Uno de Cada Cuatro Hispanos Vive en la Miseria, Informa el Censo

September 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Uno de cada cuatro hispanos vive en Estados Unidos en condiciones de pobreza, lo que supone un total de 12,4 millones de personas, según los datos del Censo publicados el 16 de septiembre y correspondientes al año 2009, cuando el país estaba en recesión.

La cifra de hispanos que viven bajo el umbral de la pobreza, es decir que ganan menos de 22.000 dólares al año para una familia de cuatro personas, forma parte de un amplio informe de la Oficina del Censo que muestra que el nivel de escasez económica ha batido récords.

En 2009, vivían en la pobreza un total de 43,6 millones de estadounidenses, alrededor de uno de cada siete, la mayor cifra registrada desde 1959, cuando se comenzó a elaborar el censo.

Entre los hispanos, la proporción de pobres subió del 23,2 al 25,3 por ciento en 2009, cuando 1,4 millones de latinos más se sumaron al carro de la pobreza.

Comparado con el resto de grupos demográficos, sólo los negros superan ese porcentaje, con un 25,8 por ciento, mientras que entre los blancos no hispanos, los pobres son un 9,4 por ciento del total.

Pero los datos del informe del Censo también muestran que, pese al avance de la pobreza, los hogares hispanos aumentaron un 0,7 por ciento sus ingresos medios en 2009, hasta alcanzar una media del 38.039 dólares anuales.

Para el experto en demografía de la Universidad de Georgetown Harry Holzer esta es una “contradicción interesante” que puede explicarse por “el leve descenso en la inmigración en los últimos años” y por otro factor que el informe no señala.

“No debemos olvidar que el número de hogares hispanos ha descendido tras la crisis, con lo cual hay un grupo importante que queda al margen del recuento de ingresos por hogares”, dijo a Efe Holzer.

Decenas de expertos y grupos latinos reaccionaron al informe del Censo expresando la importancia de aprobar varios proyectos de ley que permanecen estancados en el Congreso para mejorar las cifras, como el de fomento de empleo local del demócrata George Miller, que, según Holzer, crearía un millón de puestos de trabajo.

El Consejo Nacional de La Raza, por su parte, reiteró en un comunicado su respaldo a medidas como la expansión de créditos tributarios y los incentivos para los pobres que trabajan, así como la creación de empleos verdes.

Otro de los grandes problemas retratados en el informe es el creciente número de personas sin cobertura médica en Estados Unidos, que en 2009 creció de 46,3 a 50,7 millones, el 16,7 por ciento de la población.

Entre los hispanos, son más de 15,8 millones, el 32,4 por ciento de la población, los que carecían de seguro en 2009, cuando la reforma sanitaria de Barack Obama aún se debatía en el Congreso.

En un comunicado difundido hoy, Obama expresó su confianza en que esa reforma suponga avances en este sentido, e indicó que “una recesión histórica no tiene por qué traducirse en un aumento histórico en la inseguridad económica de las familias”.

“Incluso antes de la recesión, el número de pobres en Estados Unidos ya era inaceptablemente alto, y los datos publicados hoy muestran que nuestro trabajo no ha hecho más que comenzar”, dijo el presidente.

El grupo de edad más vulnerable al aumento de la pobreza es el de los niños hispanos, que son pobres en un 33,1 por ciento de los casos, mientras que los adultos pobres representan el 21,4 por ciento de la población latina de su edad y los ancianos, el 18,3 por ciento.

En total, en Estados Unidos viven en la pobreza 15,5 millones de menores de 18 años, casi uno de cada cinco, según los datos.

Sigue Aumentando el Desempleo en el Condado de Los Ángeles

September 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

La cifra de desempleo adaptado a la estación el Condado de Los Ángeles aumento a 12.6 por ciento en agosto—en julio fue 12,4 por ciento—reporto el Departamento de Desarrollo Económico (EDD) el 17 de septiembre.

La cifra de agosto es más alta que la cifra de 12,1 por ciento en agosto del año pasado, reporto el EDD.

La cifra de desempleo en California fue 12,4 por ciento en agosto, subió de 12,3 por ciento en julio, y es más alto que la cifra de 12 por ciento en agosto del año pasado, según el EDD.

En comparación al resto del país, la cifra de desempleo fue 9,6 por ciento en agosto, 9,5 por ciento en julio, y 9,7 por ciento en agosto del año pasado. El sector de empleo que perdió más trabajo fue el gobierno, con 8,100 empleos perdidos.

Un total de 616.000 personas en el Condado de Los Ángeles estaban sin empleo, el condado tiene una fuerza laboral de 4,9 millones.

Por todo el estado, 2,26 millones de personas estaban sin trabajo en agosto, un aumento pequeño de 2,25 por ciento en julio.

Las Empresas Cuyos Propietarios son Hispanos Crecen a Más del Doble de la Tasa Nacional, De Acuerdo al Censo

September 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

La Oficina del Censo de los EE.UU. el martes, 21 de septiembre, anunció que el número de empresas cuyos propietarios son hispanos aumentó 43.7 por ciento, más del doble de la tasa nacional de 18.0 por ciento, entre 2002 y 2007. El aumento significa 2.3 millones de empresas cuyos propietarios son hispanos, los cuales alrededor de un 45.8 por ciento de las empresas cuyos propietarios son de origen mexicano.

Estas empresas cuyos propietarios son hispanos generaron $345.2 mil millones en ventas en el 2007, un aumento de 55.5 por ciento comparado con el 2002, informo el Censo. Y además, el número de empresas hispanas con ingresos de $1 millón o más aumentó 51.6 por ciento — de 29,168 empresas a 44,206 empresas entre 2002 y 2007.

La fuente de los nuevos datos originan de la “Encuesta de Empresarios: Empresas Cuyos Propietarios son Hispanos: 2007,” la cual provee información sobre las empresas hispanas cada cinco años.

Las estadísticas son presentadas para empresas que no son de origen hispano; para empresas que son igualmente controladas (50 por ciento/50 por ciento) por propietarios hispanos y no hispanos; y por cuatro subgrupos hispanos — propietarios de origen mexicano, cubano, puertorriqueño u otros grupos hispanos.

Los datos también son categorizados según el área geográfica (incluyendo condado, ciudad, y área metropolitana), la industria y el tamaño de la empresa. Algunos datos al nivel nacional y estatal fueron divulgados en julio.

Los datos por geográfica demuestran:

—Las empresas cuyos propietarios son hispanos constituyeron el 23.6 por ciento de todas las empresas en Nuevo México, el porcentaje más alto de todos los estados. Nuevo México viene seguido por Florida (22.4 por ciento), Texas (20.7 por ciento), California (16.5 por ciento) y Arizona (10.7 por ciento).

—Entre los condados que tenían una población de más de 500,000 personas en el 2007, Hidalgo, Texas tuvo el porcentaje más alto de empresas hispanas, con un 68.7 por ciento, seguido por El Paso, Texas (61.4 por ciento), Miami-Dade, Florida (60.5 por ciento), Bronx, Nueva York (37.6 por ciento), y Bexar, Texas (37.3 por ciento).

—Entre las ciudades que tenían una población de más de 500,000 personas en el 2007, El Paso, Texas tuvo el porcentaje más alto de empresas hispanas con un 59.8 por ciento de todas las empresas, seguido por San Antonio, Texas (39.4 por ciento), Houston (23.3 por ciento), Albuquerque, N.M. (23.1 por ciento), y Los Ángeles (21.0 por ciento).

Otros hallazgos de interés:

—En el 2007, las empresas cuyos propietarios son de origen mexicano representaron 45.8 por ciento de las empresas hispanas; las empresas de origen cubano representaron 11.1 por ciento; las empresas puertorriqueñas representaron un 6.9 por ciento, y las empresas de otro origen hispano representaron 34.5 por ciento.

—El número de empresas cuyos propietarios son de origen mexicano aumentó 47.7 por ciento entre 2002 y 2007; el número de empresas puertorriqueñas aumentó 43.0 por ciento; el número de empresas cubanas aumentó 65.5 por ciento; y el número de empresas de otro origen hispano aumentó 30.6 por ciento.

—De los 2.3 millones de empresas hispanas, 249,168 tuvieron empleados remunerados, lo cual representa un aumento de 24.9 por ciento desde el 2002. Dichas empresas emplearon 1.9 millones de personas, un aumento de 25.7 por ciento desde el 2002, y sus nóminas anuales fueron de $54.6 mil millones, un aumento de 48.7 por ciento. Los ingresos de las empresas con empleados cuyos propietarios eran hispanos alcanzaron $274.5 mil millones, un aumento de 52.9 por ciento.

De los 2.3 millones de empresas cuyos propietarios son hispanos, 2.0 millones operaron sin empleados remunerados, un aumento de 46.4 por ciento. Estas empresas sin empleados remunerados tuvieron ingresos de $70.7 mil millones, un aumento de 66.6 por ciento.

—El número de empresas cuyos propietarios son hispanos que tenían 100 empleados o más aumentó 26.4 por ciento, de 1,508 a 1,906. Dichas empresas generaron $74.2 mil millones en ingresos, un aumento de 76.6 por ciento desde el 2002.

—Casi una tercera parte (30.0 por ciento) de las empresas cuyos propietarios son hispanos se dedicaron a la construcción, reparación y mantenimiento y servicios personales y de lavandería.

—El comercio al por mayor, la construcción y el comercio al por menor representaron el 50.8 por ciento de los ingresos de las empresas cuyos propietarios son hispanos.

Para más información acerca del diseño, metodología y limitaciones de los datos de la Encuesta de Empresarios, consulte http://www.census.gov/econ/sbo/methodology.html.

September 23, 2010 Issue

September 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Arraignment Postponed for 8 Current, Former Bell City Officials

September 23, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

District Attorney Steve Cooley accused the ‘Bell Eight’ of ‘corruption on steroids.’ The eight individuals, current and former public officials, pictured left to right, top row to bottom row: Angela Spaccia, Robert Rizzo, Teresa Jacobo, Oscar Hernandez, George Mirabal, Louis Artiga, George Cole and Victor Bello. (LA District Attorney’s Office)

Wearing jail clothes, eight current and former Bell city officials accused of bilking taxpayers out of roughly $5.5 million through hefty salaries, benefits and illicit loans of public money made their first court appearance  yesterday on felony charges.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Hilleri G. Merritt agreed to the defense’s request to postpone arraignment to Oct. 21 for former Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo, 56; former Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, 52; Mayor Oscar Hernandez, 63; City Council members Luis Artiga, 49; Teresa Jacobo, 52; and George Mirabal, 60, and former council members George Cole, 60, and Victor Bello, 51.

The eight were arrested early Tuesday in connection with the charges, and appeared in court behind a glass lock-up.
They were all being held in lieu of bail ranging from $3.2 million for Rizzo to $130,000 for Cole.

Prosecutors requested, however, that none of the defendants be permitted to post bail until officials could verify that the money they were posting came from legitimate sources.

In court Wednesday, prosecutors said they were satisfied with the source of bail funds raised by Artiga, Cole and Jacobo, meaning they could be released as soon as they post the money.

At an afternoon hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor agreed to lower Rizzo’s bail to $2 million, Spaccia’s bail to $350,000 and Hernandez’s bail to $275,000.

All eight defendants are charged with misappropriation of public funds.

Rizzo — who is charged with 53 counts — is also accused of conflict of interest and falsification of public records by an official custodian.

“This was calculated greed and theft accomplished by deceit and secrecy,” District Attorney Steve Cooley said at a news conference Tuesday shortly after the arrests were made. “… This, needless to say, is corruption on steroids based upon our experience.”

The current and former council members were charged in nearly two dozen counts of misappropriating about $1.2 million. Cooley said Bell City Council members were collecting salaries for “phantom” meetings that never happened.

Spaccia was charged with four felony counts of misappropriation of public funds.

“The Bell City Council, for their part, provided no checks and no balances,” Cooley said. “Council members were busy enriching themselves by collecting money for meetings that never occurred. In some cases, council members received illicit loans approved by Mr. Rizzo. Many of the illegal loans were secured by beyond-exorbitant benefit packages.”

The criminal complaint alleges that the former city manager misappropriated more than $1.9 million in public funds by giving unauthorized loans, including $80,000 to himself and more than $300,000 to Spaccia. Others receiving unauthorized loans included employees of the police department, recreation department, community services, code enforcement and business offices, according to the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that Rizzo “did steal, remove, secrete, destroy, mutilate, deface, alter and falsify” documents involving his September 2008 employment agreements with the city for him to serve as executive director of the city’s Public Financing Authority, Solid Waste and Recycling Authority, Community Housing Authority and Surplus Property Authority.

Collectively, the defendants bilked the city’s taxpayers out of about $5.5 million, Cooley said.

“The complaint alleges they used the tax dollars collected from the hard-working citizens of Bell as their own piggy bank, which they then looted at will,” Cooley said.

Rizzo and other top city officials stepped down in July after the salary scandal broke. City Council members, who were earning almost $100,000 a year, significantly slashed their pay but have balked at calls for their resignations.

Cooley noted that the investigation was continuing, and that further charges were possible.

Thousands Seek Work At Commerce Job Fair

September 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

A long line of smartly dressed people trailed out of the Citadel Outlets in the city of Commerce last Thursday, but they were not there to shop. They were there to hunt down some jobs.

An estimated 4-5000 job seekers streamed into the outlet courtyards to meet with about eighty employers during the mid-day, “End of Summer Job Fair” event, say city officials, surprised by the turnout. A variety of jobs were available at the event sponsored by the City of Commerce Employment Business and Development Center (EBDC). Potential employers included a whole slate of new retail stores that will open at the Citadel before the holidays.

One job seeker, 29-year old Rebecca Gonzalez of East Los Angeles, said she’s “been looking for a job for a very long time.” She recently completed her degree in Business Administration, but says she has been looking for a job for three years.

Gonzalez, dressed in a pink button-down shirt, carried a stack of resumes. She said the Commerce job fair was very organized and there seemed to be many opportunities available.

“I’ve been to numerous job fairs and there’s no interaction. There was, ‘go online, just go online.’ And here there was a lot of interaction, and being able to actually contact and be able to talk to the managers and HR managers to see if there is opportunity out there,” she said.

By 8 a.m., a few thousand people had lined up at the front of the Outlet hoping to be interviewed, according to the city.

17-year-old Commerce resident Amanda Alvarado was among the eager job seekers. “I’ve been looking for a job everywhere and I haven’t been able to find one. Coming here with all of these employers gives me hope,” she said.

Word about the job fair spread quickly on Twitter and Facebook in the days preceding it. Representatives of the Citadel Outlets told city officials that they should be prepared for a big event.

“They were getting a lot of calls,” said Liz Chavez, Senior Employment Representative at the city’s job resource center.

Their predictions bore out and several employers quickly ran out of applications. Some who had come prepared with as many as 500 applications found themselves scrambling to make copies or go back to the office to pick up more, Chavez said.

The turnout this time dwarfed past job fairs put on by the city. “We expected a big crowd, but it really surprised us. It’s great, but [at the same time] it’s bad because there are so many people who are out of jobs right now,” Chavez said.

Commerce had 30 to 40 employers at its last job fair held in November 2008. This time there were twice the number, and not all were offering retail jobs. There were employers looking to fill a variety of positions, including “general labor, maintenance, receptionists, order takers,” she said.

Some jobseekers were hired on the spot, according to Commerce officials. (EGP photo by Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou)

At this point, some of the job-seekers would be happy with any job they can get, given the County’s high unemployment rate, which went up again last month.

Yissel de Jesus of Pico Rivera is a linguistics major in college and hoping for a career as a sign language interpreter. A year ago, she was let go from her job at Mrs. Fields, which she says gave her a chance to “finish my to-do list.”

But now she’s primed to get back to work. “I’m well rested. I think I’m ready for a job,” she said.

And for Angel Divas from East Los Angeles who was hired on the spot by Progressive Produce, a produce processing company located in Commerce, the job fair has opened up new opportunities.

“This means I’ll have money for tuition so I can go back to school and help out my family. I’m thankful to the City of Commerce and the Citadel for putting this on,” he said.

Montebello Looking to Shake Bad Financial Habits

September 23, 2010 by · 3 Comments 

The city of Montebello is trying to work its way out of a $6.1 million hole that has the potential of expanding by another $3.8 million by next June, according to Interim City Administrator Peter Cosentini.

In the mild words of the mayor, Montebello is in a financial “situation.” It is more likely, however, that the city will be in a pickle if officials do not take a “categorical look” at their budget. “There are no sacred cows,” Consentini said.

One of those “sacred cows” took a hit at a Sept. 8 meeting when Mayor Bill Molinari took fire and police department employees to task. “We have been much disappointed with our public safety sector in that they have not been willing to come to the table,” he said.

The city has been putting some of the burden on its employees to fix the budget, particularly those employees working in public safety whose salaries and operations make up 70 percent of the budget.

Molinari may be responding to the recent figures presented by its city administrator. Among the issues contributing to the budget deficit is the city’s lack of proper budgeting in recent years for overtime costs related to public safety, Cosentini said Tuesday.

In an earlier analysis, Cosentini estimated that for the past five years, Montebello has on average spent $1.4 million a year more than was budgeted for fire and police. Each year, the fire department incurs $800,000 in overtime, while the police department’s overtime cost averages about “half a million” dollars a year.

“Nobody wants public safety cut,” Molinari said, but “if that’s all you have… quality of life suffers greatly, the community deteriorates, and you begin to see social and crime problems increase, and businesses leaving.”

At the Sept. 8 meeting, Cosentini was working under the assumption that the city may incur another $1.4 million, on top of the projected $6.1 million deficit, in the upcoming fiscal year.  On Tuesday, however, Consentini, revised his original estimate and said the city’s overspending may actually be closer to $3.8 million.

He said the city has been overestimating its revenues and understating its expenditures, and as a result, the budget needs to be cut 8.5 percent in order for it to be balanced.

“My comment to the council will be that we can’t continue to make this mistake,” he said Tuesday, explaining what he planned to tell council members at last night’s regularly scheduled council meeting.

Cosentini says he has gathered the “best and brightest” from each department and union representatives to work out solutions to the budget crisis. The purpose of the  “think tank” is to come up with ways to correct mistakes, he said. He has asked the committee to start questioning “all quarters and all activities” in the city.

Montebello’s budget problems were many years in the making, Cosentini said. In the past, the city has depended on its reserves to shore up any holes in the budget, but Cosentini says those funds have been exhausted due to the budget’s ongoing structural problems.

Most cities should be maintaining 10 to 15 percent of its general budget as reserves, Cosentini says. The reserves serve as a “buffer” in low cash flow months. Not having those reserves, Montebello officials routinely borrow funds from its redevelopment agency to get through the leans months.

Last year the city borrowed $8 million, which it paid back, only to borrow the same amount again this year. Cities get most of their revenue between December and June, according to Cosentini. That means revenues are  “leaner” during the other half of the year,   and require more help from reserves, or in Montebello’s case, a loan from the redevelopment fund.

Cosentini was expected to recommend another $11.2 million loan from the redevelopment agency at last night’s regular council meeting. Added to the $8 million already loaned, the city’s debt with the redevelopment agency would rise to $19.3 million.

If approved, the loan would protect “essential City services” such as graffiti removal, road repair, and street lighting maintenance.

The city’s attempt to borrow from its redevelopment agency is being challenged by former Ostrom Chevrolet owner Ara Sevacharian, who is charging this is an improper use of redevelopment agency funds.

A staff report states the “unrestricted” use of redevelopment funds will be temporary, as the city must pay back the loan. The $19.3 million loan would have to be paid back in fifteen months, Cosentini sad.

The city’s routine practice of using redevelopment agency funds to cover budget shortfalls came under scrutiny last April when the last interim city administrator, Randy Narramore, disclosed at a public budget meeting that the city had moved $8 million from the redevelopment agency to the general fund to cover costs. At the time, Narramore told EGP that such moves are troubling.

It appears that some of the funding shifts might have been made by former City Administrator Richard Torres, without formal approved from the council. The city council was expected to be asked last night to approve a “promissory” note establishing the loan. The meeting was held past EGP’s press time.

Formal redevelopment agency loans have been approved before. In June 2009, the city council approved a $2 million loan from the redevelopment agency to the transportation department. The transportation director told EGP months later that the loan had been repaid.

Cosentini has also announced that the city is doing a fee study so there may be adjustments to fees for such things as conditional use permits so that the city could get a “hundred percent” return on the services it provides.

Despite Montebello’s budget problems, officials maintain a positive outlook in terms of its ability to generate revenue. Cosentini thinks the city has a strong economic base. “[Montebello has] a lot of sales tax. They have a lot of commercial. For a city, that is a sign of success,” he said.

During the Sept. 8 meeting, Molinari, who has served on the city council since the early 1980s, blamed the past city council majority for ignoring his advice back when the economy began tanking in 2008. He had warned about reining in the budget and investing in more revenue generating projects in the city, he said.

Had the city addressed its financial troubles “incrementally, the problem would be a lot less severe than waiting until you hit the wall,” he said. He added, however, that “Montebello, fortunately, has so many opportunities in so many areas.”

He pointed to the commercial district on Whittier Blvd and the new Best Buy electronics store, which he said is a top performer in the region, as examples of Montebello’s economic potential.

“We have a lot of developers that still feel Montebello is a good place to do business. We’re blessed with a great location. Literally every major business that has come to this city has exceeded their expectations in their revenue,” Molinari said.

Fire Chief Takes Over As Vernon City Manager

September 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Vernon City Council last week settled on its long-time fire chief to run their industrial city, which recently became the subject of an investigation by the state attorney general. The council also made permanent the interim director of the city’s Light and Power Department, who replaced the last director after he was put on leave.

Vernon Fire Chief Mark Whitworth adds the title of City Administrator a month after he began filling in for former City Administrator Donal O’Callaghan. The decision was approved at a Sept. 16 special meeting.

O’Callaghan, who was originally brought into the city to oversee the building of the city’s existing 134 megawatt power plant, resigned from his city administrator position in July citing the “untenable” nature of working that job along with his job as the director of Light and Power.

A week later, he was put on leave pending an internal investigation into his relationship with energy consultant company Tara Energy. Long-time Light & Power employee Carlos Fandino filled in for him and last week was made the new director of Light Power.

Whitworth says his experience running the fire department carries over to running the city. As fire chief he is in charge of 80 employees, or a third of all employees in the city, and handles one of Vernon’s largest departmental budgets. He has been with the city for over two decades.

According to Whitworth, the city council ultimately decided to stay with him because they felt he communicated the city’s perspective “better than anyone has before.”

Whitworth told EGP the city council is concerned about the public’s “poor perception” of Vernon. “When they made me permanent, they said ‘Mark, we love what you’re doing, going out and communicating… making sure transparency is an issue [we pay attention to], that there is no hidden agenda,’” he said.

Attorney General Jerry Brown last week announced a probe into Vernon that was prompted by reports of unusually high public official compensation for former city administrators and attorneys, some paid more than a $1 million a year. Brown also questioned reimbursements to city officials who flew first class, rode in limos and stayed at luxury hotels during business trips.

Whitworth has spent the last month answering requests for information and charges that Vernon officials abused their powers.
“Vernon employees are driven, and we are doing the best we can… I think what gets lost is that open line of communication…. Having everyone come and look at [us],” he told EGP.

Repeating often-invoked figures, standard in every press release and public comment from the city, Whitworth said the city hosts 1,800 businesses that employ 50,000 people. As a result he will spend much of his time as city administrator dealing with issues that impact the city’s business community, he said.

“The amount of business that goes on in Vernon is very crucial to the economic impact of the region,” he said. “We have the largest port on the west coast of the United States, the Los Angeles Harbor and the Long Beach Harbor… if that doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what does.”

He feels businesses in the community appreciate the services they provide. The businesses’ concern is that “we don’t deviate from what has been so successful in the past,” he says.

Still, Vernon is hearing complaints from its business community as utility rates steadily increase. The city has been facing its own financial crunch and was forced to reduce its budget this year. Vernon is looking at different projects that “could possibly bring in revenue and help maintain our services,” Whitworth said.

The city is exploring its options with Project Volt, an energy project that may involve purchasing out of state power plants. “We specialize in the energy field,” he says.

The city recently met with local business representatives to discuss how Project Volt should proceed. The meeting was prompted by a Sept. 9 letter from the Vernon Chamber of Commerce expressing concern about the debt the city has already taken on to pay for past energy projects. In the letter, the chamber also requested an independent analysis of Project Volt.

The chamber expressed concern that the city maintains its low electricity rates by subsidizing them with other city funds. They fear that without the subsidy, their rates would not be any lower than those in other cities.

“[Project Volt Consulant] Eric Fresch’s quote [in EGP’s newspaper the Vernon Sun] would seem to indicate that… the current utility rates are not covering the city’s cost of producing and distributing the utilities…. in recent years the differential between rates Vernon has charged the community… and the rates charged by DWP and Southern California Edison has been decreasing,” the letter stated.

Whitworth says the meeting with the business chamber is one example of ways in which the city is working with its business community. “Businesses here are successful. They are industry leaders and have good ideas. And we want those good ideas to manifest into better opportunities for businesses to thrive and do well. In turn… it employs people. What’s a better mission in life than having thousands upon thousands of people who can take care of their families?”

Luther Burbank Middle School May Get Just One Pilot

September 23, 2010 by · 9 Comments 

A Highland Park area school began the year with several unexpected changes, including some that may have been triggered by parents who over the summer complained that the sweeping reforms they had been promised did not appear to be on this year’s school agenda.

The Luther Burbank Middle School “Bears” have a new principal, a vacant parents’ center and are facing the very real possibility that only one pilot school may be in the pipeline, rather than the three grade specific pilots called for in the school’s Public School Choice (PSC) plan approved last year with reservations.

Arturo Valdez — swapping positions with former principal John Samaniego who is now Operations Coordinator at the central office — is Burbank’s new principal, according to Los Angeles Unified Local District 4 Director, Shannon Corbett.

Corbett called Samaniego’s transfer a promotion and said Valdez was sent to Burbank because he has extensive experience creating small learning environments at large campuses, such as Virgil Middle School and Belmont High School.

News of the changes came as a surprise to Fabiola Sanchez, a parent and Burbank Compensatory Education Advisory Committee (CEAC) member, and one of the most vocal critics of the school’s direction.

“We thought Samaniego would continue implementing the changes,” Sanchez said about the transition to pilot schools approved under the PSC reform. “I was confused [before] because no one told us clearly what was going on. They were giving us ‘the runaround,’ as they say, but the new principal has wiped the slate clean.”

Sanchez and other parents received the news from Corbett at a meeting on Sept. 7. The school’s pilot school plan was finally treated with respect, according to Sanchez, who said Corbett reminded Burbank’s teachers that they helped write the reforms that will now be implemented.

“One of the first things they [teachers] asked about was their contract,” said Sanchez, adding Corbett told teachers that in order to be in compliance with the schools’ reform plan, only those teachers who signed an elect-to-work contract would remain at the school; those who did not, would move on.

Members of the school’s staff asked if the pilot school transformation could take place over two years instead of one as planned. That’s when Corbett put her foot down and said the transition will happen this year, Sanchez said.

Over the summer break, parents said they did not believe Burbank’s teachers were supportive of the pilot school concept, or Samaniego.

Maggie Godoy, a former Burbank Parent Center community representative, told EGP that at the Sept. 7 meeting, teachers said Samaniego never informed them about the meetings he was having with parents.

Godoy recently lost her job at the school, despite being credited by Samaniego just a few weeks ago for the school’s 88 percent approval rating on its School Report Card. The parents surveyed said they felt welcome to participate, he said, attributing the good feelings to Godoy’s work.

Godoy said she was not surprised that her position was eliminated.

“I knew this was coming. The school’s never taken parents [seriously] as an important part. They keep saying ‘we need parent participation,’ but not really,” she told EGP in an email last week.

A long-time community activist, Godoy wrestled over the summer with whether she should return to work for Burbank, where her job had been upgraded to a full-time position. She said she felt muzzled as a school employee, and on several occasions said she might be a better advocate for parents and students as a member of the community, rather than an employee.

But the elimination of the position altogether has angered Godoy.

Corbett told EGP last month, however, that the parent’s center will remain accessible to parents, but would not be staffed.
Valdez said he is working with Corbett to see what can be done to remedy the situation. Cutting the position back to a part-time position has been considered, but a freeze is a freeze, he said.

Sanchez told EGP that Godoy was the bridge that linked the parents and the school and made their participation welcome.
“The school needs someone like her who is looking out for the parents,” she said.

Sanchez was aware that the funds for the full-time position were frozen, but questioned how that was possible since the post is being paid for with Title 1 funds.

Valdez says he is trying to bring more parents on board to volunteer in the classrooms, supervise the campus, help at the front desk, or help out with projects, assemblies or other community activities. “I really need all hands on deck,” he said.

While Sanchez says she likes the plan to get more parents involved, she still wonders who will direct the volunteers and what they hope to accomplish. In the past, parent volunteers roamed the campus without any guidance or real duties. She suggested they be given a project with a goal and a tangible outcome.

Although the school does not have a Parent Teacher Organization, it does have a Compensatory Education Advisory Committee (CEAC) and an English Learners Advisory Committee (ELAC). At a meeting on Monday to announce committee elections on Sept. 27, Valdez said he plans to hold “Principal Coffees,” regular monthly or bimonthly conversation sessions with parents on how things are going at the school.

Last month EGP reported that Burbank would no longer have a 6th grade class. As a result, not only has the student population been reduced, so has the school’s budget, Valdez said. The loss of the 6th grade class may also mean that rather than two grade specific pilot schools, Burbank’s 675 students—less than half the number of students two years ago—may all be placed in a single pilot school.

Sanchez says it makes little difference to her if there is one or two pilot schools, “Let there be just one as long as it really happens,” she said.

Valdez pointed out to EGP that the school’s API score increased 37 points in the last year.

While the increase may be a good reflection of the current students, who were 6th and 7th graders in the 2009-2010 school year, it does not move the school into the meeting Adequate Yearly Progress category. According to Burbank’s LAUSD School Report Card, the school’s API dropped 35 points during the 2008-2009 school year.

Parents lamented over the summer that Burbank has been in Program Improvement Status for over 6 years. The school’s chronic underperformance is why it and 11 other existing schools were placed on the PSC reform list for the 2009-2010 school year.

Burbank Bears’ Transition at a Glance

According to Shannon Corbett, Burbank Middle School has already changed its bell schedule to allow for more instructional time and a smoother transition to a pilot school campus.

Other changes to be anticipated this school year include:

—Reviewing the pilot school’s governance structure.

—Reviewing the pilot school’s budget, which will be different in the spring.

—Teachers who wish to continue working at Burbank MS will need to sign an elect-to-work contract at the new Burbank pilot school.

—Student and community input will be sought in naming the new pilot school.

—The middle school may get a website up and running by December.

—An update meeting regarding Burbank’s PSC progress will be held for parents in October.

Principal Valdez has indicated that he will be focusing on strengthening the instructional program, which he called the most important element of any reform movement.

Like other schools, Burbank’s budget is tight. Valdez said they hope to pursue grants, and use volunteers to offset the lack of funds. The budget will still be an issue when the school becomes a pilot school: “We’ll have more autonomy in how to spend the money, but not more money or resources,” he said.

Valdez said he has not yet been approached by any gang prevention or gang intervention groups to run programs at the school, but he is willing to meet with any group to determine whether they can provide high quality and professional programs to students.

The school needs parents who are willing to participate in making decisions regarding  the use of Title 1 and English Learners funds at Burbank. The Compensatory Education Advisory Committee (CEAC) and English Learners Advisory Committee (ELAC) election will take place this Monday Sept. 27 at 3:10 p.m., room A106.

EDITORIAL: What Now for Bell? Beware of New ‘Kingmakers’ Making Promises

September 23, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

It finally happened, 8 former and current Bell officials have been arrested on a long list of public corruption charges, not the least of which is stealing public funds earned through illegal taxes, fees, and property seizures.

Though there seemed little doubt in recent days that arrests were forthcoming, what remains unclear is what those arrests truly mean for Bell residents, and the city’s governance as the prosecutions move forward.

While it is okay to spend time celebrating the jailing of the alleged wrongdoers, Bell residents must now turn their efforts to creating a model of citizenship participation and oversight uncommon in most municipalities.

Can an appointed interim city administrator, city attorney and the lone remaining council member continue to run the city departments and provide services to the residents? While there is a great deal of talk about placing the city in receivership, it is unlikely to happen quickly, if at all.

And lest we forget, Bell’s mayor and council members who were arrested on Tuesday have not yet been convicted of any crime and can remain in their positions until either recalled or convicted.

While we understand how repugnant it must be to Bell residents to have these scoundrels continue in office, there is no better immediate solution than continued vigilance and participation in the governing process.

In the days ahead, the city of Bell and its residents will be faced with many questions as to how to proceed in taking back control of the city. Should new council members be appointed? How soon can a special election be called?

There will be countless “Kingmakers” standing ready to step in and “lead” Bell residents into the future, a future they have determined, through good intentions, ego or opportunity, to be the only way forward.

There is nothing more attractive then being a big fish in a small pond. Bell is not alone in this regard, in every city there are those who seek the opportunity to control rather than serve.

We say, beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. The only way to keep a fiefdom from forming is to be sure the would-be kingmakers are exiled.

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