An East Los Angeles student on Monday received the Legion of Valor Bronze Cross for Achievement Medal for her academic accomplishments and leadership skills as an Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadet at James A. Garfield High School.
Cadet Lieutenant Colonel Rocio Ortega, a senior with a 4.2 academic grade point average, is the high school’s Army JROTC Battalion Commander in charge of over 100 cadets.
Read this story IN SPANISH: Cadete de JROTC de Garfield Recibe Medalla Prestigiosa
She was awarded the medal during a small ceremony held after school at the Garfield Parent Center where she was surrounded by her family, parent volunteers, school officials and ROTC representatives.
Ortega, who is a talented public speaker, expressed gratitude for the award but lost her composure when she tried to thank her family. “Thank you everyone for being here with me because that means the world to me,” Ortega said between sobs in Spanish.
Fausta Ortega, Rocio’s mother, said she is very proud of Rocio, the third of her five children to join Garfield’s JROTC. Rocio’s parents are immigrants from Puebla, Mexico.
Garfield JROTC instructor Sgt. Raymond Eason said Ortega is the most mature Battalion Commander he has had since he began working at Garfield in 1997.
“Ever since I have worked with her, from the 9th grade to her senior year today, she’s very conscientious about taking care of the people, a fantastic leader, organizational skills and goal-ambitious minded,” Eason told EGP.
Principal Jose Huerta underscored that Ortega’s recognition puts her in a elite class, as just one of 50, or fewer, cadets across the U.S. receiving the award this year; the school has so far not been able to confirm if any past Garfield JROTC student has ever received the recognition.
“This is a very special time for us, we are very proud of her,” said Huerta. “She exemplifies everything we want our students to achieve. She has a 4.2 grade point average, she has all these accolades, she is a true leader…”
The Legion of Valor, an organization of decorated U.S. veterans, awards fewer than 50 bronze crosses to ROTC and JROTC cadets throughout the country each year. The medal’s purpose is to stimulate patriotism, national pride and interest in the Armed Forces of the United States, according to the press release.
Seventy-one registered voters in the city of Vernon in November will decide the fate of several key reform measures, including restrictions on city council term limits, mandatory competitive bidding on contracts, and the repeal of a measure that separated Light & Power Department funds from the general operating funds.
A total of ten measures, on two separate ballots, will go before Vernon voters on Nov. 8 and Nov. 22. Most of the measures were the result of an agreement made to secure Sen. Kevin de Leon’s support at a time when the city was facing intense disincorporation efforts from state lawmakers.
Read this story IN SPANISH: Votantes de Vernon Decidirán Sobre Medidas de Reforma Claves
The two city elections are set to take place amid questions that the electorate’s independence might be compromised by the fact that the city owns most residential homes, keeps rent at below market rates, and has the power to evict tenants.
Rents range from $120 for a one-bedroom home, to $360 for a three bedroom home, and according to a report by Vernon’s ethics advisor John Van de Kamp, 25 of the 62 registered voters at the time of his review, had ties to city government.
The Vernon city council appointed a seven-person housing commission in May to address questions about the electorate. Some observers and lawmakers have suggested the city sell off its housing stock, while others suggested the city increase the number of residential homes.
On Oct. 18, the city council approved a new rental policy that will allow the commission to set more market-influenced rates for rent, as well as restrict preferential treatment of prospective tenants, with an exception for emergency “first responder” personnel such as firefighters.
Among the ten measures set for the November elections, one measure would make the housing commission permanent if approved by Vernon voters.
The Nov. 8 ballot will include four measures (Measures A, B, C, D) that would change the city charter:
Measure A (City Council Term Limits) asks Vernon voters to decide if city council member terms should be limited to two terms, with a lifetime ban on serving on the city council after having served those two terms.
Measure B (Prevailing Wages) asks Vernon voters to ensure payment of prevailing wages on public works projects.
Measure C (At-Will Employees) asks Vernon voters to remove a provision that mandates at-will employment for city employees. An at-will employee can be terminated for good, bad, or no cause. If passed this measure will not immediately apply to existing employees.
Measure D (City Administrator Job Security and Salary) asks Vernon voters to eliminate restrictions on the city council’s authority to remove the city administrator and to reduce the city administrator’s compensation. Currently the city council must first give the city administrator 30 days notice and hold a public hearing before removing him or her. The city council also cannot remove a city administrator within the first 90 days of the election of a city councilmember, unless the city administrator has been convicted of a felony or crime related to their job.
The remaining six measures (Measures E, F, G, H, I, J) will be decided by voters on November 22:
Measure E (Housing Commission) asks Vernon voters to require that the city maintain a Housing Commission. Currently a housing commission exists, but it can be modified or dissolved by a city council vote.
Measure E would ensure that any changes to the housing commission will go to voters first.
Measure F (Vernon Reform Monitor) asks Vernon voters to decide if the city will be required to retain an Independent Reform Monitor for the next four years.
Measure G (City Council Vacancies) asks Vernon voters to prohibit the city council from making appointments to fill city council vacancies. Instead a special election will be held whenever a seat opens up between regular elections.
Measure H (City Council Compensation Increases) asks Vernon voters to prevent compensation increases for city council members to exceed cost of living adjustments.
Measure I (Light and Power Department Funds) asks Vernon voters to remove restrictions on the use of revenues from the city’s Light and Power enterprise deposited into the city’s General Fund. This repeals a previous measure that prevented Light and Power revenue from being used by any other department.
Measure J (Competitive Bidding) asks Vernon voters to decide if the city will be required to establish an open and competitive bidding process for city service contracts by city ordinance. Currently the city charter provides that no bidding is necessary unless otherwise decided by the city council.
Vernon voters must vote-by-mail. They can also return signed envelopes containing their ballots in person to the Vernon City Clerk’s Office. All ballots are due at the Vernon City Clerk’s Office by mail or in person no later than 8:00 p.m. when balloting closes on both election days.
The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the redevelopment of the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments, located on nearly 69-acres in Boyle Heights, was released on Oct. 20, and the public can submit comments on the proposed project until Dec. 19.
The $2 billion project to transform Wyvernwood into a mixed-use community has garnered opposition from a group of the apartment tenants, historic preservationists and Los Angeles Councilmember Jose Huizar, who represents the area.
Read this story IN SPANISH: Publican Estudio Ambiental del Proyecto de Wyvernwood
Mark Sanders, co-founder and principal of Fifteen Group, the project developer, said he hopes the Draft EIR will change Huizar’s mind. “We are trying to earn his support; we have a project that we think has a lot of benefit. We’ve worked extremely hard in our community outreach,” Sanders said.
The DEIR comes five years after discussion on the project first began, and has since gained the support of some of the tenants and notable local leaders such as Monsignor John Moretta of Resurrection Church, Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries, Father Richard Estrada of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church and Jovenes, Inc., and Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the L.A. County Federation of Labor, Maria Elena Durazo.
While the tenants point to nicer housing facilities for their support, the local leaders see the project as an opportunity to create jobs for local residents.
“What I think people should understand is that we could have rushed this through, but we really tried to study the impacts very academically, very thoughtfully, so that we would have a comprehensive document that wouldn’t be under constant attack,” Sanders said.
During an Oct. 22 breakfast meeting with a group of about 100 Wyvernwood tenant supporters bused to the Puente Learning Center, Fifteen Group Executive Vice President Steven Fink and Sanders reviewed the company’s plans for the multi-year, multi-billion dollar project, and were applauded after assuring residents that their commitment to retain residents at the housing complex is legally binding.
“We are thrilled and excited to be moving forward with the project. The release of the Draft EIR marks the milestone toward improving the quality of life for the people of Boyle Heights,” Fink told EGP.
The Resident Retention Plan is detailed in the DEIR and offers a guarantee to current tenants that they will not pay more in rent for a comparable unit in the new community than they would have paid for their current apartment. The project also designates 15 percent of all units, for the next 30 years, as affordable housing for residents with low and very-low incomes. Some units would also have a rent-to-own option.
Fifteen Group says it is able to offer this promise because their plan calls for increasing the number of housing units from the current 1,200 to 4,400, by adding high-rise structures where two-story structures now stand.
Maria Valencia, a single mother with three children, is one of the many project supporters who hopes she will qualify for an affordable unit. She has lived in Wyvernwood for three years, and currently pays $1,028 for a one-bedroom apartment.
Juan M. Flores, 78, has lived in Wyvernwood since 1978 and only pays $516 a month. Flores and his wife noted that they are getting on in age and might not see the project completed, but they think the plans are “marvelous” and say their daughter is interested in a rent-to-own unit.
Fifty-five-year-old Esperanza Bahena, a 20 year resident of the residential complex, said she supports the project because they, and not just the rich, deserve to live well. The project offers modern conveniences like central air conditioning, cable and Internet connections, and washer and dryer hook-ups.
It also includes plans for 300,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, 25,000 square feet of civic space, and 10.5 acres of community park space. Over 26 additional acres will be devoted to courtyards, paseos and other open space, landscaped pathways for bicycles and pedestrians, twice the number of trees and enhanced sustainability measures and a modernized street grid, according to Fifteen Group’s press release.
The company’s Jobs Collaborative, intended to employ local residents to work on the construction, is also detailed in the DEIR. The redevelopment, to be done in phases over several years, will create more than 10,000 construction-related jobs and 2,800 permanent jobs once the construction is complete, and is estimated to generate $25 million in annual tax revenue, according to Fifteen Group.
The DEIR, an analysis required by the California Environmental Quality Act, also outlines a number of “significant and unavoidable impacts” to the aesthetics, air quality, traffic, historic resources, and noise at six locations, mostly during construction, and also includes mitigation measures in those areas.
Fifteen Group plans to hold a series of public presentations about The New Wyvernwood, for more information visit www.wyvernwood.com or call (323) 261-4001.
The full report is available at http://cityplanning.lacity.org/eir/BoyleHeights/DEIR/index.html
Comments on the DEIR should be submitted to Sergio Ibarra, fax (213) 978-1333, or email Sergio.Ibarra@lacity.org. For more information call (213) 482-7077.
In today’s edition, EGP is featuring two stories detailing the potentially devastating effect the decision by Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators to eliminate the state-funded Adult Day Health Care program will have on thousands of California’s frailest seniors and disabled adults when funding runs out on December 1st.
These cuts come on top of other cuts to Medi-Cal funded services for the state’s most vulnerable populations, the elderly, children and the poor.
The Adult Day Health Care program was intended to help keep ailing seniors and disabled adults in their home, by providing access to exercise and nutrition programs, counseling and social interaction, and a respite for caregivers overwhelmed by the obligations of caring for a loved one 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It was intended to keep them out of more expensive clinical programs, and skilled nursing facilities.
While we can continue to lobby against these cuts, the reality is we must begin to think about how we, as members of a community, can pitch in and assist those who are being impacted by these ill advised decisions.
Are you able to check in on a frail or disabled neighbor who might now be spending much of their time alone?
Can you offer a caregiver a few hours of much needed respite? Are you willing to set up a phone tree to check in on neighbors, and give them a few minutes of your valuable time to let them know they are not all alone? Can you make an extra lunch to drop off along with a few kind words?
Just as we would help our neighbors out during a crisis such as a wild fire, flood or earthquake, the cuts to services are just as critical an emergency deserving of our help and compassion.
We urge Los Angeles County residents to contact a local adult day care center in their neighborhood and volunteer to assist the seniors and disabled who may wind up home alone after Dec. 1st.
We should not just turn our back on our neighbors.
Well the Los Angeles City Council has now really hit bottom by proposing that city property owners pay to make all needed repairs to the sidewalks around their property, and to assume the liability for any damage or injury caused by those sidewalks.
The roots of trees that Angelenos are prohibited from cutting down are often the cause of the damage to sidewalks. And sidewalks are a public asset meant for public use. They are not usually a person’s private property, or for exclusive private use.
So, these types of council decisions can only end up causing real problems in the future.
We can just imagine the havoc that will ensue when residents start to claim they own these public assets since they have paid to improve them.
“You can’t walk here,” “Don’t park in front of my house,” “Walk your dog somewhere else, this is my sidewalk!” You get the gist of what we mean.
As for the “city leaders” who thought up this great idea, they should forget about charging for permits to do the improvements, it’s the least they can do should they go ahead with this plan.
We can see it now, homeowner’s insurance will go up for anyone who has a tree growing anywhere near a sidewalk.
There aren’t enough cops or inspectors in the city to keep track of all the repairs that will be done or even take care of all the permit applicants that will flood the city building and safety department.
So here we are, with another bright idea the city council may live to regret.
Efforts by groups like Occupy the Hood, a network formed by activists in New York and Detroit to bring more people of color into the Occupy Wall Street movement, are diversifying the conversation about the other 99 percent. This “occupying together” has its benefits for whites and people of color. People of color see connections between their concerns and the messages of this emerging movement, and the movement provides a new opportunity to draw attention to causes they care about such as their enduring struggle for economic and social equality. The movement also can learn much from people of color’s efforts, which include securing government investments and protections among other strategies.
Black and brown people’s link to the conversation is overwhelmingly clear, and tends to inform white America of its future. Our groups are often the most affected by emerging trends, such as declines in living wage jobs and rising unemployment, first, as the so-called “canaries in the coal mine.”
The Occupy Wall Street protesters are crying out against economic inequality, for instance. People of color already know this issue all too well. Consider that on average, African Americans earn 73 cents and Hispanics 69 cents for every $1.00 made by white Americans, many of whom are also struggling to provide a decent living for their families. And when it comes to the mortgage crisis, borrowers of color were more than 30 percent more likely to receive higher-rate loans even after accounting for credit ratings and other assessments of risk.
Then there are the predatory payday loans and education debt. Black college grads are the most likely to hold high levels of education debt.
But the conversation could go much deeper than that. Our groups are long tied to calls for government intervention in commercial activity—which is certainly an option for the current movement. When African Americans were literally bought and sold, for example, government needed to end the practice. And with Jim Crow, Chinese American labor and the railroads, and the modern-day immigration debate—situations in which the second-class status of certain groups allowed (and allows) for economic exploitation—government intervention was and is a necessity.
The Occupy Wall Street protesters speak of government’s failure to protect the basic economic rights of its people. For many years, people of color have remained outspoken about this issue from the civil rights movement all the way to the immigration and voting rights protection fights of today—with little response. To a degree, we all feel alienation from government because progress is hard to accomplish.
To be clear: When we talk about why people of color should feel a particularly strong connection to the 99 Percent Movement, we are not trying to be divisive or engage in some sort of one-upmanship about who has suffered more. Rather, we think it brings up a couple of points about the value of occupying together.
First, by definition, the 99 percent are a diverse group of people racially, culturally, regionally, and due to other important categories such as income, education level, and politics (certainly some are farther left than others). There is great potential to add strength to existing efforts and move more mountains by engaging more of these groups in the national dialogue over the 99 percent. The best way to do this is to reach each group where the connection is most real for them—this current piece focuses generally on people of color but the concept extends to other societal categories.
Second, hopefully the movement is starting a serious dialogue about building a solid middle class and opportunities for upward mobility for everyone—and this should mean ensuring that such progress will tackle historic and continuing racial inequities. Occupy Wall Street could embody a collective effort to promote issues that have historically affected specific subgroups.
Finally, we can look back on racial justice movements and recognize past and present strategies that did and did not work. This reflection also provides clear-cut and powerful examples that can be used by advocates to demonstrate how sometimes the good of the nation and its people warrants government intervention into private business interests. The most vivid include those cited above—slavery and Jim Crow laws, among others. Such examples illustrate that the world won’t come to an end if government regulates private commercial activity—in fact, it can lead to better outcomes and an elevation of our stature on the world stage.
Occupying together has the potential to demonstrate the good that can come from positively embracing diversity—strength in numbers and wisdom that stems from learning about one another’s experiences.
Joy Moses is a Senior Policy Analyst and Jasmin Jones is the Special Assistant for External Affairs at American Progress.
Tent cities and shacks sprung up on empty lots across the country. Food lines at soup kitchens wrapped around city blocks. Unemployment soared to 25 percent. Farmers watched helplessly as crop prices plummeted, then lost their land. The evidence was clear, yet at the height of the Great Depression, Congress lacked the tools to accurately measure just how the economy as a whole was faring. With no commonly accepted national income data, they had no guideposts upon which to base sound economic policy.
And so Congress turned to a young and promising Russian-American economist. U.S. lawmakers asked Professor Simon Kuznets of the National Bureau of Economic Research, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in economics, to develop a data set to assess the state of the national economy. In 1937, Kuznets presented a vast volume of data on income to Congress. It became the Gross National Product (GNP).
With remarkable foresight and humility, Kuznets warned that his newly minted GNP shouldn’t be used as an instrument of social policy. It could never adequately measure the things we value, he said, such as housework or caring for elderly parents. Nor, he warned, could the GNP distinguish between the growth of good and bad jobs. The data would be the same if workers earned their pay from employers who endangered their lives or guarded their health and safety. “Goals for more growth should be more growth of what and for what,” Kuznets said.
Alas, Kuznets’ warnings on the GNP — later renamed the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — went unheeded. Instead, the GDP became the barometer of health not only for the U.S. economy, but for the entire global economy.
More than 70 years later, the desirability of GDP growth is so entrenched in our national and international discourse that it’s hard to imagine it any other way. The revered indicator’s expansion or contraction can swing national elections. Conversely, talk of GDP declines can drive a country to war.
During tough economic times such as these, it’s particularly surprising to have a leader bucking the tide. Yet Martin O’Malley is doing just that. Maryland’s governor is the first in the United States to embrace a set of alternative indicators that bring depth to the analysis of his state’s economic growth. Under O’Malley’s leadership, the state’s officials are now gathering and annually updating economic, social, and environmental data that help measure the overall wellbeing of Maryland’s citizens.
The 26 underlying indicators, which collectively comprise the “Genuine Progress Indicator,” are a more meaningful gauge of the overall economic health and wellbeing of Maryland residents than standard economic measuring sticks. For example, the state tracks things like volunteerism, time spent with family and loved ones, and air quality in its quest to gauge its real progress. These indicators may lack concrete economic value, but studies show they help make a society more healthy and vibrant.
GPI assesses what’s left behind when the “gross product” expands. Is the landscape more or less toxic than before? Is the air and water cleaner or dirtier? How well-educated is the populace? Is public transportation decent? Is crime more common? Are too many people spending more time commuting to jobs than at home with their kids?
Maryland leads the nation in measuring overall societal wellbeing through the GPI, but there are similar efforts underway elsewhere in the United States, as well as in Canada, France, and even Bhutan. Yes, Bhutan, a tiny country nestled in the Himalayan mountains. There, “gross domestic happiness” carries more weight than the gross domestic product.
It’s time to recall Kuznets’ warnings about the limitations of the GDP and to pick up where he left off by embracing a new set of tools that will help shape good social, environmental, and economic policy — not just for Maryland, but for our entire country and the world.
Daphne Wysham is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, where she’s conducting research around ways in which alternative metrics to the GDP, such as Maryland’s “Genuine Progress Indicator,” can be used to build a more sustainable society. www.ips-dc.org
Tenants’ rights activists and residential building owners were both unsatisfied Tuesday with a decision by the City Council to raise fees that support the city’s housing department.
On an 11-2 vote, the council raised a fee that pays for the Los Angeles Housing Department to enforce the city’s rent stabilization ordinance. The fee will go up by about $6 – to $24.51 per year.
Another fee that supports the department’s regular code inspection of multi-family housing units will rise about $8 – to $43.33 per year.
If Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signs off on the fee increases, they would go into effect for 2012.
Housing Department officials said the fee increases are necessary because the department is failing to meet the council’s mandate to inspect properties once every three years.
Department officials said rising operational costs, coupled with staffing and budget cuts, mean that apartment units can only be inspected about once every four years.
“We question whether or not the Housing Department is justified in needing that extra money today,” said Richard Otterstrom, president-elect of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. “We haven’t actually seen the proof, and I don’t think the council has yet either.”
Low-income housing advocates were upset that the council declined to shift more of the fee burden to building owners.
Councilmen Richard Alarcon and Ed Reyes advocated for splitting the Systematic Code Enforcement Fee, or SCEP, equally between landlords and tenants. Tenants pay 100 percent of the SCEP fee which funds inspections, many of which are triggered by complaints from tenants.
“What it seeks to do is provide balance. It would be a 50-50 split of that charge and would be a little more fair,” Alarcon said.
The plan was defeated.
“I think this was a vote against equity,” said Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival. “Here, in a situation where we have a nationwide movement calling for economic justice, you have this City Hall ringed with tents of people demanding action. They (the council) turn around on an issue that they have direct power over and vote against the 99 percenters, which are tenants.”
Gross said tenants agreed with the need for the fee increases, but said they should have been split equally.
Councilman Bernard Parks defended the vote, saying it has always been the case that tenants pay for inspections while landlords pay for necessary repairs.
“Those guidelines have been steadfast throughout the history,” he said.
Councilman Tony Cardenas, who chairs the Housing, Community and Economic Development Committee, promised to hold a hearing on a larger evaluation of the rent stabilization ordinance by the end of January.
White Memorial Medical Center staff finally had the opportunity to thank several local youth volunteers as part of a first ever paid internship program launched this past summer.
Last Friday, interns from the program were presented with their $1,200 stipend check for work completed during a three-month summer Health Care Internship Program at White Memorial in Boyle Heights.
A total of nineteen interns participated in the inaugural program, and a new group is set to start on Nov. 12.
The stipend was made possible by a grant from Bank of America Charitable Foundation, and is part of the hospital’s efforts in developing the local workforce. “We have interns who are learning real world skills that can lead to a health care career path,” said Alicia Anaya, WMMC’s Workforce Development Manager.
This is the first time the hospital has been able to provide a stipend to some of its volunteers, Anaya says. The stipend is meant to defray the interns’ education expenses.
But many of the interns said they did not do it for the money. Several said they were already volunteering at the hospital prior to the internship.
The patients seemed grateful to have them around, whether it was for translation help or getting them apple juice. “They didn’t want to stop saying thank you,” said Ana Perez, 21, an ELAC student who is studying to become a physician.
They also felt especially satisfied with the fact that “we grew up here” in the Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles area and were able to help their own neighbors, and were eager to come back to work in their neighborhood after they had completed their studies.
The interaction with patients made the experience “one that I will not forget,” said Edson Rodriguez, who wants to study to become a neurosurgeon.
Rafael Buenonostro said he learned during the internship how to “bring patients from an unhappy to a happy state,” and about how to calm himself and talk to patients. He originally wanted to go into the nursing field, but he is now considering studying to become a doctor.
Three of the interns were offered jobs at White Memorial, including Bagner Gonzalez who began working on September 12. He already had an interest in going into the physical therapy field and the internship solidified that goal. “Being part of this program has shown me many great things about life and about giving a helping hand to others,” said Gonzalez who is working fulltime as patient transport personnel. He also just transferred from Los Angeles City College to study exercise physiology at Cal State Northridge.
The interns spent 10-12 hours a week, three days a week, working in different areas of the hospital, consulted with nursing supervisors, conducted patient satisfaction surveys, visited patients and offered families health education materials and referral information for community resources.