Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Remembering Those Who Paid With Their Lives to Protect our Freedoms

On Sunday, I joined members of the East Los Angeles Veterans Association to kick off a 24-hour vigil at the Mexican American All Wars Memorial in Cinco Puntos (Five Points) in Boyle Heights. On Memorial Day, that vigil turned into a celebration and a day of remembrance for the men and woman who fought and died for our country, as well as those who served and continue to serve in our armed forces. Their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their families mean a great deal to our community. We paid tribute to the diversity of our Eastside community, which over the years has included Latinos, Japanese, Jews, African Americans and many others. All who served our country with honor, including many who paid the ultimate price. I was honored to stand guard Sunday and privileged to have the opportunity to address the many people in attendance Monday. A big thank you to everyone involved, especially the young men and young women in the JROTC program from Garfield, Roosevelt and Lincoln High schools who proudly presented the Colors. And a big congratulations goes out to Daniel Hernandez, Executive Director of the Hollenbeck Youth Center who shared with us his courageous and amazing story as a young Marine in Vietnam. Daniel only recently found out he had been recognized by the United States for his valor and will soon be receiving the Silver Star for his actions. Congratulations Dan! And a big thank you to all our vets and their families.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fiesta Shalom in Boyle Heights

Attending Fiesta Shalom was like stepping back in time in Boyle Heights’ history – Jewish and Latino people intermingling again in the neighborhood that both groups had a major hand in shaping. For me, raised in Boyle Heights, it was like welcoming an old friend home again. I was happy to work with the Israeli Consulate to organize the event. The line to get into the famous Breed Street Shul, which at one point was reportedly the largest synagogue west of the Mississippi, was long and full of people from both cultures all day long. The food, music, art and cultural sharing was fantastic. About 5,000 people attended (we expected 1,000), with a roughly 50/50 split between Jewish and Latino people. At the end of the festival when the Mexican and the Jewish dancers performed together, people in the audience joined in and began to dance. It was what one person called in Hebrew “a ‘Mitzvah’ - a good deed filled with joy.” And that is exactly what Fiesta Shalom was: a good deed filled with joy. I hope we can do it again. I’d like to thank all who helped put this together, including my Boyle Heights staff, who worked hard to make this happen!

Glad to help GLAD

I joined about 200 people at the House of Blues last week for a fundraiser for the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness. Recently, I submitted a grant application for $275,000 on their behalf requesting community redevelopment block grant funds for them, which got approved. The money will be used to help GLAD demolish a building that has hindered their plans to expand much needed services at their Eagle Rock facility. GLAD provides a variety of services to the deaf and hard of hearing community, such as social services and health education, interpreter referral services, senior low-income housing, employment development and programs for at-risk youth. Thank you GLAD for the quality work you are doing on behalf of the deaf and hard of hearing community, as well as the Northeast community you call home.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Honoring Workers Whose Day Begins in Darkness

I had the pleasure this week to attend an early morning retirement celebration for Frank Rubio who was retiring after 31 years of faithful service at our highly valued and appreciated Bureau of Sanitation. The reception started bright and early (5:45 a.m.), and the atmosphere was alive and energetic. About 100 co-workers cheered on their friend and colleague, Mr. Rubio, as I presented him with a retirement certificate in honor of his service to our City. Immediately after the ceremony was over, a fleet of trucks rolled out in unison to service our City. It was a great site to see. We often don’t see the faces behind the work. But these men and women are up and working before first light doing a great job to keep our neighborhoods clean. Thank you to them and congratulations again to Mr. Frank Rubio.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Smooth Ride Into Downtown Los Angeles

Rode my bike to El Pueblo today for our Bike to Work Week Kick-Off ceremony. Fortunately, my home in Boyle Heights is only a couple of miles away so it was very convenient and with overcast skies this morning, the weather was really nice. I pointed out to folks at the event that riding our bikes allows us to improve both our personal health and the health of our environment, as we work to reduce calories and green house gases. I was joined by Metro CEO Art Leahy and other officials. Metro and our Department of Transportation did a fantastic job putting this together. There’ll be several events throughout the week, including Blessing of the Bikes tomorrow, free ridership on Metro buses and trains on Thursday for bike riders and Ride to School Day on Friday, which will allow our kids to get involved. For motorists, please take into consideration that bicyclists have the same rights and obligations as any other vehicle. Make sure there is at least three feet of space between your car and a bicyclist when passing and avoid honking your horn if possible. Now, let’s all try to get out of our cars this week and onto our bikes. It’s a lot of fun.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Garden of Healthy Knowledge at Boyle Heights’ Farm

This weekend I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the great folks at Proyecto Jardin in Boyle Heights to celebrate the launch of their new Community Supported Agriculture program. The CSA program helps develop a relationship between local farmers and those who eat the food they produce. This CSA program helps ensure that local residents get a weekly box of fresh produce. I spent part of the day taking a tour of the community garden and eating the delicious nopales that had been grown at the garden by community members. Proyecto Jardin also provided workshops on nutrition, cooking and physical fitness. I even had the opportunity to plant a lavender tree to keep the garden growing. We need to see more efforts like this in our communities. In fact, I’m working on bringing a farmers’ market to Boyle Heights some time in the near future. I want to thank Irene Pena and all the good people at Proyecto Jardin for bringing this great program to our residents and empowering our community to eat well and live healthier lives.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Unprecedented Progress for Bringing Back Broadway

It’s hard to believe that a little over a year ago, I launched the Bringing Back Broadway Initiative, a collective public/private effort to revitalize the Historic Broadway Corridor, including renovating historic theaters, reactivating unused upper-floor space and returning the beloved streetcar to Downtown Los Angeles. As this Downtown News Editorial points out, we’ve made remarkable progress so far and the participation we’ve had in our dozen committees and our public seminars has been off the charts. That commitment from those of us in the City and the private sector, as well as the Downtown community, will be the catalyst to our success. If we keep doing what we’re doing, the Broadway Historic Corridor will reclaim its past glory as one of Los Angeles’ premier destination spots, where more people will live, work and enjoy a vibrant and exciting community both day and night. Here's to continued success on this worthwhile effort!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Working to Make New High School a Success

Here’s a piece I wrote in Eastern Group Publications about the soon-to-open Mendez Learning Center (aka East L.A. High #1). When I was on the LAUSD school board I worked to get the construction of this school back on track and lobbied for the academic focus to be on math/science. I’m happy to say that the campus, located at 1st Street and Mission Road, will have two schools, one focusing on math/science, the other on technology/engineering. All of us involved have a big challenge ahead of us to make sure the two schools are ready to open this fall.