From the Web to the Streets: ‘Who Remembers in East LA’ Raises Money for Boys & Girls Club

May 2, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

Hundreds of current and former East Los Angeles residents gathered last week at Cities Restaurant in Boyle Heights to reminisce about days gone by, and to support a good cause at the same time.

The “Who Remembers in East L.A.? ‘The Year Book Exhibit’” fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of East Los Angeles featured an exhibit of photos by Vicente Mercado, as well as paintings and works by East L.A. artists Mario Lopez, Fabian Debora, Robert Vargas, Oscar Reynoso, Ofelia Esparza and Eddie Ruvalcaba.

Classic cars like the one pictured lined the street as part of a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of East Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Tre Studios 2013)

The nostalgic walk down memory lane also pulled in East L.A. entertainment icons Little Willie G of Thee Midniters who said a few words to the crowd, many who were born long after he was in his prime, and former Oingo Boingo drummer Johnny Vatos whose live performance got people up and dancing.

Classic cars belonging to the Old Memories and Klique Car Club lined Cesar Chavez Avenue, where they were joined by the classic 1964 Chevy Impala low-rider known as the  “Gypsy Rose.”

The popular Facebook page “Who Remembers in East L.A.?” that shares historic photos of the greater East Los Angeles area presented the event in collaboration with numerous community sponsors.

“Who Remembers in East L.A.?” is the creation of curator Victor Felix, who started the page just three years ago and now has over 35,000 followers. He’s been called a historian, curator and even the “The Huell Howser of East LA,” Felix told EGP.

“Coming from a small Mexican family of 10, we relied on the Boys & Girls Club a lot,” Felix said, explaining that’s why the organization was selected to receive donations at the event.

According to Felix they raised over $4,000 for the club.

Felix also used the event to celebrate the memory of his friend artist Ronald Lopez who passed away in 2012.

He told EGP that he also hopes his website and events like the one held last week will instill in his son the love he has for East L.A.

While there were no yearbooks on display, Felix said the event was meant to be a live experience to bring people together to reminisce the way one does by opening a yearbook. Comments on his Facebook page indicate people are already looking forward to the next “Who Remembers in East L.A.” event.

Assembly Passes Bills Addressing Safety of Seniors, Disabled

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In hopes of addressing concerns over the safety of seniors and the disabled who often become the target of abuse, the State Assembly has passed two bills proposed by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), one that could help keep the whereabouts of seniors who are the victims of abuse confidential, and another that would require background checks of those employed to provide transportation for the elderly and disabled in Los Angeles County.

Garcia proposed the bills, AB 849 and AB 971 after seeing “loopholes” in laws protecting the safety of seniors and the disabled, said Tim Reardon, her chief of staff.

He said the bills are meant to be “easy fixes” to real problems that impact the community but have not been addressed. The State Assembly unanimously passed both bills last month, but the Senate must also approve them before they can become law.

AB 849, “Keeping Seniors Safe,” will allow elderly and disabled victims of abuse to enroll in a confidentiality program that will help keep their home addresses hidden from their abusers. The “Paratransit” bill, AB 971, would give LA Paratransit; a Los Angeles County based transportation service for the elderly and disabled the authority to conduct background checks on its employees. Current law prohibits employers of this type from asking potential employees to disclose past criminal records or from investigating them on their own.

Garcia, whose district covers Artesia, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Cerritos, Commerce, Downey, Montebello, Pico Rivera and Norwalk, said Access Service, an LA Paratransit provider, should have the right to conduct thorough background checks of its drivers before they are considered for employment.

“I wrote AB 971 because of my concern for the health and safety of the frail and elderly individuals in our communities, who depend everyday on paratransit” and do not have the ability to take public transportation on their own, Garcia said.

The proposed background checks would ensure that drivers employed by the shared-transportation service do not have criminal or DMV offenses on their record.

In her address to the Assembly Committee, Garcia said the paratransit bill would allow victims of elder abuse and adult dependent abuse to qualify for the “Safe At Home” program, which designates a special address for the victim’s mail in order to keep their real physical address hidden from their abusers.

Currently, only victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking qualify for the “Safe At Home” program. Garcia said that seniors and disabled adults enrolled in the program would be protected from a “persistent abuser” who continues to stalk, harass and abuse them.

Garcia said California’s aging population means more people could become vulnerable to physical, emotional or financial abuse.

“Over the years, we have expanded protections for seniors in order to better address and redress harm,” Garcia said. “AB 849 is simply another expansion, one that will help prevent our seniors from being repeatedly victimized at the hands of the same perpetrator.”

Both bills have been approved by the assembly and are awaiting action by the Senate, which according to Reardon, could take up to two years.

Sexual Abuse Case Involving Bell Gardens Church Settled

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A settlement has been reached in a lawsuit by a young man who alleged he was sexually abused by the former pastor of a Lutheran church in Bell Gardens.

Attorneys for the unidentified plaintiff filed a notice of settlement April 26 with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michelle Rosenblatt. Iglesia Luterana de San Pedro y Pablo and the Pacific Southwest District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are the defendants. Last summer, the judge tossed all claims against a third entity, the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod, finding that its leadership had no knowledge of the actions of the former pastor, Franklynn Brundige.

The terms of the resolution were not divulged in the plaintiffs’ court papers.

In total, eight young men – five of them relatives of Brundige – allege they were molested as children by Brundige. The other plaintiffs’ cases will be tried later.

Brundige, who was a pastor at the church from 1990 until 2007, was sentenced in 2008 to 24 years in prison after pleading no contest to two counts each of lewd acts with a child under 14 and of continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Suspected Distributor of Child Porn Arrested

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The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) on Tuesday announced the capture of a suspect wanted for distributing child pornography.

Thirty four-year-old Alvaro Rosas of Los Angeles was arrested after police received a cyber-tip about the suspect being involved with child pornography, according to a police statement.

Police investigated the tip and on Monday Rosas was discovered trading large amounts of child pornography on the Internet. A search warrant served at Rosas’ residence located digital evidence containing hundreds of files of child sexual exploitation, according to authorities. Investigators say they are able to confirm dozens of the videos and photos as child porn.

Rash of Burglaries Prompts Police Alert to Eagle Rock Residents

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Los Angeles police are asking residents in Eagle Rock to be on the lookout for suspicious activities following a rash of residential burglaries between April 18 and 28th, and several car thefts during the same time frame.

Police say the residential burglaries have occurred at different times of the days, so people should remain vigilant at all times.

The auto thefts have been highest in the Eagle Rock and Colorado area, according to the LAPD alert. Burglaries are usually crimes of opportunity, so the best way to prevent them is “neighbors watching out for each other and reporting suspicious activity,” police said.

They advised residents to “make it difficult for burglars” by keeping windows and doors securely locked, not giving them places to hide, like high hedges and fences, keeping lights on and not leaving valuable items in plain sight.

For Crime Prevention information, visit www.lapdonline.org or call Senior Lead Officer Preciado (213) 793-0759

Legislators Should Pass The ‘Natural Gas Act’

May 2, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

There is a bill before the State Assembly, AB 1257 (Bocanegra) The Natural Gas Act that Eastern Group Publications supports and wants to call to the attention of our readers.

We believe the bill will provide a clear plan for the further development of the Natural Gas Industry, and in doing so, will also help clean California’s air, considered among the most polluted in the country.

Natural Gas is a non-toxic, low carbon, clean burning fuel that could be a good source of clean fuel for the state’s industrial and transportation sectors.

Supporting development of the state’s natural gas industry could also be helpful to California’s still ailing economy and prove a good source for jobs that are better paying than the low-wage jobs that are currently leading job growth in the state.

Utility companies, including those that supply natural gas, by and large have a decent track record when it comes to providing good paying jobs and growth opportunities for their employees. Supporting The Natural Gas Act could expand those opportunities to more Californians.

Studies have also shown that natural gas is one of the most affordable sources of energy for heating and cooking in the home.

The Southern California Gas Company and SDG&E have reportedly invested more than $550 million to support natural gas and other energy efficiency programs and projects in California, adding more than 1,950 good paying jobs in the Southern California Region and another 2,300 jobs in the region served by SDG&E .

Having said all of this, we are not unaware that there have been some serious problems with the transmission gas lines, but EGP believes that with adequate oversight and regulation these problems can be controlled.

EGP believes that the benefits in AB1257 far outweigh any concerns some might have about the legislation, and we urge legislators to approve the measure.

Embracing Change and Progress at Wyvernwood

May 2, 2013 by · 7 Comments 

Dating back to 1938, the Wyvernwood housing complex in Boyle Heights is more than ready for a 21st-century upgrade. But as plans to dramatically improve the property soon make their way to the City Planning Commission and ultimately the City Council, project opponents – most of whom are not Wyvernwood residents – are having a field day hurling unfounded accusations and working overtime to try to turn residents from supporters to opponents.

Opponents are using brazen scare tactics, suggesting that residents will be forced out of Wyvernwood, never to return, and that the plan reduces housing options for low-income residents when in reality affordable housing opportunities will be greatly enhanced. They argue that emissions from construction equipment will cause serious health effects, and that open space will be reduced, when in fact neither claim is true. In fact, the Wyvernwood redevelopment will generate fewer pollutants than the recently approved Century Plaza, Century City mall, and Playa Vista developments, and will have ten and a half acres of improved public park space that will be maintained at no cost to the city.

The list of myths goes on. Most of the people fighting against the New Wyvernwood do not live at the property. The East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC), one of the groups spearheading the misinformation campaign, is an interesting case in point. According to its own website, in the 18 years since its founding ELACC has built barely half the 660 designated low-income housing units that the New Wyvernwood will deliver on its own – despite the fact that providing affordable housing is a core part of ELACC’s mission. The Los Angeles Conservancy, another organization whose staff and board members do not live at Wyvernwood, argues that buildings on the property can be saved and renovated, when in truth preservation would not address the aging property’s most pressing needs. Even worse, the Conservancy’s approach would force Wyvernwood’s average rent to more than double, effectively displacing the many tenants who can’t afford the increase.

Lost in the onslaught of negativity is the core issue: the tug-of-war between residents aspiring for a better life and some longtime residents and outsiders who are hanging on to a glorified concept of the past.

Since when do you need pre-World War II-era buildings, three-bedroom units with only one bathroom, a dearth of usable open space and a lack of any retail conveniences to sustain a community culture? Will new, more spacious units with air conditioning, playgrounds for our children and additional affordable housing really cause a decline in our quality of life? Of course not. Will increased outdoor lighting, new plumbing, more parking, improved streets and new walking and bike paths make our community less safe and enjoyable? Absolutely not. In fact, these much-needed improvements are the best way to ensure that Wyvernwood and our community culture remain strong for future generations.

Unfortunately, opponent groups are using this project as a battleground for their own narrow issues. Lost in the debate are the aspirations of Wyvernwood’s 6,000-plus residents. While we were learning about the redevelopment project, many of us traveled across town to tour Playa Vista, a relatively new and thriving mixed-use community in West Los Angeles. It shares many of the same community development principles that are at the heart of the New Wyvernwood plan, with beautiful parks, retail areas and affordable housing. Visiting Playa Vista was like looking into the future of Wyvernwood, and left all of us excited. Boyle Heights and our fellow Wyvernwood residents should be able to enjoy the same lifestyle opportunities that residents are enjoying across town.

Some older Wyvernwood residents suggest that the $2 billion investment in our community will create “gentrification” and send all of us away. Actually, the plans as proposed will provide precedent-setting protections for current residents while creating exciting new housing options that allow young professionals who grew up in Boyle Heights to move back to our community. Fortunately, these dissenting voices are a small minority.

The Wyvernwood community is ready to embrace change. We’ve spent years working with the property owner to share our dreams for an improved new Wyvernwood, and to help design the new plan. That’s why such a large majority of our neighbors support this project.

We are confident that the new plans will enrich our community, provide quality housing for people of all incomes, and finally demonstrate that Boyle Heights is as worthy of progress and investment as any other part of Los Angeles. We aspire for a better life for our families, and so do thousands of our neighbors. That’s why we will continue to stand up for ourselves and fight for the New Wyvernwood.

Bedelid Guerrero and Miriam Balam are residents of Wyvernwood Apartments.

Editorial Cartoon

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Our Biggest Terrorist Threat

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Acts of terror like the ones committed at the Boston Marathon are reprehensible and lack moral or logical explanation. They rock us to our core.

They also unite us in common purpose. Victims and their families seem to become our own loved ones. We want to ease their pain. We want to do something to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. Our togetherness as a nation is often most evident when something happens that’s meant to break us.

Nearly 12 years after the 9/11 attacks, terrorism in our homeland still seems a nearly impossible reality — one that none of us want to accept. Still, communities across America are terrorized each day. But rarely do these victims and their families receive national media attention, or better yet, our collective attention.

Every year, 100,000 people are shot or killed with a gun in America. Every day, these acts of terror are carried out in homes, on playgrounds, schoolyards, neighborhood streets, even in houses of worship — turning spaces that should represent peace and sanctuary into places that elicit danger and fear.

Just two days after the Boston Marathon bombing, the Senate had an opportunity to curb another kind of terror facing our nation by taking modest steps toward keeping guns out of the wrong hands. Yet, it voted down a sensible gun background check bill. Never mind that 90 percent of Americans and 74 percent of National Rifle Association members support universal background checks. It didn’t even matter that a majority of senators (54-46) actually voted in favor of the bill. Because of the Senate’s 60-vote majority rule, along with the distortions and political threats from NRA leaders, the bill went down in defeat.

President Barack Obama called it “a shameful day in Washington.” Former lawmaker and gun violence survivor, Gabrielle Giffords, added, “I will not rest until we have righted the wrong these senators have done, and until we have changed our laws so we can look parents in the face and say: We are trying to keep our children safe.”

We share her determination. Whether in Newtown or scores of other communities across the nation, one point is clear: Guns in the wrong hands can be weapons of mass destruction as deadly as a terrorist’s bomb.

Where, we wonder, is the unified purpose in Congress to work toward firearm safety to address the reign of gun-related terror devastating so many of our neighborhoods?

Let’s be clear: This issue is not about gun confiscation, nor is it an attack on anyone’s rights. We know that this step is not a cure-all for the plague of gun violence in America. But, it is at least a first step towards doing all we can to ensure the safety of our citizens.

The city of Boston and its people deserve all the support and attention they have received in the wake of this horrific tragedy. I just hope that we can elevate our sense of unity, urgency and purpose to do what is right for the countless of Americans whose lives have been ended or forever changed by gun violence. Let’s not forget, in addition to killing with homemade bombs, the Boston terrorists also used guns in killing MIT police officer Sean Collier and seriously wounding Massachusetts Bay transit officer Richard H. Donohue.

As we pray for the dead, the wounded survivors, and their loved ones, we urge the nation to unite against terror — including gun violence — everywhere. We must all heed the words of eight-year-old Martin Richard, the boy who perished in the Boston Marathon bombing: “No more hurting people. Peace.”

Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League and the former mayor of New Orleans. www.nul.org Distributed via OtherWords.org.

Our Biggest Terrorist Threat

Solis School Ribbon Cutting : Take-Two

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Just three-months shy of its first anniversary, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) officials, students, and stakeholders officially cut the ribbon on the new Hilda L. Solis Learning Academy, named for the former assemblywoman, congresswoman and until recently, U.S. Secretary of Labor.

Solis Learning Academy is a home to the School of Technology, Business, and Education (STBE), formed under the Public School Choice reform process. The campus is located at the former East Los Angeles Star Hospital site, which LAUSD transformed into high school campus with funds from LAUSD’s $19.5 billion New School Construction and Modernization Program.

Former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, center, attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the school named in her honor. (Los Angeles Unified School District)

Solis, who was unable to attend the school’s ribbon cutting ceremony last August, was at this latest ceremony.

“I am honored that they would consider naming the school after me, and I am profoundly moved by this kind gesture. I am delighted that this is one of the premiere academic centers in the East Los Angeles area. I have been proud to represent the area previously and continue to support student achievement and innovation,” said Solis in a written statement.

LAUSD Board President Mónica García said the school was dedicated after a woman who had the same upbringing as many LAUSD students, and who come from working class and immigrant homes.

“Secretary Solis received an education; she became a Rio Hondo College Trustee, an Assemblywoman, a Senator and a Congresswoman. She also became the first Latina to serve in the United States Cabinet in President Obama’s first term as the U.S. Secretary of Labor. Our students can see through her career that education opens amazing doors,” García said. “This facility in East Los Angeles will help us get more students to graduation. The school’s focus on technology and business will open endless career opportunities for our kids,” she said.

Sen. Dr. Ed Hernandez called Solis a true public servant “who has been a fierce advocate for this community and a real champion for quality public education.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina said she has deep respect and admiration for educators who serve as role models, and women in the community who have changed society for the better.

“How fitting that this Learning Academy is named after our distinguished former Congresswoman and U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, whose life’s work has genuinely improved opportunities for women, families and our nation,” Molina said.

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