Los latinos tienen mas probabilidad de desarrollar Alzheimer que la población anglófona de Estados Unidos y se espera que los casos entre esta comunidad aumenten de menos de 200.000, actualmente, a 1,3 millones en 2050.
“Cada 68 segundos alguien está desarrollando Alzheimer, que es la sexta causa de muerte en EE.UU”, dijo a Efe el médico Gustavo Alva, especialista en esta enfermedad que no tiene cura.
Esta enfermedad se ha presentado en casos de personas con menos de cuarenta años, aunque no es lo común ya que, en general, se desarrolla en mayores de 65 años.
En el caso de los latinos, enfermedades vasculares como la hipertensión, colesterol alto, obesidad y diabetes que les afectan con mayor incidencia también pueden ser factores de riesgo para el Alzheimer y la demencia, de acuerdo con la Asociación de Alzheimer de EE.UU.
Específicamente, los científicos están encontrando nuevas evidencias que podrían relacionar la diabetes tipo 2 con la enfermedad. Los latinos presentan altos porcentajes de cada uno de estos factores de riesgo.
“Hay que tener presente que se proyecta que la comunidad latina será más longeva, más que cualquier otro grupo, y como el Alzheimer es una enfermedad que afecta a personas mayores de 65 años, sumado a los problemas como la hipertensión y diabetes, pronosticamos que habrá más personas afectadas en este grupo”, explicó el galeno.
Para el año 2050, la expectativa de vida de los latinos sobrepasará la de todos los otros grupos étnicos, llegando a los 87 años de edad, según datos de la Asociación de Alzheimer de EE.UU.
El Alzheimer, que afecta a más de cinco millones de personas en este país, es una enfermedad progresiva, en la que hay una degeneración del cerebro, que afecta la memoria, el pensamiento, el comportamiento de la persona a tal grado que ya no puede hacer el mismo trabajo que hacía antes, se pierde en un lugar que antes le era conocido, olvida el nombre de familiares, entre otros síntomas, que pueden encontrar en www.alz.org/español.
Se proyecta que el gasto en tratamiento de la enfermedad en EE.UU aumente de 200.000 millones de dólares en este momento a 1,3 billones en 2050, indicó el galeno mexicano, fundador del Centro de Investigación de Costa Mesa, en California.
El Alzheimer es una crisis que amenaza a la comunidad latina pero aún no es reconocida debidamente.
Estudios señalan que a pesar de que las familias latinas están comprometidas con el cuidado de los ancianos es posible que al no poseer información adecuada sobre el Alzheimer, no puedan atender apropiadamente sus necesidades, por lo que en este Mes de la Herencia Hispana la farmacéutica suiza Novartis, la cadena Univisión, la Alianza Nacional de Salud para los Hispanos (NAHH), entre otras organizaciones comunitarias, lanzarán una campaña educativa sobre la enfermedad.??Los contenidos educativos en Univisión se transmitirán a través de la programación de televisión, incluido su segmento “Salud es vida”, sus plataformas digitales y programas de relaciones comunitarias y la Novartis distribuirá material en español en los mercados latinos más importantes.
“La comunidad hispana de EE.UU. enfrenta una multiplicidad de desafíos e ideas equivocadas que afectan su comprensión y reconocimiento de la enfermedad”, dijo en declaraciones escritas André Wyss, presidente de la empresa fabricante de medicamentos para Alzheimer.
Por su parte, Jane Delgado, presidenta de NAHH, destacó sobre la campaña que “la educación es la mejor herramienta para el fortalecimiento de nuestra comunidad”.
Alva manifestó su preocupación porque muchas personas no reciben un diagnóstico a tiempo porque creen que los síntomas son comunes de la vejez, por lo que exhortó a los hispanos a acudir a un médico.
“No hay forma de curar la enfermedad, pero tenemos medicamentos que pueden suprimir su avance”, afirmó Alva y también destacó que es importante que la persona que atiende a un paciente con Alzheimer se cuide a sí misma porque el 75 % de éstos termina sufriendo de depresión o ansiedad generalizada.
Cientos de residentes asistieron una reunión de ayuntamiento la semana pasada acerca de un proyecto de $2 mil millones para reconstruir los apartamentos Wyvernwood, una comunidad de 70 años de edad, en Boyle Heights.
Mientras que los defensores y opositores del proyecto parecían divididos en partes iguales, ambos dijeron que infestaciones de cucarachas y ratones y otros problemas de mantenimiento son la razón por qué apoyan el proyecto, o por qué tienen desconfianza de los dueños de la propiedad, Fifteen Group.
La reunión fue presentada por el Concejal de Los Ángeles José Huizar antes de la publicación del Informe Final de Impacto Ambiental (EIR) del plan para convertir a Wyvernwood en una comunidad de rascacielos con uso mixto. El informe esta previsto a ser liberado el próximo mes.
El año pasado, Huizar anunció su oposición al proyecto. Ya que se publique el informe habrá más oportunidades para que la comunidad de su aporte, dijo Huizar.
La reunión comenzó con presentaciones sobre el proceso del informe ambiental, así como información sobre la asistencia de mudanza para los inquilinos que serán desplazados por la construcción. Se les dio media hora a las dos partes, partidarios y ponientes, para expresar sus opiniones.
Duncan Knoll fue el primero en hablar. Él dijo que esta cansado de tomar el autobús o tener que viajar en un coche para hacer sus compras. “El proyecto traería nuevas tiendas… Ya es hora”, él dijo, acerca de los planes de los desarrolladores para construir tiendas en el complejo que ahora es exclusivamente residencial.
Ramona Bernal dijo que cuando ella se mudó allí hace 40 años, los apartamentos eran bonitos, pero ahora se necesita mucho trabajo. La cañería no está bien, las puertas no funcionan correctamente, hay una gran cantidad de pandillas y crimen en el vecindario, ella dijo a favor del proyecto.
Varios otros describieron a Wyvernwood como apartamentos acabados e infestadas con cucarachas y ratones. “Ya no aguantamos que las cucarachas se nos estén subiendo, y que los ratones estén rompiendo los muebles”, dijo Leticia Sánchez.
Otra residente describió los constantes problemas de cañerías, tales como un incidente reciente que causo que materia fecal saliera del fregadero de su cocina.
Otros simplemente dijeron que querían una comunidad mejor donde vivir y comodidades como lavadora y secadora dentro de sus unidades.
Margarita Ortega y Leticia Ramírez dijeron que quieren un lugar mejor donde criar sus hijos. Creen que los planes por Fifteen Group para el sitio de casi 69 acres son un paso en esa dirección.
Pero los que se oponen al desarrollo, dijeron que les gusta el diseño y la comunidad actual.
Una residente también preguntó si el proyecto valiera la pena por el costo adicional, tomando en cuenta que algunas renovaciones en el pasado por el propietario actual fueron hechas de manera “barata”.
“¿Se han puesto a pensar cuanto les va a costar este cambio? No van a pagar la misma renta, se la van a subir…van a cobrar lo que quieran”, dijo María Hunter, quien se identificó como residente de 40 años de Wyvernwood.
Hunter llamó las promesas del propietario—para reubicar a los residentes a las nuevas unidades de alquiler a precios comparables—“mentiras”.
Flor de la Torre dijo que muchos de los problemas de Wyvernwood tienen su origen en la falta de mantenimiento de la propiedad, que se refleja negativamente en los propietarios. Ella dijo que los residentes que tienen quejas sobre las pandillas deben llamar a la policía. Y la mayor densidad sólo causará más problemas, ella dijo, refiriéndose los planes de aumentar el número de unidades de apartamentos de 1.200 a 4.400.
Unos pocos residentes, entre ellos Antonio Jara, dijeron que nunca han tenido problemas con las cucarachas o ratones.
Carmen Preciado, Ventura Espitia y otros le pidieron a Huizar a apoyar a los “pobres” residentes que se oponen al proyecto.
Pero Priscilla Espinosa dijo a sus vecinos que no pueden esperar que los dueños les den una vida mejor.
“Hay mucha gente que se queja, que quieren vivir bien, que quieren una vida mejor para sus hijos. Pues que trabajen y que pasen adelante porque los dueños no nos van a ayudar. Ellos quieren su dinero y a nosotros lo que nosotros podamos hacer… y que mucha gente que dizque les van a prometer el cielo y la tierra y todo lo bueno—pues no lo creo”, dijo Espinosa.
Read this story IN ENGLISH: Wyvernwood Tenants Split on Development
En respuesta a una pregunta por EGP acerca de las condiciones descritas por algunos, Steven Fink, uno de los propietarios de Wyvernwood, dijo que un equipo de mantenimiento de tiempo completo “hace un trabajo excelente, especialmente dado el carácter anticuado de la propiedad, que se remonta a la década de 1930.”
Fink dijo que él cree que los partidarios significativamente superaron en número a los opositores en la reunión, pero Huizar dijo a EGP que el grupo parecía estar dividido uniformemente.
“Pero te pones a contar las tarjetas por oradores sometidos y muchos no estaban allí, así que, me tengo que preguntar: ¿algunas personas llenaron tarjetas para otras personas?”, dijo Huizar a EGP después de la reunión. “Entonces la gente empezó a llegar más tarde, por lo que es difícil de decir.”
Huizar dijo que en una reunión similar en 2008, sólo alrededor de 20 residentes dijeron que apoyaban el proyecto. Pero en esta ocasión, cerca de 200 personas estaban a favor. “Así que es una dinámica interesante”, él dijo.
Pero Huizar dice que todavía se opone al proyecto porque cree que tiene poco apoyo de la comunidad y porque crea demasiada densidad. Él quiere preservar algunas de las estructuras históricas y no quiere que el “sentido de comunidad” que ha existido durante décadas sea destruido, Huizar dijo a EGP.
El Comité de la Esperanza, un grupo de residentes que se oponen al desarrollo, realizó un mitin pequeño tras el ayuntamiento. El presidente del grupo por mucho tiempo, Leonardo López, dijo que está cansado de la lucha pero que él estaba allí para luchar junto con los residentes. Elena Popp, abogado del comité, dijo a EGP que se continúan los esfuerzos para crear conciencia y salvar a la comunidad.
Fink dijo que los alquileres no se aumentarán dramáticamente una vez que el proyecto esté terminado. Los residentes actuales en buen estado serán capaces de moverse a un nuevo apartamento al mismo precio de alquiler, y los planes de retención de residentes serán legalmente vinculantes y formalizados en el acuerdo del proyecto cuando sea aprobado por el ayuntamiento de Los Ángeles, dijo Fink.
Hundreds of people attended a town hall meeting last week on a $2 billion project to redevelop the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments, a 70-year-old housing development in Boyle Heights.
While proponents and opponents of the project seemed evenly split, both cited rodent and roach infestations and other maintenance issues as the reason for their support of the project, or their distrust of the property’s owners, Fifteen Group.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Inquilinos Divididos Sobre el Plan de Desarrollo de Wyvernwood
The meeting was presented by Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar — who last year said he opposes the project— in advance of the expected release next month of the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the plan to convert Wyvernwood into a high-rise mixed-use community.
There will be more opportunities to provide community feedback on the project, Huizar said.
The meeting began with presentations on the EIR Process, as well as information on moving assistance for tenants who will be displaced by the construction. Speakers were timed and each side was given 30 minutes to speak.
Proponents spoke first.
Knoll Duncan said he was tired of taking the bus or having to go in a car to buy groceries. “The project would bring news shops… It’s about time,” he said, referring to the developer’s plans to bring retail stores to the now exclusively residential complex.
Ramona Bernal said when she moved in 40 years ago, the apartments were beautiful, but now they need a lot of work. The plumbing is bad, the doors don’t work properly, there are a lot of gangs and crime in the neighborhood, she said, speaking in favor of the project.
Several others described Wyvernwood as run-down apartment units infested with roaches and mice. “We can’t stand the cockroaches climbing on us, and the mice destroying our furniture,” said Leticia Sanchez.
Another resident described constant plumbing problems, such as a recent incident she claims caused fecal matter to come out of her kitchen sink.
Others simply said they wanted a better community to live in and amenities such as washers and dryers inside their units.
Margarita Ortega and Leticia Ramirez said they want a nicer place for their children to grow up.
They believe the plans outlined by Fifteen Group for the nearly 69-acre site are a step in that direction.
But those opposed to the development said they like the community’s current spacious layout, which includes large areas of open land.
Speakers also questioned whether the redevelopment is worth the added cost, noting that past renovations by the current owner were “cheaply” done. They said the owner recuperated some of those costs by charging added fees for several years.
“Have you thought about how much this change will cost you? You will not pay the same rent, it will increase,” said Maria Hunter, who identified herself as a 40-year resident of Wyvernwood. “They will charge whatever they want.”
Hunter called the owner’s promises to relocate residents to new units at comparable rent rates “lies.”
Flor de la Torre said many of Wyvernwood’s problems are rooted in the poor maintenance of the property, which reflects badly on the owners. She said residents who have complaints about gangs should to take it upon themselves to call police. Increased density will only cause more problems, she said, referring to Fifteen Groups plans to increase the number of apartment units from 1,200 to 4,400, by adding high-rise structures where two-story structures now stand.
A few residents, including Antonio Jara, said they have never had problems with roaches or rodents.
Carmen Presiado, Ventura Espitia and others asked Huizar to support the “poor” residents who oppose the project.
But Priscilla Espinosa told project supporters that they can’t expect the landlords to give them a better life.
“Many people complain that they want to live well, they want a better life for their children, well work and get ahead by your own means because the owners are not going to help you. They want their money and we, we’ll get what we work for… and many people believe they are being promised heaven and earth and all that is good, but I don’t believe it,” Espinosa said.
Rudolfo Juarez wanted to know if more schools would be built to accommodate the increased density.
And still others accused supporters of being paid to be in favor of the project.
Responding to an EGP question about the conditions described by some, Fifteen Group Principal Steven Fink said a full-time maintenance team “does an outstanding job, especially given the outdated nature of the property, which dates back to the 1930s.”
Fink said he thinks supporters significantly outnumbered the opponents at the meeting, but Councilman Huizar told EGP that based on appearance alone, the crowd seemed evenly split.
“But then you start counting cards and a lot of [those] people weren’t there, so, you know, I have to ask the question, ‘were some people filling out cards for other people?’” Huizar told EGP following the meeting. “Then more people started showing up later, so it’s hard to say.”
Huizar said at a similar meeting held in 2008, only about 20 residents said they supported the project. But this time around, with about 200 people in attendance, the sides seemed evenly split. “So it’s an interesting dynamic,” he said.
But Huizar says he still opposes the project because he thinks it still has little community support and because it creates too much density. He wants to preserve some of the historical structures and doesn’t want the “feeling of community” that has existed for decades to be destroyed, Huizar told EGP.
Comité de la Esperanza (Committee of Hope), a resident group that opposes the development, held a small rally following the town hall. The group’s long-time president, Leonardo Lopez, said he is tired of the ongoing struggle but that he was there to fight along with residents.
Elena Popp, the committee’s lawyer, told EGP they are continuing efforts to gather support to save the apartment community from demolition. “You cannot put 4,000 units where there are currently less than 1,200,” Popp said, explaining the magnitude of the project and the impact it would have on the Boyle Heights community as a whole.
Fifteen Group said allegations that it will dramatically increase rents once the project is complete are unfounded. Current residents in good standing will be able to move into a new apartment at the same rent, and the Resident Retention Plans will be legally binding and formalized in the project agreement with the City, according to Fink.
The project will bring modern housing, new green spaces, new retail options, public safety enhancements and construction jobs, Fink told EGP.
Read previous stories on Wyvernwood at EGPnews.com
More than 70 years after a controversial mural painted by one of Mexico’s greatest muralist was exiled from public view by Los Angeles’ elite, outraged by its socially and politically damning content, América Tropical by David Alfaro Siqueiros will soon be on display again for all the world to see, thanks to a partnership between the city of Los Angeles and the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI).
Today marks the start of a series of events leading up to the Oct. 9 unveiling of the now conserved América Tropical — the only surviving public mural by Siqueiros in the United States — and the opening of the new América Tropical Interpretation Center (ATIC) at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument – Olvera Street – in downtown Los Angeles.
Widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest Mexican artists of the 20th century, Siqueiros painted América Tropical in 1932 on the second-story exterior of the Italian Hall on Olvera Street. Its controversial depiction of a Mexican Indian tied to a double cross with an American eagle above him and revolutionary soldiers closing in, led to the artwork being whitewashed within months of its original unveiling on Oct. 9, 1932.
“The central visual and symbolic focus of the piece is an Indian peon, representing oppression by U.S. imperialism, is crucified on a double cross capped by an American eagle. A Mayan pyramid in the background is overrun by vegetation, while an armed Peruvian peasant and a Mexican campesino (farmer) sit on a wall in the upper right corner, ready to defend themselves,” according to an article about the mural on the Olvera Street website, www.olvera-street.com.
“His 80-foot-long mural America Tropical spoke to the exploitation of the Mexican worker,” wrote professor and renowned muralist Judith Baca, in a PBS online essay titled “The Art of the Mural.”
The Olvera Street website goes on to state that “Siqueiros’ allegorical depiction of the struggle against imperialism wasn’t a comfortable topic for the Downtown L.A. business and political establishment. It was also an uncomfortable topic for societal matron Christine Sterling, Olvera Street’s leading promoter, possibly because it did not conform to her image of Olvera Street as a docile and tranquil Mexican village.”
Within months of its painting, the section of the mural visible from Olvera Street … was painted over, and within the decade the entire mural was completely whitewashed, according to the website.
The mural was nearly forgotten until the 1960s Chicano mural movement created a renewed interest in the censored artwork.
Whitewashing and years of exposure to the elements, however, had severely damaged the mural: sections of the plaster had fallen off; the once vibrant colors had faded.
But now, a decades-long collaboration between the Getty and the city of L.A. to conserve, interpret and provide public access to the mural is on the verge of coming to fruition.
A $9.95 million public-private investment, $6 million from the city of Los Angeles and $3.95 from the Getty, has paid for research and documentation of the mural’s history and construction of a canopy with sun shades on each side of the mural to protect it from direct sun exposure and rain to prevent further decay. A rooftop platform has also been built to allow for public viewing, according to a Getty Center news release announcing events surrounding the scheduled opening.
“This project tells the story of Siqueiros’ incredible artistic talent and his unwavering commitment to people, of censorship during a period of great political upheaval, and of its preservation and enduring presence,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “I’m proud that [Los Angeles] and the Getty Conservation Institute have come together to make this important investment in public art.”
It’s important to note that América Tropical has been conserved, not restored. Visitors to the site will see what remains of the mural, and not a mural repainted in colors that art historians speculate, but do not know for sure, Siqueiros would have used since there are no color photos of the original mural.
Exhibits at the América Tropical Interpretation Center (ATIC), located on the ground floor of the historic Sepulveda House and managed by El Pueblo, explore the history of the mural, techniques used to create and preserve the mural and the legacy of Siqueiros.
The mural site will be managed by the city of Los Angeles, with support from the Getty Conservation Institute for monitoring and maintenance of the mural, and from the Amigos de Siqueiros, which will assist with the management of the América Tropical Interpretive Center.
“From the Getty Conservation Institute’s initial involvement in 1988, it has been a persistent advocate for the conservation of the mural, and the construction of the shelter, and a public viewing platform,” said Tim Whalen, director of the Getty Conservation Institute. “We are pleased to bring América Tropical to the people of Los Angeles.”
The design competition phase of a project to replace the iconic Sixth Street Bridge — which links Boyle Heights to downtown Los Angeles and is considered the city’s bridge “most at-risk” to collapse in a major earthquake—is fast approaching its conclusion. The city could as early as next month choose one of three architectural firm finalists who earlier this month presented their design concepts during a series of public forums to build the new bridge.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Equipo de Diseño de Puente Destaca sus Raíces Locales
The Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project aims to replace the current bridge built in the 1930s which has suffered serious deterioration due to an internal chemical reaction called Alkali Silica Reaction (ASR), a condition some call “bridge cancer.”
The 80-year-old bridge has been featured in numerous movies and is one of several historic bridges spanning the Los Angeles River. At over 3,500 feet in length, it is the city’s longest bridge, and is considered one of the city’s most important engineering landmarks.
By the end of 2012, a bridge design firm will be selected by the city and the final design will be completed in summer of 2014.
Demolition and construction could begin in early 2015, with completion expected in late 2018, according to the project website.
The three finalists are Los Angeles-based AECOM, Kansas-based HNTB, (which in an email told EGP it has a team based here), and New York-based Parsons Brinckerhoff. Each offers a distinct vision for the new bridge, which city officials hope will become an architectural icon in its own right
All three of the final contenders’ design plans envision a bridge that is more than a transportation crossing, but rather a people-centered destination that incorporates pedestrian walkways, bike paths, plazas and public spaces ripe for entertainment and recreation. The designs are expansive, grandiose even.
Only one of the three firms is based in Los Angeles, which an AECOM representative last week told EGP gives them a deeper understanding of the community’s needs, both in terms of its design and the impact construction will have on those communities.
“We know L.A.,” Senior Vice President Andres Ocon, P.E., told EGP.
To emphasize that point, at a public meeting held earlier this month at the PUENTE Learning Center in Boyle Heights, AECOM spent much of its time telling the audience that if they are hired, 75 percent of the work on the bridge will be done locally. AECOM representatives said they work with other firms with a long history in the city, such as East L.A. based Barrio Planners, Inc. Three hundred jobs would be created, including 30 bridge specialists. They also discussed plans for an extensive, possibly trilingual, outreach effort aimed at “building a community consensus.”
The company told EGP it is working hard to communicate with the community and to identify all stakeholders.
AECOM’s focus on public input and mitigation of potential issues arising from the building process was a departure from the other two firms, which based most of their presentations on their design elements. AECOM presenters were also sure to emphasize enhancements that they said would benefit smaller pockets of the community, such as Pico Aliso, and to include how the design could accommodate popular local events such as Dia de Los Muertos.
That’s not to say AECOM’s presentation on its “guardian angel” inspired bridge, designed by Yee Associates, lacked detail of its design features.
The firm has built 40 iconic bridges all over the world including the Sutong Bridge in China, Puente De La Unidad in Mexico, Ponte Vasco de Gama Bridge in Portugal, and others in the US. AECOM also has experience in Los Angeles; they worked on the Cesar Chavez Bridge Seismic Retrofit, among other projects.
Ron Yee specializes in designs that are unique to an environment, according to AECOM, who told EGP that the design also takes into consideration things beyond their control such as existing transmission lines. The design also takes into consideration future developments envisioned for the Los Angeles River, they told EGP. It includes environmentally friendly green elements, such as solar lighting embedded into walkways. Lighting is strategically used to create a safer environment, a very important consideration in the densely populated area, he said.
Yee’s angel concept, according to AECOM, enables an open skyline and belvederes located near the pillars will give sightseers the opportunity to take in the views.
“Our vision is very unique… it’s about conforming to the community,” said Ester Margulies, landscape and architect associate principal about the cable-stayed bridge with golden columns. “It’s so unique you won’t find another bridge that looks like this one.”
She points out that this is not a redevelopment project but a public improvement project that has the potential to be a catalyst for the community.
The bridge is also pedestrian and cyclist friendly. The upper and bottom part of the bridge will have pedestrian walkways, and sidewalks at-traffic level are located on either side of the lanes to lesson the feel of traffic passing by, and to allow people to safely view the L.A. landscape. The bridge is also designed to transfer car accident impacts to the center of the bridge, away from pedestrians. Other features include planters as safety barrier, and stairs and ramps that offer safe crossing of the bridge.
“Everything we are showing is within the budget,” Ocon said, explaining other elements can be added later like a connection to the LA River from the belvederes in the current design.
Another green element is a biosphere to clean and reduce the amount of stormwater going into the L.A. River.
Historic artifacts from the bridge, like the gateways and arches will be reintegrated into the public spaces.
A project advisory group, composed of appointees named by Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilman Jose Huizar, includes Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce Board President Cesar Armendariz and Boyle Heights Technology Center Ex. Dir. Ozzie Lopez.
The majority of the funding for the bridge, totaling $401 million, comes from the Federal Highway Bridge Program, State Prop 1B funds and local matching funds through Measure R and Prop C, according to the city.
Models of the three bridges are on display in the lobby of the Public works Building located at 1149 S. Broadway until October 5, 2012.
To learn more about the project or to view a video on the three finalists’ presentation, visit the Sixth Street Viaduct Replacement Project website at http://sixthstreetviaductreplacement.org/
Federal authorities filed civil asset-forfeiture complaints Tuesday against the owners of three Eagle Rock properties that house medical marijuana dispensaries, and search warrants were served at three other pot shops, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Federal prosecutors also sent warning letters to operators of 68 marijuana shops in the Eagle Rock and downtown Los Angeles areas, as well as the single store known to be operating in Huntington Park, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which announced the moves as part of an ongoing federal crackdown on the commercial marijuana industry in California.
The warning letters gave the operators and landlords two weeks to come into compliance with federal law or risk civil or criminal actions.
“Over the past several years, we have seen an explosion of commercial marijuana stores – an explosion that is being driven by the massive profits associated with marijuana distribution,” U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said.
“As today’s operations make clear, the sale and distribution of marijuana violates federal law, and we intend to enforce the law. Even those stores not targeted today should understand that they cannot continue to profit in violation of the law.”
The federal actions in Los Angeles were done with cooperation from the Los Angeles Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office and the City Attorney’s Office.
“As I’ve said before, in Los Angeles some medical marijuana clinics have been taken over by illegal for-profit businesses that sell recreational marijuana to healthy young adults and attract crime,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said. “These stores are a source of criminal activity because of the product they sell and large amounts of cash they have on hand. The LAPD will continue to work with our federal partners to remove these threats from our communities.”
The civil complaints allege that the owners of the properties along Colorado Boulevard knowingly allowed commercial marijuana stores to operate. The buildings named in the forfeiture lawsuits house: The Together for Change Collective, which previously was the subject of a civil abatement action filed by the City Attorney’s Office and search warrants executed by the LAPD. During an LAPD investigation against a prior store at the same location in May 2011, officers seized more than 500 marijuana plants and more than $5,000 in cash from the store, as well as $14,912 in cash and a semi-automatic rifle from the home of one of the store’s operators; House of Kush, where the store and property owner are the subjects of a civil abatement action filed by the City Attorney’s Office; and ER Collective, at the location of a prior store that was raided by the LAPD in June 2010, with officers seizing about 11.4 kilograms of marijuana, 4.5 kilograms of hashish, liquid THC and $17,000 in cash.
In addition to federal warning letters, the District Attorney’s Office sent its own letters to some property owners of Los Angeles stores providing notice that it is a violation of state criminal law to lease or make property available for a marijuana store. The Los Angeles City Council approved a ban on storefront medical-marijuana dispensaries earlier this year, but the ordinance was put on hold when advocates submitted enough petition signatures to force a public vote on the issue.
The Drug Enforcement Administration executed federal search warrants on Wednesday at the following locations: Happy Ending Collective, 818 N. Spring St., which is believed to be the largest marijuana store in the downtown Los Angeles area; Green Light Pharmacy, 522 S. Lorena St., which was the target of a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department investigation in early 2012 that federal officials say determined the operation was in violation of federal and state laws; and Fountain of Wellbeing, 3835 Fountain Ave., which has been the subject of repeated calls for police service since 2011, authorities said.
Starting in October 2011, prosecutors began filing asset-forfeiture lawsuits and sending letters to more than 375 marijuana operations across the seven-county Central District of California.
The majority of those businesses that are now closed, are the subject of eviction proceedings by landlords or have been the subject of additional federal enforcement actions, prosecutors said.
Members of one of the most active senior centers in East Los Angeles were earlier this week considering going on strike because they say new policies being implemented by the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation will threaten their fundraising ability.
But there seems to be some confusion over what those policies are, and who they should cover. Park officials and the office of Sup. Gloria Molina are reportedly in the process of working those details out.
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Jubilados del Parque Salazar Consideran Iniciar una Huelga
But earlier this week, Friends of Salazar Park Seniors told EGP they feel like they are being punished for demanding that park officials take action against an exercise instructor who they claim was pocketing a considerable profit from classes she teaches without giving anything back to the park.
The Zumba instructor has since entered into a special recreation contract with the park, under which she keeps 70 percent of the class fees she collects, and gives 30 percent to the park.
As the result of the dust up over the instructor and an audit earlier this year, park officials have sought to impose new, or, depending on who you talk to, enforce existing parks and recreation guidelines for holding fundraisers at park facilities.
But seniors say the so-called policies are hindering their efforts to raise funds for events like the Annual Thanksgiving lunch at the center, since they now have to turn over a portion of the proceeds to the park department’s general fund.
According to Salazar Seniors’ long-time coordinator and volunteer Chris Mojica, he started Salazar Park’s exercise program 20 years ago. At the time, it was free to all, but $1 donations were welcomed.
Mojica told EGP that his many complaints to park staff about a Zumba instructor pocketing all the money she collected were ignored for a long time, and now its the seniors being told to pay up or they will no longer be able to use park facilities for fundraisers they say benefit programs at the park.
“The rest of the seniors are being punished for your staff blunder,” he wrote in a letter to Frank Gonzalez, deputy director of the LA County Department of Parks and Recreation.
Acting Regional Parks and Recreation Director Albert Gomez told EGP the park was audited last April after someone anononimously called the county’s fraud hotline. About three weeks ago he learned that the audit showed the park was violating several department policies, he said.
Any non-profit group that fundraises at the park has to give 10 percent to the county, and some groups should have been on a special recreation contract with a 70/30 split, 30 percent of their proceeds going to the department, he said. In addition, all the groups need to have insurance.
Friends of the Salazar Park Seniors, made up seniors active at the center, would have to become a 501(c)3 non-profit in order to avoid entering a 70/30 split, Gomez told the seniors who were shocked by the news.
Getting 501(c)3 status could cost up to $1,200 and take almost a year, Gomez said.
Seniors say they shouldn’t be treated like any other group coming in off the street. They have produced an itemized list and two shoeboxes full of receipts they say shows their group has donated over $40,000 to the park in equipment and furniture. And that’s in addition to the countless hours they have donated in labor and programming, and the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals they put on that feed some of the area’s neediest residents.
“Everything that is here [in the conference room], was purchased by us,” said 84-year-old Gaby Salazar who has volunteered at the site for 22 years.
Raul Ornelas, also a volunteer, calculates the park has saved over a million dollars in labor through the volunteer’s participation.
The seniors, under Mojica’s leadership, have also brought programming such as aerobics for seniors, ceramics and craft classes, pool playing, musical instrument classes, English classes, bingo, trips, birthday celebrations and more.
Seniors say the new policy has thrown a wrench in their plans for the annual Thanksgiving meal that usually feeds 1,000 or more people. They are now planning to scale back their efforts and just donate turkeys with all the fixings to approximately 40 families.
Gomez says the parks department will now provide the Thanksgiving meal.
Groups have to follow the rules, he said
“His [Mojica’s] intentions are obviously noble but there are rules and regulations,” Gomez said. “I understand, they haven’t been following the policies for a number of years, but my job is to ensure they are in compliance.”
Ray Guerrero, also a volunteer and senior coordinator, says the park makes promises all the time but never follows through. “It doesn’t get done [without us], we have no support,” he said.
His claims are hard to discredit. According to Gomez, all the senior programs at the park were brought in by Mojica.
Friends of Salazar Seniors is not the only group being impacted by the change in policy. Club Victoria, which holds dance parties twice a month for seniors as well as trips and lunches, will now have to give the department 30 percent of their proceeds and get insurance.
“The irony is that some groups can make profits, others cannot… We don’t want to go somewhere else,” Guerrero said.
Mojica says giving 10 percent wouldn’t be so bad if it were going back to fund programs at Salazar Park, but the money goes to the department’s general fund, a fact confirmed by Gomez.
But according to Sup. Molina spokesperson Roxane Marquez, the seniors are co-sponsored by the park and things can continue as they have in the past. She said Gonzalez said the group doesn’t have to become a non-profit, though that would enable them to have more autonomy. She also said they would not have to pay either the 70/30 split or 10 percent of the funds they raise.
Yesterday, Gomez was still confirming that information. As of press time, it was unclear if the situation had been resolved.
Southern California Edison (SCE) is closing in on its 36-month campaign to replace nearly 5 million electricity meters with so-called smart meters.
The round, gray digital devices no bigger than a soup bowl, not only track the consumer’s energy use but transmit the information back to the utility for billing purposes.
“The technology will let our customers manage their electricity consumption more wisely and save between 1-5% on their energy bills, said Ken Devore, director of SCE’s SmartConnect, at a New America Media briefing sponsored by SCE for ethnic media representatives in Bakersfield earlier this month. “It’s also the first step in a path to a smart grid for California as a whole,” he said.
To date, SCE has installed more than 4.6 million smart meters in its target market. Between mid-September and December, it will cover the San Joaquin Valley, the last of SCE’s regions to get the smart meter.
The Edison SmartConnect campaign is part of a $1.6 billion program authorized by California’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in 2008 that mandated all utilities in the state make the switch to smart meters.
Customer benefits include the Budget Assistant program, which customers can take advantage of to save on their monthly bill and control their energy usage. Through the program customers can set a monthly budget and receive alerts through e-mail, voicemail or text message when they are approaching that limit. Each morning by 8 a.m., smart meter customers will have access to their energy usage data from the previous day through SCE.com, letting them check their energy consumption as they would check a bank account.
The site also highlights ways for customers to reduce usage and save money.
Once enough consumers have smart meters, Devore noted, the state will have a reliable, safer and more affordable future in electricity. If enough people are able to shift their usage of electricity outside of the peak hours of 2-6 p.m. every day, the state would be able to build fewer power plants, buy less power, import less power and become more efficient overall, he asserted.
Residential customers have the option to choose an Edison SmartConnect meter or a traditional electric meter. Customers who opt out of the program will pay a $75 onetime setup fee and a $10 recurring monthly charge as required by the California PUC.
Income-qualified customers pay $10 for the initial setup fee and then $5 a month. Customers may opt out by calling 800-810-2369. The cost covers manual meter reading and associated operational and billing activities. To date, about 1,000 customers have opted out, less than a fraction of 1% of SCE’s customers.
SCE has partnered with Corix Utilities Inc. to install most of the smart meters. Some important information for those receiving the new meters includes:
—Customers will receive advance notice by mail when installations are scheduled in their neighborhood.
—Customers do not need to be home, but should provide clear access to their meters. The installer will leave a door hanger indicating if the installation was successful, or if an appointment for installation is required due to access issues.
—During a typical residential installation, customers will experience a short power interruption of less than a minute. As an extra measure of protection, customers are encouraged to plug electronic equipment, such as personal computers and televisions, into power surge protectors. Typically, no service interruption is required for smart meter installations at small businesses.
—Customers who operate life support medical equipment at their addresses, or have concerns about power interruptions, may call SCE at 800-973-2356.
—Corix installers carry identification indicating they are approved SCE contractors.
—Smart meter customers will receive follow-up mail, notifying them when new program features and services are available and how to access them.
SCE’s customer call centers can assist customers in seven languages. These call centers are the pulse of the organization focusing on advise, council and help to callers because they want their customers to succeed, said Devore.
Southern California Edison serves nearly 14 million people in a 50,000-square-mile service area within Central, Coastal and Southern California.
For more information, please go to www.sce.com/edisonsmartconnect.
Election season is upon us. There are just six weeks left to discuss not only the presidential election but also an usually large number of state propositions on the ballot.
Among the propositions voters will have to decide on in November is one that deals with an issue that its backers have unsuccessfully tried to gain support for in other ways, and have taken the stance that if at first you don’t succeed try, try again.
We are referring to Proposition 32: Political Contributions by Payroll Deduction. Contributions to Candidates; also referred to at times as the paycheck protection proposition.
Prop 32 backers say the initiative will protect workers from their unions taking money out of their paychecks and using it to lobby for candidates and measures they might not agree without their permission. The measure is supposed to prevent the same practice by corporations or government bodies, but the measure is not really about the money coming from businesses, it’s about stopping a primary source of money going to unions that is used for political purposes.
The independent Legislative Analysts says “A YES vote on this measure means: Unions and corporations could not use money deducted from an employee’s paycheck for political purposes.”
What Prop 32 does not do is take money out of politics. It does not limit the influence of business Super Pacs; it also exempts thousands of businesses.
But truth be told, businesses are not the only ones exerting powerful influence through money these days, so do some of the larger unions. Some call that a leveling of the playing field between the individual worker and large corporations. Others say it is imposing the will of the union on its members.
If passed, Prop 32 will demand that a union get yearly approval from non-union members to spend their dues on political activities.
Some union workers might see that as a good thing, but others see it as a weakening of the bodies that are supposed to represent them.
This is not the first time the issue has been on the ballot, past efforts have been defeated by a strong well-funded labor unions that get their members to the polls to vote.
This year, more than ever in the past, the role and influence of labor unions has come under scrutiny and fire. So has the role of corporations.
Voters will have to decide the issue again in November. This time around, we make no recommendation.