Activists Circulate Monterey Park Bike Survey

September 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A local group began circulating an unofficial survey of bicycle infrastructure needs in Monterey Park over the Labor Day weekend. The survey asked people about their level of comfort while riding a bicycle through the city, the modes of transportation they currently use, and the reasons they use bikes.

The survey put out by BikeSGV is only available online and in English. The group’s president, Vincent Chang, says their survey will likely reach an internet savvy, English-speaking slice of the population, but they still need to figure out a way to reach more people. He said they need to get more volunteers on the streets, because “most of the people who ride bicycles in Monterey Park… probably speak Chinese or Vietnamese” or other languages.

Bike activism is usually associated with the city of Los Angeles and other parts of the county. Boyle Heights recently put in bike lanes, notable for their bright green paint job, and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took a very public stance in support of better bicycle infrastructure after he himself was injured during a bicycle outing.

But such activism is also gaining visibility in Monterey Park and other San Gabriel Valley communities where groups like BikeSGV are focusing their efforts. The group organizes bike valet service at major community events such as the weekly farmer’s market and the annual Earth Day festival, and works closely with city officials on grant applications.

Chang, who is also a resident of Monterey Park, says the “need is clearly there” for improved bicycle infrastructure — bicyclists are a common sight in the city, but only a few streets have bike lanes. The city does have a bike plan, but it dates back to 1975.

Chang says they do not yet know when they will present the results of their survey to the city, but officials seem receptive to their efforts. The state is requiring cities like Monterey Park to adopt green building codes and climate action plans that may prompt officials to take bicyclists’ needs into consideration, he added.

Recent efforts to update the bike plan have stalled, with the city lacking the funds to do a full-scale, master bike plan, said Monterey Park Director of Public Works Elias Sakyali. In the meantime, they are exploring possible bike lanes near East Los Angeles College and Mark Keppel High School, and will be unveiling more bike racks on city buses next year. They are also looking for grants to do a master plan.

Earlier this year, BikeSGV got five cities, including Monterey Park, to sign on to an application for an environmental justice grant from Caltrans to fund a regional bike plan. Chang says they are still waiting for the results of that application.

Link to the Monterey Park Bike Survey:

EDITORIAL: Governor Brown: Sign the Driver’s License Bill

September 6, 2012 by · 2 Comments 

Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo’s bill to allow some undocumented immigrants who qualify for federal deferred action to get California driver’s licenses has passed in the legislature and only needs the governor’s signature to become law.

Making AB 2189 law will not only benefit an estimated 450,000 undocumented youth who will be allowed for the first time to receive a state issued license, it will also benefit the rest of us who should feel safer knowing that more of the drivers on our streets are licensed, that they have insurance and have passed required driving tests.

It’s too bad that there is such opposition to granting drivers licenses to all undocumented immigrants qualified to drive. Self-righteousness should never top safety as far as we are concerned.

Licensed drivers are more likely to have auto insurance, a win for the economy as well as California drivers.

We are also convinced that the large number of hit and runs would diminish because licensed drivers do not fear losing their vehicle when involved in an accident.

Driver’s licenses should only entitle a driver to legally drive a car.

We’re not sure when a driver’s license became an identity card, that was never its original intent. The same has occurred with Social Security numbers, where the original legal intent was to report wages, not anything else.

In any case, we feel we would all be a lot safer if we made it possible for more of the drivers on our roads to get a driver’s license.

Imagine how much safer law enforcement would be if they knew who they are stopping.

As for the criminal background of those applying for a license, the DMV already checks for correct Social Security numbers, tickets and warrants and vehicle registration fees owed, AB 2189 means they will be keeping track of even more drivers.

Assemblyman Cedillo has been fighting this cause for years, as has the legislature that has on more than one occasion voted to pass such common sense legislation.

Gov. Brown, it’s time to do the right thing and sign AB 2189 into law.

Why Latinos Need to Register and Vote

September 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Latinos are the fastest-growing and second largest population group in the United States. According to projections from the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund, more than 12.2 million Latino voters are expected to cast ballots on Election Day, an increase of 26 percent from 2008.

The Latino voter will again be a decisive force in the White House race, in addition to statewide and local elections across the nation. Latinos are predicted to be the deciding factor this November in nine key states, which carry 101 Electoral College votes of the 270 needed for either President Obama or Governor Romney to win this year.

Despite the ability of the Latino voter to shape America’s political landscape more than 10 million Latinos are expected not to vote this November.

Imagine the electoral potential if all 23.5 million Latino citizens of voting-age were not only registered, but voted. Imagine if all Americans of voting-age were not only registered, but voted.

Campaigns and candidates are battling for support and for voters to rally behind their ideas and their leadership. Voting does not just send a candidate to Washington D.C., the state legislature or city hall; it speaks to the issues most pressing in a voter’s life such as the economy, education, and healthcare.

We can bring change to our communities, but we need to vote. In order to secure funding for schools, to create new jobs and safer streets we must cast our ballot in every election including the next one on November 6.

Ensuring today’s voter is informed, empowered, and inspired to own this year’s election means continuing to eliminate the barriers that prevent participation. Now more than ever, the need to register to vote is high.

Registering to vote has never been easier. NALEO Educational Fund, in collaboration with other national Latino organizations and Spanish-language media, coordinates the historic non-partisan Latino ya es hora (“It’s Time”) civic participation campaign, which helps voters navigate the registration process.

Individuals interested in registering to vote can call ya es hora’s national bilingual hotline, 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA, which is operational year-round to help voters with electoral information.
While the Post Office and libraries provide voter registration forms, citizens can also register to vote easily online at It takes less than 5 minutes to complete, and once complete, must be printed, stamped, and mailed. In addition, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will offer Californians the ability to register to vote online without needing to print the form by visiting

With less than three months until Election Day, it is critical people register to vote ahead of the registration deadline. The registration deadline in California is October 22, however it is never too early to register to vote or to encourage others to do the same. Registering to vote is the first step towards bettering communities and country. The second is making an informed vote on November 6 that speaks on what matters most to you. The next is continued engagement. Only through active participation, year after year, will we continue strengthening our democracy and our country.

Make your vote count on November 6. Register to vote!

Arturo Vargas is the Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund. The organization is the nation’s leading non-partisan, non-profit organization that facilitates full Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service. He served on the Census Advisory Committee from 2000-2011, appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

Sorry, You Can’t Get There From Here

September 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

“Take the train,”
We used to say;
But now that train
Has gone away.

Riding the London Underground from downtown to Heathrow Airport can awaken you to just how archaic America’s transportation system is. Most U.S. cities make heading to the airport a hassle.

And once there, where can you fly? Airlines are dropping routes to small cities like hot potatoes, having declared the likes of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Sioux Falls, South Dakota not profitable enough for non-stop flights.

Changing planes multiple times can make your trip take longer than it would if you traveled by train. So, why not board the train instead? In most cases, you can’t do that. The United States has invested big time in roads, but not rails. Practical intercity train travel is confined to very few places, mostly in the Northeast corridor that stretches between Boston and Washington, D.C., and parts of California. And even in those cases, your train fare can cost far more than a discount plane ticket. And all that periodic gab about a high-speed rail system that would rival its counterparts in Europe and Asia lacks both money and political support.

That leaves us with highways. Having driven to Alaska and back this summer, I can say with authority that they’re pretty good. I think it’s part of why we Americans regularly drive much farther than our European or Asian brethren.

U.S. highways are just too convenient, especially when our public transit is just too abysmal. Further, gas prices are so low compared to Europe that many of us (though not me, not even on my way to Fairbanks) still drive SUVs. Even when gas flirts with the $4-per-gallon mark, we’re still paying only 60 percent of the European rate. We’re also filling oil mogul coffers and pushing our leaders into a string of never-ending Middle East misadventures.

The good news for rail believers these days lies in freight, not passengers. The private sector has ramped up its reliance on train travel for trans-oceanic shipping containers. All the rail lines have now invested in intermodal terminals, serious maintenance, and specialized freight cars.

Except in New England. Since the Poughkeepsie Bridge over the Hudson burned 40 years ago, trains have no convenient route to get there. Consequently, trucks rule. The railroads are not about to invest their own money in a new crossing, and no single government is in charge. Here, then, is one big downside of privatization: neither the public nor private sector is able to perform when a really major task rears its head.

And often they can’t even get together to tackle much smaller challenges. Take buses. With the defection of airlines from small cities, the decay of intercity passenger rail service, and the metastatic growth of highway traffic, a new alternative has sprung from its own long-cold ashes — the bus. As the media is beginning to notice, the intercity bus business is booming. Rather than viewing this popular new phenomenon as a blessing, local governments see it as a bother, and the states scarcely see it at all.

What a shame. With our population growing inexorably, oil prices spiraling, the public unwilling to pay for train lines, and ever more air routes shutting down, intercity buses could be a godsend. But no one is willing to pay for them either, no matter how economical they may be. No subsidies, no terminals, and no one’s priority.

Buses still appeal mostly to lower-income Americans, who lack political clout. However, if buses were gussied up, given a chance to operate out of attractive terminals, and treated at least as well as trains, the private sector might again bail a segment of our ailing transportation infrastructure.

Unfortunately neither the bus companies nor their riders possess the political muscle to make that happen. Further, the automakers and oil companies have the clout to keep serious federal money out of mass transit of any kind.

Indeed, for long-distance mass transit, the end of the tunnel remains disappointingly dark. columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut.

From Our Readers

September 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

In response to the article from August 30, titled “Fate of Eastside Murals Still Undecided.”
Although this week’s hearing in front of the LA County Regional Planning Commission regarding the site for the for a new middle school next door to the First Street Store had nothing to do with the First Street Store murals, much of the conversation centered on the murals. I, again, want to make one thing clear. If we decide to build a school on that site, we will not only preserve the murals and reinstall them on the school, but they will be in their current order and continue to tell their current story. We understand that others may disagree with us, but we feel the power of these murals lies in the story that the pictures tell, and we want to continue to display that story for the community to appreciate and our students to learn from for years to come.


Judy Ivie Burton
Alliance College-Ready Public Schools

Re: Balanced Editorial Section
Every Thursday, I love reading the Commerce Comet. But if I may give a suggestion, do you think you could provide opinion pieces from political viewpoints that include both liberal and conservative. Like myself I am a 37 year old male who finds his politics falling somewhere towards the middle right. Unfortunately the opinions in the Comet are usually heavy in the politics from the left. Just a suggestion, thanks.

Hector G.
City of Commerce

El Mercado del Pueblo Opens in Boyle Heights

September 6, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

For over a decade Balbina Sanchez has made a living selling enchiladas, quesadillas, tacos and more on the streets of Boyle Heights. She says she was arrested for selling without a license and watched police officers throw away her products and dismantle her equipment. But now — thanks to a two-year effort by the East Los Angeles Community Corporation (ELACC) in partnership with the office of Councilman Jose Huizar — Sanchez and her fellow street vendors have a new space to safely sell their food.

Last Saturday, ELACC hosted the grand opening of El Mercado del Pueblo, a new farmers’ market that will be held every Saturday in the parking lot of Hollenbeck Middle School in Boyle Heights. The farmers’ market will open at 5pm, and will include food from local street vendors.

Isela Gracian, associate director of ELACC, told EGP that the farmers’ market is a short-term solution to provide Boyle Heights street vendors with a safe space to sell, as well as providing more access to fresh produce in an area where there are few grocery stores.

“It allows us to be able to provide a platform for economic development and for [vendors] to gain experience as well as being able to bring the produce side of the market to the neighborhood,” Gracian said.

ELACC is currently hosting community town hall meetings across the city of Los Angeles to get input on a draft policy to legalize street food vending in the city.

As ELACC looks at different models of legal street food vending in other states, Huizar, who attended the opening ceremony, told EGP that El Mercado del Pueblo is a pilot program that should be looked at by neighboring cities concerned about how to deal with illegal street food vending.

“This is not the last that we hear about issues of street vendors, but it is an example of what works,” Huizar said.

He said creating opportunities for street vendors to sell at farmers’ markets is different from past failed efforts, such as creating specific selling districts across the city, because “there’s been a lot of community input and a lot of community participation.”

Sanchez, who now has a license and health permit to sell on the street from a lonchera (a small truck converted for selling food), told EGP that being able to sell at a farmers’ market would help in the long run.

She said because her lunch truck does not get many repeat customers, going to the farmers’ market, where her profit margin is smaller, helps her “make ends meet.”

Sanchez, speaking in Spanish says she hopes to see more farmers’ markets spring up around the area. She’s not worried about competition, because “people go where they like” and every vendor has a unique style.

Martha Garcia, who sells tamales and gelatin and has also experienced run-ins with the law, has been trying for sometime without luck to get her license and permits in order. But she and eight other vendors, with help from ELACC, were able to get a license and permit to sell at El Mercado del Pueblo. For Garcia, the market is the only safe place she has to do business.

“I keep working on my business because it’s my job and it’s what I live off of,” Garcia said in Spanish.

Garcia added that she feels it’s wrong to treat her and other street vendors like criminals for doing something that helps the community, offering quality food at affordable prices.

“Are we criminals? No. I think that word is too harsh for us simply because we are illegal,” Garcia said.

Both Sanchez and Garcia applaud ELACC’s efforts to legalize street food vending in Los Angeles, but cautioned that supervision is needed to ensure that all street vendors have the needed licenses and permits.

Street Vendors received their license and permits to sell at El Mercado del Pueblo in Boyle Heights. (EGP photo by Ileana Najarro)

Asked how she thinks brick-and-mortar businesses should react to a new street vending policy, Sanchez said that as the former owner of a restaurant in Mexico, she understands why many would oppose the policy and think it is unfair for street vendors to run a business without as many fees and regulations.

However, Sanchez added that she hopes brick-and-mortar business owners recognize that street vendors are not their competition, since they sell different products. She said they too deserve a chance to sell.

As ELACC moves forward with more town hall meetings between now and November, Garcia said she hopes the result will be that the policy goes through — for her sake, and the sake of the community.

“We shouldn’t lose street vendors because we are an example to the community,” she said, “We offer Mexican food that many people ask for, and we try our best to do everything right, healthy, and clean.”

Students Show Gains on Standardized Test Scores

September 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Students in Los Angeles County continued improving their scores on standardized tests, with higher percentages scoring advanced or proficient in math and English, according to results released Aug. 31 by the state Department of Education.

The improvement in scores on the 2012 Standardized Testing and Reporting Program mirrored increases seen across the state, according to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

“In less than a decade, California has gone from having only one student in three score proficient to better than one student in two,” Torlakson said. “That’s nearly 900,000 more students reaching proficiency now than in 2003—a remarkable achievement that represents real, sustained improvements in learning.”

More than 1.1 million students in Los Angeles County were tested, with 54.4 percent scoring advanced or proficient in English-language arts and 49.4 percent in mathematics, according to figures released by the state. Last year, 51 percent of county students scored advanced or proficient in English and 47.9 percent achieved those levels in math.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, 47.9 percent of students scored advanced or proficient in English-language arts, up from 43.9 percent last year. In math, 44.6 percent scored advanced or proficient, an increase from 42.9 percent last year.

“The test scores show that we’re making steady progress throughout the district,” LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy said. “He credited this year’s results to several factors—dedicated teachers, involved parents and supportive administrators.

“We expect the upward trend to continue this school year, as we raise the bar even higher, adding more rigor while making our graduates college- prepared and career-ready,” he said.

The LAUSD and Los Angeles County numbers all lag behind the statewide average, which shows 57.2 percent scoring advanced or proficient in English and 51.5 percent in math.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said students who attend campuses overseen by his Partnership for Los Angeles Schools also saw gains in scores.

“We saw improvements in all core subjects, and substantial gains at most of the schools, though a few schools still have a ways to go,” the mayor said. “I am so proud of our Partnership teachers, principals and students.

These scores are a direct result of the passion and tremendous work ethic they bring to our schools. It is clear the Partnership is poised for continued success.”

In Orange County, 65.6 percent of students scored advanced or proficient in English, and 61.7 in math.

About 4.7 million students took part in the 2012 STAR program, which includes California Standards Tests, California Modified Assessment, California Alternate Performance Assessment and Standards-based Tests in Spanish.

Court Denies Bell Gardens Child Murderer’s Appeal

September 6, 2012 by · 10 Comments 

The California Supreme Court has denied the latest appeal in the case of a man convicted of murdering three boys in Los Angeles County in the 1970s.

The state’s highest court on Aug. 30 unanimously rejected a petition filed by attorneys for Harold Ray Memro, who legally changed his name to Reno while on death row in December 1994.

Memro was convicted of first-degree murder for the July 1976 slaying of 10-year-old Ralph Chavez Jr. and the October 1978 death of 7-year-old Carl Carter Jr., and second-degree murder for the July 1976 killing of 12-year-old Scott Fowler.

His initial conviction for the slayings was overturned by the California Supreme Court and he was retried and again sentenced to death in 1987.

Chavez and Fowler were found dead near a pond in John Anson Ford Park in Bell Gardens on July 26, 1975. The boys — who had been fishing at the park — had their throats slit.

Memro told police that he had gone to the park to take pictures of young boys and admitted slitting the boys’ throats, according to a 1995 ruling from the California Supreme Court.

He also told police that he choked the 7-year-old boy — who was the son of a family friend — after the youth asked to leave Memro’s apartment where he had hoped to take nude photos of him, according to the 1995 ruling.

Memro later claimed that his confession involving the 1975 killings was coerced by South Gate police.

In the latest ruling, Associate Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar wrote that there was “strong, even overwhelming evidence he was guilty of killing three boys, that he forcibly sodomized one victim (possibly after he was dead) and that he represented a continuing threat to the safety of children in the neighborhood (inferable from the discovery by police that the petitioner possessed hundreds of photographs of young children).”

The justices found that the 521-page petition filed by the defense in its latest appeal is “an example of an abusive writ practice” and “is by no means an isolated phenomenon.”

“Some death row inmates with meritorious legal claims may languish in prison for years waiting for this court’s review while we evaluate petitions raising dozens or even hundreds of frivolous and untimely claims,” Werdegar wrote.

The California Supreme Court will allow an unlimited length for the first habeas corpus petition submitted on a death row inmate’s behalf, but limit subsequent petitions to 50 pages, according to the ruling.

Montebello Discusses Lawsuit Ahead of Settlement Conference

September 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The Montebello City Council met in closed session on Aug. 23 to discuss a lawsuit filed by a former Montebello police chief who was fired mere days after his appointment amid controversy over his hiring in 2010.

The lawsuit filed by Kenneth Rulon in 2011 alleges that Montebello wrongfully terminated him and breached his employment contract with the city. The city claims the contract with Rulon was created illegally, according to court records.

The interim city administrator at the time, Randy Narramore, quit soon after Rulon’s firing. Narramore was seen storming out of a closed session meeting during which Rulon’s employment was discussed.

The next court hearing for the case is a “mandatory settlement conference” scheduled for Sept. 7. Also scheduled are a “final status conference” on Sept. 28 and a jury trial on Oct. 10. The case number is BC469785.

The council voted to lift attorney client privileges to allow the city attorney to testify or present confidential communication between the city and its attorney during discovery or deposition, according to the city attorney’s report following the closed session. The action was approved by Councilman Jack Hadjianian and Mayor Frank Gomez, with Councilman Bill Molinari abstaining. Councilman Art Barajas and Mayor Pro Tem Christina Cortez did not attend the meeting.

Lots To Do at East LA ARTSFEST Closing

September 6, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

The summer-long East Los Angeles ARTSFEST will come to a close this Saturday with a grand finale featuring the East LA Bicycle Ride, a fishing derby, the Taste of East LA and other activities.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, the County Department of Parks and Recreation and the East Los Angeles business community are urging the public to take part in the family-friendly end of summer activities.

The day kicks-off with a fishing derby at 6:30 a.m. followed by the check-in for the East LA Bicycle Ride at 8:30 a.m. Participants who decorate their bikes are eligible to win a prize.

Riders have the option of either taking the 1.8-mile family route, or the regular route that is 4.3 miles long. The official ride starts at 10 a.m. at the East LA Civic Center.After the ride, cool off at the annual Taste of LA food event, take in the LACMA artwalks, and enjoy great live entertainment.

To register for the bike ride or to learn more about the day’s events visit the L.A. County Parks and Recreation website.

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