Eastside Youth Demand Inclusion in City Budget

May 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Feeling they don’t have a seat at the table during budget season, over 200 local students rallied outside Los Angeles City Hall Tuesday and invited the mayor and council members to sit down at the dining table they’d set up and “break bread” over a discussion on city youth services.

“You say youth are the future yet you don’t invest in our youth,” said 14-year-old Martin Raza as he stood across City Hall.

The students are members of the Invest in Youth Coalition which is campaigning to get city officials to invest in a youth development task force aimed at getting funds for community-based safe places and youth programs such as tutoring, mentoring, workforce development, college support and other services.

Although 800,000 young Angelenos live in the city, the Youth Coalition points out there is no specific department that addresses their needs.

Jackie Vargas, right, discusses the importance of involving youth in the city;s budget process with representatives from the mayor’s office Tuesday at a table set up outside L.A. City Hall. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Jackie Vargas, right, discusses the importance of involving youth in the city’s budget process with representatives from the mayor’s office Tuesday at a table set up outside L.A. City Hall. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“We want a better future for ourselves and that starts with the budget,” Ariana Chavez, 17, told EGP. “We want a voice in our city.”

A number of students, sitting with representatives from Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office and several council members, argued that the timing of budget sessions during school hours makes it hard for them to participate in the discussions.

The group estimates a $10 million budget allocation for youth development would allow for the creation of 50 programs citywide, something they want to see,.

Arlyn Nuñez, 18, of East Los Angeles, told EGP that Tuesday’s City Hall “dining table” discussion is the first step toward making sure city youth receive much-needed services.

“We’re in a low-income area, we don’t have many services available to us,” Nuñez said, explaining that tutoring and other after-school programs would benefit the region.

“Instead, money is being spent in incarcerating our youth.”

According to the coalition, 10,000 youth – ages 19 and under – are arrested annually: most are minorities.

The group points to the cities of San Francisco and New York, each of which has a youth development department, as examples of what can be done.

“Being a part of an after-school program helps students stay away from the streets and prevents them from getting locked up,” said Lincoln High School student Leslie Sanchez.

Garcetti’s representative pointed out there has been investments in youth through HIRE LA’s Youth Initiative and LA College Promise. Through HIRE LA, Garcetti hopes to see at least 20,000 youth employed by 2020. Under LA College Promise, LAUSD students will be guaranteed admission and a year of free tuition at a Los Angeles Community College campus.

Councilman Jose Huizar has asked city staff for a report on how the city spends its funds and how it can better prioritize youth services. “It’s a monumental task, but one Councilmember Huizar really wants to see done right,” stated Huizar spokesman Rick Coca in an email, adding that CD14 staff have had a series of meeting with youth advocates, one as recently as Monday.

Coca said his boss stands with advocates “in recognizing that the City’s youth stand to benefit the most from a thorough, well-researched comprehensive report on where our resources are going in funding youth services.

“ … So we convened a session with the CAO and the CLA and representatives from the Boyle Heights For Youth and LA For Youth campaigns to begin to figure out the scope and what we want the criteria to be since “youth programs and services” can cover so much ground.”

Eastside students rally outside L.A. City Hall Tuesday, urging elected officials to invest in youth services. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Eastside students rally outside L.A. City Hall Tuesday, urging elected officials to invest in youth services. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A [dedicated] youth development department is imperative if Los Angeles hopes to address the issues young people face, said Lou Calanche, executive director of Legacy LA, a community based non-profit that runs youth programs at Hazard Park and the Ramona Gardens Housing development in Boyle Heights.

Last year, in response to multiple officer-involved shootings in Boyle Heights, members of 23 nonprofit groups called on city officials to fund a department focused on youth development services.

“Boyle Heights is about 50 percent under the age of 25, if youth voices aren’t front and center in times like today, then the city is saying that youth of color aren’t a priority,” said Joel Garcia, director of Self-Help Graphics, a community arts center in East Los Angeles.

Several students acknowledged that organizations like Legacy LA and Self-Help Graphics were instrumental in keeping them out of trouble and on the path to college.

Araceli Rodriguez, a senior at Garfield High School will attend Sacramento State University in the fall. She told EGP it is especially important for the city to invest in youth at a time when the Trump administration is threatening budget cuts for education and other public programs.

“We need our leaders to send a message and put their money where their mouth is, that starts here in our city.”

It’s ‘Vin Fever’ Time L.A.

September 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a special thing going on this year that goes beyond the team’s players, coaches or even the teams win loss record for that matter: It’s Vin Scully fever.

An Elysian Park street was re-named in April as part of the City of Los Angeles' yearlong tribute to legendary Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully (pictured second from left), who will retire after 67 years as the "Voice of the Dodgers." (EGPNews photo by Fred Zermeno)

An Elysian Park street was re-named in April as part of the City of Los Angeles’ yearlong tribute to legendary Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully (pictured second from left), who will retire after 67 years as the “Voice of the Dodgers.” (EGPNews photo by Fred Zermeno)

After 67 years in the broadcast booth, the famed baseball announcer will call his last three home games in front of sold out crowds at Dodgers Stadium.

“Vin Scully Weekend” will include special tributes during the team’s series against the visiting Colorado Rockies, then it’s on to San Francisco where the “Voice of the Dodgers” will call his final game Oct. 2 against the Giants.

The final home stand games are sold out and can be seen on KTLA 5 over the weekend.

At 88-years-old, Scully says this is it, again telling reporters Tuesday he won’t broadcast any Dodgers games during the post-season.

The yearlong goodbye has been building in intensity, made all the better by the Dodgers’ winning season and the promise of post-season play.

Could it be the Scully’s magic has traveled to the players through a force only they can understand? Whatever it is, Dodgers fans couldn’t be more excited. “Vin Fever” is everywhere.

Scully already has the key to Angelenos’ hearts and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will make it official tonight when he presents the Ford C. Frick Award winner a Key to the City during a ceremony before tonight’s Dodgers-Rockies game.

Fireworks will light up the sky over Dodgers Stadium tonight, but as every fan knows, Vin Scully is the brightest light out there.

Garcetti Calls for More Latinos In Next President’s Administration

July 28, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, said Tuesday he feels more Latinos need to be appointed to top-level positions in the next presidential administration, and not just to positions focusing on immigration and labor.

During a panel discussion and briefing on Latino political participation, Garcetti noted that recognizing the power of the Latino vote is not enough, and more Latinos need to be placed in positions of power in the federal government.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, which organized the panel discussion, projects that the number of Latinos expected to vote in November is expected to grow by more than 30 percent to 13.1 million, up from the 9.7 million who voted in the 2008 presidential
election.

“I think that we still have (presidential) candidates who are getting comfortable with the Latino community,” said Garcetti, who recently joined the NALEO board. “There’s not anybody really speaking with the fluency that I think we need to see.”

With appointments made under the recent two Democratic presidential administrations, “there’s like this ceiling,” he said.

“We have to figure out a way to make that very clear … when President Clinton, the next President Clinton is in place, that you know, a cabinet position or two isn’t enough.”

Garcetti added that those who have the power to make the appointments often complain there are not enough qualified Latinos for the positions, but he feels they are not searching hard enough.

“I think they’re looking for Latinos with big names,” said Garcetti, whose paternal grandfather was born in Mexico. “Latinos don’t have big names, and so it becomes a vicious cycle.”

Garcetti added he is concerned that, especially with Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump’s stance on illegal immigration, Latino leaders will again be relegated to dealing with issues like immigration or equal employment, and not be considered for positions in other areas.

“We’re put back into a box,” he said. “If you’re silent that’s unacceptable, we let that happen, but if you speak out, we’re speaking out to, again, just be defending ourselves on issues of immigration.

“We can’t get to education, we can’t be the leaders on national security, we can’t be the U.N. ambassador, we can’t do the things that was the next step. He pushed us back into playing an old game.”

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a former Los Angeles City Councilman, was also part of the panel with Garcetti. He painted a more optimistic picture, saying that Trump could galvanize Latino voters in the same way as California’s Proposition 187 in 1994 — which sought to restrict access to public services for immigrants who entered the country illegally — by drawing more Latinos into the political arena at a national level.

Garcetti, noting that he is slated to speak at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, said he wants to use his speech to steer the election from just responding to Trump, and from treating the convention merely as an audition for the 2020 election.

“It’s actually about what is the work the two of them are going to do, because it’s not about an election,” he said. “We fixate on national elections and I guarantee you, I ran into somebody, you know, who was already talking about candidates for 2020, and we haven’t even held this election …
it’s not what can we do for this country for four years. So how we govern in between is how we get millennials and how we get our community activated.”

Garcetti’s campaign adviser Bill Carrick said the mayor’s convention speaking time has not been confirmed.

Garcetti on Monday also took part in a news conference with labor groups to promote raising the minimum wage. In addition to the NALEO panel, Garcetti also joined a luncheon of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

On Thursday, he is scheduled to attend the breakfast hosted by the California delegation and a panel by the Brady Campaign on the use of guns in hate crimes.

L.A. Budget to Include $138 Million to Address Homelessness

April 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Mayor Eric Garcetti Wednesday unveiled an $8.75 billion spending plan for the 2016-2017 fiscal year, setting aside about $138 million to address homelessness.

The plan is 2 percent, or $175 million, bigger than the current year’s budget, with about $5.6 billion coming from the general fund. The budget also sets aside $322 million for the reserve fund.

The budget contains more funding for homeless programs than in previous years and responds to a call by city leaders last year to dedicate more city funds to address the tens of thousands of people living on the streets of Los Angeles.

Nearly half of the money being proposed for homelessness – about $64.7 million – would come from the general fund, plus $6.4 million from special accounts, under Garcetti’s plan.

Much of this funding would go directly to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the primary provider of housing and services for the homeless in the county. Some funds would pay for “smart teams” in the Los Angeles Police Department that are trained in dealing with people with mental illness, and for “hope teams” that will be deployed to remove encampments and
refer homeless individuals to services.

City officials said this chunk of the homeless funding comes from “one-time” money, and an ongoing source would be necessary. Garcetti proposed in his state of the city last week asking voters for more funding.

Garcetti is proposing to come up with the rest of the $138 million for homelessness by charging development fees on projects – which would generate $20 million – and by selling off or converting into affordable housing about $47 million worth of city-owned property.

The remaining funding would go into the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which could then be used to build housing for the homeless, though not necessarily by the upcoming year.

The spending plan also includes $8.2 million for street cleaning, $14.8 million to maintain the police force at 10,000 officers and $17.3 million to hire and train an additional 230 officers.

The proposal also calls for expanding the civilian city workforce by 500 people, part of a larger agreement with city employee unions to hire 5,000 new people over the next three years. The new positions would be created in the Bureau of Sanitation, Los Angeles Police Department, Building and Safety and General Services departments.

The release of Garcetti’s spending plan starts a budget hearing process, with the City Council expected to review its details and make recommendations over the next few weeks.

Los Angeles Launches Project to Help Hard to Employ

September 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Mayor Eric Garcetti and city officials announced Tuesday a five-year, $6 million program to help people who traditionally have a difficult time getting hired because of their background or circumstances.

The Los Angeles Regional Initiative for Social Enterprise, or LA:RISE, program will offer assistance to about 500 people who are traditionally rejected by potential employers as the result of various obstacles, such a past incarceration, homelessness, or they are youth disconnected from traditional social and family environments.

Participants will get a chance to work in a temporary job in which they will get experience, attention from a case manager and job-readiness assessments.

They will also get access to “bridge” employers who have committed to hiring people with non-traditional backgrounds and are willing to help the workers succeed.

Additional services and job-related training will also be provided to participants of LA:RISE.

The program is funded by a $6 million grant from the Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation Fund.

Garcetti said the bridge employer component of the program is “an innovation that promises to provide a particular benefit to those Angelenos who have a history of homelessness.”

“It provides them with more support and training on the job so that they are better able to keep and grow on the job,” he said. “This will result in their being better able to retain and thrive in housing, interrupting the painful and costly cycle of homelessness.”

The program’s launch was also attended by Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles.

Garcetti’s office and the city’s Economic and Workforce Development Department will work with the nonprofit REDF to implement the program.

REDF President Carla Javits said they are committed to fostering more “social enterprise” job environments, a concept in which the human needs in a workplace are prioritized over the profit needs of shareholders.

Javits said this type of job environment is a “proven approach to supporting those facing the greatest barriers to work.”

“These investments reinforce an American ideal that is central to our collective identity and a sense of dignity, hope and belonging – that every person should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination and initiative,” she said.

The potential employers who are partnering with REDF to offer permanent job opportunities to workers include the job placement nonprofit Chrysalis, the Downtown Women’s Center, Homeboy Industries, Goodwill, LA Conservation Corps and Coalition for Responsible Community Development.

Chrysalis CEO Mark Loranger said it has been offering their job placement services for more than 20 years and will do so as a partner with LA:RISE.

“The men and women we serve face multiple barriers to employment,” Loranger said, and their participation in LA:RISE “has the potential to be a game-changer for our clients.”

Crime Numbers: ‘Bad News’ for Los Angeles

July 9, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

A 12.7 percent increase in violent and property crime in Los Angeles during the first half of the year is “bad news,” Mayor Eric Garcetti acknowledged Wednesday, but he and police Chief Charlie Beck said a ramped-up domestic violence response team and additional back-up officers should help stem the crime rise.

The figures marked the first time in about a decade that overall crime has risen in the city.

The leap in crime “is bad news, but … my administration doesn’t run away from bad news,” said Garcetti, who joined Beck at a news conference to address the crime statistics.

Violent crime rose 20.6 percent overall in the first six months of the year, compared with the same time last year, according to Los Angeles Police Department figures.

In the violent crime category, homicide fell 6.7 percent, but rape was up 7.9 percent, robbery up 16.6 percent and aggravated assaults increased by 26.3 percent.

Property crimes rose 10.9 percent, police said. Burglary saw a 15.8 percent jump, while auto theft was up 13.8 percent and larceny up by 8.9 percent.

The increase could be driven by higher rates of domestic violence, gang crime and “an increase of folks that are living on the street that are more likely involved in violent incidences,” Beck said.

Garcetti said domestic violence response teams, which had been limited to a few police stations, will be expanded to all 21 police division by the end of summer, with funding and contracts already in place.

Meanwhile, a back-up unit stationed at the Metropolitan Division will be boosted by 200 officers by the end of the year to offer police support across the city, Garcetti said.

Other measures in the works include expanding the areas where gang-intervention work will take place, retraining officers in de-escalation techniques and rolling out body cameras to a few divisions this summer, and eventually to the entire police department by next year, Garcetti said.

Garcetti Defends Homeless Ordinance Stance

July 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Mayor Eric Garcetti said on Wednesday he would have vetoed changes to the municipal code that make it easier to issue criminal citations, dismantle homeless encampments and confiscate personal belongs left in public areas if City Council members had not promised to make amendments to the ordinances.

Garcetti told City News Service the council will be exploring changes in provisions that create criminal penalties and allow an easier and faster process for taking people’s personal property, including prescriptions and important documents.

The City Council, “who I work very well with,” struck a gentleman’s agreement with him and “assured me these amendments would be added,” Garcetti said.

“If they were saying, ‘We are not going to add them,’ I would have vetoed it,” he said. “But they are adding them. They say it’s going to be done in August.”

Garcetti said he has instructed city departments, including the Los Angeles Police Department, to hold off on enforcing the changes, which took effect even though the mayor didn’t sign them. Only after the amendments are adopted, “and people’s personal property, prescriptions, criminal penalties, all that stuff is changed, then we’ll go with the new protocol,” he said.

Activists from groups advocating for homeless people camped outside Garcetti’s home over the weekend in an effort to persuade him to veto the ordinances, with many saying that if they become law, the mayor has limited power to keep police from enforcing them.

Since Garcetti opted not to veto them, they became law and could be enforced by the Los Angeles Police Department.

The mayor’s decision prompted criticism that Garcetti lacked leadership on the issue.

“I don’t think people are going to forget this,” Los Angeles Community Action Network President Pete White told CNS Monday. “(Garcetti’s) voting pattern and backbone has always been in question, even in City Council.”

White also questioned whether the mayor has the ability to stop officers from enforcing the law.

Garcetti told CNS on Wednesday he does have the ability to set the priorities of the police department.

Whatever law is in the books “is just what is allowed, but that is not what is permitted,” Garcetti said.

“You still have a protocol. … I can direct the police department to focus on certain parts of town. I can have them focus on certain crimes if that’s the priority right now, like domestic violence,” he said.

One of the ordinances in question applies to items left on sidewalks,while the other applies to items left in parks. Garcetti returned them to the City Council Tuesday without his signature.

In a letter to the council, Garcetti said he is returning the ordinances and supports their plan to “consider amendments that would enable smarter enforcement, ensure more compassionate treatment of homeless Angelenos and strengthen the city’s ability to withstand legal challenge.”

Garcetti reiterated his opinion that “the ordinance does not adequately achieve the proper balance” between the keeping public areas “clean and safe,” while also protecting the rights of the homeless.

Garcetti added that he “will be directing city departments to defer implementation of these ordinances until the committee and City Council adopt changes to the ordinances.”

In the meantime, “city departments shall continue to keep our public areas clean and safe using existing citywide protocols for the removal of personal property,” he wrote.

Some protesters from the Los Angeles Community Action Network, the Downtown Women’s Action Coalition and other groups came to City Hall Monday to present their written demands to the mayor’s office. They were detained on the first floor lobby and were not allowed to enter the mayor’s office on the third floor.

Garcetti’s homeless policy director, Greg Spiegel, went out to speak to them instead, arranging to meet with them again Friday morning to discuss the ordinances.

Business Awards Luncheon Features Top Latino Entrepreneurs

June 11, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will join Latino business owners June 17 at the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce Sixth Annual Business Awards Luncheon and Matchmaking event at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

The event features top Latino entrepreneurs and hosts a matchmaking component beginning at 11:00 am running through 4:00 pm with the awards luncheon starting at noon.

“This is LA’s premiere Latino event showcasing a wide array of successful Latino businesses that deserve recognition for their hard work and entrepreneurial spirit,” said Gilbert R. Vasquez, chairman of the LALCC. “Having the mayor of Los Angeles join our membership and special guests in celebrating these unique Latino companies speaks volumes as to Mayor Garcetti’s efforts to support the diverse business landscape which moves our local economy.”

The Latino Chamber will honor seven Latino businesses in award categories ranging from startup to large business and includes medium, small, innovation, corporate and family legacy.

“Latinos represent a significant segment of LA’s economic activity both as consumers and as business owners,” said Theresa Martinez, LALCC’s Chief Executive Officer.

The matchmaking component focuses on connecting Latino start-ups and established companies with “partners and peer groups to assist them with growth strategies,” Martinez said.

“We also celebrate those Latino-owned businesses who have displayed innovative approaches, tech savvy and dedication in building their respective companies at our awards luncheon.”

The Latino Chamber’s event will be held at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles located at 404 South Figueroa Street. Tickets and matchmaking times are still available.

Cid Wilson, president and CEO of Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (www.HACR.org) will serve as the event’s keynote speaker. HACR’s mission is to advance the inclusion of Hispanics in Corporate America at a level commensurate with our economic contributions, said Vasquez.

He said HACR focuses on four areas of corporate responsibility and market reciprocity: Employment, Procurement, Philanthropy, and Governance.

Emceeing the luncheon is actor Reynaldo Pacheco, who will be starring in Warner Brother’s upcoming feature film, “Our Brand In Crisis,” opposite Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton and produced by George Clooney. Bolivian-born pop star, Ignacio Val will perform his English debut single, “All About You.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.LALCC.org or call (213) 347-0008.

Garcetti Signs $8.6 Billion City Budget

May 28, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti Wednesday signed an $8.6 billion budget for 2015-16, calling it the result of an “unprecedented collaboration” between the City Council and the mayor’s office.

The Los Angeles City Council last week adopted the spending plan, which takes a step toward restoring the ranks of city firefighters depleted through a five-year hiring freeze.

The budget increases the Fire Department’s budget by $55 million, and includes a revision by the council that adds $4.5 million to hire a total of 270 firefighter recruits, more than the 180 recruits this year.

The council’s revisions also include about $6 million for fire safety equipment and technology upgrades, and other fire department services.

The budget also provides more funding for the police department, including $70 million for overtime, $4.5 million to purchase 7,000 body cameras and $500,000 to reduce fingerprinting backlog.

More sidewalks are expected to be repaired next year, thanks to a recent $1.4 billion settlement of several lawsuits lodged by disabled residents and advocates.

As part of the terms, the city agreed to spend about $31 million a year toward programs for fixing broken sidewalks, with the adopted budget calling for $21 million to be spent in the coming year.

The budget also includes $9.1 million for cleaning streets and alleys and placing 1,200 trash cans around the city, as well as an expanded $6.5 million budget for tree-trimming.

The spending plan sets aside $10 million in the city’s affordable housing trust fund to create more homes for low-income residents.

The budget assumes revenues will be up about 5.5 percent, including property tax, sales tax and hotel tax revenue.

It also assumes that about 20,000 city workers will agree to no raises and many will pay a bigger percentage of their health-care costs, but talks with city employee unions have dragged on since their contracts expired last year.

The budget sets aside about $300 million in a “rainy day” reserve fund.

Garcetti’s Budget High on ‘Rebuilding’

April 23, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Mayor Eric Garcetti released an $8.5 billion budget proposal Monday that he called the healthiest in years, including more funding for tree-trimming, street-cleaning, sidewalk repairs and affordable housing.

The proposed 2015-16 budget also calls for purchasing 7,000 police body cameras and funding more in-car digital cameras for police officers, along with an additional $5.5 million for the city’s anti-gang program and $567,000 to expand a domestic abuse response program to all police stations.

The spending plan assumes revenues will be up 5.5 percent — including property tax, sales tax and hotel tax revenue — though Garcetti said he wants to take a “very disciplined approach” to the expected additional income.

“As we all know, we are digging ourselves out of a big hole caused by the Great Recession, so we are rebuilding our city’s finances in a way that is responsible and delivers long-term stability and balance in the city,” he said.

Garcetti said the budget proposal puts $435 million into reserves, reaches the city’s own goal of funding projects to improve or build city facilities and does not use one-time income on long-term uses.

The proposed budget also assumes that about 20,000 city workers will agree to no raises and paying a bigger percentage of their health-care costs, but talks with city employee unions have dragged on since their contracts expired last year, and some workers are threatening to go on strike.

Under Garcetti’s plan, the city would spend an added $4.1 million for cleaning streets and alleys, add 1,200 trash cans, put $1 million into maintaining more park restrooms and increase the tree-trimming budget by 50 percent.

This will also be the first year the city is required to budget $31 million toward sidewalk repairs, as part of a recent a $1.4 billion settlement of several lawsuits lodged by disabled residents and advocates.

The budget also calls for $10 million to be set aside in the city’s affordable housing trust fund that is used to create more homes for low-income residents.

The plan also calls for hiring additional code enforcement and animal control officers.

The City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee will hold a series of hearings on the budget proposal starting April 28.

City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who chairs the panel, said council members will go through the budget “with a fine tooth comb, hear from each city department about their needs and listen to the public’s input.

“My goal is to adopt a budget that reflects our city’s values and commitment to public safety and neighborhood services, and is also fiscally responsible,” he said.

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