Hispanic Baby Boomers: Golden Years Not So Golden

May 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The old adage “healthy, wealthy, and wise” appears to be more of a fantasy than a reality for aging Latino Baby Boomers, according to Cal State L.A.’s Professor of Social Work Valentine M. Villa, the lead author on a research article recently published in a special issue of “The Gerontologist.”

“Latino Baby Boomers are likely to experience health and economic inequities similar to their parents as they enter the ranks of the elderly population,” according to Villa and his colleagues.

The research article is the first comprehensive analysis of the health of the Hispanic Baby Boom population, according to a Cal State L.A. statement announcing the article.

Latino Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964 (ages 43-61), are more likely than their non-Hispanic white peers to report poorer health across all health indicators, including diabetes, obesity, functional difficulties and self-rated health, according to the article. Lower education rates and higher levels of poverty are contributing factors, according to Villa, who is also director of the Applied Gerontology Institute at CSULA and a resident of Alhambra.

The researchers used data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey to come up with their findings.

They note that makeup of the U.S. elderly population will shift over the next 40 years, with Hispanics increasing from their current 7 percent, or 2.9 million of the individuals over 65, to 20 percent, or 17.5 million of the estimated 80 million seniors by 2050.

The majority of elderly Latinos will be of Mexican origin — U.S.-born Mexicans, naturalized Mexican immigrants, and noncitizen Mexican immigrants — and “Little is Little is known about the health status of this population.”

As a group, they do not share the same advantages of health, income, and educational attainment enjoyed by U.S.-born non-Hispanic whites. The cumulative impact of these disparities “are likely to result in continued or worse health disparities,” according to the article, “Hispanic Baby Boomers: Health Inequities Likely to Persist in Old Age,” published in March of this year.

The article’s authors dispute the notion that the next generation of the elderly will need fewer aging programs and services.

“Reductions in federal entitlement programs for the elderly adults that delay eligibility, scale back programs and services, or increase costs to consumers may exacerbate those inequities,” they state.

To refer to the published article, click here: http://www.calstatela.edu/academic/hhs/PDF/new/GeronBabyBoom.pdf

Police Seek ‘Painter Mask’ Robbers

May 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Police want help from the public to find two men dubbed the “Painter Mask” robbers, believed to have committed at least six armed “takeover” robberies in Los Angeles and suspected in similar crimes in Gardena, Hawthorne and East Los Angeles.

Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas on April 25 proposed a $50,000 reward for information leading to the suspects’ capture.

“The criminals responsible for these robberies represent an ongoing threat to the safety of the people of Los Angeles,” Cardenas said. “Public participation works at stopping criminals and I’m urging the community to come forward and help us apprehend these individuals before they put more lives in danger.”

Authorities have circulated security photos showing the men wearing painters masks, but they have also worn ski masks or bandannas, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.

One man is about 30-40 years of age, between 6 feet and 6 feet 2 inches tall, 175 pounds, and has a light mustache. The other man is about 25-30 years of age, between 6 feet and 6 feet 2 inches tall, and about 175 pounds. He has a mustache, sideburns and a possible “chin strap” beard. (Photo courtesy of LAPD)

One man is about 30-40 years of age, between 6 feet and 6 feet 2 inches tall, 175 pounds, and has a light mustache. The other man is about 25-30 years of age, between 6 feet and 6 feet 2 inches tall, and about 175 pounds. He has a mustache, sideburns and a possible “chin strap” beard.

On Nov. 18, 2011, about 8:30 p.m., the suspects committed their first armed robbery at an auto parts store in the 24800 block of South Western Avenue in the San Pedro area.

Their method of operation is to take cash from registers and safes, and personal property from the store employees. They have targeted auto parts stores and a pharmacy, usually around closing time.

They are also accused of burglaries including:

— On Dec. 17, 2011, about 8:35-8:45 p.m., they robbed two businesses in the same general area as their first crime.
— On Jan. 13, about 6:30 p.m., they robbed a business in the 11500 block of Santa Monica Boulevard in the West Los Angeles area.
— On Feb. 16 about 9 p.m., they robbed a business in the 7000 block of Laurel Canyon Boulevard in North Hollywood.
— On Feb. 17 about 8:50 p.m., they robbed a business in the 800 block of North Western Avenue in the Hollywood area.

Anyone with information was urged to call LAPD Detective Maria Tomes, (213) 486-6840, or (877) LAPD-24-7.

Man Gets Probation in Immigration Visa Fraud Case

May 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

(CNS) – A West Hills man was sentenced Monday to three years probation for conning Mexican nationals trying to obtain temporary work visas in the United States out of thousands of dollars by filing bogus paperwork.

Carlos Alberto Silva, 30, pleaded guilty to a single charge of visa fraud. His plea agreement acknowledges that he falsely represented himself to be an attorney and offered legal services to businesses that needed assistance in hiring unskilled temporary immigrant workers.

Under the scheme, Silva filed false petitions to obtain visas for alien workers, claiming that his clients’ businesses needed more employees and work visas than they had actually requested.

At the same time, Silva operated Mexican recruitment agencies that charged Mexican nationals about 50,000 pesos — $3,000 to $4,000 — to seek work visas that would allow them to enter the United States, prosecutors said.

Essentially, Silva “was selling the excess visas he obtained on behalf of his client businesses to aliens in Mexico and concealing that fact (along with others)” from ICE, prosecutors wrote in sentencing papers.

Dodgers: It’s A Done Deal

May 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Ed Reyes, Los Angeles City Councilmember from District 1, the new owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers and some old faces having a little fun at a press conference to introduce the team’s new owners, Ervin ‘Magic’ Johnson, Stan Kasten and Mark Walter. The most significant announcement came from Magic Johnson, who said the owners are lowering the charge for parking from $15 to $10. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

Angelenos Say Race Relations Are Better, Survey Finds

May 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Twenty years after the acquittal of Los Angeles police officers in the Rodney King beating led to rioting, Angelenos are somewhat optimistic about race relations and crime in the city, according to an LMU poll.

The survey done at Loyola Marymount University’s Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles also revealed some pessimism about the city’s future, as well as a small-but-lingering ethnic divide over how well the Angelenos get along with their neighbors.

“We see a lot of positive signs in the results of this survey,” said Fernando Guerra, director of the center and professor of political science and Chicana/o studies at LMU.

“Angelenos are getting along better with each other, expressing confidence in their police department and feeling safer in their neighborhoods. There are some negative results, but much of that can be attributed to the overall direction of the national economy.”

The center has conducted surveys about race relations, crime and the city’s outlook every five years since 1997, the fifth anniversary of the unrest.
According to the survey:

—Sixty-eight percent of respondents said Angelenos of different races and ethnicities get along very well or somewhat well. But there was a difference in perception. The study found that 76 percent of white respondents believe race relations are good, compared to 65 percent of minority residents.

—Respondents gave high marks to the LAPD, with seven in 10 saying the department is doing “good” or “excellent” work.

—Though reported crime is down in nearly all categories, 34 percent of respondents said they believe crime has worsened over the past 20 years.

—44 percent of respondents, the highest number since 1997, believe Los Angeles is headed in the wrong direction. Those surveyed singled out jobs, housing costs and the local economy as negative issues. The environment was a bright spot.

—Surprisingly, people who live where the rioting occurred were less likely to predict future rioting than those who live elsewhere in the city: 35 percent versus 44 percent.

“One factor that could explain the response of those in riot areas is their awareness of the continued impact of the riots, in the physical, economic and social sense,” Guerra said. “The people who lived through the riots and who live in those neighborhoods now have a much keener sense of the costs of such unrest.”

Affordable Housing Wobbles as Redevelopment Agencies Close

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Affordable housing advocates across California are scrambling for alternative sources of funding following the closure of the state’s redevelopment agencies last February.

A state law upheld by the California Supreme Court mandated the dismantling, which aims to redirect billions in property tax earnings held by the redevelopment agencies (RDAs) back to local governments to help close a huge gap in the state’s general fund.

The demise of California’s 425 RDAs “comes at a very bad time,” says Rachel Iskow, executive director of the Sacramento Yolo Mutual Housing Association.

Money coming from the federal housing program has been substantially reduced. The $2.9 billion generated by the state’s Proposition 1C bonds — enacted by California voters in 2006 for various types of housing — are almost gone, and a sluggish development market has reduced money for local low-cost housing trust funds to a trickle.

“The end of redevelopment agencies significantly shrinks the total supply of financing for affordable housing,” Iskow explains.

She adds that her private nonprofit has built more than 900 homes in the Sacramento-Yolo area. It serves an ethnically diverse community of mostly “workers earning an average of $20,000 a year for a family of four people.”

It must now put a hold on the construction of 100 apartment units on six acres and the renovation of a decrepit 150-unit housing complex, all meant for low-wage workers. It also stands to lose well-trained professional housing managers and neighborhood advocacy organizers, says Holly Wunder Stiles, the group’s housing development director.

Ready Source of Housing Funds
Redevelopment agencies served as the second largest source of funding for affordable housing in the state for 65 years. Local RDAs zoned out rundown or blighted areas, held down property values within them, and borrowed funds for infrastructure improvements — roads, services, open spaces — to attract private developers.

Once the property values in the redeveloped area rose, RDAs kept the incremental increase in property tax earnings for their exclusive use. This amounted to 12 percent of all property taxes collected in California, currently around $5 billion a year. By law, 20 percent of RDAs’ share of the new tax revenues went back to the county or city for affordable housing.

After the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, which slashed property tax revenues, cities relied on RDA funds to build affordable housing and rehabilitate blighted areas.
From 1998 to 2001 RDA money helped build 16,714 units, more than 75 percent of which were for low-income households, according to a Cal State Fullerton, Dept of Economics study.

Gov. Brown’s Push
Governor Jerry Brown pushed for the RDAs’ dismantling, in hopes of freeing up billions in property tax revenues held by the RDAs to ease the $26-billion crunch in the state budget by at least $1.7 billion. His push gained traction because RDAs became vulnerable to criticism over the years.

Some of that criticism was directed at RDAs’ diversion of as much as $5 billion a year in statewide property tax funds from local governments, depriving schools, law enforcement and other services of much-needed money. They also have been accused of serving as subsidies for private developers.

Critics also charged that the criteria designating an area for redevelopment were loosely defined, while by 2009 RDAs had incurred huge debts — $29 billion in outstanding bonds. Oakland’s RDA alone owes $160 million.

And while the Cal State Fullerton, Dept of Economics 2002 study noted RDAs’ contribution to the state’s housing stock, it also found that they had very small low-to- moderate housing funds, insufficient to have a dramatic impact on affordable housing overall.

Feeling the Pinch
With RDAs gone, large cities — Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco and sprawling suburban centers in Southern California and the Central Valley — that benefited the most from redevelopment money are suddenly feeling the pinch.

Thousand Oaks may lose up to $20 million in cash and $10 million in assets. Oakland used most of its $39 million in RDA funds to support citywide staff salaries ($3.7 million for police; $3.2 million for city attorneys staff; half the salaries of city council members). The demise of its RDA will cut 160 jobs in 11 departments.

San Francisco may be able to stand the hit, reports the San Francisco Planning and Research Association (SPUR). As a successor agency to its RDA, the city government transferred redevelopment funds and assets to the Mayor’s office of housing and City Administrator’s office; so affordable housing and existing redevelopment projects stand to be protected.

As both a city and county San Francisco does not have to send its redevelopment money to a separate county government where funds will be divided up among cities — unlike Oakland or San Jose, which are just part of larger counties.

“Redevelopment here in Hercules was under water even when it was around,” explains Hercules city manager Steve Duran, “but dismantling it sure doesn’t help.”
For Hercules, a middle-class community east of San Francisco with a diverse population, the end of redevelopment means “no money for affordable housing subsidies and no capital funds for potential infrastructure projects,” says Duran.

On top of this drought, a private financial guarantor is suing Hercules because its RDA defaulted on a $2.4 million bond, and the city is accused of diverting RDA funds to its operations. If it loses the suit, it could go bankrupt.

Banking on New Legislation
Housing advocates are now pinning their hopes on state legislation for a new source of funds, a statewide housing trust fund, which will be a permanent source of funding for affordable housing.

State Senate President pro tem Darrel Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) introduced Senate Bill 1220, which will charge a $75-fee per document recording of non-sale real estate transactions — maps, easements, liens, title changes and notices of default.

Funds collected will go to the dedicated state housing trust fund. Thirty-nine states have such trust funds, but California has none. Supporters estimate that the fee collection could raise “$300 million in years with low activity and $722 million in high-activity years.”

The trust fund will support the construction of affordable housing, the renovation of distressed housing stock, and foreclosure prevention and homebuyer assistance programs.

The California Association of Realtors dropped its opposition to the bill once it was made clear that the purchase and transfer of residential and commercial property will be exempt from the fee.

“All of the state’s affordable housing advocates are focused on building support for this bill right now,” says Iskow.

Mexican Scribe Javier Sicilia Brings Campaign for Peace to U.S.

May 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Javier Sicilia looks tired. The 56 year-old Mexican poet, essayist, journalist and novelist has been going non-stop since March 28th of last year, which is the day he acquired a distinction that is every Mexican’s nightmare: to be a member of one of the roughly 60,000 families to have lost one or more loved ones to the accelerated violence that has gripped Mexico since President Felipe Calderon began his crusade against the drug cartels six years ago.

In the spring of 2011, Sicilia’s son Francisco, 24, along with several of his friends, was killed after leaving a bar where witnesses said they had been talking loudly about the cartel-fueled violence in their country. Their dead bodies were discovered later that night in a car, accompanied by a note that read, “This is what happens to those who make anonymous calls to soldiers.” The killings, which occurred in the town of Cuernavaca, were highly publicized on both sides of the border.

Mexican poet Javier Sicilia launched a campaign in both Mexico and the U.S. to raise awareness about the drug cartel violence.

Since then, Sicilia has been roaming Mexico’s northern and southern states demanding peace, justice and dignity for the families of victims of organized crime. And however tired and disillusioned by the actions of the Mexican government he may be, Sicilia doesn’t plan to give up his quest anytime soon. To the contrary, after catching a red eye flight last week from Mexico City to Los Angeles to meet other family members of victims, he quickly lined up a series of meetings with community leaders and labor representatives to work out the logistics for the next phase of his campaign. Believing deeply that U.S. government officials share as much responsibility as their counterparts in Mexico, Sicilia plans to make his plea to the U.S. Congress this summer.

Between now and then, Sicilia will be spending his time organizing a caravan due to depart from the border town of San Diego in August, making stops in over twenty U.S. cities and finishing at the steps of the U.S. Capitol where he plans to repeat the message he’s been spreading all over his native country: “!Estamos hasta la madre!” Roughly translated to English, the phrase means, “We’ve had it!”

In Sicilia’s view, as long as both countries aren’t making it a priority to stem the flow of weapons south from the U.S. to Mexico, instead keeping to their same policies of penalizing drugs and imposing fines for money laundering, the only winners will be the already bloated prison industry, and the Mexican Army. The latter, says Sicilia, has been the main beneficiary of the roughly $1.7 billion dollars in economic and logistical aid granted by the U.S. to Mexico and several countries in Central America under the Merida Initiative, a massive security agreement to combat drug trafficking, organized crime and money laundering. The initiative was authorized by Congress in 2008.

“The jails in Mexico and in [the U.S.] are filled with young people accused of the crime of drug consumption, while the real criminals walk freely, work for the government, or hold well paying jobs in white collar positions. The only thing we are achieving with these policies is to destroy a whole generation of young people in both countries,’’ Sicilia concludes.

With Mexico’s presidential elections quickly approaching, Sicilia’s message could very well resonate on the U.S. side of the border, where a huge pool of Mexican nationals – an estimated 4 million — are eligible to vote in their country’s national election. If history is a guide, just a fraction of those will actually register to vote and participate in the election – only 33,000 did so in 2008.

Nevertheless, the issue of violence is paramount in the minds of many Mexican voters, and the drug war policies implemented by current president Felipe Calderon and his ruling National Action Party (PAN) have increasingly been blamed for the years-long spike in gruesome cartel-related killings and disappearances.

“How could it be possible that during the past six years we have had more than 60,000 deaths, 10,000 disappearances and 160,000 displaced people, yet only two percent of those crimes have been resolved?” asked Sicilia to a group of Latino journalists who met him after his arrival to “La Iglesia de la Placita,” one of the oldest Catholic churches in downtown Los Angeles. “It is clear that Mexicans have been living under a failed state. It’s a national tragedy born of a wrong strategy.”

Which is why, explains Sicilia, he is organizing the caravan bound for Washington D.C., something that no Mexican national, he points out, has ever attempted.

L.A. Vendor Charged with Selling Counterfeit Designer Accessories

May 3, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A Los Angeles fashion district vendor faces federal charges of trafficking in knockoffs of designer handbags, jewelry and other accessories, officials said April 27.

Leticia Nunez, 38, of Los Angeles was arrested Thursday by federal agents based upon an indictment charging her with trafficking in counterfeit goods, prosecutors said.
Earlier this month, Nunez’s two downtown booths and a storage facility she rents nearby were searched, officials said.

During the searches, agents seized a variety of allegedly counterfeit merchandise, including jewelry bearing fake trademarks for Chanel, Tiffany & Co., Juicy Couture, Dior, Bulgari, Tag Heuer and Cartier, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

Agents contend the seized items represent an estimated loss to the legitimate trademark holders of more than $130,000.

“Despite what some people think, the sale of product knockoffs is not a victimless crime,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for HSI Los Angeles. “Retailers and vendors who deal in counterfeit goods are selling stolen property, and consumers who knowingly buy those products are essentially an accessory to the crime. Product counterfeiting undermines the U.S. economy, robs Americans of jobs, stifles American innovation and promotes other types of crime.”

Previously, HSI special agents had made undercover buys at Nunez’s booths twice last winter. Those purchases included more than 80 pieces of jewelry bearing apparently counterfeit marks for Tiffany & Co. and Chanel, prosecutors said.

Suspicions about Nunez’s businesses first arose as a result of an earlier HSI probe targeting a Lake Forest couple suspected of trafficking in phony goods.
Julieta Luft, 44, and Renel Dizon, 53, pleaded guilty April 26 to charges of trafficking in counterfeit goods, prosecutors said.

Dizon’s plea agreement specifically states that Luft received some of the knockoffs she sold from “L.N.,” whom investigators allege was Leticia Nunez, authorities said.

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