Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The 18th Annual Mariachi Festival: Music to My Ears

Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights is one of the most beautiful landmarks in my district. Each year, across the street from the Historic Boyle Hotel (built in 1889), we host world-renowned Mariachi bands for our Mariachi Festival. This year, I had the honor of introducing Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, an all female Mariachi group, and they were fantastic! The crowd really loved them. Jose Hernandez y su Mariachi Sol de Mexico closed the show and really got the crowd into it. I saw a lot of young mariachis watching this excellent group, no doubt learning all they could from the masters. Hundreds of people showed up for this year’s festival, including LAUSD School Board President Monica Garcia and L.A. County 1st District Supervisor, Gloria Molina. It’s a privilege for me to join with our many community partners to host this rich, cultural event. My wife Richelle and I had a great time listening to the music, watching the young folklorico dancers and talking to folks throughout the community. Que viva los mariachis!

Friday, November 21, 2008

KIPP LA is Breaking New Ground in Boyle Heights and in Educational Success

On November 18, I had the distinct privileged of being honored by the Knowledge is Power Program Los Angeles schools at the Skirball Center. Alongside my fellow honorees, Blair Hamilton Taylor, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League; and Mikelle Willis, Founder of KIPP Academy of Opportunity, I'd like to commend KIPP Los Angeles for all the wonderful work they do in education and improving the lives of so many young people. While 97 percent of KIPP LA students are comprised of African American and Latinos, with 83% of all students from low-income families, KIPP LA has shown great leadership in developing sustainable student, parent and teacher collaborations. And the proof is in the numbers! From fifth to eighth grade, the percentage of students scoring at or above the national average has risen from 16 to 61 percent in reading and from 23 to 83 percent in math, as measured by the SAT-10. I am excited that KIPP will be opening a school in Boyle Heights in the near future, and I celebrate their expansion efforts. Their success is a reflection of the kind of success we can have with all our students. Thank you KIPP LA!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

East L.A. Classics in the Classroom and on the Football Field

While the gridiron game between Garfield and Roosevelt High Schools was close early, Garfield eventually pulled away in a hard-fought battle between the two proud schools. The halftime show for the 74th East L.A. Classic was as entertaining as the game, as the two schools spirit squads showed off their talents to the delight of the competing crowds. With an estimated 20,000 or so on hand, it was a great night for East Los Angeles. The energy was great, generations of families were there enjoying one of the longest running rivalries in the United States and for the losing team there’s always next year. Before the game, I was happy to see the smiling faces of winners from both schools as I handed out eight scholarship checks of $500 each to four students from each school. Originally, I had planned to give four scholarships out, but these students were so exceptional I decided to award all eight scholarships.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thank you Veterans on This and Every Day

This weekend I had the honor of participating in two Veterans Day events in the Northeast: a Veterans Day Memorial and the 3rd Annual Eagle Rock Veterans Day Parade. The memorial took place in the morning and was a serene ceremony outside the old Eagle Rock City Hall (and home to my Eagle Rock District Office), where two memorial rocks commemorate our Veterans of Foreign Wars and our Filipino veterans, who are still trying to be recognized by our federal government for benefits related to their valiant efforts during World War II. On behalf of the organizing committee I had the privilege of giving out recognition medals to Jack and Meritt Tritch, two brothers, who along with their brother Stuart Tritch Jr., who was killed in World War II, served honorably in the service. Their father, the late Stuart Tritch was also a veteran. The Tritch brothers, owners of Tritch Hardware Store, were this year’s grand marshal for the parade, which drew hundreds who came out to honor our servicemen and women. Thank you so much to the Tritch brothers, our Filipino veterans, and all our veterans on this day and every day for protecting the freedoms we hold so dear.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Honoring a School that Honored Me

On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to be honored by my alma mater, Salesian High School, at their 50th Gala Anniversary. The dinner at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles raised funds to help students with tuition costs at the Eastside Catholic boys school. Former student, Albert G. Alvarado, district director of the U.S. Small Businesses Administration, was also honored, as was the legendary brother, the late Thomas J. Keegan who served Salesian high school from 1958-1997. Growing up in Boyle Heights, I got into some trouble in middle school and attending Salesian literally changed the course of my life. The school’s Order of Saint John Don Bosco is dedicated to helping disadvantaged youth, and they certainly lived up to that at Salesian, taking thousands of “at-risk” boys and molding them into productive and socially conscious young men. I’ve often said, without Salesian, I never would have become a councilmember. I am forever indebted to the staff and brothers and sisters for all they’ve done for me. They were honoring me Saturday, but really I should be honoring them. I know my fellow Salesian brothers feel the same. Go Mustangs!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nightmare on First Street and Legend of Creepy Collis Add up to Scary-Good Time

I think it’s a toss up who enjoys our annual Halloween events more each year: the kids in Boyle heights and El Sereno or me. At our Nightmare on First Street in Boyle Heights, we had more than 2,000 people attend. I raffled off movie passes and gift cards for Toys R Us and Target. Some of our other sponsors included Univision Radio, “Madagascar 2: Escape from Africa” and “Legend of the Seeker,” a new show on KTLA. In El Sereno, The Legend of Creepy Collis, on Collis Avenue, just gets better each year. Sponsored by my office, the Creepy Collis Committee and LA-32 Neighborhood Council, this year’s fun-packed night was attended by more than 3,500 people and offered up two magic shows, a haunted maze and a few fortune tellers. We gave out prizes for best costumes (a little toddler dressed as a bumblebee was my favorite). Thanks to everyone for working so hard and making these events such a smashing successes. These type of events help build communities and we’ll try to have as many as we possibly can.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dancing, Costumes and Some Cash to Help Seniors

On Thursday, I attended the El Sereno Senior Citizen Center annual Halloween luncheon and dance to present the group with a $3,420 check to replace some items stolen or damaged following a couple of break-ins in August. There were about 150 people in attendance, many in colorful and creative costumes to mark the holiday. Their spirits were pretty high already, but they absolutely soared when we announced that the money was going to purchase a new television set, a DVD/VCR unit and some couches and chairs. It was important to remind these seniors who have done so much to make the rest of our lives easier that the thoughtless actions of a few do not represent the feelings of so many others. We respect our seniors and we want them to be comfortable and hopefully these new items will help. I have to say that a few seniors got me out on the dance floor and showed me that they are still young and vibrant at heart. It was a lot of fun and we’ll do it again at the annual Senior Snowball in December!