Amazing August for the Dodgers

September 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Dodgers 23 wins in August are the most in a calendar month in L.A. history. Dodger starter Zack Greinke has a record of 14-1 and an ERA of 1.23 in the month of August with 36.2 innings pitched. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

The Dodgers 23 wins in August are the most in a calendar month in L.A. history. Dodger starter Zack Greinke has a record of 14-1 and an ERA of 1.23 in the month of August with 36.2 innings pitched. (EGP photo by Fred Zermeno)

Plan for New Park Over Downtown L.A. Freeway

September 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council on Aug 30 unanimously agreed to work with a nonprofit group to seek funding for a project that would cover a portion of the Hollywood (101) Freeway in downtown Los Angeles with a neighborhood park.

The motion, approved 14-0, calls for the city to join nonprofit Friends of Park 101 District in applying for funding for the “freeway cap park,” which would essentially construct a large bridge atop the 101 freeway that would include walkable green space and other park amenities.

The park would connect Chinatown, Olvera Street and Union Station to the Civic Center.

At a meeting earlier this summer where members of the city commission that oversees El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, which includes Olvera Street, some merchants expressed concern that the plan, still in the preliminary planning stage, calls for converting city-owned parking lots used by visitors to the monument, LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and other city and county facilities into park space. They also said any effort would have to include a comprehensive plan to deal with the area’s problem with the growing number of homeless in the area, including within the park area at the monument itself.

The commission did not vote on whether to support the initiative.

However, Tsilah Burman, a spokeswoman for the Friends of Park 101 District, said the collaboration with the city was “another critical step that’s needed to move this project forward.”

“Without this step, it’s still pie-in-the-sky,” she said.

Funding sources for the initiative have not yet been secured by the nonprofit volunteer group, but the motion, introduced by Eastside/downtown area Councilman Jose Huizar who represents the area, directs city staff to work with the group to apply for local, state and federal grants and seek other types of funding for the project.

Another freeway cap park, called the Hollywood Central Park, has been proposed for the Hollywood portion of the freeway. It was mentioned by Mayor Eric Garcetti, who represented the Hollywood area when he was a councilman, during an election debate as one of a few “dream” projects he would pursue as mayor.

Similar parks are already in place in Dallas and Phoenix, while local cities such as Santa Monica, Glendale and Ventura are considering plans as park space in urban areas becomes scarcer.

Walmart to Sell Homeboy Chips and Salsa

September 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Taste good, does good, and now a line of tortillas chips and salsa produced by a local nonprofit group dedicated to helping former gang members start over, will get its own fresh start on the shelves of Walmart’s new downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Market.

The neighborhood market will be the first store to carry Homeboy Industries’ Tortilla Strips and Salsa, it was recently announced.

Walmart’s downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Market will be the first to carry Homeboy Industries’ Tortilla Strips and Salsa. (Walmart)

Walmart’s downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Market will be the first to carry Homeboy Industries’ Tortilla Strips and Salsa. (Walmart)

In any given month, Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries serves up to 1,000 former gang members and previously incarcerated men and women with free services, employment, job placement and referrals. Many of the free programs and services are funded in part by the organization’s social enterprise businesses, including Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy Bakery and Homeboy Grocery.

Homeboy Industries is expanding its five-year partnership with Walmart, which according to the group’s CEO, Thomas Vozzo, “has been invaluable in making sure we can continue to support and offer hope to men and women stuck in cycles of violence and incarceration.”

“The Tortilla Strips and Salsas were created by our founding chef at the Homegirl Café in downtown Los Angeles,” Vozza said.

He said partnerships with retailers like Walmart help fund a variety of services, including tattoo removal, mental health and domestic violence support, and education and job training. Those services help their clients “become contributing members of the community.”

“We look forward to selling Homeboy Tortilla Strips and Salsa at Walmart, and their convenient downtown LA grocery store,” Vozzo said.

To date, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have granted $535,000 to Homeboy Industries to support job training programs in the social enterprise businesses at Homeboy Industries: Homeboy Bakery, Homegirl Café & Catering, Homeboy Silkscreen and Embroidery, Homeboy Merchandise, Homeboy Diner and Homeboy Farmers Markets. In June, more than 150 students graduated from Learning Works Charter High School — a school that has an auxiliary campus that works to educate students participating in Homeboy programs.

“We are excited to expand our work with Homeboy Industries, an organization recognized as a leading model for gang intervention and re-entry services,” said Javier Angulo, Community Affairs Director for Walmart and member of the Homeboy Industries Board of Directors. “By selling its line of Homeboy Tortilla Strips and Salsas at the new Walmart Neighborhood Market location in downtown Los Angeles, we’re helping this organization continue its model of social enterprise.”

The 33,000 square foot Downtown Los Angeles Walmart Neighborhood Market, located on the first floor of the Grand Plaza building at 701 W. Cesar E. Chavez Ave will offer a full line of groceries, including fresh produce, meat and dairy products, prepared foods, a self-serve bakery, some household supplies, and a pharmacy.

East L.A. Native Named CA ‘All Star Teacher’

September 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Students First, a nonprofit organization that says its mission “is to build a national movement to defend the interests of children in public education and pursue transformative reform,” has named an East Los Angeles native a California “All Star Teacher.”

Christian Alcala teaches 2nd grade at Equitas Academy Charter School in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles. He has been at the school since 2009, when he was hired for his first professional teaching job.

His motivation comes from his students, according to Alcala, who says he always knew he wanted to be a teacher.

“They are so hungry for learning and so excited and they show their appreciation for what I teach them,” he said in a press release announcing his selection by Students First.

Alcala attended Garfield High School in East Los Angeles and says that’s where he first started advocating for educational justice.

“When I went to Garfield High School, it had a 60% drop-out rate. I joined United Students, a partnership with Inner City Struggle to work on educational justice on the eastside. Overcrowding was a huge issue at that time and we met with the LAUSD school board about opening a new high school in East LA. I realized that many of my fellow students weren’t going to be able to go to college because they had only completed the basic graduation requirements, not the A-G courses required for college. I started to ask, ‘How do you make sure students have the option to go to college?’”

It was during that period that the then high school student also interned for EGP, helping to write and proof copy, eventually earning bylines in the community newspapers. Even then, his interests leaned toward writing about education issues in local schools.

Being a journalist, however, was not his goal; being a teacher was.

During college he worked at an urban elementary school and as an in-home tutor for students from low-performing schools and foster children.

Equitas Academy was newly opened when he joined the charter school’s teaching staff.

“It was a big challenge. Fortunately, I had excellent mentor teachers. It was awesome to have a say in what we were going to do – all our opinions were taken into consideration as we created the curriculum. I felt fortunate to have the flexibility to do what would make my kids successful.”

He has experienced the effects of state education policy first-hand, which included the failure to allocate class size reduction funds to many new charter schools: a big hit.

“Teachers are important in these conversations about education policy,” said Alcala. “Our goal should be student success and doing whatever it takes to get there.”

Olvera Street Merchants Launch Kick Start Campaign

September 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

For decades, Angelenos have come to expect that at the end of October and the first of November they can head over to the historical Olvera Street marketplace and take part in evening processions, altar building and children’s workshops in observance of Día de lo Muertos/Day of the Dead, a Latino cultural event held yearly to pay tribute to loved ones who may have died, but whose spirits live on.

Olvera Street merchants have traditionally organized these and other popular cultural events such as Las Posadas with funds from the city of Los Angeles. This year however, the merchants are seeking alternate funding sources, and last month launched an online campaign to solicit $9,999 in donations on Kickstarter, but only have until Sept. 26 to meet their goal.

According to El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument General Manager Christopher Espinosa, funding has not been cut for Olvera Street’s Day of the Dead or other traditional festivities. He told EGP that a decision by the city attorney requires activities funded by the city to go through a competitive bid process.

The merchants decided to bypass seeking funding from the city, in favor of raising the funds on their own to continue managing the traditional activities as they have done for years. Their fear was the events would become too commercialized through the bidding process, and hope by raising the funds on their own they can continue to provide the time-honored and authentic programming they have for years offered at the city’s birthplace.

Donations through the kickstarter campaign are tax-deductible. Funds will only be collected and made available if the donation goal is met.


SHOP Spells Relief for Small Business

September 5, 2013 by · 1 Comment 

For years, small business owner Douglas Ogden wanted to provide his employees health insurance, but just couldn’t afford it.

The Beverly Hills resident, who runs a dry cleaning business in West Hollywood with nine employees, knows the importance of having health insurance.

When he was diagnosed with central sleep apnea earlier this year – a condition that if left untreated could lead to heart disease and strokes — insurance companies flatly refused to cover him because of his pre-existing condition. It was quite by accident, he said, that he found out about California’s Pre-Existing Condition Health Insurance Program, a stopgap program under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that offers health insurance at an affordable cost. He enrolled in it.

Starting January 1, when the ACA is fully implemented, insurers will be banned from denying health insurance to anyone with a pre-existing health condition.

“But I am still not able to provide employer-sponsored insurance to my employees because of the cost of coverage for individual plans,” lamented Ogden who has been operating dry cleaning businesses in different parts of Southern California for more than two decades.

Last month, he was among the state’s small business owners that lauded the announcement by Small Business California that come Jan. 1, 2014, Covered California, the state’s online health insurance marketplace, will offer choices of health insurance to small businesses and keep premiums in check.

“For nearly a decade, increasing health care costs have been the top concern for California’s more than 3 million small business owners,” said Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California. “The plans and prices announced today should help control costs and put health insurance within reach for many.”

Under the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, California businesses with 50 or fewer employees will be able to choose from one of six plans. The employer will pick a level of coverage and employees can pick any plan at that level.

While rates vary by region, premiums are generally comparable to 2013 small-group rates, according to Covered California’s executive director Peter Lee. They can even save small businesses money on their premiums. Lee called the rates “a game leveler.”

“Covered California is offering plans that will encourage thousands of employers to participate, ultimately increasing the number of insured Californians,” said Lee, “which is the mission of the landmark federal law.”

The SHOP will provide small business owners with a single, consolidated bill to help minimize the time and paperwork employers often face when providing health coverage for their employees.

The SHOP is part of an important effort to control health care costs. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently evaluated proposed insurance premiums in six states, reporting that prices for small business plans in those states have come in an average of 18 percent lower than the premiums employers were paying prior to the ACA.

While small businesses are not required to provide health insurance under the ACA, those that do may be eligible for subsidies to purchase it, said Lee, starting now. It is currently 35 percent and goes up to 50 percent of the premium on January 1.

Ogden said he is “cautiously optimistic” about last week’s announcement.

“I am concerned about the Affordable Care Act and the SHOP program being watered down and delayed by the Republican- controlled Congress and special interest groups like the Chamber of Commerce, who have historically been vehemently opposed to employer-mandated health insurance and worker rights in general,” he said.

“I have experienced first hand what my employees are faced with worrying about on a daily basis: the threat of financial ruin by a catastrophic health incident due to lack of insurance.”


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Commerce No Longer Option for New Probation Facility

September 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

 Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina has removed Commerce from consideration as a site for a new probation facility for felons to be released under AB 109, the Public Safety Realignment Act. 

Last week, this newspaper reported that the City of Commerce had recently been proposed for the site at is 2266 Davie Avenue. In a written statement yesterday, Molina said Commerce is not a good fit.

“After further discussions with both my staff and the City of Commerce, I’ve decided we need to select a new site. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles County Probation Department did not properly inform Commerce residents about the proposed project – and my office had to step in to fix the situation. The county needs to partner with local officials to choose a location that is satisfactory to everyone. That didn’t happen here – and that’s unacceptable,” Molina said.

The supervisor’s office notified the City of Commerce on Tuesday, and the public was informed about the decision during Tuesday’s council meeting.


Taste of East LA Returns This Weekend

September 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

The 5th Annual Taste of East LA will return Saturday, offering up a variety of foods and entertainment at the East Los Angeles Civic Center.

The family-friendly food and music festival is hosted by the East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and will be open from 11:00am to 8:00pm.

“The Taste of East LA will be serving culinary masterpieces from 18 of East LA’s finest restaurants. And for the very first time we’re adding a Beer & Wine Garden!,” the chamber announced.

“Festival-goers will be able to satisfy their foodie taste buds with just about any type of cuisine imaginable, whether craving BBQ from Meme’s Little Taste of Texas, tamales from “La Indiana” or something a bit more out of the ordinary such as mole from Moles La Tia or Chalio’s famous birria. Everyone is sure to find many “palette pleasers” and a new restaurant to try after the Taste.”

The East LA Civic Center is located at 4848 Civic Center Way, Los Angeles, CA 90022, and easily accessible by the Metro Gold Line. A Taste Passport, with 20 taste coupons costs $20.


Roosevelt HS Magnet Reaches 800-point API Goal

September 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Mónica García has announced that Roosevelt High School Magnet is among several schools in the 2nd District that for the first time reached the state’s 800-point target on the Academic Performance Index (API).

The magnet school at Roosevelt, which draws students from all over the district, grew by 71 points in the 2012-2013 school year, reaching 803 API. The other four schools in her district that met the benchmark for the first time are: Hoover Elementary, Ann Elementary, Extera Public School, and Para Los Niños Middle School.

The school district grew 3 points total, reaching an average of 749 API for 2012-2013, compared to 626 API ten years ago, in 2001-2003, she said.

Good Insurance Key to Avoiding Premature Death

September 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If there was ever a perfect example as to why Americans need universal health insurance it’s the latest report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report says that at least 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 die premature deaths due to bad habits.

The report says that these deaths could have been prevented if some of the dead would have stopped smoking. If they had lowered their cholesterol levels, controlled blood pressure and taken aspirin as recommended by physicians.

That’s easy to say if you are just using death certificates for your data collection.

But the fact remains that the country has just suffered through the deepest recession since the Great Depression, during which millions of Americans not only lost their jobs, but their health benefits as well.

The skyrocketing cost of health insurance has also kept many working Americans from being able to pay for health insurance. What use is having Cobra if you have no money to pay for insurance?

This fact made it almost impossible for a major part of our under sixty-five to see a doctor, or pay for medication.

The authors of the study speculated that some of the disparities on avoidable deaths could be due to lifestyle choices. They note that people over 65 years of age were able to reduce premature deaths due to heart disease and stroke when they became eligible for Medicare, which provides seniors with the medical care needed to cut down on the number of deaths.

Just read the obituaries, many seniors are now living past their eighties and well into their nineties.

The new health care law, popularly known as Obama Care, could help lower insurance costs and make insurance more affordable for some low-income people without insurance from their employers, but concerns remain that some middle-income families, the self-employed, and those who are starting to make more money but are still struggling with debt accumulated during the recession, could still find it hard to pay for their insurance. For them there may be no subsidies, but only time will tell if the new health care programs will be their answer to getting the coverage they need to help them improve their health outlook.

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