The Changing Face of America

May 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

We’ve been hearing about it for years, and now the time has come. In May, the Census Bureau announced that for the first time, the birth rate of people of color exceeded that of whites: 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent.

The United States of America is still a majority white country, with whites comprising 63.4 percent of the total population. But the Census Bureau report covering the 12-month period that ended last July reveals that at a time when the white birth rate is declining, there are now 114 million people of color in the United States, or 36.6 percent of the population. Latinos, now America’s largest minority group, led the way last year with 26 percent of total births. The African-American percentage was about 15 percent, and for Asians it was about 4 percent.

The country now has four majority-minority states: Hawaii, California, New Mexico, and Texas. Non-whites outnumber whites in the District of Columbia too. By 2042, experts predict that the United States will become a majority-minority nation.

“This is an important tipping point,” said William Frey, a senior demographer at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution. We’re seeing “a transformation from a mostly white baby boomer culture to the more globalized multi-ethnic country that we are becoming.”

This increase in the minority population is due partly to the influx of Latino immigrants in recent decades. It also reflects the fact that with a median age of 42, the white population is aging while younger minorities, especially Latinos, are moving into their peak child-bearing years.

With African Americans and Latinos still over-represented among the unemployed and high school dropouts, this demographic shift should be a wake-up call to policymakers and employers. The nation can’t move forward if it continues to leave communities of color behind. We won’t be able to grow our economy or compete in the 21st-century global marketplace if we continue to squander so much of our young human capital.

Even as job creation continues to pick up, the unemployment rate for African Americans has exceeded 10 percent since 2008. It now stands at 13 percent. The rate for Latinos also outpaces the national average at 10.3 percent. The high school dropout rate is also highest in these communities. It’s ironic that the Census Bureau released this historic data on May 17, exactly 58 years after Thurgood Marshall won the landmark Supreme Court ruling that decreed an end to “separate but equal” segregation in our nation’s schools.

While the hope was that Brown v. Board of Education would lead to better schools and a better education for all our children, America’s public schools are more segregated today than ever. And schools serving African-American and Latino students remain unequal in terms of resources, funding, and quality teachers.

Recent political attacks on affirmative action, immigration, and voting rights also make it clear that while African Americans and Latinos are growing in numbers, our fight for civil rights and equality is far from over. It’s time to put these old divisions behind us. The future is fast approaching. And its color will look a lot different from the shades of the past.

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.

For the Record

May 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Re: In the article “Buy Montebello’ Effort Hopes to Build Up Local Morale, Revenue,” (May 23, 2012) a Montebello area development is referred to as the “Cook Hill condo development and nature preserve,” but the developer’s Byron de Arakal says their plan calls for “a range of housing types,” not just condominiums.

Montebello’s Quarter Four Sales Tax Down

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Gains in almost all business sectors of Montebello’s local economy were marred by a dip in sales tax revenue generated by two business sectors in the October to December fourth quarter of 2011, according to a report released by HDL Companies.

Sales tax generated by heavy and industrial businesses in Montebello dipped from $500,000 to $300,000, while food and drug sales tax also dipped, but by much less.

Business types that did see increases were gas stations, car sales, restaurants, and building and contracting. The largest source of sales tax generation in the city, general consumer goods, also experienced an increase.

Despite growth in all other areas, sales tax revenue still went down by 0.6 percent in Montebello, compared with the county’s 6.9 percent sales tax increase and the state’s 7.8 percent increase from the same time last year.

Sales tax revenue is a significant source of income for cities like Montebello, which is facing a projected $3 million deficit in the upcoming year, and a $16.5 million deficit over the next five years. Without increases in revenue, including from sales tax, the city could be forced to look at making cuts to services or employees.

Despite the two areas that dipped, Michael Huntley, Montebello’s Economic Development Director, says he is encouraged by the growth in “every single category except two,” especially the increases in auto and transportation category.

Montebello has Ford and Chevrolet dealerships and sales at “both are very strong,” Huntley said. He also pointed to fuel sales, saying that it’s not only gas stations generating sales tax, but also the Chevron tank farm, which attracts customers from around the San Gabriel Valley and the Greater Los Angeles basin.

Gains in consumer sales, the biggest portion of the tax generated, were also encouraging. Not only did Costco, which regularly ranks at the top as a sales tax generator, do well this year, “the mall had a really good year… and it would have been a better year if it wasn’t for the fire at the overpass at Paramount [Blvd],” said Huntley.

A tanker truck that caught fire on the 60 freeway damaged the overpass last December, in the middle of the Christmas shopping season.

According to the HDL Companies report, gas stations, car sales, and department stores were among the top business types. The top twenty-five sales tax producers in the city are Amcor Sunclipse, Astro Plumbing Supply, Best Buy, Chevrolet of Montebello, Chevron, Costco, CVS Pharmacy, Diamond Oil Service, Forever XXI, G&K Gas, G&M Oil, HD Supply, Inland Kenworth, JC Penney, John Ray Co., Marshalls, Montebello Cat Scale, Navizadeh Mini Mart & Gas, Pcs Leasing, Ross, Sears, Supply Construction, Toys R Us, and Westrux.

Homeless Woman Was Troubled, But Had Many Friends

May 31, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

A woman found dead last week in her white Chevy Tahoe, parked in a Montebello park and ride, had been a troubled, but well-liked regular at city council meetings and community events.

Sandra Shimkus, 58, was found around 6 a.m. on May 23 at a parking lot on the corner of Fourth Street and Victoria Avenue. She was unresponsive, sitting in the car she had been living out of for the past several months.

According to friends, who knew her as “Sandy,” Shimkus had several health problems when she died. The coroners reported her cause of death as deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary thrombo-embolism. Despite having heart problems, an infected leg, and a smoking habit, Jim Flournoy told EGP that Shimkus “looked fine” when he saw her a week before her death at a local Sierra club meeting.

Friends say Shimkus was experiencing financial problems, and it seems she had lost her home in recent months. She was probably living out of her white Chevy Tahoe, which friends said was filled with documents detailing her legal troubles with the city.

Those documents appeared to be related to an injunction filed against her after city firefighters accused her of following their trucks and harassing them. She was ordered by a judge to stay a certain number of feet away from city fire stations.

Shimkus, however, claimed it was actually the city’s firefighters and police officers who were intimidating and harassing her. She once told an EGP reporter that the officers were trying to make it look like she was crazy.

In recent years, Shimkus was frequently thrown into jail for short stays, accused of violating the court order. One friend, Ana Arriola, said some of those accusations were trumped up – there were times when she was accused of being somewhere when there are records to prove she was sitting in jail or taking a health exam at the time the incident supposedly happened.

Shimkus’ leg had recently become extremely swollen, and friends tried to seek help for her. Flournoy said she actually had money to pay for her doctor’s appointments, but would still fail to show up.

Shimkus was surrounded by friends who helped set up appointments with doctors and lawyers, helped care for her leg and her home, took her to clinics, stood witness for her in court, and bailed her out from jail.

But in the end, it seems Shimkus succumbed to problems with her health, which friends say she neglected. “There’s a point where I cannot do anything, because she’s not under my guidance. She has to do the thing herself,” Arriola said.

Arriola thinks Shimkus may have been experiencing some mental health problems, though Shimkus herself never admitted to it, and her problems got worse after her mother, who had been taking care of her, passed away. Arriola said she and others sometimes had difficulty determining which part of Shimkus’ stories were true, unless they were there to see it for themselves. Still, many of her friends believed she was being treated unfairly, and would often complain to the city on her behalf.

Arriola added that even before she became homeless, Shimkus never liked to stay home, because that way there would always be somebody to testify where she was.

“She made it a point to make friends and for them to remember her when she had to go to court. She always had a witness to testify she was at different locations. When they send those letters to the judge, they were lies… that’s why she made sure to have a lot of friends,” Arriola said.

Caretakers Living In Poverty, Study Finds

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About 60 percent of Medi-Cal caregivers earn income below or near the federal poverty level, a UCLA researcher told the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

“We found by any economic measures, these caregivers are economically insecure,” Geoffrey Hoffman, a researcher at UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research and co-author of “Hidden in Plain Sight,” told the board.

“Compared to other Californians, they had much higher rates of poverty.”

The federal poverty level for a single person is $931 per month.

The study – which was funded at least in part by Service Employees International Union, a union that represents long-term care workers – highlights the vulnerability of in-home supportive services workers paid under a jointly-funded state and local program that reimburses family members, friends and other caregivers.

In addition to earning on average about half of what non-caregivers earn, the workers have high job turnover and are twice as likely to lack health insurance as non-caregivers, according to the report.

The union representing long-term care workers has petitioned the board to raise wages to $9.65 per hour from $9. Beacon Economics, asked by the union to study the impact of a wage increase, estimated that it would boost the local economy by $90 million and create more than 700 jobs.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal calls for cutting $125.3 million from the state program by eliminating some services for people in shared living arrangements and minors living with an able parent.

Saying such cuts would likely spur legal challenges, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has instead proposed cutting the hours or rates paid to caregivers.

The board of supervisors did not take any action on the matter Tuesday.

Committee Approved Ban on Los Angeles Dispensaries, Leaves Room for Alternatives

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The city of Los Angeles took a step closer Wednesday to banning medical marijuana dispensaries, while allowing patients to grow their own pot or get it from a licensed caregiver.

The council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee voted unanimously to approve a proposed ordinance that would ban all dispensaries in the city until the California Supreme Court rules on whether, and how, cities can regulate the distribution of medical marijuana. A ruling by the state’s high court is not expected for at least one year.

The ordinance proposed by Councilman Jose Huizar would allow mini-collectives of three or fewer patients to jointly grow their own marijuana at one location and would allow patients to transport cannabis.

Huizar and fellow committee members Ed Reyes and Mitch Englander also disapproved of a separate plan that would have the city refrain from prosecuting a set of about 100 dispensaries that follow strict restrictions on where they could operate, the hours they could be open, and requirements for tight security.

The committee, however, allowed the separate plan by Councilman Paul Koretz to move forward, citing a request by other council members to hear both plans at the same time before the full city council.

City officials have been trying since 2007 to regulate dispensaries and limit their number to close to 100. Early attempts led to an explosion in the number of dispensaries trying to establish before the city placed a cap on the total number of pot shops.

The city’s effort to allow some dispensaries was thwarted by a ruling last October by California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal, which struck down attempts by Long Beach to require marijuana collectives to register with the city and pay fees.

The court ruled that cities may pass laws restricting the rights of pot shops to operate, but regulations affirming the right for dispensaries to exist violate federal law, under which marijuana is listed as an illegal drug banned for all purposes.

Huizar said his plan, dubbed a “gentle ban” by the City Attorney’s Office, is necessary because of poorly written state laws that do not allow dispensaries and provide too broad of a description of who can qualify for a medical marijuana prescription.

“If you don’t like the state law, let’s change the state law,” Huizar told the committee and an audience of about two dozen marijuana advocates.
Attorney Steven Lubell, who represents dispensaries in a lawsuit against the city, said he understands the growth of illegal pot shops is out of control, but disagreed that banning dispensaries is the way forward.

“You’re cutting off access to the patients, which is against what Proposition 215 says,” Lubell said. “Instead of totally banning and waiting for the supremes to rule, have some form of regulation that works in the interim.”

Medical marijuana supporters told the council that growing medical-grade marijuana takes years of practice and expertise that average patients do not have.

The two competing plans will be heard by the public safety committee as early as Friday before heading to the full council.

No Settlement On Harassment Allegations Against Former LAUSD Superintendent

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(CNS) – A settlement with an employee claiming he was sexually harassed former Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines is threatening to unravel over disputed terms of the agreement and its disclosure by the district, it was reported Wednesday.

The district announced last week that the Board of Education had approved paying $200,000 and providing lifetime benefits to Scot Graham, a senior manager for 12 years in the facilities division. In exchange, Graham agreed to resign as of May 31.

“The press briefing occurred without Mr. Graham’s consent to be publicly identified, and before an agreement was signed,” according to a statement from Graham’s attorneys. “No final agreement has been reached.”

The harassment allegations arose from an encounter between Graham and the former superintendent at Cortines’ ranch in Kern County in July 2010.

Cortines last week described what happened as consensual, “adult behavior.” But Graham contended through his attorneys that Cortines had made inappropriate sexual advances.

‘Save LA Adult Ed,” City Urges LAUSD

May 31, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to urge the Los Angeles Unified board to avoid closing any of the district’s 24 adult schools as part of its effort to close a $390 million budget deficit.

The school board in March approved a $6 billion, worst-case-scenario budget that would close all the adult schools.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who initiated the resolution, said the city cannot afford to close the schools.

“Adult education helps break the cycle of poverty for tens of thousands of people,” she said. “It affords a vital second chance for adults that seek to reconnect with an education center to complete their high school education and find job training that reflects job market opportunities.”

Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy has proposed that teachers and staff take 10 furlough days to save some of the adult education program.

United Teachers Los Angeles, the district’s largest union representing nearly 45,000 teachers and health and human services staff, has not yet agreed to the plan, according to LAUSD spokesman Thomas Waldman.

“If we are successful with UTLA, a portion of Adult Education will be restored,” Waldman said.

Council members agreed that cutting adult education would disproportionately hurt low-income residents and immigrants.

“In this economy, the reason we don’t have enough money for our schools is that we don’t have enough people working. And the way we get them working again is by making sure that we have adult ed,” Councilman Eric Garcetti said.

“If we cut adult ed, we go further down the rabbit hole of a declining economy, and we have less money, and we have to cut more.”

County to Pay $525,000 to Settle Lawsuit

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(CNS) – The Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to pay $525,000 to a man injured in a collision in Glendora when a sheriff’s deputy ran a red light.

The deputy was responding to a report of a man with a gun about 5:25 a.m. on November 8, 2008, when he collided with Arthur Lerille’s vehicle on Arrow Highway at Sunflower Avenue.

Lerille, 72 at the time of the accident, was headed to Santa Anita Park where he worked as a racehorse trainer. He suffered serious head and arm injuries and complained of memory loss.

The deputy, also injured, was identified by the newspaper as Brian Harper of the Sheriff’s San Dimas station.

The California Highway Patrol and Sheriff’s Department investigated the collision and concluded that Harper caused it. County lawyers argued that Lerille was hurt, because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt, but ultimately recommended settlement.

Eight Traffic Deaths Over Memorial Day Weekend

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(CNS) – California Highway Patrol officers logged eight traffic deaths in Los Angeles County over Memorial Day weekend, up from three deaths last year, but fewer drunken drivers were arrested.

Drunken driving deaths during the 78-hour maximum enforcement period that started at 6 p.m. Friday totaled 282, down from 323 over the holiday weekend last year, according to the CHP.

Statewide, the agency logged 25 traffic deaths, up from 22 last year. Drunken driving arrests totaled 1,305, down form 1,367 last year.

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