Monday, July 28, 2008

Peruvian Independence Day Festival

On Sunday, I attended the first Peruvian Independence Day Festival celebrated in L.A. It was hosted by the Peruvian Consulate in L.A. and the recently appointed Peruvian consul, Julio Balbuena. The event in Industry Hills celebrated Peru's 187th year of independence. It was a joyful event (with food, a soccer match and a mass hosted by Peruvian priests), but also poignant as we remembered those who suffered in the deadly earthquake that hit that country in August 2007. When I heard of the earthquake, my heart when out to all the families affected by it. I wanted to help as soon as I heard of the disaster. With the help of my colleagues, the City of Los Angeles was able to donate 10 ambulances to help with the relief efforts, and to allow Peru to be prepared in the unfortunate event an emergency hits again.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hermon Dog Park Dog Days of Summer

There was a nice turnout of people (and dogs) at the Hermon Dog Park Dog Days of Summer event on Saturday. I was a proud to co-sponsor the event and it was great to see so many responsible pet owners out there learning new ways to better care for their animals. The Friends of Hermon Dog Park, a nonprofit organization that supports the dog park and advocates responsible pet ownership, organized the event and offered services such as pet vaccinations and a young doggy behavioral seminar called “Puppy Party.”

As a dog owner, I understand the bond that exists between humans and their pets. My chocolate Labrador, Coco, is an important part of the family. She brings my wife and me and particularly our kids, a lot of joy. Congrats to Wendi Riser, Lezle Stein, Ursula Brown and the rest of The Friends of Hermon Dog Park for all the work they do on behalf of our four-legged pals, not only for this event, but year-round. I look forward to it again next year!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reward on Behalf of Murder Victim Jesus Guevara

Yesterday I announced a $50,000 reward on behalf of murder victim Jesus Guevara. Jesus was senselessly gunned down at about 4 p.m. on August 18, 2007 outside an El Sereno liquor store. The cowards who are responsible shot Jesus in the back while riding in a dark colored four-door sedan.

This is another young life tragically taken from us. Jesus was on active duty in the Navy from 2001 to 2005 and then served in the Navy Reserves. He served overseas in Thailand in 2005 and assisted with the tsunami relief effort there. He was a student at East L.A. College when murdered. Police believe that he was a victim of mistaken identity. Any murder is tragic, but when you think that Jesus served his country honorably, came home, enrolled in college, had a job and then was brutally murdered, it is just sickening. If anyone has information concerning this incident, please contact Hollenbeck Homicide Detective Jake Dugger at (323) 526-3142 or Detective Araceli Negrete at (323) 526-3091. Afterhours and on weekends, please call the 24-hour toll-free number, 1-877-LAW-FULL (529-3855).

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Opening of Vista Hermosa in Downtown is a Beautiful Sight

Photo courtesy of Ed Fuentes/Blogdowntown

As a public official, it’s always a great feeling when you see something you worked so hard on come to fruition. But this last Saturday, with the opening of Vista Hermosa Park in downtown L.A., a project I spearheaded as a member of LAUSD’s school board in 2003, the feelings of joy, relief and pride shivered through my mind constantly.

I’m sure the beauty of the park, with its lush hills, streams and rocks, had a little something to do with it. But seeing the community – particularly the hundreds of kids who showed up just having the time of their lives – that really did it for me.

While I was on the school board, I enlisted the support of community members and elected officials to come up with a plan to redesign the troubled Belmont Learning Center and push for the construction of the 10.5-acre park. Vista Hermosa (Beautiful View) overlooks the downtown skyline and is located next to the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, which will open this fall.

Some people might ask, what’s the big deal about a park? But for the Belmont community, which consists mostly of low-income residents who have embarrassingly little access to green space, this park helps right the wrongs they’ve been dealt. Every kid deserves a place to play. And Vista Hermosa is a great place to play and learn.

The battle in 2003 to approve my plan was simply a matter of doing the right thing.

We built a coalition, including the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, to design the park and help gather political support to get the necessary votes on the board to complete the new plan. It was quite a struggle, but I was fighting to give this community something they could be proud of for years to come. It wasn’t easy, but look at the results.

I want to thank my fellow board members, Marlene Canter, Mike Lansing and Genethia Hudley Hayes for their votes to make this happen. They showed great courage during a tough time and this community greatly appreciates that. I also want to thank Mónica García, my chief of staff at the time and current LAUSD school board president, my former staff member David Cobb, and Councilman Ed Reyes, for their work to bring his plan to fruition.

Vista Hermosa Park is located at 100 N. Toluca Street, at the corner of First Street and Toluca.

Maria Victoria Event - Honoring a Latina Legend at the Orpheum

On Thursday I honored Mexican actress and singer Maria Victoria at the Orpheum Theater. She’s a multi-talented performer who has had a long and impressive career. She has appeared in 41 films, 14 television novellas and recorded more than 100 albums. A throng of loyal Maria Victoria fans showed up to see this Latina icon in person and to watch her movie, “Los Paquetes de Paquita.” Many, including myself, recognize her from the ongoing series, “La criada bien criada.”

The event was sponsored by TuTv, a joint-venture between Univision Networks and Grupo Televisa, which packages Spanish-language shows and films for Latino audiences in the United States. Before honoring Victoria, I talked to the largely Latino audience about my Bringing Back Broadway initiative. The audience was very receptive when I told them that I want to restore all the great Broadway theaters to their previous grandeur and that once we’re done with those and other improvements, including bringing back the streetcars to downtown Los Angeles, that the new and improved Broadway corridor will be a place for all people to gather. Then I had the pleasure of introducing Maria Victoria. What a treat to be in the presence of such a legend in the Mexican movie industry.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Eagle Rock Concerts in the Park

What a great time my family and I had Sunday at the kickoff of Eagle Rock’s 11th Annual Concert in the Park Series. Held at Eagle Rock Rec Center, this concert series was co-sponsored by my office, the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks, and the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce (a big thanks to Michael Nogueira and Denise Miller!). Eagle Rock is another one of those great communities in Council District 14 with a small-town feel and you really capture that at these concerts. I would encourage you to take your families out there and enjoy some really great music and phenomenal food. I found myself (yet again) kicking off my shoes off and just enjoying the fantastic atmosphere, and the cool sounds of Ronny & The Classics. They played some great classics from the 50s and 60s, including some from Jim Morrison, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Carlos Santana.

Here’s the upcoming calendar for The Eagle Rock Concert series, which will be held at:

Eagle Rock Recreation Center
1100 Eagle Vista Drive
Eagle Rock, CA

All the concerts run from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. FYI, you can purchase food at the event or pack your own picnic. Call the center at (323) 257-6948 for more information.

  • July 27, Soul Sacrifice, a tribute to Santana

  • August 3, Hot August Night, a tribute to Neil Diamond, starring Dean Colley

  • August 10, Susie Hansen Latin Band, featuring Latin Jazz and Salsa

  • August 17, Jazz Tribute, fresh young band from Eagle Rock

  • August 24, Jack Lantz, Big Band music will close out the Summer Concert Series.

Monday, July 14, 2008

White Memorial is a Blessing

Last week I toured the new wing of the White Memorial Medical Center in Boyle Heights. It was truly gratifying to witness firsthand the great work and medical services provided by our community hospital. It is truly a blessing and a lifeline to many Eastside residents. Not too long ago, I also attended the grand opening of the Rainbow Children's Center for Healthy Growth. This center has been funded in part by the City of Los Angeles, and ensures that children suffering from cleft palate deformities are provided the medical attention they deserve. The smiles I saw on the faces of the children who had undergone the life-changing surgery were proof enough that this is a program worth having. Thanks White Memorial for all you do for our community.

The Downtown Art Community Continues to Grow

I was thrilled to attend the opening of the new Phyllis Stein Art Gallery on July 10. The gallery already is doing a great job of supporting local talent, as well as giving back to the community. Phyllis Stein Art is a great example of how the downtown area keeps growing and offering eclectic cultural amenities. After the ribbon cutting ceremony at Phyllis Stein Art Gallery, my wife Richelle and I decided to take a tour of some of the galleries participating in the monthly event. I was thrilled to see thousands of people walking from gallery to gallery. Downtown L.A. is truly going through an artistic revitalization! What I saw confirmed my thoughts about revitalizing the Broadway Corridor and validates even more my Bringing Back Broadway initiative. I am confident that Broadway is going to become one of the most important cultural centers in the city of Los Angeles. I invite everyone to enjoy the Art Walk from noon to 9 p.m. the second Thursday of every month for a self-guided tour that showcases commercial art galleries, museums, and nonprofit venues in downtown.

New Image Emergency Homeless Shelter Has a Positive Impact

I was honored to recently visit New Image Emergency Homeless shelter in Central Los Angeles. Twin sisters Lynda Moran and Brenda Wilson are doing an amazing job assisting homeless and low-income individuals from Skid Row and other areas of the City. Their dedication has brought real support to the most underserved people in our communities. Offering an array of services, such as counseling, shelter, hot showers, three meals a day and medical services, New Image serves runaway youth, homeless families with children, people with disabilities and those living with HIV/AIDS, to name a few. New Image has had an incredibly positive impact in our community and I was humbled to be able to witness that firsthand. For that, I want to commend Lynda and Brenda for their amazing work.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Use the Former Federal Armory for Kids Instead of Trucks

This morning I had the honor to announce the awarding of $200,000 from The California Endowment to Legacy L.A., a developing nonprofit that plans to turn the old federal Armory at Hazard Park into a youth development center. I worked with Legacy L.A. to obtain these funds to kick off some of its work. Once converted, the armory will offer an array of educational, cultural and recreational services. I also announced the 10 winners of Legacy L.A.’s “Dream Big Fellowship,” a year-long program where high school kids will do research and help design the new youth center and decide what programs will best serve the surrounding communities. Some time ago, I thought why should we fill the armory with vehicles when we can fill it with kids? So congratulations to the Dream Big recipients – Adelante! The fellows are: Genesis Galvez, Karla Garcia, Jose Hernandez, Lucy Herrera, Marcela Juarez, Andres Martinez, Ismael Quezada, Arnold Ron, Martha Rosales and Jesus Valdez. And thanks to The California Endowment for your support!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fourth of July Celebrations in Council District 14

I had a great time with the community the past two weekends at El Sereno Recreation Center and at Hollenbeck Park in Boyle Heights at our Fourth of July Concert and Firework shows. In El Sereno, my two girls had a heck of a time running around playing with balloons. And my four-month-old son, Simon, was cracking up when my wife had him bouncing up and down to the music. It was nice to kick off my shoes and relax with my family along with so many other parents and their children. The music was fantastic and the food was excellent. By the time the fireworks began around 9 p.m., there were more than 1,800 people there. Our newly paved parking lot next door that my office was responsible for completing was full! The fireworks were fantastic. We were all “oohing’ and “ahhing” the whole time. I heard afterward that one man and his wife told my staff that he had lived in El Sereno for more than 20 years and had never seen anything so nice. We’ll, we look forward to an even better show next year!

At the Boyle Heights show on July 5, I joined about 4,000 people for the second annual fireworks show. This year’s show was even better than the year before, featuring about two dozen community booths, great food and—most importantly—a safe, family atmosphere. I remember attending firework shows as a kid in the same neighborhood and I was proud to bring this great tradition back to Boyle Heights last year. What I liked most was seeing young kids running with joy at the sight of the fireworks. It reminded me of myself as a young kid enjoying these public events. I need to publicly thank my entire staff, who all helped make both shows such a success.

Another event that I greatly enjoyed was the flag raising and Fourth of July re-enactment of the first Independence Day celebrated in Los Angeles at the Fort Moore Memorial in downtown. The re-enactment was awesome, and I even had the chance to fire a couple of cannons down Hill Street. Obviously no one was hurt! I want to thank the Fort Moore Committee for putting such great effort in keeping our city’s history alive.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Bringing Back Broadway Forum at City Club

I love talking about the Bringing Back Broadway initiative. And apparently, people aren’t tired of hearing about it. The Heritage Committee of the City Club on Bunker Hill invited me to a forum about the revitalization effort. Joining me for the panel discussion were Michael Buhler, director of advocacy for the L.A. Conservancy, Tara Jones, director of National Preservation Partners, Lillian Burkenheim, project manager for the Community Redevelopment Agency, and Ed Kelsey, board member with the League of Historic American Theatres.

We discussed the importance of the historic Broadway corridor to our City as a whole, past efforts to revitalize Broadway, and what the future holds with Bringing Back Broadway. Discussions like this reinforce my belief that Broadway should once again serve as a hub for multicultural entertainment. The historic theatres are the anchors, but with a million square feet of vacant commercial space in upper floors, all of Broadway is poised for a comeback. One of the topics of greatest interest was the streetcar. We had it right 40 years ago when streetcars ran everywhere. I look forward to the inaugural ride when a streetcar once again connects Broadway to the rest of downtown.

Photo courtesy of Gary Leonard. Panelists pictured left to right: Mike Buhler, Director of Advocacy, Los Angeles Conservancy; Marilyn F. Solomon, Chair, Board of Governors, City Club on Bunker Hill; Councilmember Jose' Huizar; Lillian Burkenheim, Project Manager, Community Redevelopment Agency; Jessica Wethington McLean, Executive Director, Bringing Back Broadway; Tara Jones, Director, National Preservation Partners; Ed Kelsey, Board Member, League of Historic American Theatres and General Manager, Orpheum Theatre.

La Purisma Neighborhood Watch Community Cleanup

In order to help keep our communities safe, it is important to keep them clean. It’s the “broken windows” theory. If you let a neighborhood get rundown, crime will soon follow. So that is why I was very proud this past weekend when several dozen residents came to show their community pride at this annual event. Organized by Gabriel Sandoval, Neighborhood Watch chair of La Purisima Church, volunteers, young and old, removed unsightly weeds, cleaned alleys, painted over graffiti, and picked up a bin's worth of bulky items. My Council Office provided shovels, rakes and trash bins to help give the community what it needed to clean up. As Councilman, I am proud of the willingness of my constituents to contribute their time and energy toward community betterment projects such as this one. The city can’t do it alone, and together we will make a difference!