner and the one-time star of a television show, made his case about his leadership potential and how his fresh perspective as one of 15 council members would benefit the area’s residents and businesses.

“One thing the council district needs is consistency,” Huizar began. “Pacheco served here for four years, and Villaraigosa served here for two years. I’ve been here five years and the way the city council works, you need have to have consistency in order to keep delivering for your district. We have a lot of plans in the pipeline, [but] if we get change right now, a lot of council members will swoop-in and take that money for projects, and the vision will change. We have a great vision here in Boyle Heights. We are improving the public infrastructure in the area, we are improving the parks, we are improving the schools, we are improving crime [rate], and now we need to do what is next, the next phase that makes a great Boyle Heights, and that is bring more retail to the area…”

Martinez said Huizar has not been doing enough for residents or businesses. He began his closing statement by saying he would never let another council member take money away from the district, it’s not in his nature.

“If you are happy with the way your life is and the way your qualify of life is, and the trees that aren’t being trimmed and the streets that aren’t being cleaned and so forth… then you know which way to go,” Martinez said. “But I can tell you one thing, from day one, I will talk to you and I will communicate with you and I will set goals and I will finish any unfinished projects… [But] I won’t be there taking pictures and saying ‘I did this’ and embarrass myself by saying I did it… We can change city hall, we can stop the corruption and can make sure there is more access to my office, you can hold me accountable…”

Martinez noted he is not as “polished” or as “well-versed” as Huizar. He doesn’t want to be, he said, emphasizing his energetic new ideas.

Click on this photo to view videos of the forum.

Some residents, however, expressed fear that Martinez could loose valuable time during his learning curve in office, and that his experience as a businessman and real estate “flipper” is out of touch with the needs or concerns of lower-income constituents.

Huizar’s critics say he needs to be more transparent and do more to stimulate the local economy.

Both have been accused at times of being arrogant.

Los Angeles is facing a $300 million budget deficit.

The upcoming term will undoubtedly include cuts to services and programs throughout the city, as well as continued hardship for residents and businesses.

Homeowner and Boyle Heights Neighbors Association member Juaquin Castellaños said the forum presented by the Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce was a great debate and both candidates provided good answers.

“Huizar has the experience of having been in office for some time, and he has some record and knows the city,” Castellaños told EGP. “…Huizar mentioned that Boyle Heights has received the most funding for developments, and I agree, but the community has not seen change. Most of the projects he is taking credit for are projects that are funding from bonds or propositions we voters and property owners approved and we will be paying for years.”

Castellaños likes that Martinez has outreached to homeowners whose property values have dropped in recent years at the same time street vendors have proliferated.

“Mr. Martinez for me was on point, create jobs in the community and help local business to develop commercial corridors,” he said, later adding, “I believe if Martinez wins the election, many changes will happen. If Mr. Huizar is re-elected, he must unite all the community and be more open to constituents.”

Castellaños wasn’t the only Martinez supporter in the crowd. Terry Marquez, told EGP, “You’ve been here, you know he [Huizar] is lying.” She said Huizar has promised to do things, but asked what has he done in five year? Issue more liquor licenses, was her answer.

However, others are quick to point out what Huizar has delivered to Boyle Heights: two new schools, the completion of Valley Boulevard Bridge which was in limbo for 30 years, a new police station, renovated library, a top of the line synthetic soccer field to Pecan Park, improvements to Hollenbeck Park and the reinforcement of the historic bridge that runs over the park, and a new skate plaza, said Margarita Amador.

Amador says Martinez lacks experience in the public sector and education. He is not a college graduate while Huizar has three degrees.

“…And his [Martinez’s] integrity is seriously in question, especially in light of the story regarding his possession of a slain officers badge. That to me is a very big deal, not to mention his arrest record,” said Amador. She is a member of the Hollenbeck Community Police Advisory Board.

Leonardo Lopez of the Comité de la Esperanza at Wyvernwood Apartments thought Martinez’s remarks about street vendors was inhumane and feared that if elected he would side with Wyvernwood’s owners’ plans to demolish what he called “our village in the big city” in favor of luxury high-rises.

“The organizations we’re in contact with tell us that he [Martinez] is in favor of the wealthy,” Lopez said.

Both candidates have said they are not against the gentrification that mixed-incomes could bring to the area, but would not like to see current residents priced out of housing.

However, Martinez does not think any more low-income housing should come to Boyle Heights.

Alicia Maldonado, president of the Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce, told EGP the forum was the first in many years to be held in the east-area of the district and she was glad to see so many of the most active residents present. The Chamber does not endorse a candidate.

Maldonado says that Boyle Heights residents and merchants have mixed feelings about developments, like corporate chains. On the one hand, the community “deserves good stores,” yet there is concern about how it could affect small businesses.

Questions from the audience included reducing blight and improving quality of life, holding town hall meetings, Assembly President Jose Perez’s proposal to dis-incorporate Vernon; rate increases by the DWP, and redevelopment projects.

Nuevo Assembleísta para Bell Gardens y Otras Zonas Toma El Juramento

March 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) tomó el juramentado, administrado por la Congresista Lucille Roybal-Allard, ante la comunidad el pasado 24 de febrero.

Foto cortesía de la Oficina del Assembleísta Ricardo Lara.

Como el Asambleísta para el Distrito 50 de California, Ricardo Lara representa las comunidades que incluyen Bell, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Commerce, Cudahy, South Gate y Lynwood, así como partes de Walnut Park, Downey y Florence-Graham.

El evento se realizó en el auditorio de la preparatoria Marco Antonio Firebaugh en Lynwood.

Lara reemplaza a Héctor De La Torre quién representaba las zonas mencionadas desde 2006.

Eastside Arts Institution Moves West, To Boyle Heights

March 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Self Help Graphics & Art, a non-profit arts institution with deep roots in unincorporated East Los Angeles, will move to Boyle Heights at the end of this month.

Last Friday’s announcement was bittersweet for the artists who have long worked at the site, but are now hopeful that the lower rent for the new location with the same amount of space will allow them to strengthen their operations. But they admit they will miss their old home on Cesar Chavez Avenue, which is more than just a building to many in the community.

Evonne Gallardo, Self Help Graphics’ executive director told EGP that even though they are moving they want to see to it that the building is protected. “We care about the building, and we’ve supported the LA Conservancy’s nomination of the building to the California Register of Historic Resources,” she said. But the cost to stay in the location has hampered Self-Helps’ ability to grow.

In August 2010 the Los Angeles County Historical Landmarks and Records Commission voted unanimously to recommend landmark designation of the Self Help Graphics and Art Building to the State Historical Resources Commission.

The building’s nomination is on the commission’s agenda for May, Karina Muñiz, of the Los Angeles Conservancy told EGP. The nomination is important to protecting the building’s historic and cultural features because there is no preservation ordinance in unincorporated East LA, she said.

In 2008, a real estate investment company purchased the building, constructed in 1927.

Less than two years later it was on the market again, according to the LA Conservancy website. If the site is listed in the California Register of Historical Resources, any future development proposals for the site will be subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act. CEQA is used as a tool to protect historic resources by providing a public review process in cases of proposed demolition.

The L.A. Conservancy considers the building both architecturally and culturally significant. The building features integral mosaic artwork by Eduardo Oropeza, which they say makes it a community icon. The site has played a significant role in Chicana/o art, cultural identity, and political movement-building on local, state, national, and international levels, Muñiz said.

“I think the building has certainly intertwined with the organization’s identity, but the organization is not a building. We are made up of artists, individuals as a community…” Gallardo told EGP.

Self Help will move to 1300 1st Street, directly across the street from the Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center and the Pico/Aliso Metro Gold Line Station. Gallardo expressed hope that the East Los Angeles youth they currently serve and residents at large will use the light rail to visit their future center.

Self Help Graphics has been a great institution in East LA and surrounding communities, said Benjamin Cárdenas, president of the East Los Angeles Residents Association.

“It’s definitely sad, it’s always sad to say goodbye, whether it’s to an individual or building… but the change is for the best and I think that we are excited about entering this new chapter,” Gallardo said, noting that they hope to create partnerships with organizations in Boyle Heights.

The organization has already been invited to be a supporting partner with Dolores Mission’s Proyecto Pastoral “Boyle Heights Neighborhood Initiative,” the recipient of a coveted Promise Neighborhoods grant that provides cradle-to-career services for young people in the area. “We look forward to working together with our neighbors to serve our youth in a much more impactful way,” Gallardo said.

In December, Councilmember Jose Huizar and local artists kicked-off a $12 million streetscape project in Boyle Heights’ burgeoning Arts District along First Street, from the Pico Aliso area to the city limits at Indiana. A gallery, theatre and bookstore currently compose the heart of the district near the intersection of Cummings and 1st Street, just east of the I-5 and I-10 freeways.

Self Helps’ new building will be just over the 1st Street Bridge heading east out of downtown. “We will be the first point of entry into the Eastside Arts District,” Gallardo said.

“The opportunity to be a vital part of a new arts district, combined with our need to ensure a fiscally sound future for the organization, compelled us to make the decision to move,” said Stephen Saiz, president of the organization’s board of directors in a written statement.

“Self Help is grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency and the City of Los Angeles to serve thousands of artists, youth, families, and community with quality arts programming.”

The announcement of the institution’s move comes three years after the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese sold the building that housed the organization rent-free for nearly 40 years. The new owners began charging Self Help rent at the beginning of 2009. Plans to fundraise and purchase the building did not materialize as the economy plummeted.

The organization will continue offering Tuesday after-school programs and Saturday morning Aerosol art workshops while packing takes place this month. Volunteers are needed for the move on April 2; for more information call (323) 881-6444.

For more information about the building on Cesar Chavez and the LA Conservancy’s efforts visit

New Era of Leadership at Los Angeles Archdiocese

March 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Cardinal Roger Mahony turned 75 on Sunday and, as church rules dictate, he turned over the reins of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, a flock of some 5 million that he has overseen for 25 years, to Archbishop Jose Gomez.

Gomez and Mahony presided jointly over symbolic ceremonies of transition of the day at downtown’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels during Masses celebrated in English and Spanish.

Gomez, 59, who was born in Mexico, became an American citizen while serving the Roman Catholic Church in Texas as a priest for the conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei, a group he says he no longer associates with.

He arrived in Los Angeles from San Antonio in May.

Gomez is the first archbishop of Mexican descent to head a North American archdiocese, though many of his flock have roots in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries.

During a mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Sunday, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony symbolically transferred his pastoral leadership of the Los Angeles Archdiocese to Archbishop Jose Gomez. It was also Mahony’s birthday, he turned 75, the age at which bishops are required to resign. However, Mahony is not retiring altogether, he will continue leading Masses and fulfilling his role as a priest, according to Tod Tamberg, spokesperson for the Los Angeles Archdiocese. (Courtesy of Victor Aleman /

In the ceremony following Mahony’s final homily as archbishop, the cardinal’s coat of arms was removed from above the archbishop’s chair, and Gomez’s was installed in its place.

Mahony then escorted the new leader to the throne and gave him his pastoral staff, the symbol of his role as chief shepherd of more than 5 million Catholics—of which about 70 percent are Hispanic—in the archdiocese’s coverage area of Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. It ranks as the nation’s most populous.

Mahony rose to bishop in Stockton in 1980 and was named archbishop of Los Angeles in 1985, becoming the first native Angeleno to hold the office. He was elevated to cardinal by Pope John Paul II on June 28, 1991.

After the church’s seat—the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana—was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Mahony spearheaded the construction of Our Lady of the Angels, which was dedicated on Sept. 2, 2002.

Gomez was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and studied accounting there before receiving a doctorate in theology at the University of Navarra in Spain.

He was the priest in residence at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in San Antonio from 1987 to 1999. As the archbishop in San Antonio, Gomez helped establish the Hispanic Seminary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, which opened in 2000.

In 2001 he was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Denver. He also organized Denver’s Centro San Juan Diego for Family and Pastoral Care, a place for formation of lay leaders and a base to provide welcoming services to immigrants.

Although he championed social justice and Latino immigrant rights, Mahony’s legacy is tarnished by the sexual abuse scandal involving more than 500 victims and a record $660 million settlement. He also was accused of failing to report abusive priests to civil authorities and keeping them employed in parishes without informing parishioners.

Mahony will remain a cardinal for life. As such, he is among about 200 cardinals who, as a body, act somewhat like a congress for the Vatican, electing popes among other things.

When Gomez takes over he will become one of the most influential voices in Catholicism in North America. He currently serves as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, and has spoken in favor of immigration reform.

In a recent interview, Gomez said he would be an agent of continuity, not change. He said his highest priorities are evangelizing new Catholics and training additional priests. He supports efforts to give lay leaders a stronger role in the church.

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