Just in time for Thanksgiving! Mariachi Zapopan Performs

November 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

(Photo courtesy of the County of Los Angeles Public Library)

Tuesday, November 20
6pm—Just in time for Thanksgiving! Mariachi Zapopan Performs a Free Concert at the East Los Angeles Library, located at 4837 E. 3rd Street, LA 90022. For more information, please call 323-264-0155 or visit the web site at colapublib.org.

Bell Gardens Recognizes Its Hometown Veterans

November 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Bell Gardens recognized residents of the city who served or are currently serving in the US military during a special Veterans Day ceremony held Sunday at Veterans Park. The veterans were each presented with a banner that hung in the City of Bell Gardens as a way to thank them for their service. Over 50 men and woman from the Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force were recognized. One Marine, Roberto Abad, was recognized posthumously. His parents and his son, who was born after Abad was killed in Iraq, accepted his banner. (Pictured) Navy veteran Nancy Arellano, (center) accepts her banner from the city.

In next week’s issue, EGP talks to some of the veterans honored at the ceremony about their experience coming home, and some of the issues they faced which sometimes included a lack of support from the community.

In next week’s issue, EGP talks to some of the veterans honored at the ceremony about their experience coming home, and some of the issues they faced which sometimes included a lack of support from the community.

El Sereno Search Fails: LAPD Hopes Public Can Help ID Victim, Assailant

November 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Detectives hope the release of composite sketches will generate leads in the search for someone reported to have been punched in the face by a man who dragged her by the hair up a hillside in El Sereno.

More than 250 searchers scoured the hillside in El Sereno in search for a possible kidnapp victim and her attacker who were last seen on Nov. 12. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

More than 250 searchers, including horse-mounted police officers, scoured an area of more than 450 acres around 4900 Klamath St. Monday night and again Tuesday. The calls reporting the attack started coming at 7:52 p.m. Monday, said Officer Bruce Borihanh, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman.

On Tuesday morning, Lt. Andy Newman said the LAPD was “taking the reports very seriously.” Police said four independent eyewitnesses gave very similar and credible accounts of the attack and possible kidnapping.

“…It appears that the young lady was being (dragged) up the hill and possibly being struck in the face, being punched in the face, so, you know, it looks like we have a combination of a kidnapping-assault sort of a situation,” said Lt. Antonio Zamora of the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Station.

Zamora spoke at a news conference Tuesday night, when police released composite sketches of the victim and suspect.

LAPD released composite sketches of the victim, left, and suspect, right. The victim is believed to be a 13-16 years old Latina and the suspect was described as an 18-20 year old Slender Hispanic. (Sketches coutesy of LAPD)

Cmdr. Andy Smith, an LAPD spokesman, said the presumed victim was thought to be a Latina between 13 and 16 or a small woman. The assailant is described as a slender Hispanic man of between 18 and 20 who is around six feet tall and 150 pounds.

Investigators hope the victim, who was said to have been kicking and screaming as she was being dragged up a hill, survived the attack and that the release of the composite sketches will churn up new leads.

“So that is our hope – that she’s still alive somewhere and hopefully, either maybe she’s in a position where she could call us; if not, hopefully somebody’s in a position to recognize who these people are and give us a call,” Zamora said. Police said the victim could have visible bruises or other injuries from the beating.

Borihanh said search crews found some leggings and tennis shoes near the site of the reported abduction, but no reports of anyone missing who matched the supposed victim’s description have been received.

A command post for the search was set up near the intersection of Klamath Street and Eastern Avenue. Police closed off the entrance to Ascot Park, part of the search area, bounded by Eastern Avenue and conducted a grid search of the area described earlier in the day by Lt. Andy Newman as “very rugged with several canyons.”

After going over most of the area surrounding the El Sereno Recreation Center, “we have located some physical evidence that supports the abduction,” police Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday afternoon, but “we have seen no evidence of the female who was kidnapped.”

“So that is good news. The last thing we want to do is find remains in this remote location,” Beck said.

Beck said police responded in force to the reported abduction – with help from sheriff’s deputies, canine and firefighters and employees from other agencies.

“This case has been actively worked by over 250 personnel from agencies all over the Southern California area,” he said.

Describing his approach, the chief said that “I’m not in the hope-for-the-best business; I’m in the plan-for-the-worst business. You have to go look. If anybody can imagine, if this was your daughter, if this was your wife, if this was your friend, you would want this kind of effort to ensure their safety.”

Beck said he hopes that what the witnesses observed was a dispute that has been resolved in some way” since Monday night.

Anyone with information about the case was urged to call police at 1-877-LAPD-24-7.

Obama Calls for Quick Action on Immigration Reform

November 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

President Barack Obama called on Congress Wednesday to quickly approve immigration reform legislation that will provide a “pathway for legal status” for undocumented immigrants in the US.

“We have to seize the moment,” said Obama during his first press conference since winning re-election, noting that the large turnout of Hispanics at the ballot box has motivated legislators to begin discussing immigration reform, and his staff is getting involved in those discussions.

Obama said he expects immigration reform will be taken up soon after his inauguration in January.

He said comprehensive immigration reform must address border security, include “serious penalties” for businesses that hire and “take advantage” of undocumented immigrants, and the legalization of those who have no criminal record and who meet other requirements, such as paying back taxes, learning English, and potentially paying fines, some of the same elements in the last immigration reform package that failed to gain passage.

The president said he feels the large turnout of Hispanic voters last week should motivate Republicans who have largely opposed immigration reform for the last five years to rethink their positions on the issue.

“I think we’re starting to see that already. I think that’s a positive sign,” Obama said. “This has not historically been a partisan issue.”

“I am very confident we can get immigration reform done,” he said.

Obama expressed support for a “pathway to legal status” for the undocumented who are “simply here to work,” but stopped short of including a pathway to citizenship in an immigration reform bill.

He did, however, say he wants to see his deferred action policy, which grants so-called DREAMERS —young people “who through no fault of their own” were brought to the country by their parents illegally to the U.S., and who go to school or serve in the military — a reprieve from deportation to be made into law, and to give these young people a pathway to become citizens.

According to some national exit polls, Latino voters backed Obama 71-27 percent, higher than in any time since 1996. And, for the first time ever, they represented 10 percent of all voters across the country, helping Obama win in key battleground states, like Nevada, Colorado, and Florida.

Nearly three-quarters of all Latino voters, in exit polls, said they support giving employed undocumented immigrants legal status. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Wednesday, a majority of Americans said they back a path to legal status.

Editorial Cartoon

November 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Montebello Launches Bus Advertising Program

November 15, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Businesses looking to make an impression in the City of Montebello and its surrounding area will now have the opportunity to advertise on the city’s buses. The Montebello Bus Lines will now carry advertisements on their 50 buses, which run from Montebello to Downtown Los Angeles.

Montebello’s City Manager Francesca Tucker-Schuyler is running the in-house pilot program, which is said to last at least six months.

“We’re just beginning this so we’ll see how it goes,” Tucker said. “It’s going to take some time to get the logistics.”

The city got advice and guidance from the City of Santa Monica, which runs their own in-house advertising with their city buses. Montebello did not previously have advertising on their buses because of the time and workload the program would require, said Tucker.

“Many cities have ads on their buses, Montebello just got delayed in getting it going because of other pressing issues,” said Tucker.

Montebello has also been struggling with multi-year budget deficits and was the subject of several audits into its handling of federal housing funds, both by the state and the federal housing agency. The city was also unable for a time to fill some key city administrative positions on a permanent basis, including the job of city manger. Like other cities throughout California, it has been looking for ways to increase revenue resources, and to attract new businesses and customers to the city.

The Shops at Montebello, a retail mall, was the first to advertise on the Montebello bus lines, and currently has seven ads running on the city’s buses. Sam Carpenter, the Director of Marketing and Business for the shopping center, says they plan to continue advertising on the buses and he personally feels the program will be a success.

“We are happy to be a part of it,” Carpenter said. “When you market a shopping center, transit advertising is a important component of that.”

The city eventually hopes to attract national brands and while they are not precluding non-profits from advertising, the program is geared more towards business, said Tucker.

“If you look at the other buses they are advertising movies, you see Coca Cola,” Tucker said. “Eventually we will be reaching out to all these entities.”

Getting started will not cost the city much since it is using its own personnel to run the program, Tucker said, although the city did not calculate how much revenue the ad service could bring in. The cost of advertising on the buses will vary and will be based on the size of the ad.

“Frankly, we didn’t survey,” Tucker says. “It’s like anything new, you don’t know until you try.”

If the pilot is a success, the city may choose to hire an outside agency to continue to run the advertising program.

Another Bad Idea: LA Wants to Raise the Sales Tax

November 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council will probably finalize approval for placing a half-cent sales tax on the March 5, 2013 ballot as a way to raise enough revenue to cover the city’s budget deficit, projected to be $216 million by July 2013 and more than $300 million by 2014. The city’s sales tax will go up to 9.5 percent on all sales.

Of all the ways to get LA out of its budget woes, city leaders probably see this as the one that will cause the least pressure on City Hall, the alternative being layoffs, program and service cuts, and changing the city’s revenue structure.

But that doesn’t mean that the proposal has a chance of passing, particularly so soon after the taxpayers just voted for Prop. 30, which will also raise their sales tax. Nor does it mean that the council didn’t have other options.

The city council could have placed on the ballot a tax increase on all property and real estate sales, but that would have riled real estate developers. And of course, it could have proposed more pension reforms, but labor would have objected to that plan.

We could tell the council that an added sales tax hike would harm the middle class, working poor and other families, but we don’t think this fact will bother them as much as the previous objections will, especially around campaign time.

But approval of this tax will eventually hurt the city more than any of the proposed measures since it is all too easy to cross city lines to avoid paying the city any tax at all, especially when it comes to big ticket items like televisions, and computers. Going to Glendale, Pasadena, Burbank or other city’s malls won’t be at all inconvenient for Angelenos who are still financially strapped, or for those who are making more and more purchases online these days.

But as usual, this tax hike will hurt those Angelenos who can afford it the least, who have poor transportation options, or who lack other options to escape L.A.’s higher sales tax.

This newspaper grudgingly endorsed passage of Prop. 30, but this added piling on is getting out of hand.

It seems the more things change, the more the less fortunate are hurt.

Congratulations Mr. Wesson and Council.

Protesters Help East Los Angeles Homeowner Fight Foreclosure

November 15, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Six protesters were arrested on Tuesday following a day of action targeting an international bank foreclosing on an East Los Angeles homeowner. The protesters aligned with Occupy LA, a branch of a national movement protesting economic inequality and greed tied to Wall Street, accused Deutsche Bank of illegally foreclosing on American homes.

The day’s protests culminated with six protesters being arrested in an act of civil disobedience in front of the Deutsche Bank offices in Century City. The protesters blocked traffic and were arrested for failing to disperse.

Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Protestan Ejecución Hipotecaria en el Este de Los Ángeles

The protesters hope to bring attention to the bank’s efforts to foreclose on Margarita Lucero’s home on Hammel St., where dozens of protesters have been standing watch and camping out since mid-October.

(Left): East Los Angeles homeowner Margarita Lucero says she’s not asking for a handout, she wants to continue paying the mortgage for the home she purchased 15 years ago. (EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

Tears welled up in the eyes of the Spanish-speaking homeowner, who was overwhelmed Tuesday by the show of support.

“I got emotional because there are so many people who came to give us their support because they see the injustice,” Lucero told EGP during a protest and press conference earlier in the day in front of the German Consulate’s office.

East LA-based Danza Cuauhtemoc, an Aztec dance group, also rallied in support of Lucero. Cuauhtemoc’s Judith Garcia led protesters in a loud chant: “Evict the banks, not the people!” she shouted.

“All the big banks are run by gangsters,” chanted protesters.

Deirdra Duncan, a foster mother and renter, spoke during Tuesday’s rally in front of the German Consulate, and said banks and courts don’t care if residents have a lease agreement, noting that when they foreclosed on her landlord, they also foreclosed on her and her foster children.

Lucero said the holder of her mortgage could help her if they wanted to and she’s still hopeful they will. Nonetheless, earlier that day, she filed a lawsuit against the bank for wrongful foreclosure.

Two groups, Occupy Fights Foreclosures and Home Defense Alliance, have been aiding Lucero in her legal challenge against the German bank. They say the bank has several lawsuits pending for fraud and slumlord housing conditions.

“We know the court belongs to them [the banks] because they have all the money to hire attorneys… We’re not expecting the court to be favorable to us,” Carlos Marroquin of Occupy Fights Foreclosures told EGP.

Marroquin says the Lucero family is the victim of a questionable foreclosure that includes a loan modification the family paid on time.

The foreclosure actually involves two homes, both located on one plot of land. Lucero’s brother lived in one of the homes but he and his wife and two children were evicted in mid-October. She and her disabled husband have lived in the other home they purchased in1998.

Lucero says her nightmare began in 2011 when she asked to modify her loan, but was told she would only qualify for a modification if she paid a specified amount in advance, which she says she did. But the bank didn’t follow though on their end, she said. Soon after, they stopped accepting her mortgage payments and started foreclosure proceedings against her.

Desperate for help, she says she paid three different agencies a total of $10,000 to help her rescue her home. She also filed for bankruptcy.

The Lucero family was “illegally” locked out of their home on Sept. 27 and resorted to living in their car, so they reached out to Occupy LA for help, according to protest organizers.

In October, activists took over the home and have been camping out there ever since, they told EGP.

29-year-old Benjamin Torres, one of the protesters helping to barricade the home, described the family as a “typical Mexican family in Los Angeles” that is hardworking, diligent, and subscribes to American Dream. He told EGP Lucero he thinks the back discriminated against Lucero because she doesn’t speak English.

On Tuesday, Lucero said she is unsure if or when the Sheriffs might come to evict her and the protestors.

Deutsche Bank could not be reached for comment before time of publication.

Protestan Ejecución Hipotecaria en el Este de Los Ángeles

November 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Seis manifestantes fueron arrestados el martes después de un día de protestas dirigidas contra un banco internacional que esta realizando una ejecución hipotecaria contra una propietaria en el Este de Los Ángeles.

Los manifestantes alineados con Occupy LA, una rama local de un movimiento en protesta por la desigualdad económica y la avaricia vinculado a Wall Street, acusan a Deutsche Bank, un banco alemán, de apoderarse de manera “ilegal” de algunos hogares estadounidenses.

Read this story IN ENGLISH: Protesters Help East Los Angeles Homeowner Fight Foreclosure

Aproximadamente 30 personas participaron en las dos manifestaciones del 13 de noviembre. Foto de EGP por Gloria Angelina Castillo

Las protestas del día culminaron cuando los seis manifestantes fueron detenidos en un acto de desobediencia civil frente a las oficinas de Deutsche Bank en Century City. Los manifestantes bloquearon una calle y fueron arrestados por no seguir las ordenes de subirse a la banqueta.

Los manifestantes llamaban atención a la situación de Margarita Lucero, cuyo hogar en Hammel St., esta bajo esfuerzos de ejecución hipotecaria. Docenas de manifestantes han estado vigilando y viviendo en el hogar desde mediados de octubre, el hogar ahora tiene el apodo “Fuerte Lucero” (“Fort Lucero” en inglés).

Durante la primera manifestación frente la oficina del consulado alemán, las lágrimas le brotaron a la señora originaria de Oaxaca.

“Me emocioné mucho porque hay tanta gente que vino a darnos su apoyo, porque ven la injusticia”, dijo Lucero a EGP.

Danza Cuauhtémoc, un grupo de danza azteca basado en el Este de Los Ángeles, también manifestó en apoyo de Lucero. Judith García, líder de los danzantes, inició un canto entre los manifestantes, gritando “¡Desalojen a los bancos y no a las personas”.

“Todos los bancos grandes están a cargo de mafiosos”, también gritaban los manifestantes.

Lucero dijo que Deutsche Bank, el prestamista de su hipoteca, puede ayudarla si quiere y esa es su esperanza. Sin embargo, ese mismo día, ella presentó una demanda contra el banco por una ejecución hipotecaria injusta.

Margarita Lucero dice que no quiere seguir pagando la hipoteca como lo había hecho durante 14 años. Foto de EGP por Gloria Angelina Castillo

Occupy Fights Foreclosures (Indignados Luchan Contra Embargos Hipotecarios) y Home Defense Alliance (La Alianza en Defensa de Hogares) han estado ayudando a Lucero en su desafío legal contra Deutsche Bank. Los activitas dicen que el banco es propietario absentista y tiene varios juicios pendientes por fraude.

“Sabemos que las cortes les pertenecen a ellos [los bancos] porque ellos tienen todo el dinero para contratar abogados… No anticipamos que el tribunal sea favorable hacia nosotros”, dijo Carlos Marroquín, de Occupy Fights Foreclosures.

Marroquín dice que la familia Lucero es víctima de una ejecución hipotecaria cuestionable que incluye una modificación de préstamo.

La ejecución hipotecaria en realidad consta de dos casas en una parcela de tierra. El hermano de Lucero vivía en una de las casas, pero él, su esposa y sus dos hijos fueron desalojados a mediados de octubre. Desde 1998, ella y su esposo, que hoy es inválido, vivían en la otra casa donde criaron a su hijo.

Lucero dice que la pesadilla comenzó en 2011 cuando pidió modificar su préstamo, pero el banco no cooperó y eventualmente inició un proceso de ejecución hipotecaria en su contra. Desesperada por ayuda, ella dice que pagó a tres agencias diferentes un total de $10.000 para ayudarla a rescatar su casa—un esfuerzo sin éxito. Ella también se declaró en bancarrota.

Lucero pidió ayuda de Occupy LA después que representantes del banco cambiaron las chapas de las puertas y fueron obligados a vivir en su coche, de acuerdo con los organizadores de la protesta.

En octubre, los activistas iniciaron una barricada en la casa y han estado allí desde entonces, dijeron a EGP. Benjamín Torres, de 29 años de edad, uno de los manifestantes que ayudo hacer la barricada, en aquel entonces dijo a EGP que la familia Lucero es una “familia mexicana típica en Los Ángeles” que es trabajadora, diligente, y cree en el sueño americano. Lucero fue discriminada porque no habla inglés, él afirmó.

El martes, Lucero dijo que no está segura si, o cuando, los agentes del Alguacil podrían llegar a desalojar a ella y los manifestantes. El miércoles ella tenía pendiente una cita en la corte, dependiendo el resultado de su petición, los agentes podían llegar a su casa esa misma tarde.

Deutsche Bank no pudo ser contactado para hacer comentarios antes de la hora de la publicación.

Affordable Care Act Not So Affordable

November 15, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Congressional Budget Office just announced that President Obama’s healthcare law will reduce the deficit by $84 billion more than previously thought, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision to allow states to opt out of the law’s Medicaid expansion.

Those savings may sound nice. But the law doesn’t do much to address our country’s chief healthcare challenge – spiraling costs. Health insurance is expensive because health care is expensive.

The cost of insurance continues to rise faster than inflation. Average individual premiums rose by 8 percent in 2011, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Family premiums rose by 9 percent.

The Affordable Care Act will make insurance more expensive. The law levies new taxes on insurers, medical-device firms, and drug-makers that will inevitably be passed along to consumers as higher prices.

New federal mandates are also driving up the cost of coverage. Policies must cover all sorts of medical procedures – whether patients want them or not. The law also limits out-of-pocket spending and annual deductibles.

The law contains several attempts to rein in costs. But most are unlikely to work as intended.

A prime example is the individual mandate, which requires every American to obtain insurance. The mandate has no teeth. The penalty for going without coverage is a lot smaller than the cost of an average insurance policy.

According to the government’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, annual individual premiums averaged $4,940 in 2010. Assuming premiums increase at the historical rate of 6 percent per year, the maximum $695 mandate fee will account for just 10 percent of an average premium.

So instead of spreading costs across a wider pool, people may pay the fine and wait to buy coverage when they need it. Consequently, those with insurance will gradually become sicker and more costly to insure. As prices for coverage go up, the fine will look more and more attractive. Through this repeating process of adverse selection, health insurance premiums will rise significantly.

Medicare’s reimbursement rates for healthcare providers are also driving health costs up.

Spending in the program is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2022. It will be insolvent by 2024. As more Americans enroll and Medicare’s expenses grow, the primary tool for controlling costs will be reductions in payments to medical providers. The Affordable Care Act will likely slash them by about $575 billion.

Providers are concerned about these reductions. Today, physicians treating Medicare beneficiaries receive just 81 percent of the rate that private insurers pay. According to one survey, physicians’ top concern is whether they’d be adequately reimbursed by Medicare in the future.

These worries have caused some doctors to stop seeing Medicare patients. This year, the Texas Medical Association found that 12 percent fewer physicians were accepting new Medicare patients.

Seniors won’t be the only ones who suffer. Doctors who swallow lower Medicare reimbursements may have to take on additional patients, slash visit times, or raise prices for those with private insurance. And with America’s population aging quickly, doctors’ patterns of practice in Medicare are likely to spill over to their larger patient pool.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are several easy ways to alleviate the cost problems plaguing our healthcare system.

Insurance brokers have a critical money-saving role to play as the healthcare law is implemented. Many individuals and small businesses struggle to find affordable coverage on their own. The market is only growing more complicated.

A broker’s expert counsel can therefore be invaluable. No less an authority than the Congressional Budget Office reports that brokers generate substantial savings for small businesses by finding plans and negotiating premiums. And brokers provide ongoing assistance to make sure consumers benefit from the plans they buy. In fact, agents often get claims amounting to thousands of dollars paid on their clients’ behalf.

Demonstration projects that change the way Medicare reimburses providers should also be quickly advanced into actual use.

Take bundled payments, which link payments for the multiple services patients receive during a single episode of care. This coordinated payment structure provides incentives to deliver healthcare services more efficiently.

Value-based purchasing represents another way to reduce costs. This approach rewards efficiency – and punishes inefficiency and waste – by holding providers accountable for the quality and the cost of care that they deliver.

The healthcare law’s efforts to improve access to insurance are admirable. But they’ll be wasted if coverage remains unaffordable. Addressing the system’s cost drivers is crucial to preventing that unfortunate outcome.

Janet Trautwein is CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters.

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