Friday, October 10
8am-5pm—Latinos Faith Culture and HIV Conference presented by The Wall Las Memorias at the California Endowment, 1000 North Alameda Street in Los Angeles. The conference is open to pastors, ministers and congregants, space is limited. For more information, visit on the Web: www.thewalllasmemorias.org.
Saturday, October 11
9am-1pm—A Health and Fitness Fair at Rio de Los Angeles State Park hosted by Assemblyman Kevin de Leon. Free medical screenings, health education, and entertainment for the whole family. Children’s activities, soccer tournament and free giveaways. Rio de Los Angeles State Park is located at 1900 San Fernando Road. For more information, call (323) 225-4545 or visit www.kevindeleon.com.
9am-6pm – 2nd Annual Sharing Festival, presented by the Young Nak Church of Los Angeles. Spend a few hours meeting people and enjoy entertainment, carnival rides, games, music, fire truck display and of course food, food and lots of food. Sharing festival raises funds for local community (all proceeds will go to public and non-profit organizations in Lincoln Heights) and will promote awareness of other noteworthy organizations within the community. The event will continue from 1:30-6pm on Sunday, Oct. 12. All activities will be held at 1721 North Broadway at Ave 18, Los Angeles. For more information call Joey Lee at (323) 227-1414.
11am-3pm—Beverly Hospital Guild presents a “Festival of Fashions:” annual fashion show and luncheon. Fashion models will be comprised of guild members and hospital employees. Music, vendors, raffles, prizes, food and fun will be enjoyed by all participants. All proceeds from this fundraiser will be used for Nursing Scholarships. The event will be held at the Quiet Cannon located at 901 Via San Clemente in Montebello. Tickets are $40 each and reservations are requested. For more information and to purchase tickets, call Maria Fontaine at (310) 669-5970.
6:30pm—The Los Angeles County Arboretum And Botanic Garden 2nd Annual Intelligent Use of Water Film Competition. Enjoy an evening showcasing both amateur and professional short films exploring methods and ideas to responsibly manage earth’s most precious resource, water. Screening of the finalists’ films; filmmaker roundtable discussion; outdoor reception with beverages and hors d’oevres; announcement and awarding of winning films. The Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden is located at 301 North Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia. Ticket are $50 per person. For Tickets and information, visit www.iuowfilm.
8am-3pm—Los Angeles Congress of Neighborhoods at City Hall is open to all city residents and stakeholders. Workshops will focus on how to get involved with your neighborhood council, set priorities for the use of neighborhood council directed resources, and how to influence the city’s budget priorities. This year’s event will combine both the annual Community Budget Day and Congress of Neighborhoods. The two events include free parking, childcare and food. To register online visit, www.lacityneighborhoods.com or call (213) 485-1360. City Hall is located at 200 N. Spring St, Los Angeles.
Sunday, October 12
1-5pm—Highland Park Heritage Trust Old Fashion Picnic on the lawn at the Heritage Square Museum, located at 3800 Homer Street, Los Angeles. Celebrate the organization’s 25 years of work in the fields of preservation, education and recognition through advocacy in the communities of Highland Park, Garvanza, Hermon, Montecito Heights, Mt. Washington, and Cypress Park. Admission is $10 for adults, children are $5, and children under 5 are free. Tickets include Hot Dog (yes we will have veggie dogs) and Lemonade, and the Heritage Square Museum Tour. For more information on the event or where to buy tickets, visit http://www.heritagesquare.org
Tuesday, October 14
2pm and 7pm—Stop the Violence Meeting at White Memorial SDA Church to prepare for Nov. 1 event. This is a follow-up meeting and status report- Results of the community survey will be presented. Sessions at 2pm and 7pm. White Memorial SDA Church is located at 401 North State Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033. For more information, call Juan Jimenez at (323) 263-6937 or (323) 253-6937.
Wednesday, October 15
3-4pm—City of Commerce Public Library’s Teen Read Week will feature a discussion with Sandra Lopez, author of “Esperanza a Latina Story,” at the Central Library. Admission is free and refreshments will be served. Also, during Teen Read Week, Commerce teens can vote for their favorite book at any Commerce Library. Central Library is located at 5655 Jillson St., Commerce, CA. For more information call (323) 722-6660 or visit www.
The largest hunger strike in U.S. history will begin Oct. 15, to call attention to voter mobilization, immigrant rights organizers say. One hundred dedicated activists will encamp at the historic heart of Los Angeles — La Placita Olvera — to fast for 21 days before the Nov. 4 elections. They expect to be joined by thousands across the country who will fast for at least one day and dedicate themselves to building a massive voter turnout.
The fast dramatizes a nationwide pledge/petition effort aiming to gather one million people committed to “vote for immigrant rights, fast at least one day, recruit five family and friends to sign the pledge and take action to hold the new administration accountable for our votes.”
Conceived in the nonviolent action tradition of civil rights leader Martin Luther King and farm labor leader Cesar Chavez, the “Fast for our Future” (fastforourfuture.com) is organizing online, by word of mouth and through social, cultural and political networks. It is closely tied to civil rights, labor, religious groups and coalitions that support immigrant rights.
The fast is being initiated by RISE, a movement of immigrants rights leaders and advocates which focuses on nonviolent action to confront the escalation of anti-immigrant raids, deportations and other repressive Bush administration measures. Endorsers include Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers union; Maria Elena Durazo, leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO; the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA); Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice; Institute of Popular Education of Southern California; and the Korean Resource Center.Angelica Salas, director of CHIRLA, said at an Oct. 1 press conference here, “The raids will continue and will keep on going if we do not unite, do not vote and do not keep putting on pressure. There is one choice: remain silent without taking action, or unite, fast and vote.”
Referring to deportation raids carried out during the previous three weeks in California, in which 1,150 immigrants were arrested, L.A. labor leader Durazo said, “We cannot abandon the thousands of children separated from or deported with their parents.”
Some 5 million children in the United States have at least one undocumented parent. Most of these children are U.S. citizens.
The Bush administration’s record of immigrant repression is chilling. In recent years the federal Immigration Control and Enforcement agency (ICE) has steadily increased raids and deportations, reaching a record 276,912 in 2007. ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams have increased from 18 in 2005 to 50 in 2006 and 75 in 2007. Detentions have increased from 5,532 in 1994 to 27,500 in 2007. The number of anti-immigrant hate groups and anti-Hispanic hate crimes has steadily grown.
However, the transition of the immigrant rights movement from marching to voting is also on the rise. In the 2006 elections, many anti-immigrant Republican congressional candidates were defeated in large part due to greater Latino voting. Immigration is an important issue to Latino communities across the country.
In this year’s presidential primaries, the Latino vote more than doubled, with big increases in votes for Democrats and rejection of Republicans. Massive citizenship and voter registration drives are expected to increase the national Latino turnout from 7.6 million in 2006 to 9.3 million or more this year. Many predict that record get-out-the-vote efforts, especially with initiatives like this month’s fast, could result in over 10 million Latino voters who favor Democrats over Republicans by more than 2-1. The Democratic Party platform supports legalization and due process, while the Republican Party platform opposes legalization and supports greater repressive enforcement. The Fast for our Future is nonpartisan and leaves it to people to check out the positions and actions of the candidates. It stresses the issues and the importance of voting. Organizers say that for anti-immigrant groups the issue of immigration is primarily ideological, but for the immigrants, their families, communities and co-workers it is a matter of day-to-day survival.
Rosalio Munoz, coordinator of Latinos For Peace, Southern California correspondent for the People’s Weekly World and a northeast L.A resident since 1950.
The entire slate of recall election candidates who are set to challenge the seats of Commerce city Mayor Tina Baca Del Rio and Councilman Robert Fierro on Nov 4 were no shows at last week’s candidates forum.
At the Oct 1 forum sponsored by the Industrial Council, the public posed a wide variety of questions ranging from broad issues like the environment to specifics like city programs for the handicapped to a panel made up of Del Rio, Fierro, and a row of empty seats and unclaimed name cards.
“I think it was a greatly missed opportunity,” said Industrial Council Executive Director, Eddie Tafoya. “I think if you’re ready to become a great city leader, this is a great opportunity for any individual to showcase their platform and their beliefs, and their overall goals for the residents and the entire community.”
The Industrial Council’s interest in holding the forum is to keep the Commerce business community informed about the upcoming election, Tafoya says. “What happens in city hall ultimately has an effect on our industrial community…” he says.
But four of the five council hopefuls boycotted the forum, claiming Tafoya has an unusually close relationship with the two council members who are defending their seats. The challengers claim the forum would be rigged against them.
The four candidates sent a letter to the League of Women Voters, which facilitated the forum, and to the Industrial Council claiming the event is an inappropriate and self-serving use of public funds and would unfairly favor the two incumbents being recalled. The letter ends with the candidates stating they would not participate in a forum they considered to be a “blatant misuse of public funds for the political benefit and gain of Mr. Fierro and Mrs. Del Rio.”
Tafoya says the League of Women Voters is a highly regarded, non-partisan organization. “Their main purpose is to encourage and inform, and to promote active participation of citizens in their own in government. They don’t support candidates and they don’t endorse people,” he says.
“The industrial council went before the city council to ask to have it videotaped… and it was [Mayor] Tina [Baca Del Rio], [Councilman] Robert [Fierro], and [Councilman] Joe [Aguilar] — the three of them who went ahead and approved the $1,750 to spend to video tape this forum and to have it at a city facility and then running it on city cable,” Lilia Leon, one of the candidates who signed the letter, told EGP the night before the forum was to be held.
“If the Industrial Council wanted a video tape, why isn’t the industrial council paying for it? Why is the city paying for it? And why are we having it at a city facility? And why are we putting it on city cable? … We’re not going because it’s going to be another abuse to put it – if it’s a candidate’s forum, it should have only the candidates,” she says.
The four candidates also took issue with the inclusion of Fierro and Del Rio in the forum. In explaining this point, Leon suggested the playing field would not have been equal between the council members and their challengers. “How do you ask one question to five candidates running for city council versus the two people being recalled? What are you going to do for our community?’ The five candidates could answer that, but the incumbents can say what they’ve already [done] … you know we’ve never had a recall forum so we weren’t sure what the criteria was… “ she said.
Most of the candidates are running for their first council seat, except for Leon and Jesus C. Cervantes who have both served as mayors for the city.
Art Gonzalez also signed the letter stating he would boycott the forum. He rejects the idea of Del Rio and Fierro being included.
“The forum was for the candidates, not for the constituents [sic]. It’s kind of like saying George Bush will be attending [the U.S. presidential debates]. It’s like saying he should attend, when he’s on his way out. If the recall goes through [Del Rio and Fierro] are automatically out of the picture. They’re not eligible to be elected instantly on the same ballot…”
However, the League of Women Voters’ facilitator Margo Reeg says the current council members have the right to defend their seats. “In the case of a recall, it is only fair that the city council members have the opportunity to represent themselves in the forum,” Reeg told the forum audience.
Gonzalez added that while he signed the letter and agreed with his fellow candidates that the forum was unfairly set up, he also had a scheduling conflict that prevented him from attending.
Cervantes was the only candidate who did not sign the letter, and he told EGP on the night before the forum that he would be participating.
“I said I was going. I gave my word and I’m not afraid of whatever they can say,” he told EGP.
However, Cervantes ended up not attending. He told EGP that he “realized the whole thing was being done illegally because the two council members, because they vote in this case and the local channel is paid for by the city, this is against the California law for council members to do that. That’s why I decided not to be part of that,” he said.
Commerce’s public information officer, Brian Wolfson, said however that city attorney was asked to determine if the city municipal channel could be used to video tape their forum, if the channel could be used to air the finished forum. He determined there was no misuse, and that it is an appropriate use.
Cervantes disagrees. “Those are the laws. Council members cannot vote in anything that can benefit him or herself. The council members can’t vote for anything that would be a conflict of interest,” he says.
Reeg said that while they would have preferred a full dais, the League decided to allow the forum to go on.
The 200-person capacity meeting room at Rosewood Park was nearly packed during the forum. Questions from the public were collected from the audience and filtered by the League of Women Voters volunteers.
In their opening statements, the incumbents took the opportunity to reacquaint voters to their biographies.
Fierro spoke of his 35 years as a resident in Commerce with roots in the Veterans Park area. From his childhood involvement in a variety of athletics, he moved into careers as a city employee, later becoming a probation officer, and settling down as a teacher. He stated his dedication to keeping the city “corrupt free” and said his goal is to promote fiscal responsibility.
Del Rio says she is a 45 year resident of Commerce where she was born and raised. Her family has been in the city for five generations. “We’re deep-rooted in the city of Commerce. It matters, the city really does matter to myself and my family,” she said.
“It’s very hard to be up here defending my seat and my honor, because when I came in, I came in with integrity, and if I go out, I’ll go out with the same thing.”
The public was interested in a variety of issues. One of the early questions was about programs for the handicapped, which both Fierro and Del Rio embraced, saying the city should work to bring more of the city’s many community services to people with disabilities.
Residents also sought details on how the panel would address trucks parking or idling illegally in residential neighborhoods. Both recommended more enforcement, with Del Rio referring specifically to code enforcement measures and resources that could be strengthened as part of the city’s Keep Commerce Beautiful campaign.
The council members were asked how they propose to make good use of the city’s environmental justice task force and how it views the proposed power plant in Vernon. Both council members have long been outspoken about their opposition to the power plant, which the city recently protested through a candlelight vigil. In order to further the environmental justice policies in the city, Del Rio and Fierro recommended keeping channels open with local environmental groups.
The two incumbents addressed the economy in one question that asked how Commerce would work regionally to “restart the economy.”
“You know, it’s hard because I don’t know if a regional effort is exactly what we need at this point. I think what we’re trying to do locally is making sure our budget is balanced and so forth,” Del Rio said.
Fierro said much of the city’s stability comes from the revenue it gets from the Commerce Casino. “Fortunately the city of Commerce because of our budget and the way we structure it and the way we emphasize and put our moneys, and of course, thanks to Commerce Casino we’re able to balance and make the appropriate decisions for you guys, the residents,” he said.
The incumbents both spoke about preserving the residential community in the city. “I don’t see a big issue especially with this city being so small and so family-oriented… We’ve got to support our families… and housing is one of the keys to keeping family here in Commerce for many years,” Fierro said.
The incumbents were accused by the recall proponents of abusing the city’s car privileges. One of the perks granted council members is a car to drive between city events. Del Rio said such perks, as well as the medical benefits and stipends are approved by the entire city council.
In his closing statement, Fierro lamented that “special interests” are interested in their seats. “The city is going in a different direction, but we will fight. We care for you guys,” he says.
Del Rio says special interests want to take over the city. She summed up her feelings about the recall election, saying “The community deserves who they elect. And if we are removed, you will be faced with individuals who are going to change our city. You better believe the city is going to be changed in a big way. And it’s not going to be the comfortable city that you know now…“ she said.
Commerce Candidates Forum – Airs on Commerce’s cable Channel 55 and streams online at http://www.ci.commerce.ca.us until November 4:
Mondays at 2 pm; Tuesdays at 1:30 & 10 pm; Wednesdays at 4 & 8 pm.; Thursdays at 8:30 pm; Fridays at 9:30 am & 9:30 pm; Saturdays at 6:30 pm; Sundays at 9am & 10.
Television cameras were rolling as angry protesters marched to Bell Gardens Mayor Jennifer Rodriguez’s home Sunday. Residents said they were demanding action because of recent shootings, one earlier that morning that left three people injured, one near Tapia market in which a woman was grazed by a bullet, and another two weeks ago that claimed the life of teenager Michael Cardenas.
The protestors who planned to march to the mayors’ house, however, did not count on her showing up at the beginning of the march to talk and walk with the protestors.
“I heard they were walking to my house to protest and I though that wasn’t necessary,” Rodriguez told EGP. “I’m never going to hide from residents… I am always available to talk with them.”
Protestors accused the mayor of being indifferent to the crimes and blamed her for the violence in the city. Councilwoman Priscilla Flores was present at the march and defended the mayor saying that the event was being used politically to misinform residents.
Marthaane Viurquiz told a KCAL9 reporter “the mayor has all power;” the next day Viurquiz repeated the same to EGP:
“Yeah, I organized it [the march],” said Viurquiz, a Bell Gardens resident who says she ran for the city council about five years ago. “I’m tired of it [the violence].”
Viurquiz cited the four recent shootings as reason for marching to the mayor’s house. She said they wanted to hold Rodriguez accountable for saying public safety is her number one priority.
Viurquiz said she regretted not running against Rodriguez in the last election, but added an after-school fight last year involving her son is her current motivation — to prevent other young people from being victims of violence.
Although she says she is not thinking about running, there are those who accuse her of building her political platform for the 2009 city council elections.
Councilman Mario Beltran told EGP that he welcomes the people’s right to assemble and protest but he said that city hall—and not the mayor’s house—would have been the appropriate place to express concerns. Beltran said that directing attention to the mayor’s house could jeopardize the safety of the mayor and her family.
“It was an irresponsible thing to do,” Betran told EGP, adding he believes the community was being used for individuals’ political gain.
Beltran also said he was confident that the persons responsible for the crimes would be brought to justice by the Bell Gardens Police Department.
Councilman Daniel Crespo was among the protestors, and has since been accused of manipulating residents for political benefit, something he flatly denies. According to Crespo he was called and invited to attend a march against violence, and that’s what he did.
Crespo told EGP that the mayor and his fellow council members should be held accountable. He says there’s been a significant change in council priorities since they were elected. The “very minimum” has been done to make Bell Gardens a safer place, he said. He accuses them, for political reasons, of never taking his ideas seriously.
Crespo said he has proposed various things to the council and sent copies of 11 memorandums (that he has written) to EGP, memos he said show his public safety efforts. But none were recent—four were from 2003, four were from 2004, one was from 2005, and two were from 2006. Of those, five had to do with the Huntington Park “boot camp” program and four of those were requests by parents who wanted their children in the program. That program was very successful, he said. But council members shut it down, and that along with not supporting other programs for at-risk youth has led to the violence seen in the city today, he claims.
Crespo told EGP that the city is a gang “war zone,” and thinks they should hire more police officers. “I wish we could get the National Guard to come,” he said.
“I have good ideas and solutions,” Crespo said and added that dysfunction in the council prevented him from helping more people. “[But every time they think,] Crespo came up with it, Crespo should get credit for it, so lets kill it.”
Crespo said the city needs a publicly elected mayor, and he would propose to put it on the ballot, “I may even run for mayor,” he said.
Rodriguez told EGP that the recent march was just part of a pattern of election time behavior by Crespo. She said that misinformation about crime in the city was causing fear in the community and discouraging police officers.
“He should be embarrassed,” Rodriguez said. “He has been in council longer than any of us…and he hasn’t provided anything.”
The new City Manager Steve Simonian’s first day was Monday. While he didn’t take sides, he explained that Rodriguez, as mayor, has extra administrative duties, but no more power than the other council members.
“There are five people who set policy and direct expenditures,” Simonian explained. “The mayor is not the only one responsible—she was not elected as a mayor, that was decided within council, it is a rotating position.”
Councilman Pedro Aceituno also said he saw the march as a politically motivated event.
“I think there has been a different message [about crime] than what the actual statistics show,” Aceituno said. He said the recent violence has been taken out of proportion.
EGP met with the Bell Gardens Police chief and several other ranking officers last week. They said they wanted to open up the lines of communication with the community, and to reassure residents that Bell Gardens is not in a crime crisis, but rather that the crime rates have gone down this year.
According to Chief Keith Kilmer, over all crime in the city is down by six percent and homicides have dropped 50 percent from the same time last year.
“At this time last year, there were six homicides and they were all gang related,” Kilmer told EGP on Oct. 2. “This year there have been three homicides but only one is believed to involve a gang.” That was prior to the latest shootings in the city.
Kilmer also said that aggravated assaults had gone down by 12 percent and assaults with a firearm had gone down by 24 percent.
The chief said his department is using a variety of initiatives to reduce gang activity and crime, including: undercover narcotics surveillance, curfew and truancy sweeps, and larger scale operations to directly impact gang activity and related crime.
A special city council meeting to discuss crime and gang prevention in the city was scheduled to take place yesterday, the results of which were not available as of press time. Next week EGP will take a closer look at the crime statistics.
A Montebello resident took legal action on Monday against a referendum that calls for a second look at the city’s Athens Services waste hauling contract. Irene Villapania filed suit against the city clerk and the council for condoning a referendum petition that may put the fate of the contract to a vote by the people.
“Villapania charges that the petition is fatally flawed and a clear violation of California election law,” Athens Services’ spokesperson Mike Lewis wrote in a press release sent Monday.
Lewis says Villapania has been a resident of Montebello for 14 years and currently works at the Azusa Chamber of Commerce, which lists her as the chamber’s executive director. She told EGP on Wednesday that she would not be making any public comments regarding the lawsuit.
She is one of the residents who felt she was given false information when being asked to sign the petition, according to Lewis. “I knew quite a few people who said they were misled,” he says. She is being represented by the law offices of Bell, McAndrews and Hiltachk and Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, with Athens Services paying for her legal expenses in this lawsuit.
City Clerk Robert J. King stands by the decision that led him to be sued by Villapania. He says both Athens Services and the independent haulers had indicated they might file lawsuits. “We figured that we were going to be sued. One or the other was going to sue. Other than that, what the council does is beyond me,” he says.
King says it was not his responsibility to make a substantive evaluation of the petition before letting it circulate, sending the signatures to be verified by the county, and certifying it before sending it the city council for a vote.
The council was supposed to make a decision regarding the referendum at last night’s meeting, held after EGP had gone to press. The council had the option of either rescinding the Athens contract, or voting to send the referendum to the ballot for a vote by the people.
“I’m sure they figure that the petition they had out there was flawed and that I should have claimed that it was flawed, but it’s not my job. I got three different independent advice — two from city clerks and one from a company that does elections and what not — and it’s not within my privilege to do that. And it’s been indicated by all three of them that it’s not my job and it’s in the state code. I would be breaking the law if I did declare whether it was flawed or not,” he said.
Lewis says the suit is meant to go beyond what the city clerk is willing to do. “I think the position the city clerk is taking is that his duties are strictly ministerial. Okay. Then we need to get someone to make a decision on whether it was valid or not. If you’re not going to do it, then we’ll ask the court to do it, Lewis says.
According to Lewis’ press release, Villapania’s suit claims the referendum did not include important elements such as “the schedule of rates to be charged,” information about “the free weekly collection of residential customers’ bulky waste and free additional green waste containers,” as well as the information that the city of Montebello would receive $500,000.00 and revenue from 7.5% of the gross receipts for signing the contract.
A copy of the referendum petition obtained from the city shows that the petition did include a transcript from the July 23 meeting during which the terms were laid down for the city’s signing reward and cut of the receipts. However, the rate schedule and the weekly green waste container collection were not a part of the petition documents. Staff reports that came with the July 23 meeting packet also did not contain this information.
The city attorney told EGP that a contract with all the terms agreed upon by council members was drawn up by the end of July, just after the contract was approved. Chris Robles, a consultant for the referendum campaign, contends he attempted to get a copy of this contract amended with the verbal agreements made at the council meeting but was told what he was asking for was unavailable.
Many of the terms were set verbally during the meeting. This bottlenecked the process for preparing the petition, says Robles.
He says the petitioners had 30 days to file their referendum petition, but it took two weeks for a transcript of the meeting to be prepared by the city so that he could include it with the petition. This meant the petitioners had less time to gather signatures, he says.
Lewis cites California Elections Code Section 9238, which he says requires a petition to contain the full text of the ordinance or the portion of the ordinance that is the subject of the referendum. The city clerk should have cleared this up, according to Villapania’s suit.
Robles thinks this lawsuit is a ploy by Athens to meddle with the referendum process. “If Athens and the council members actually believed in the contract that they’ve put together and believed that it’s in the interest of the community, then why not let people vote on it? Why not have open discussions about it. Why not put it on the ballot?”
Dennis Chiappetta, the executive vice president of Athens Services says the city stands to gain from accepting their contract agreement of becoming its only hauler. “Athens was awarded a contract extension to include commercial waste removal because of its unique qualifications, which include a state-of-the-art recycling facility, a new fleet of “green” natural gas clean trucks and guarantees to ensure that Montebello meets its legal obligations to recycle,” he is quoted as saying in Lewis’ press release.
The city’s latest verified rate of diversion, which indicates how much of the city’s trash is diverted from landfills to recycling centers, is 62% or 12% above the state-mandated 50%, according to information provided by Public Works Manager Michelle Haro. It is up to the city to make sure that the haulers in its city are complying, and for each day that it doesn’t, the Integrated Waste Management board fines the city $10,000. Montebello has never been penalized, according to Haro.
With less than one month until possibly the most historic election in America’s history, many say, voting organizations have been fervently attempting to inspire political activism in youth.
But it hasn’t been easy.
In the last presidential election, in 2004, only 45 percent of 18-24 year-olds in California voted. Only one out of every three Latinos age 18-24 years old cast their ballot, according to the website www.CIRCLE.org.
Hoping these numbers increase in the next election, Jose Orea, 18, and Joanna Flores, 17, members of United Students, an organization that encourages students to know their rights, spoke to Yolanda Roura’s lackluster Art class of 11th and 12th graders at Garfield High School back in August, emphasizing the value of registering and voting. Yet not even interactive skits could entice students to turn their heads toward the presenters.
When Orea asked the students if they wished to register to vote, not a single hand raised.
A presentation to Jeff Matsumura’s 11th grade English class at Roosevelt High School elicited the same lukewarm interest.
At Marshall High School, Walt Townes and Marco Ceglie, founders of Vote18, an organization that encourages youth to register and vote, gave an interactive presentation to Marcia Slaten’s much more lively AP Government class of 11th and 12th graders.
But for some, these engagements was short-lived.
When asked if she would continue discussing politics outside of the classroom, Roosevelt Junior Zaira Garcia, 16, said, “I’m not really interested in politics, but I would become more involved when our voices could be heard, not just the white people’s.”
It was almost automatic for many students to answer “No” when asked if they were interested in politics. When asked “Why?” many searched for an answer even they couldn’t come up with.
Gabriela Perez, 20, a graduate of Garfield High School, offered an explanation for the 66 percent of Latinos her age who do not vote, “It’s a shame that Latino youth aren’t getting involved, because policies do affect us. But most of my friends are first generation, so voting isn’t something they’re often exposed to.”
“I don’t know what’s going on,” a Roosevelt High student said to Orea during his presentation. “What if I vote and make a bad decision?
This lack of exposure, citizenship issues, illiteracy and limited transportation are the primary barriers separating youth from the voting booths, Flores said.
Until groups like United Students and Vote18 came along, many youth said no one was really interested in what they had to say. Expectations were low for those in their late teens and early 20s.
While the 18-24 year old age group has the lowest percentage of voters, Orea, Flores, Townes and Ceglie say the number has increased every election, promising statistics they can’t ignore.
And while some tried hard to feign disinterest, by the end of the Garfield High workshop, several students’ heads did start to perk up. Perhaps it was the opportunity to exchange completed voter registration forms for raffle tickets, but more than a dozen forms were handed out, completed and retuned.
“This is why we try to talk student to student to get rid of that communication barrier, Orea explained. “A man in a suit talking down to them just won’t know how to connect, and students wouldn’t listen.”
“So instead, we do classroom presentations at the high schools and go door-to-door. So far, we’ve registered close to 1,000 people in this community of color.”
At the end of the Marshall High workshop, voter registration forms were distributed to every single student and the Vote18 presenters walked them through the form question-by-question.
“60 percent of students don’t go on to a 4-year college, so this is our last real chance to inform them about political issues at this last level of social cohesion,” Townes said.
In addition to these efforts, several other issues seem to be encouraging youth to become more involved.
“This is going to be a historical election,” Perez said. “This is a real chance for the first Black president to be elected. We should be able to take advantage of that and be a part of it, not just read about it in a history book later.”
“We aren’t just about hip-hop and rap,” Orea said. “We’re politically involved, too. My friends and I debate about issues so we learn more.”
The issue that seems to be at the center of these debates is education. Because most youth are still in school or seeking higher education, education resonates as an issue that directly affects them.
“There is not enough money in schools,” Orea said. “East L.A. high schools are overcrowded and there hasn’t been a new high school in 80 years, until recently.”
Health care, a precious commodity, Flores said, is also a topic at the forefront of discussion.
“Everyone should have health care,” she said. “One time, my friend was really sick, but she didn’t have health care. It was just devastating to see her suffering through the pain! No one should have to wait in line to check their health.”
Immigration laws, school budget cuts and global warming all were topics that received multiple mentions.
And the candidate whom these youth believe will be able to produce the most change regarding these issues is Barack Obama, the Democratic Presidential Candidate.
“Obama’s policies are really progressive,” said Perez. “Regarding education, he supports the Dream Act and he has a history of working with people of color.”
“The key is to ask people to get involved, and Barack Obama has asked them to get involved,” Townes explained. “The students seem absolutely excited. They feel like they can relate to him rather than to other candidates.”
Obama has personally reached out to youth, appearing on MTV, Roosevelt Junior Joel Lujan said, and even spoke at Garfield High School back in 2007, according to Orea. The presidential candidate’s message of “change” seems to be resonating within the youth voting block.
“I like his speech, ‘Yes, We Can,’” Roosevelt Junior Anabel Ortega added. “It’s really cool that even though his people came from slavery, they were able to overcome that and he actually is a candidate. It sets an example for minorities.”
More than just an example, many minority groups, particularly Hispanics, seem to be getting involved in the political process.
“Though Hispanics vote significantly less than some ethnic groups, there has been a drastic increase,” explained Fran Lapides, a League of Women Voters of Los Angeles representative. “Part of this comes from the L.A. mayor [Antonio Villaraigosa.] With a Latino in office, the citizens are empowered. They see that they’re part of this political process and they’ll become more engaged.”
“I have all the faith in the world in our youth when others underestimate them simply because they’re largely marginalized,” Ceglie said. “They’re more enlightened and open-minded than older voters who often have special interests in mind. The world will be better off as soon as control transitions into these students’ hands.”
Whether it’s the candidates, voter organizations, or media hype, the next generation of voters seems to be inspired.
“Young people have the most power,” said Georgina Martinez of Roosevelt High. “We are the future.”
Last Friday, the City Council of the City of Monterey Park held a special meeting to discuss the passage of Measure MM on the November 4 ballot. Unanimously endorsed by the Monterey Park City Council the measure calls for a $50 million bond to modernize and update every elementary school in the Alhambra Unified School District (AUSD).
The bond will be used strictly for improvements and repairs on all 13 AUSD elementary schools. Monterey Park is home to four of these schools, Brightwood, Monterey Highlands, Repetto, and Ynez Elementary. No funds will go towards operating expenses, such as teacher and administrator salaries, and will be monitored by an elected independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee. The measure would mean a property tax increase by $15.90 a year for every $100,000 of assessed home value.
Locally, similar measures have passed in 2004 and 1999.
Measure C in 2004, called for $85 million bond to update and repair AUSD high schools with about the same boundaries as Measure MM with exception to the allocation of funds. In 2004, funds were dispersed according to need to Alhambra, Mark Keppel, San Gabriel, Century, and Independence High Schools.
Measure MM is said to allocate funds equally among all elementary campuses.
In 1999, voters approved a $30 million school-improvement bond. Measure A resulted in the construction of 104 new classrooms, eight new libraries and 12 computer labs, and various classroom infrastructure improvements.
All measures seek to increase test scores and standard of education in AUSD schools. Measure MM is set to appear on the November 4 ballot and requires a 2/3 vote in the district to pass.
Collaboration between two Los Angeles City agencies produced a job fair for young people that brought a diverse range of employers to Boyle Heights on Tuesday afternoon. Officials estimated that over 70 people attended the job fair hosted at the Boyle Heights Technology Youth Center. The job fair, sponsored by Hire L.A.’s Youth and the Youth Opportunity Movement, featured over 15 different employers representing a wide range of fields from sales, labor and government jobs. Both agencies are part of the Community Development Department (CDD) run by City Hall.
David Ortiz of Boyle Heights, walked out of the fair with a job application from the California Conservation Corps. The 18-year-old said he was attracted by the opportunity to work outdoors. Monique Moncayo, 24, who said in addition to accompanying Ortiz, she was doing research for the students she works with at Legacy L.A., a Boyle Heights nonprofit organization.
Ruby A. Sotelo, a senior workforce development analyst with CDD, said the primary focus was to prepare young people to enter the workforce. In addition to coordinating job fairs, Sotelo works with Hire L.A.’s Youth, a project sponsored by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to encourage private, public and non-profit organizations to provide entry-level jobs to Los Angeles youths. The program is coordinated by the CDD.
Sotelo said the program targets residents between the ages of 18-24. The youths are prescreened after they attend workshops and complete a work readiness certificate. This certificate consists of a mock job interview, a basic math test and a customer service workshop.
Jasmine Alvarado, project coordinator for Youth Opportunity Movement, said Tuesday’s fair was the first fair the group has coordinated for the fiscal year, which started on Oct 1. The organization, which operates on three different locations in Boyle Heights, is also part of the CDD. She said they always have had a good relationship with several companies such as UPS, Starbucks and FedEx.
As the fair came to a close, Veronica Ortiz, a 22-year-old Boyle Heights resident spent time talking with the Los Angeles County Probations Department. She said she wanted to go home to read the application and see the requirements needed for qualification.
Employers at the job fair included UPS, Food 4 Less, Union Bank of California, the Los Angeles Fire Department and the Long Beach Police Department.
Sotelo said Hire L.A’s Youth next step is to coordinate a larger job fair in January that will include more community partners. For more information about this program and future hiring events visit www.layouththatwork.org
Police Need Help to Solve Copper Wire Thefts in Boyle Heights
Authorities Tuesday sought public help to solve eight copper-wire thefts from city light poles in the Hollenbeck area since August.
The most recent crime was reported on Sept. 22 at Boyle Avenue and Short Street, the Los Angeles Police Department reported. Witnesses described the suspects as two men in a maroon van.
Police have detained possible suspects in connection with the case, but sought public help to provide more clues in the case.
“Copper wire theft has become an alarming epidemic,” said LAPD Capt. Blake Chow.
Chow said the LAPD and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power were working with the community to try to solve the crimes, which often destroy city street lights and affect the community’s quality of life.
Street Car System Plan Gains $5 Million in Support
Last week, the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles pledged $5 million for a proposed streetcar system that would operate downtown as part of the “Bringing Back Broadway” plan.
The money will be managed by Los Angeles Streetcar Inc., a nonprofit responsible for raising funds to design and operate the streetcar system expected to cost $90 million. The streetcar would connect Broadway, between Third and Ninth streets, with the L.A. Live and Grand Avenue developments.
Investigation Into Fatal Highland Park Shooting Underway
Police are investigating a shooting in Highland Park that left a 17-year-old boy dead and a 19-year-old man wounded.
Officers were dispatched to 5758 Marmion Way around 12:15 a.m. on Oct. 2 in response to a report of a shooting. Adrian Betancor was shot once in the upper body and taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital, where he later died and Joey Chavez, the second victim, also was hospitalized and is expected to survive.
There were no immediate arrests, and the motive for the shooting is under investigation. Anyone with information is urged to call LAPD’s Northeast Station at (213) 847-4261, or the 24-hour toll-free line 1-877-LAWFULL.
Mega Million Lottery Winnings Could Go to Fund State Schools
A Mega Million lottery ticket worth $126,163 has not been cashed in, and the California Lottery is hoping someone will check their old stubs to look for a winner.
The winning ticket was purchased for the Sept. 5 game at Ray’s Liquor, 9024 E. Slauson Avenue, in Pico Riviera with winning numbers 1, 6, 15, 27, and 46, and Mega number 39.
If the winner doesn’t surface within six months of purchase, the prize goes to the state schools system.
Local Private School Teacher Faces Child Molestation Charges
A private school teacher, after being arrested Friday, Oct. 3, appeared in court Monday on charges of allegedly molesting two 9-year-old girls in 1988. The arraignment for 53-year-old Mark Walter Sonnenburg was held over until Oct. 20. He is currently held on a bail of $300,000.
Sonnenburg was charged last week in a felony complaint for arrest warrant with two felony counts of lewd act upon a child under the age of 14 involving two victims and one felony count of sexual penetration by a foreign object on a victim under the age of 14 by a person who was at least 10 years older.
The complaint alleged the crimes occurred between January and August 1988. One of the lewd act charges involves a victim who was Sonneburg’s student at Eagle Rock Montessori School. The other lewd act charge and the sexual penetration charge, involves a second victim who was not a student. Both victims reported the crimes in October 2007 and the criminal complaint was filed within a year as required to extend the statute of limitations for the crimes.
Sonnenburg continued to teach at private schools, including one in Pasadena, until earlier this year.
Deadline to File For Economic Stimulus Checks is Approaching
More than 133,000 Los Angeles County veterans and retirees who have not filed for their economic stimulus checks have less than two weeks to do so, or they could lose money they are entitled to.
The $152 billion stimulus plan, approved by Congress in February, boosts the nation’s lagging economy by putting rebate checks of $300 to $600 in the hands of taxpayers.
AARP representatives had applications available at three Los Angeles-area locations on Tuesday. Forms can be downloaded at www.aarp.org/stimulushelp or requested by telephone at (877) 926-8300. Deadline to file is October 15.