Advocates Use Their Feet to Spread Peace Message

May 16, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

About 400 people took part last Saturday in an annual march that has for the last six years attempted to unite people in Northeast Los Angeles in the fight to end violence.

Participants in the 6th Annual Northeast Peace Walk, which made its way down Figueroa Street in Highland Park, chanted and prayed for peace in the community where high rates of gang violence and senseless gang-related murders were at one time the norm.

Marchers braved the heat during march along Figueroa in Highland Park. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Despite the sun beating down and near record heat, local church groups, families, students, elected officials and local police, and a contingent of mothers who had lost a child to violence, walked the 10-block route from the Highland Park’s Recreation Center on Avenue 61 to Avenue 51, chanting “Peace in the Northeast.”

They tried along the way to capture the attention of the people standing on the sidewalks and in cars passing by, at times pointing to the messages of peace printed on the signs they carried. Drivers honked their horns as a sign of support.

LAPD Commander William A. Murphy, Sen. Kevin De Leon, Councilman Ed Reyes, LAPD Northeast Division Capt. Jeff Bert and council hopefuls Gil Cedillo and Jose Gardea led the walk down Figueroa Avenue and up Monte Vista street.

Six years ago, when Commander Murphy was captain of the Northeast Division he suggested holding a peace walk to bring the community together, Capt. Bert told EGP.

“When we were in the throws of some of the worst gang violence in the city Murphy tried to do something off everyone’s radar,” Bert told EGP. “He said, ‘lets do a peace march and have the police right in the middle of it.’”

According to Bert, pockets of LAPD’s Northeast division previously led the city of Los Angeles in gang violence. A sheriff’s deputy living in Cypress Park was killed during that time.

During Saturday’s opening ceremony, Councilman Reyes spoke about growing up in the area and experiencing the “mean side,” and how he avoided being swept up in it.

“You are here today to show everyone that we can promote change, we can make a difference and there is hope,” Reyes told the participants. “There are many examples here of folks who overcame many of these challenges and are now living a brighter life,” he said.

Elysian Valley resident Adela Padernal attended the march to support women who like her have had a child taken away by violence.

“I’m here standing strong to help the other women that don’t speak up,” she said. “I want peace to come and for violence to go away.”

The walk, which also included a safety resource fair, music and food, has grown over the years. At the same time, according to Bert, there has been a drop in violent crimes.

The division now has the lowest violent crime rate and the best violent reduction rate in Los Angeles, said Bert. Year to date, the northeast division has seen a 26 percent decrease in violent crimes like rape, murder, aggravated assaults and gang-related crimes. The drop is significantly higher than the city average of 16 percent.

“We’ve arrested a lot of people and we will continue arresting people who commit crimes, but our approach in the last six years has been so much more holistic,” Bert said.

He said the process to reduce violence and crime now includes more prevention, intervention and involvement from the community. Local groups are helping people in the community get jobs, and to help local youth find a path that does not involve joining a gang.

“Yes we arrested a lot of bad guys, a lot of gang members … but we’re here because this is what drives down crime. What drives down crime is people from the community saying that I trust the police and I’m going to lean on them when I need to,” Bert said.

Sen. De Leon told the crowd that the peace march was a way to show the children of the community that they deserve an opportunity to succeed.

“It’s up to us to come together and tell our children you count, you deserve this respect and dignity and you deserve to respect yourself,” he said. “We have to give every child an opportunity to go to Cal State LA or UCLA, instead of Pelican Bay [Prison].”

Eficia Garcia — whose son was murdered in 2009 and profiled last week by EGP — made good on her promise to attend the Peace Walk. She joined other mothers in prayer and the releasing of white doves, a symbol of peace in the community.

“We want peace, we don’t want violence here or anywhere,” she said in Spanish. “Because here we are, still suffering because of these kinds of violent acts.”

LAUSD to Keep In Classroom Breakfasts

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The Los Angeles Unified School District board voted unanimously Tuesday to continue the Breakfast in the Classroom program, which has faced some criticism for cutting into instruction time and causing some unsanitary conditions at schools.

“Every program … has problems with its implementation,” board member Steve Zimmer said. “That’s what happens. It’s not breaking news. Our obligation is to work out the problems. That’s what we do.”

Parent and union groups staged a series of rallies in support of the program in recent weeks, saying it provides meals for nearly 200,000 children with the idea that students are more attentive and perform better if they start the day with a nutritious breakfast.

Officials with the Service Employees International Union also said that canceling the program would threaten the jobs of about 900 cafeteria workers.

But serving food to students in classrooms has generated concerns from some teachers who complained about problems such as rotten food and an increase in bugs. They also noted that the program reduces instructional time.

Board members told LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy that efforts must be made to address those problems, because the program has proven successful.

“Whatever these little things are, we’ve got to straighten them out,” board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte said.

She and board member Richard Vladovic told Deasy the district needs to find funds to extend the school day to make up for time lost while students are having breakfast.

Students “need to be fed and they need to have this opportunity in order to learn,” Vladovic said. “… And to do that those youngsters need to have a nutritious meal.”

Deasy said he is a strong supporter of the program, saying there was strong evidence that a healthy breakfast helps students perform better in the classroom.

“It is my belief children have a fundamental right to a healthy meal prior to beginning their instructional day,” he said.

Deasy said the program also generates money for the district, including about $6 million this year that goes into the district’s general fund.

Despite the concerns expressed by its members, United Teachers Los Angeles officials issued a statement earlier saying that while there are “serious problems” with the program, “these problems can and must be overcome so students get a nutritional breakfast and a full instructional day. It is not an either/or for children.”

“Of course children learn better when they start the day with a nutritious breakfast,” UTLA President Warren Fletcher said. “And every child deserves a full instructional day. One without the other does not make sense.”

Tanya Chambers, a cafeteria worker at Hoover Street Elementary School, described for the board her struggles to feed her children when she was out of work and her husband didn’t earn enough to buy food.

“Anyone who thinks there is no hunger in our schools is completely out of touch with reality,” she said, adding that she has seen that with the program, “children are concentrating more and doing good work.”

“It’s a lot of work for us in the cafeteria but it benefits our children, and that’s what counts,” Chambers said.

Montebello Donates Surplus Fire Engine to Armenia

May 16, 2013 by · 3 Comments 

A fire engine that has been used for over two decades in Montebello will travel across the world to help save lives in Armenia, a donation approved by the city council.

Council members authorized the fire department to declare the fire engine as “surplus” and then approved the donation of the fire apparatus to Armenia during last week’s council meeting.

Kids explore one of Montebello’s fire engines during Fire Service day on May 11. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“[Armenia] is a country in need of a more modern engine,” said Councilman Jack Hadjinian who facilitated the donation process and secured the funds to cover shipping costs.

The donation came about after the Montebello Fire Department purchased a new fire engine with funds from an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG). The grant required the fire department to classify one of its older fire engine as surplus, preventing the apparatus from ever being used for firefighting in the United States and freeing it up to be scrapped for metal or donated.

Hadjinian requested that the fire engine be donated to Armenia.

“I saw this as an opportunity to help a fire agency in need,” he said.

The Montebello Fire Department has previously donated surplus fire engines and equipment to Armenia and to Mexico in 2003.

Hadjinian is working with the local branch of the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian Cultural Foundation to secure the funds to ship the fire truck to the country located on the border of Eastern Europe and Southwest Asia. Hadjinian estimates it will cost $3,000 to $5,000.

According to Montebello Fire Chief Dominic Hebert, this is the first time the city has acquired a fire engine with a grant. The last time the city purchased a fire truck was in 2003.

“We’ve had to keep our equipment in service longer than we would have  [otherwise] because of budget constraints,” Hebert said.

The new fire engine meets all current safety standards and has a Compressed Air Foam System (CAFS), which is often used in wild fires and which has the capacity extinguish a fire more quickly.

“It provides for a safer environment for the crew to operate off of and for the citizens as well,” Hebert told EGP.

The now retired fire engine had been in use since 1987 and no longer met the department’s needs, the fire chief said. The maintenance needed to keep it in service had become too expensive, he said.

Over 300 residents, many of them children, got a close up look at the new fire fighting equipment during the fire department’s open house last Saturday.

The paperwork for the donation, including passing Customs, still needs to be completed before the donated truck can head to its new home. Hadjinian expects the donated fire truck to arrive in Armenia in a couple of months.

Charges Filed in 2012 Lincoln Heights Oil Spill

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A waste hauling company and a truck driver are set to be arraigned July 3 on a half-dozen misdemeanors stemming from a roughly 40-gallon spill of hydraulic fluid, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office said Monday.

Waste Resources Recovery Inc. and truck driver Jorge Favela Ramirez, also known as Jorge Ramirez Favala, are charged in a May 17, 2012, spill of hydraulic oil at Daly Street and Pasadena Avenue in Lincoln Heights, according to the misdemeanor complaint.

City of Los Angeles investigators found video from a nearby bank that shows Ramirez pull over, get out and look at hydraulic fluid coming from the truck’s undercarriage before looking around, getting back in and driving off, according to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.

A motorcycle rider crashed after hitting the slippery patch, and driver lost control of a car on the oil, striking some parked cars, according to the City Attorney’s Office.

No one was hurt.

Investigators found a metal hydraulic fluid cap and filter, and interviews with Waste Resources Recovery Inc.’s management and employees the following day confirmed that a truck matching the vehicle caught on video was serviced a day earlier for a missing cap and filter.

“Instead of trying to fix it or report it, it appears that the driver of the truck simply chose to drive away with hydraulic fluid gushing from his truck,” said City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. “Not only did the driver create an environmental hazard in the street that ran into the storm drains, but the spill, which was his responsibility to report, became a traffic hazard for unsuspecting motorists. This is unacceptable behavior.”

Actor & MUSD Alumnus Connects Piano Donor with School District

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Students at Eastmont Intermediate School are the happy recipients of a new baby grand piano, a donation made possible with the help of veteran actor Edward James Olmos.

Olmos’s friend Cecilia Soto Loftus wanted to donate the piano to a school in hopes of fostering an interest in music and the performing arts among students, but found herself at a lost as to how to go about it after not getting a response from the two schools she had contacted about the donation.

Edward James Olmos, acclaimed actor and director, stands with Eastmont Intermediate School after helping to present a piano donated by his friend Cecilia Soto Loftus on May 3. (Photo Courtesy of MUSD)

That’s where Olmos comes in. The actor graduated from Montebello High School and upon learning of Loftus’s dilemma, reached out to friends still connected to MUSD to see if they could help identify a school willing to accept the piano.

Eastmont Intermediate School enthusiastically accepted the donation because, as Principal Cecelia Ramirez said when the piano was delivered earlier this month, the piano will have a “huge impact on the lives of our students.” She said the mint-condition Baldwin piano will remain in the auditorium, where it will be utilized by Eastmont Intermediate School students for recitals, concerts and other performances.

Loftus and Olmos went to the school personally May 3 to present the piano to students and staff. “The Montebello Unified School District thanks you for your generosity and for this wonderful gift that will inspire and bring joy to our students,” MUSD Board of Education President Hector Chacon said.

Olmos, a Mexican-American actor and producer who starred in films such as Stand and Deliver and American Me, has also been active in social issues affecting the Latino community.

He told the students that he is a “perfect example of what can happen if you dedicate yourself to achieving your dreams.

“I am who I am because of the Montebello Unified school system,” he said, telling the students that they too “come from a very wonderful environment.”

MUSD Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith said. “This beautiful instrument will motivate our young musicians for years to come.”

L.A. Area Bus Riders With Bikes Ride Free Today

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Bicyclists can ride Los Angeles area buses for free on select routes Thursday as part of “Bike Week LA,” which started Monday.

Sponsored by Metro and other area transit agencies, bike week is meant to celebrate pedal power.

On Tuesday, Good Samaritan Hospital hosted its annual “Blessing of the Bicycles” as part of the weeklong event.

Local cycling groups hosted guided tours Wednesday in the San Fernando Valley, downtown Los Angeles, Culver City, Pasadena, and Gardena.

As part of “Bike to Work Day” today, bicyclists boarding DASH and Commuter Express buses with a bicycle helmet will ride for free, though Commuter Express buses have limited rack space for bikes and DASH buses have no racks.

Other area bus lines also will offer free rides to cyclists today, when two-wheel enthusiasts will be stationed at along bike routes to hand out drinks, prizes and information.

Those who pledged to use Metro as a link in their ride to work today were automatically entered in a contest to win a $700 cycling package from REI.

About 60 retailers will be offering discounts to bikers Friday through Sunday. More information about Bike Week LA is posted at www.metro.net/bikeweek.

Monterey Park Celebrates 97th Birthday With Carnival and Parade

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Just three years shy of its centennial, Monterey Park will celebrate its 97th birthday with a four-day event starting tonight that is jammed pack with live performances, carnival rides, games and food.

Monterey Park officially became a city on May 29, 1916, and since 1966 the city has marked the occasion with its annual “Play Days” celebration. This year’s festivities run through Sunday at Barnes Park.

Although Monterey Park is well known for its ethnic and cultural events, like the recent Cinco de Mayo Fiesta and the Lunar New Year celebration held in February, the city’s annual Play Days does not have a cultural theme, according to Recreation Superintendent Robert Aguirre.

“… It’s just about bringing together the community and celebrating the city,” he said.

This year’s event kicks off at 7p.m. today with a “Play Days Idol” competition where local singers and musicians will perform.

The annual “Play Days” parade takes place on Saturday, May 18 at 11 a.m. along Garvey Avenue, between Alhambra and McPherrin Avenue. The Alhambra Unified School District Band, Schurr High School Band, dance groups, clowns, members of the local community will join this year’s special grand marshal, TV personality Eduardo Xol, star of the ABC show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Former Mayor and City Councilman David Lau, who retired from city council in March, was chosen by the city’s historical society to serve as honorary grand marshal. His wife, Actress Cici Lau, will accompany him.

From 5 to 10 p.m. tonight, May 16, tickets for the carnival rides tickets are $1. On Sunday, between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sunday, you can buy a “Ride All You Want” wristband for $15.

Aguirre told EGP that while the city helps fund the event, revenue from ride tickets and the work of volunteers help make the event possible, as does the sponsorship donation from local shopping venue, Atlantic Square.

Supporting Play Days, “enables these types of events to continue in the future,” he said.

Barnes Park is located behind City Hall at 350 S. McPherrin Ave. For more information, visit http://www.ci.monterey-park.ca.us/ or call the recreation department at (626) 307-1388.

Monterey Park “Play Day” Hours

Thursday, May 16: 5p.m.-10 p.m.

Friday, May 17:  5 p.m.-12 a.m.

Saturday May 18: 12 p.m.-12 a.m.

Sunday, May 19: 1p.m.-10p.m.


Sleep Related Suffication Number One Cause of Accidental Baby Deaths

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Over a four-year period, more infants in Los Angeles County died from suffocation due to unsafe sleeping arrangements than all other accidental deaths of children under 14 combined, health officials said last week as they announced an education campaign aimed at preventing the deaths.

“It has become clear that the tragic deaths from unsafe sleeping practices are completely preventable,” according to Deanne Tilton Durfee, executive director of the Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect.

“Too often we hear from grieving parents, `No one ever told me how I could have avoided the death of my baby from unsafe sleep.’ Parents and caregivers must be made aware of these risks so that no one wakes up to this tragedy again.”

According to data from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, a baby suffocates while sleeping every five days in the county. Suffocation while bed-sharing and in unsafe sleep environments, such as a cluttered crib, is the leading preventable cause of infant death, county officials said.

From 2008-11, sleep suffocation resulted in more deaths of children under 14 than all other causes combined, including drowning, auto accidents and poisoning, according to the county.

“For the first three to four months of life, babies can only breathe through their noses and do not have the strength to lift their heads,” according to Jonathan Fielding, the county’s public health director. “When sleeping face down, or when their face is pressed against a soft object, they can suffocate easily. The preventable nature of these deaths highlights the need for public education on this issue.”

ICAN and First 5 LA announced a campaign called “Safe Sleep for Baby” that will include TV, radio and outdoor advertisements warning about the dangers of bed-sharing with infants and other suffocation hazards. The campaign will also offer safe-sleep training for county employees and community groups.

“This campaign will give moms and dads, grandparents and caregivers the knowledge they need to make sure their babies are sleeping safely,” according to Kim Belshe, executive director for First 5 LA.

Vernon-based ‘True Religion’ Agrees to be Acquired for $835 Million

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True Religion Apparel Inc., a manufacturer of high-end denim garments, announced on May 10 it has agreed to be acquired for around $835 million.

The company said in a statement issued from its headquarters in Vernon that it has reached a definitive agreement with TowerBrook Capital Partners L.P., an investment management firm based in New York and London.

“After a thorough review of strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value, we are pleased to reach this agreement, which provides our shareholders with immediate and substantial cash value representing a significant premium,” said True Religion Lead Director Seth Johnson.

TowerBrook will acquire all outstanding shares of True Religion common stock for $32 per share in cash, a premium of approximately 52 percent over the share price on Oct. 9, 2012, the day before the company announced it had begun to explore strategic options, True Religion said.

The company said it spent seven months reviewing its options before concluding the deal, which requires the approval of regulators and True Religion shareholders. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter.

Power Outage Affects Four Montebello Schools

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Amid a Southland heat wave, a power outage left about 900 Southern California Edison customers, including four schools, without power for about three hours in the Montebello area on May 13.

The outage along Edwin Aldrin Circle, Madison Avenue, Flotilla Street and Hay Avenue was reported about 11:30 a.m., according to Edison.

The outage affected Montebello High School, Montebello Intermediate School, Fremont Elementary School and Washington Elementary School, according to Michael Cobarrubias, assistant superintendent of the Montebello Unified School District.

By early afternoon, all four schools had been dismissed a little early for the day or were nearing their normal dismissal times, Cobarrubias said.

Power was restored to all customers by about 2:30 p.m., according to Edison.

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