Record Number of School Districts In the Red

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Twenty-seven school districts in Los Angeles County, including Los Angeles Unified, were among 188 in California — an all-time high — reporting perilous financial situations, the state Department of Education announced today.

School districts are required by the state to report three times annually on their financial condition for the current and next two fiscal years. They must give certifications on their status — positive means they can meet their financial obligations; qualified means they might have problems paying their bills; or negative, meaning they will not be able to make their payments.

The Inglewood Unified School District issued a negative certification in the second interim report to the state, while 26 other Los Angeles County schools gave qualified certifications, including Los Angeles Unified, South Pasadena Unified, Antelope Valley Union High, Lancaster Elementary, Lynwood Unified and Paramount Unified.

“Across California, parents, teachers and administrators are increasingly wondering how to keep their schools’ lights on, their bills paid and their doors open,” state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. “The deep cuts this budget crisis has forced — and the uncertainties about what lies ahead — are taking an unprecedented and unacceptable toll on our schools.”

Torlakson said 2.6 million children are educated by school districts around the state that are in financial difficulty. The total of 188 districts is 61 more than listed in the first interim report, he said.

A dozen school districts, the largest being Vallejo City Unified in Northern California, issued negative certifications.

Monterey Park Names Fire Chief

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

(EGP News) – A 29-year veteran who began his firefighting career with the Monterey Park department has been named permanent fire chief, Monterey Park City Manager Paul Talbot announced last week.

Formerly the acting fire chief, Jim Birrell made his way up through the ranks from firefighter/paramedic, engineer, fire captain, and battalion chief. He is also the city’s paramedic coordinator and fire service instructor.

Birrell grew up in Downey, California, earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Professional Studies from Cal State Long Beach, and is working towards his Master’s Degree in Emergency Services Administration.

Paramount Blvd Bridge Reopens

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

(CNS) – A reconstructed Paramount Boulevard bridge over the Pomona (60) Freeway opened to traffic Monday, five months after the original structure was heavily damaged by a tanker truck that caught fire directly under it.

Construction on the replacement bridge began in March and was originally not expected to be finished until mid-June, but it was completed weeks ahead of schedule.

The Paramount Boulevard bridge, originally built in 1967, was shut down following the Dec. 14 fire, which forced a lengthy closure of the Pomona Freeway between the Long Beach (710) and San Gabriel River (605) freeways while crews assessed the integrity of the structure.

The bridge was demolished once it was determined the fire had caused too much damage. The demolition work was completed in late February.

The $40 million cost of rebuilding the bridge will be reimbursed by the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program, according to Caltrans.

The new bridge is 128 feet wide — 32 feet wider than the old one. It includes an additional northbound lane, an eight-foot shoulder, a 14-foot center median and six-foot sidewalks.

Boyle Heights Gets its Traffic Light After 30 Years

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Community members first requested a traffic light on Cesar Chavez Avenue and Fresno Street 30 years ago, when Art Snyder was still the councilman. Last Saturday, it was Councilman Jose Huizar who presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the long-awaited traffic light near Malabar Elementary School and the Evergreen Jogging Path.

Recent advocacy by 40-year resident Arturo Solis led to the installation of the light, after an initial effort went nowhere. LADOT at first approved a warning device crosswalk, but that was never installed due to budget cuts. A full traffic signal was finally approved using $250,000 in federal ARRA funds.

Former Commerce Councilman Sentenced

May 24, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Former Commerce city councilman Robert Fierro will serve five years probation, and has been ordered to pay a total $3,100 following a May 15 sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez.

Fierro resigned from his city council seat soon after he pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge in February. He admitted to trying to get witnesses to make false statements to hide his role in an illegal campaign finance scheme under investigation by a federal grand jury.

Fierro’s sister in law Ana Perez also pleaded guilty to a related conspiracy charge and is scheduled for her own sentencing on June 18. His wife Linda Fierro is awaiting a trial, but no date was set.

‘Evangeline, the Queen of Make Believe’ Playing At Bootleg Theater

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The songbook of Grammy Award winners David Hidalgo and Louie Pérez of Los Lobos drives Evangeline, the Queen of Make-Believe, a multimedia play with music that takes its title from the group’s 1985 rocker “Evangeline.” Evangeline is a devoted daughter by day, a Hollywood go-go dancer by night. A journey of self discovery by a young Chicana, whose neighborhood roots and make-believe world collide when she experiences the West Side art scene and the music of the Sunset Strip, is set against the 1968 student walkouts in East L.A. and the fight for equal education and civil rights.

Catherine Lidstone is "Evangeline, the Queen of Make Believe" (Photo by Theresa Chavez)

WHEN:
Thursday, May 24 at 7 pm
Friday, May 25 at 7 pm
Saturday, May 26 at 7 pm
Sunday, May 27 @ 2 pm

WHERE:
Bootleg Theater
2220 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90057
more information:
(213) 389-3856 or www.bootlegtheater.org <http://www.bootlegtheater.org/>

TICKETS:
General Admission $32
Music Night (May 26): call for pricing
Groups of 6 or more: $25 per ticket; use promo code EVAGROUPS

Community Calendar: May 24, 2012 to May 30, 2012

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Today, Thursday, May 24
White Memorial Medical Center’s Certified Stroke Center’s First Free Annual Community Stroke Symposium.
Learn the signs and symptoms of stoke, what to do when it happens, and how to prevent a stroke. For caregivers, stroke survivors, and people with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or stroke in their immediate family, and those concerned about stroke and heart disease. Free blood pressure screening. Location: Olivet Chapel at White Memorial Medical Center, 1720 E. Cesar Chavez Ave. To RSVP, call Cynthia Garcia at (323) 268-5000, ext. 8588 or email her at garciac8@ah.org.

Saturday, May 26
9am-3pm—Too Toxic to Trash: Free Countywide Household Hazardous and E-Waste Roundup in Maywood.
Residents can safely discard of household hazardous waste such as antifreeze, unused medications, car batteries, used motor oil, paint, pesticides; sharps waste such as hypodermic needles, pen needles, syringes, lancets, and intravenous needles; universal waste including household batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, and electronic waste (e-waste) such as TVs and monitors, computers, VCRs, stereos and cell phones. Drop off site: Maywood Park – 57th Street & Heliotrope Avenue. For more information, call LA County Dept. of Public Works at 1(888) CLEAN LA or go to www.888CleanLA.com or the Sanitation Districts of LA County at 1 (800) 238-0172 or www.lacsd.org.

9am-1pm—Final Bell Gardens Intermediate School-Environmental Garden Club Farmers Market (rain or shine) on the Soccer Field. Buy a bag of organic produce for just $1. Market specialties: organic produce, healthy snacks, plants, rummage sale, crafts, entertainment, information booths and more. School is located at 5841 Live Oak St., Bell Gardens, 90201.

Sunday, May 27
7pm—The Wall-Las Memorias Project Presents LA Premier of “La Otra Familia” (The Other Family) at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre as part of the Hola Mexico Film Festival 2012.
After being abandoned by his crack-addict mother, a 7-year-old child is put in the care of a gay couple, a situation that presents many moral dilemmas. Tickets: $7. Proceeds benefit The Wall-Las Memorias Project’s community programs. Theatre is located at 1615 Vine St. LA 90028. For more information or to buy tickets, email info@thewalllasmemorias.org or call (323) 257-1056 Ext. 29.

Tuesday, May 29
7-9pm—Lummis Day fundraiser from 7-9pm at the Lummis Home: 200 East Ave 43, LA 90042.
Enjoy food from local restaurants, beer, wine and soft drinks; silent auction of wines, artwork and collectibles. Tickets: $30 in advance/$35 at the door. Buy tickets online at the www.lummisday.org, or at Galco’s -5702 York Ave, or Antigua Café -3400 N. Figueroa St.

Wednesday, May 30
11am-1:30pm—Learn How Your Credit Score is Created at the East L.A. Chamber of Commerce
business Seminar Luncheon on May 30 at Tamayo Restaurant: 5300 E. Olympic Blvd., LA 90022. $20 per person. For more information or to RSVP, call (323) 263-2005, or email info@EastLAChamber.com.

6pm—Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council 10 Year Anniversary Celebration at the Boyle Heights Senior Center: 2839 East 3rd Street, LA 90033. Enjoy an evening of entertainment, hors d’œuvres , desserts, giveaways, speakers and more. For more information, email Randysalinas@boyleheightsnc.com.

Upcoming Events
Montebello’s permit-free garage sale weekend is coming up on June 1-3.
Residents do not have to apply for a permit or pay a fee to hold garage sales. Garage sales will also be allowed Sept. 7-8; and Dec. 9am-6pm. Sale hours are from 9am to 6pm. Sales must stay on private property and not spill into neighboring or public property. Only one sign per location. Signs not allowed on public property. For more information, call Montebello code enforcement at (323) 887-1490.

The Montebello Relay for Life takes place June 2 at Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the race will honor cancer survivors as well as raise funds for the fight against for cancer. All levels welcome. Start time 8:30 am. For more information, go to www.facebook.com/rflmontebello or www.relayforlife.org .

8th Annual El Sereno Community Resource Faire on Sat. June 2 from 8am to 1pm at El Sereno Middle School: 2839 N. Eastern Ave. LA 90032. Hosted by Farmdale Elementary, El Sereno Middle School and Wilson High School.

On June 2, the Northeast LA community of Hermon celebrates 100-year anniversary as part of LA. Festivities at Hermon Park: 5569 Via Marisol, L.A. 90042 from 11am to 4pm. BBQ and watermelon feed, kid’s activities, crafts, storytelling, art show, live entertainment and a large display of Hermon artifacts and pictures dating back to 1904. Tickets for “Hermon’s Hidden Treasures” tour on June 3 will be on sale at the event.

Monterey Park Fire Department Burger/Hot Dog Barbeque on June 2 from 11am-2pm at Station 61 at 350 West Newmark Ave. Limited number of $5 burger lunch tickets: includes a raffle for one week stay in Lahaina, Hawaii. Proceeds go toward the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” run on June 10, and the Fire Explorers & Reserves Program.

Free 2012 Tire Recycling Event for LA residents on June 2 at the North Central District Yard: 452 N. San Fernando Rd. LA 90031. Dispose of old and used tires: up to 9 per person per trip; passenger & light truck tires only; no tires on rims. Bring current DWP bill and/or CA driver’s license to verify residency. For more information, call (213) 485-3568.

Eagle Rock Take Back the Boulevard-Public Meeting #3- on June 5 at the Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock. Review preliminary plan for changes to Colorado Boulevard that aims to better serve the residents and businesses of Eagle Rock. The center is located at 2225 Colorado Blvd, Eagle Rock 90041. Parking is available at Bank of America. For more information email info@takebacktheblvd.org.

Announcements
Do you have a job for a veteran? Sign up to participate in the Veterans Job Expo on June 12 being sponsored by US Rep. Grace F. Napolitano and SASSFA, SELACO Workforce Investment Board, & the City of Norwalk.
Expo takes place from 9am to 1pm at the Norwalk Arts & Sport Complex: 13000 Clarkdale Ave, Norwalk, 90650. Register by June 4. For more info, call Christian Garcia at (562) 929-9107 or (562) 929-9132.

Submit an event or announcement to the Community Calendar: email calendar@egpnews.com. All submissions subject to space availability. Paid advertising available; for more information, email advertise@egpnews.com or call (323) 341-7970.

‘Buy Montebello’ Effort Hopes To Build Up Local Morale, Revenue

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Montebello’s movie theater chairs may creak with age, but some city leaders are urging youth to stay in them anyway in the name of civic duty and hometown pride.

“It all comes down to… this is your city, and we have to do the best we can,” says David Delgado, chair of the city’s youth commission.

The 15-year old high school student says it will not be easy to convince his peers to rally for Montebello, but he is hoping greater awareness will convince them otherwise. “I don’t think students or teenagers know at all that financial actions affect them,” he said.

But city leaders are hoping that by enlisting Delgado and many more youth like him to galvanize a “buy Montebello” effort, they will see the connection between city services and the local business economy. The places young people have depended on, including the parks, YMCA, and other public places could be impacted, if not shut down, Delgado says.

Their plan is to attract as many as 500 youth to a march along Montebello Blvd on July 28 they will visit several Montebello when establishments, including the AMC theater, Costco, Sears, the site of a proposed Cook Hill condo development and nature preserve, and the Chevron station.

The recent recession has not been kind to cities like Montebello where partially empty strip malls line commercial corridors and overlook major intersections.
Meanwhile, a $3 million budget deficit in the upcoming year threatens even more city services including police and fire, as well as parks and recreation in the coming year.

As the city hashes out ways to close the budget deficit, a campaign to get residents to shop locally, “the impact it can have, it’s immediate,” says City Councilwoman Christina Cortez, who appointed Delgado to the youth commission. While the effort alone may not save the city from its projected deficit, it can certainly help to reduce it, she says.

Cortez intends to present the plan to her fellow city council members during her council orals at the next meeting.

Billion Dollar Bait & Switch: States Divert Foreclosure Deal Funds

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

States have diverted $974 million from this year’s landmark mortgage settlement to pay down budget deficits or fund programs unrelated to the foreclosure crisis, according to a ProPublica analysis. That’s nearly forty percent of the $2.5 billion in penalties paid to the states under the agreement.

The settlement, between five of the country’s biggest banks and an alliance of almost all states and the federal government, resolved allegations that the banks deceived homeowners and broke laws when pursuing foreclosure. One part of the settlement is the cash coming to states; the deal urged states to use that money on programs related to the crisis, but it didn’t require them to.

ProPublica contacted every state that participated in the agreement (and the District of Columbia) to obtain the most comprehensive breakdown yet of how they’ll be spending the funds. Many states said they’ll be finalizing their plans in the coming weeks.

What stands out is that even states slammed by the foreclosure crisis are diverting much or all of their money to the general fund. In California, among the hardest hit states, the governor has proposed using all the money to plug his state’s huge budget gap. And Arizona, also among the worst hit, has diverted about half of its funds to general use.

Four other states where a high rate of homeowners faced foreclosure during the crisis are spending little if any of their settlement funds on homeowner services: Georgia, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Maine.

The $25 Billion Settlement: Breaking it down
$20 billion in credits:

  • $10 billion for cutting debt for struggling, underwater homeowners—$7 billion for various other forms of homeowner relief
  • $3 billion for refinancings for underwater homeowners

5 billion in cash payments:

  • $2.5 billion to the states’ attorneys general$1.5 billion to borrowers who lost homes to foreclosure
  • $912 million to the federal government
  • $90 million to various state organizations

Overall, only about $527 million has been earmarked for new homeowner-focused programs, but that number will go up. A number of large states — in particular New York, Nevada, Illinois, and Florida — have indicated they’ll be dedicating substantial amounts of the funds to consumer programs, but haven’t yet produced a final breakdown.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who led the coalition of attorneys general who negotiated the deal, argued that only a very small portion of the settlement was being diverted and it will “overwhelmingly” benefit homeowners. The centerpiece of the settlement is a requirement that the banks earn $20 billion in “credits” by helping homeowners in various ways — from reducing principal on underwater homes to bulldozing empty ones. Because the system awards only partial credit for certain actions, Miller said the settlement would bring more than $20 billion in benefits to consumers — he estimated $35 billion. Critics contend those sorts of numbers far overstate the benefits to consumers, because the banks can claim credit for some activities that were already routine.

The banks will only pay $5 billion in actual cash penalties under the agreement. The largest chunk, $2.5 billion, goes to the states’ attorneys general, while about $1 billion goes to the federal government. $1.5 billion will be sent to borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure during the crisis in the form of $2,000 payments.

Compared with the billions going to consumers, Miller contended, $1 billion going to states’ general funds was minimal. It was always expected that the states would divert some of the money to their general expenditures, he said.

But when announcing the deal, state and federal officials said the states’ $2.5 billion would mainly fund housing counselors and legal aid organizations. Studies have shown homeowners stand a better chance of avoiding foreclosure if they get the help of a counselor, and homeowners lack legal representation in the overwhelming majority of foreclosure cases. The money was divvied up among the states according to a formula that took into account how large the states were and how hard they were hit by the crisis.

Fifteen states have so far allocated over half their amounts to consumer-focused efforts. But the uses range widely. In Ohio, $75 million has been set aside to destroy some 100,000 abandoned homes. In Minnesota, the state is setting up a fund to compensate victims of the banks’ foreclosure abuses.

In two of the states most affected by the foreclosure crisis, California and Arizona, the attorneys general had intended to use most of their funds on homeowner-related efforts before the governors intervened.

After California Attorney General Kamala Harris prepared a proposal to spend the money on counselors, lawyers, and other consumer-related efforts, Gov. Jerry Brown released a proposed revised budget last week that used the state’s $411 million for existing housing programs. In other words, the money would just be used to help fill the state’s $16 billion budget deficit. Harris opposes the move, which still must make its way through the state legislature for it to become law.

In Arizona, the attorney general had similar plans. Then state lawmakers and the governor took $50 million of the $98 million coming the state’s way. Although the budget legislation stated that the money should be used to fund departments related to housing and law enforcement, there will be no new spending. Housing advocates are readying a lawsuit to stop the transfer and expect to file in the coming month, said Valerie Iverson, Executive Director of Arizona Housing Alliance.

MALDEF Sues Santa Monica Car Wash Owners

May 24, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A proposed class-action lawsuit was filed Monday against the owners of three Santa Monica-area car wash facilities for allegedly depriving their Latino workers of pay they earned.

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court against Santa Monica Car Wash and Detailing, Millennium Car Wash and Bumble Bee Car Wash by attorneys for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The suit was brought on behalf of Esteban Carmona, Marcial Carmona, Pedro Cruz and Anselmo Leyva, who seek compensation for allegedly being forced to often work off the clock, without overtime pay and without rest or meal breaks.

The suit, which seeks to add additional plaintiffs with similar claims of failure to pay wages, also asks for a court order prohibiting the businesses from continuing to engage in alleged unlawful labor practices.

A representative for Santa Monica Car Wash and Detailing could not be immediately reached. A woman who answered the phone at Millennium Car Wash said the company management was not on-site and she did not know their reaction to the suit.

The labor policies and practices maintained by the employers resulted in thousands of hours of free labor at each car wash, according to the plaintiffs.

Employees were expected to report to work early to prepare for the day, to work off the clock and were only permitted to work on the clock when the employer felt there were enough customers to justify payment for work, the suit alleges.

Workers who did not report to work early were punished in various ways, according to the suit, which alleges the car wash owners also required employees to buy materials for work and intentionally issued   inaccurate work records in an effort to conceal unlawful labor practices.

State law requires that employees get a meal break after no more than five hours of work or that they receive compensation for the day the meal is not provided, according to the suit, which alleges that management at the car washes prohibited meal breaks or delayed them past the five hour cut-off without compensation.

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