‘Harvey Girls’ Changed the West: See Film at Union Station

May 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Union Station 75th anniversary celebration continues this Saturday with a free movie premier and vintage western wear fashion show in the historic train station’s Fred Harvey Room.

Headlining the event is the new documentary “The Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound,” an inside look at how more than 100,000 rail station waitresses changed history by opening the doors of the American West to women.

From the 1880s to the 1960s, “Harvey Girls,” as the women came to be known, worked at railroad restaurants and hotels operated by the Fred Harvey Company, including a restaurant at Union Station open from 1939 to 1967.

“In the 1880s, it was a radical innovation to employ women as waitresses on a large scale and send them west,” said “Harvey Girls” executive producer Katrina Parks. “For women, it was an amazing opportunity to be independent. You could leave home, explore the American West and live in protected circumstances while earning enough money to send back to your family.”

In 1946, MGM brought the Harvey Girl’s story to the big screen in a motion picture of the same name staring actress Judy Garland of “The Wizard of Oz” fame.

“Opportunity Bound’s” filmmakers say their documentary takes a deeper look at “this important part of America’s history” by “using the voices of those closest to them, including rare interviews with the few remaining Harvey Girls and author and expert on Fred Harvey, Stephen Fried.”

The May 31 film screening and fashion show are being held in conjunction with Metro Presents, the agency’s ongoing program of arts and cultural events at the iconic station.

“Our plan with this ongoing series is to activate the various grand spaces of Union Station in creative ways so people have the chance to keep rediscovering this special L.A. place and experience it in new ways,” said Maya Emsden, Deputy Executive Officer in Metro Countywide Planning.

There will be a Q & A session with the filmmakers and former Harvey Girl, Hilda Velarde Salas, who is featured in the documentary, following the movie. Historic artifacts from Women in Railroading also will be on display, according to Metro.

While seating is limited, Metro notes customers who show a TAP cards at check-in will have access to preferential seating. Food is allowed, but Metro says no alcoholic beverages will be permitted. Coffee, hot chocolate, water and snacks will be available for purchase at the event (cash only).

Box dinners can be also be pre-ordered from Traxx Restaurant at Union Station and customers who show a valid TAP card, Metro employee ID or LA County employee ID will get a 10% discount. To pre-order box dinners, contact Traxx at (213) 625-1999.

Program begins at 7:15 with the fashion show; followed by the film at 8pm.

Union Station is accessible via Metro Rail, Metro Bus and several municipal bus lines. Use the Trip Planner at metro.net for routes and connections. Car and bicycle parking are also available on site. For more details go to metro.net/discounts.

For more information about the film, visit harveygirlsdocumentary.com.

Exide Violates Federal Emission Limits, Says EPA

May 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The Exide battery-recycling plant in Vernon violated federal limits on lead emissions on more than 30 occasions between September and April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced.

“By releasing an illegal amount of lead into the air, Exide has put the health and well-being of nearby residents at risk,” according to Jared Blumenfield, EPA regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “EPA and the South Coast Air Quality Management District are working closely to ensure the company comes into compliance with state and federal law.”

Officials with Exide noted that the plant has been out of operation since March to undergo a series of upgrades.

“For the last several months, Exide has been working to upgrade its Vernon facility and ensure that the recycling plant can operate in a way that protects the health and safety of the local community,” according to E.N. “Bud” DeSart, senior director of commercial operations for the Exide recycling group. “The company is dedicated to investing the time and money needed to improve the Vernon facility so it can resume recycling more than 9 million batteries per year while complying with the strictest emission standards in the nation.”

According to the EPA, lead emissions from the plant exceeded federal Clean Air Act standards on Sept. 9 and 18 of last year, Jan. 2-3 and from March 22 through April 19 of this year.

The company has 10 days to respond to the EPA’s notice of violation. The company could face penalties of $37,500 per day for each violation, according to the EPA.

“Today’s announcement…only strengthens my belief that this company should not be allowed to continue emitting pollutants into the air we breathe,” said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard who represents the 40th district, which includes the city of Vernon, Huntington Park, Maywood and Commerce.

Exide Technologies in Vernon is only one of two lead-acid battery recylers west of the rockies.  (EGP Photo Archive)

Exide Technologies in Vernon is only one of two lead-acid battery recylers west of the rockies. (EGP Photo Archive)

“Exide should stay closed until it can prove beyond any doubt that it will no longer emit harmful pollutants into our communities.”

Testing earlier this year found elevated levels of lead in the yards of 39 homes near the plant. The plant was forced to temporarily shut down last year due to arsenic emissions, and the AQMD sued the company in January alleging numerous air quality violations.

The battery recycling plant has been operating under a temporary permit from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control for the past 32 years.

The firm at 2700 S. Indiana St. is one of only two lead-acid battery recycling plants west of the Rockies and recycles 23,000 to 41,000 batteries daily.

Exide officials have said some recent elevated emissions were likely the result of construction work being done at the plant to install upgraded equipment. Company officials have said they have agreed to invest more than $5 million in the plant over the next two years and reducing arsenic emissions by 95 percent.

Program Helps East L.A. Students Plan for Academic Future

May 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

As the end of the school year and summer vacation approaches, some high school students are starting to plan what to do during their free time.

In East Los Angeles, members of United Students, a program of the education-based nonprofit InnerCity Struggle, are preparing to attend the Media Justice Academy in July.

United Students, is a student-organized program that provides information and resources to low-income youth from Theodore Roosevelt, James A. Garfield, Woodrow Wilson, Abraham Lincoln, Esteban E. Torres and Mendez High Schools in East L.A.

According to their website, the goal is to “organize high school students build student power and develop young leaders with the aim of transforming the quality of public education in the Eastside.”

Adriana Meza, 16, is in the 10th grade at Lincoln and Stephanie Orea, 18, is a senior at Torres High School, and both of the students told EGP they feel more motivated to go to college after attending a two-day field trip in late April to the Bay Area in Northern California as part of a United Students program that took 36 students from the East L.A. area, including Meza and Orea to visit the University of California at Berkeley, Cal State University East Bay and St Mary’s College.

Thirty-six East L.A. students visited three universities in the Bay Area and obtained information about classes and tuition. (Courtesy of InnerCity Struggle)

Thirty-six East L.A. students visited three universities in the Bay Area and obtained information about classes and tuition. (Courtesy of InnerCity Struggle)

Both students said they were very exited to go because they never thought they would have the opportunity to visit colleges far from home.

“[At the universities] they motivated us to go directly to a four-year university,” Meza told EGP.

“The best thing was talking to other students who gave us good advice,” added Orea.

Jasmin Pivaral, academic services coordinator at InnerCity Struggle, was one of the coordinators accompanying the students, along with 6 staff organizers.

Historically, Pivaral told EGP, colleges and universities were not equipped to accommodate the needs of low-income students, “and to this day they’re still not accessible.”

That’s why, she said, it is important to have more representation of low-income and first generation students in colleges throughout California.

During the visits to the colleges, “we try to get hosts that come from similar backgrounds as our students,” Pivaral told EGP via email. “We want students not only to be inspired by being on campus, but also to visualize themselves [at the school] through our hosts who are also low-income and first generation college students.”

During their visit, the students were able to meet two United Students alumni; one who is now attending UC Berkeley and another at CSU East Bay.

Meza said she felt comfortable talking to the college students: “They educated us to which school we should attend” depending on our goals, she said, adding that she is now more motivated to go straight to a four-year university rather than a community college.

“They even gave us financial information” about what it costs to attend, Meza added.

Lea este artículo en Español: Programa Enfocado a Estudiantes del Este de L.A. Ayuda a Planear Futuro Académico

Pivaral said many students, for one reason or another, get discouraged while in high school. “It is our responsibility to help make sure that students still work toward [their] goal despite their obstacles,” she said. Most of the time the reason they get discouraged about their college prospects is due to a lack of information and fear of the cost, she added.

According to the Campaign for College Opportunity’s 2013 study, The State of Higher Education in California, the state is “home to more than 14.5 million Latinos,” or the 38% of California’s population and 68% of Latinos are under the age of 25. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2011 only 11% of Latinos had a Bachelor’s Degree compared to 39% of whites.

“We understand that most schools do not have the needed resources to provide trips like these to eastside students” or summer programs such as the Academy and that’s why United Students began to organize the student leaders to serve as mentors and to provide the resources, said Pivaral.

Meza said she is proud to be the first one in her family to graduate from high school. She feels a responsibility to give back to her parents who work in low-paying jobs; her mother in a chain fast food restaurant and her father who works part-time in the restaurant and part-time in a warehouse loading and unloading merchandise with a forklift.

“[My parents] work hard for me and I want to be able to help,” she said, adding she wants to become a lawyer or a psychologist. “They approve of [what I am doing] as long as I’m doing good things,” she explains.

Orea, who will be attending East Los Angeles College starting in the fall, said as a first generation student going to college will prove to her family that education is the best option. “I don’t want to struggle like my siblings who have kids already,” dropped out of school and have a hard time making ends meet, said Orea one of four children.

“I want to move forward because I see my parents struggling and I want to help them,” added Orea who is planning to study Business.

During United Students’ Media Justice Academy this summer, students will continue developing their leadership skills and will focus on how media can have a positive or negative influence in communities, said Pivaral.

Student participants will learn how “the media is used to perpetuate stereotypes and misconceptions about eastside youth,” and how to overcome them, she explained.

In the meantime, Orea said she is exited to have taken one more step forward in reaching her educational goals. “I want to know what it is like to go to a different place,” she said as she begins to consider the possibility of going to a four-year university far from home.

Meza told EGP that since joining the group her parents have been more open to hearing about her options; “They want me to go to college and have the chance to get a better job,” she said.

This year about 45 students in the United Students program will be graduating from high school, and the colleges they will attend include UCLA, UC San Diego, Yale University, Brown University, Mount St. Mary’s, UC Merced, CSU LA and CSUN.

Although the summer Academy is only open to students who are already United Students members, the group encourages students at their focus high schools to attend their general membership meetings, which usually occur during lunch-time or after school, depending on the campus.


Twitter @jackieguzman



Editor’s Note: Headline updated to correct editing error.


‘Collegebound’ Students Get a Closer Look at CSULA

May 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Eager to learn more about getting into college, students from throughout the Montebello Unified School District toured the Cal State LA campus, hoping to get a jumpstart on the college admissions process.

Dozens of sophomores and juniors from the Collegebound Today program at the Applied Technology Center in Montebello and their parents spent a recent Saturday morning learning more about a process that to some seems very foreign.

The district’s Collegebound Today program partners students with mentors during the second semester of their sophomore year. The mentors, made up of college graduates and professionals, stick with a group of students until they graduate from high school.

Students from Applied Technology Center in Montebello take a tour of the Cal State Los Angeles campus.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Students from Applied Technology Center in Montebello take a tour of the Cal State Los Angeles campus. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The program aims to help the students, most of whom would be the first in their families to attend college, with the long and complicated process of preparing, applying and finding ways to pay for college.

For Julie Flores, a sophomore at ATC, the tour of the Cal State LA campus got her thinking about everything that is involved with getting into college, such as taking the SAT (college admissions exam), the A-G high school classes required for admissions and how to properly fill out  all the forms that are part of the application process.

“They’re trying to get us into the mindset for getting into college,” Flores said about the program and tour.

As the first in her family planning to apply to college, Flores said she wants to makes sure she is ready by her senior year when college applications are due.

“My parents don’t know anything about that [applications],” she said. “I want to learn about it so I can explain it to my parents.”

Her father, Zeno Flores, told EGP that Julie is motivated to learn more about the college process.

“I could help her, but it would be more complicated” for me to figure it out, he said in Spanish. “This program is meant to help her apply.”

But Zeno Flores is not alone. Guadalupe Gonzalez told EGP she appreciates the Collegebound Program because it fills the gaps in information her son needs to apply for college but that as a parent she would have a hard time helping him learn.

“I wasn’t informed before,” she said, referring to some of the deadlines she learned about during the college tour. “I’m learning…if it wasn’t for the program I would have to go on the Internet and get more information from counselors” to try and figure everything out, she said.

Unlike some students who are concerned with scoring well on the SATs, getting good grades and writing personal essays, Gonzalez’s son Juan Cruz told EGP he is more concerned with how he will actually pay for college.

“I think I’m mentally prepared for college but I don’t think I’m financially ready,” he said.

His mother shares that same concern.

“The thing that seems the most difficult for me is the money,” Gonzalez said in Spanish. “Where is the money going to come from to pay for the classes?”

Although the tour did not include a detailed talk about tuition, Jose Flores and his daughter Mel realize that there is a difference in costs between colleges.

“We’re just learning, we don’t know much,” he said.

And despite having an older son who will be attending a university in Northern California in the fall, Jose says the Collegebound Program should help things go smoother for his daughter.

“It’s going to be easier since we’re still in the process,” he said.

For now, students like Roberto Viramontes, a sophomore at ATC, will wait to think about how to pay for college, and instead focus on making sure their grades and classes make them eligible for admission.

“We got to learn more about a college than we already did,” said Viramontes referring to the Cal State LA tour. “They talked about the things they look for in an application…that’s very important.”

Cruz said he now realizes that applying for colleges is not only about the student but the school itself.

“I learned that one of the most important things about college is that you have to be comfortable in the college, I personally never thought about that,” he said. So for him, that means his college search must be more than just what he hears or reads.

“That makes me want to go visit colleges,” he said.

EGP Endorsements – June 3 Primary Election

May 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Eastern Group is adding to its list of endorsements of Secretary Hilda Solis for County Supervisor, with the following candidates:


 Sheriff Los Angeles County—James Hellmold is our choice for Los Angeles Sheriff. We understand the sentiment to elect an outsider to this post given the department’s many scandals.

But we aren’t interested in blaming every member of the Sheriff’s Department for the abuses, lack of supervision and downright lawlessness of some.

In our view, there is a need for a strong leader who understands how to manage a law enforcement department that has in far too many instances forgotten its mandate to serve and protect the public, not to abuse them.

It sometimes takes a person who already knows an organization’s weakness and where the bodies are buried, or will be buried, to maneuver around the land mines that are sure to be set in an attempt to maintain the status quo.

Mr. Hellmold has been endorsed by members of communities such as Watts who are patrolled by the Sheriff’s Department and who have too often been the recipients of strong-arm and heavy handed policing. He has, however, been able to build trust in Watts because he has taken the time to be involved with the community’s young people who for far too long have been alienated by bad or over zealous law enforcement.

We believe James Hellmold will be able to steer the Sheriff’s Department into a more professional, and yes, law abiding organization, an organization the county and department can be proud of.


Secretary of State—Our choice is Alex Padilla. State Senator Alex Padilla was first elected to the Los Angeles City Council at age 26, and after only two years on the council was elected its president.

Padilla quickly moved on to the California State Senate in 2006. During his time in office, he has demonstrated an ability to build consensus for and pass legislation in such areas as public safety, health, education, green energy, and technology, which is important to the people in California. He has also demonstrated an understanding of the many struggles that businesses in the state face and has sought to seek compromises that protect both the public interest and the ability to do business in California.

We recommend Padilla for Secretary of State.


State Senator, 24th District—Our endorsement goes to State Senator Kevin de Leon who has been a productive advocate for his constituents in the legislature. His brokering of a deal to keep the city of Vernon as an incorporated entity, while at the same time creating a path to reform, in our view is one of his stellar accomplishments.

De Leon’s appointment as chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which reviews all bills with a fiscal impact, has given him experience in the assembly legislative process that will continue to prove useful to his district.


Member of the State Assembly, 51st District.—As a new member of the State Assembly Jimmy Gomez has proven him self to be an astute legislator for his district and has helped to facilitate legislation to facilitate graduation of community college nursing and allied health students.

He has established a partnership with State Senator Kevin de Leon to promote healthy living for inner city kids. We believe he will continue to be a new and important voice in the State Assembly.

We endorse his re-election.

Naturalization – Do It for Your Family

May 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s hard to imagine that we as individuals can do anything about the broken immigration system that is tearing many of our families apart.

But we can.

There is one step that, if taken together, could have the power to protect our families and move our communities forward.

More than 8 million immigrants in the United States have green cards and are eligible to become U.S. citizens. Yet only 8 percent of eligible immigrants naturalize each year.

Imagine what would happen if the millions of us who are eligible to become citizens actually took that step.

We would be able to vote. But the benefits of citizenship don’t end there.

We would be able to keep our families together. As naturalized U.S. citizens, we could petition for our relatives. We would get automatic citizenship for our children under 18 who are Lawful Permanent Residents. And unlike green card holders who can still be deported, U.S. citizens are protected from the threat of deportation, and so are our children.

We would be able to travel freely, visit a sick relative or attend a wedding without worrying that we might not be allowed back in the country if we leave for six months.

We would be able to access public benefits like Medicare and Supplemental Security Income. If we choose to retire abroad, we would be able to keep our Social Security retirement income – and of course visit our grandchildren.

We would be able to apply for government jobs that are only available to U.S. citizens. And studies have shown that immigrants who naturalize also see an increase in income!

So why aren’t more green card holders applying for citizenship?

Some may be held back by financial and language barriers. But a group of organizations that form part of the national New Americans Campaign are working to reduce these barriers.

For example, it costs $680 to file for citizenship. But if your income falls below poverty level, you can qualify for a fee waiver.

If you don’t speak English well you may think that limits your chances of becoming a citizen. But if you have been here for many years, you can qualify to take the exam in your native language. And if you do need to take the exam in English, many local organizations provide free and low-cost English and citizenship classes.

Becoming a U.S. citizen doesn’t have to mean giving up citizenship in our home country – the United States allows for dual citizenship.

Green card holders can get other questions answered through CitizenshipWorks, an online tool to guide users through the citizenship application.

With so many immigrants eligible to apply for citizenship, the biggest challenge may simply be a lack of information.

That’s why this year, in cities across the country, media that serve immigrant communities are coming together with the national organization New America Media to help inform our audiences about the importance of citizenship and some of the free resources available to help them through the process.

We are calling on our audiences to take the important step of becoming American citizens — not just for the individual, but for the good all of our families and communities.


To learn more about the New Americans Campaign, go to: newamericanscampaign.org.

A Bump in the Road for Hillary Clinton

May 29, 2014 by · 2 Comments 

It was fun watching the handwringing all week after a New York newspaper reported that Republican consultant Karl Rove allegedly commented that Hillary Clinton had much “splaining” to do about her 30 day medical episode in December/January of 2012-13. A “major brain trauma” were the words used as well as eyeglasses people with major brain traumas use rose to the top of the discussion and outrage.

A personal attack is what many called the report. Poor Hillary was being attacked because she would be 69 years of age at election time, if she runs for President as well as, possibly, less than healthy.

Coming on the heels of a bad month in Hillary’s political life what with her Benghazi experience gathering into a possible political storm, her daughter’s mother-in-law looking to get creamed in a congressional race in Pennsylvania, Russia laughing at her bragged-about “reset” and chunks of sovereign countries being bitten off by the Russian Bear she thought she had pacified and thousands more people dying in Syria which she never mentions having occurred during her watch as Secretary of State.

All those diplomatic and political people she allegedly made nice with around the world as she polluted the atmosphere with her countless miles of jet air travel aren’t standing up to help a courageous President Barack Obama who draws red lines against poison gas warfare and stands idly by as people are gassed to death by Syria’s brazen “President” who laughs at the Obama red line.

Hillary supporters are busy locking up the Democratic nomination for President by raising money and opening offices around the country; they are stumped when asked exactly what she accomplished as Secretary of State and they dole out what amounts to Barnyard Sierra. She traveled more than any other Secretary of State, they say. So what?

Getting back to Karl Rove and his “personal attack” on Hillary Clinton, who says that Karl laid on a personal attack and is doing so to sabotage her nascent run for President?

Since when is the health of a presidential candidate not an issue? Since when is age not an issue?

John McCain was viciously attacked about his age by Obama supporters; they even suggested his mental state wasn’t 100% because of his years as a Vietnamese prisoner of war.

Bill Clinton, Hillary’s husband, and his campaign in 1996 attacked Bob Dole 24/7 about his age as Bill ran around like a horned toad with a 21-year-old “intern.”  Of course, he was forgiven for lying about that because it was just “sex.”

Then, of course, there is the fact that Hillary is a woman and she mustn’t be picked on or bullied politically because she is a woman. At least her whiny supporters say that.

Rove and fellow traveling thinkers that think Hillary might not even run are being charged with attempting to bully her out of running for President; If that is true, so what?

Is her health a legitimate issue? Yes. Is her age a legitimate issue when coupled with her health?


Rove brings up these facts: There was a thirty day span between reports Hillary had a virus, then fell and hit her head causing a concussion, then went to a hospital where they discovered a blood clot in her head between her skull and brain. Altogether 30 days were involved – while she was

Secretary of State and scheduled to testify to Congress of the Benghazi episode that cost the lives of four Americans, including her personal choice for Ambassador to Libya.

With all the talk about concussions in sports and the damage they can do, one has to look at Hillary’s experience and wonder how much damage she did when she fell on the floor after fainting.

But more important, just what damage is being done to the American political process by Hillary’s supporters in attempting to short circuit the process by claiming she is being bullied by bully Rove and others. Her health and age shouldn’t be issues, they maintain.

Why not?

Those subjects were issues by Democrats against Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and John McCain. Of course, these were Republican men and all is fair against them, isn’t it.

Of course, we must now add Bill Clinton to the mix. He was videotaped commenting that it took

Hillary “6 months of hard work” to overcome the concussion incident. What???

Former President Clinton has reignited the issue of Hillary’s health with that statement. “6 months?”

In my best Spanglish, Hillary before you run for anything, you have some real “splaining” to do, much, mucho “splaining.”


Raoul Lowery Contreras formerly wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times and is the author of several books available on amazon.com.

Editorial Cartoon

May 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 


Scrapyard Fire in Lincoln Heights Caused by Pickles and Peppers

May 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

A fire in a scrapyard that caused explosions heard throughout Lincoln Heights Tuesday may have been nothing more than pickles and peppers in brine stored in plastic barrels.

Firefighters were called to 1809 Hancock St. at ASAP Auto Wrecking at 8:03 p.m., said the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Brian Humphrey.

Humphrey initially said the fire was proving difficult to fight because there may have been exotic metals in the drums that reacted with the firefighters’ water.

The type of chemicals that caused the problem were not immediately known, but it took 97 firefighters 54 minutes to knock down the fire, Humphrey said.

Humphrey said a “sizeable’’ number of plastic barrels caught fire and smoke and explosive noise may have been created by a combination of water, plastic and brine.

Humphrey said it was not clear why the pickles and peppers were being stored at the wrecking yard.

No injuries were reported and no evacuations were required.

Teen Shot in Highland Park

May 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

A 15-year-old girl was shot Tuesday in Highland Park near the Arroyo Seco (110) Parkway, police said.

Police were called to Avenue 60 and the freeway at 4:30 p.m., said Los Angeles Police Department Officer Nuria Venegas.

The victim’s condition was not available and despite a search of the immediate area, no suspect was found.

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