Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gold Line Will be Golden Opportunity

Today I rode with Metro CEO Art Leahy, Mayor Villaraigosa and my fellow MTA directors for a test ride on the soon-to-open Gold Line Eastside Extension. With the media invited along, we rode from Union Station to the Soto Station, which has some very eclectic but beautiful art inside. The ride itself was very smooth and I look forward to riding the line more often once it opens on Nov. 15, 2009. I'm happy that Metro has committed to adding $4.5 million in additional safety improvements and I've asked that areas around Mendez and Ramona High Schools and El Mercado be given top priority, so that those new features, which will include buffers and fencing to discourage people from jaywalking across the tracks, will be installed as soon as possible. I will continue to monitor the situation well beyond the opening as safety is the top priority for me and the other MTA directors. Beyond that, I couldn't help but think today as someone who grew up in Boyle Heights, how much this train line is going to allow kids from Boyle Heights and East L.A. to explore other parts of the City. And visa versa. I like that idea. That we're not really connecting trains. We're connecting people.

Oscar de la Hoya Animo Green Dot Charter School, Welcome Home!

During my time as School Board President for LAUSD, Steve Barr of Green Dot Charter Schools approached me about building a charter high school in my district. I suggested Boyle Heights since the two local schools, Garfield and Roosevelt, were severely overcrowded and they needed relief. Along with pushing to get the Mendez Learning Center built, I knew this would be an opportunity to improve the educational future of our local students. Yesterday, I had the great pleasure to celebrate the opening of the Oscar de la Hoya Animo Green Dot Charter School. Green Dot has shown great commitment to the community of Boyle Heights . And Oscar de la Hoya, who grew up in East Los Angeles and proudly attended Garfield High School , demonstrated yet again that he is absolutely committed to giving back to his community. By donating the property that once held the Oscar De La Hoya Resurrection Gym, as well as giving $4.5 million to the project, Oscar De La Hoya has proven to be a champion in and out of the boxing ring. Before finding a permanent home in Boyle Heights , students and faculty of the charter school have had several temporary homes since the school’s opening in 2003. Despite less than ideal conditions, over the last three years, 72% of graduates have gone on to 4-year universities and the school is ranked 53 among the top 100 charter schools in the nation. With a new home, we all expect bigger and better things out of the students of Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter School. Go Boxers!
Photo Credit: Golden Boy Productions

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Boyle Heights Rec Center Soccer Fields in Full Use!

Also on Saturday, boys and girls’ soccer teams from El Sereno and Boyle Heights squared off for the unofficial 1st Annual soccer match at the new $2.2 million renovated Boyle Heights Sports Center. The Center is now the site of the first City-built synthetic soccer field on the Eastside. After construction on the project began, state funding was frozen due to the poor economy and I worked with the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Bureau of Engineering to find City loans to complete the project. From the $50 million Valley Boulevard Bridge, to the Metro Gold Line, to the Mendez Learning Center and the new Hollenbeck Police Station, to the Sports Center (just to name a few!), L.A.’s Eastside is enjoying a time of unprecedented public project improvements. I’m happy to have done my part to turn these dreams into reality. Congrats to all the boys and girls (and their families) for coming out to our fair yesterday and thanks to all our organizations, including representative from the 2010 Census for coming out and helping.

New LAPD Headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles

On Saturday, I joined LAPD Chief William Bratton, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and several of my colleagues on the City Council for the official opening of the police department’s new downtown headquarters, replacing the aging Parker Center. Located across from City Hall, the new headquarters is a stunning-looking building, with plenty of park space for people to enjoy. This week is also Chief Bratton’s last week on the job after 7 years at the helm of the department. During his tenure, crime has dropped in Los Angeles to the lowest mark per capita since the 1950s. He was very instrumental in helping the department engage more with the community and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for that.
Photo Credit:
Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times / October 24, 2009

Oxy's New President, Jonathan Veitch, Welcome!

I attended a breakfast yesterday morning for Jonathan Veitch before his inauguration as new Occidental College President. I first met Jonathan a few months ago and I knew then that he was a committed and dedicated leader. Located in Eagle Rock, Occidental has a reputation as an excellent liberal arts university (President Barack Obama was a student) and I know that Jonathan will be tremendous asset to the college, its faculty and, most importantly, to the students. Congratulations, Mr. Veitch!

Photo Credit: 1)President Veitch, courtesy Occidental Facebook Page
2) Council Staff

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

El Sereno Stallions Homecoming, 15 Years and Still Going Strong

On Sunday I was invited to the El Sereno Stallions Homecoming at Wilson High School. What a great event! The Stallions are celebrating 15 years in the El Sereno community under the direction of Jorge Hernandez. The commitment that the parents, coaches, football players and cheerleaders demonstrate is really inspiring. When I was a young boy, sports were always a part of my life. I wanted to be a baseball player and I was glad to see that Louie Moreno, who was my high school baseball coach, was the MC at the Stallions Homecoming. A big congratulations and thank you is in order to the Stallions head coaches, Joel Cuevas, Lionel Gonzalez, Robin Joseph Sr., Mario Zepeda, Bert Pere, Andy Carrillo and Art Garcia, as well as the many parents and family members who volunteer their time to teach these kids the importance of team spirit and sportsmanship. Playing sports and being involved allows students to be positive role models and teaches the value of hard work, commitment and friendship. Congratulation again to the players and the 2009 court! Great job!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Northeast LA LAPD Open House & Resource Fair , A Celebration of Community

On Saturday, I joined Captain Bill Murphy and the brave men and women of the Northeast Los Angeles Police Station for their Annual Open House and Resource Fair. The entire station was packed with people from the community, from seniors to tots, as well vendors serving up great local food. I believe Captain Murphy said they had well over 1,000 people in attendance. Everyday, LAPD officers risk their lives to protect our neighborhoods and communities. It’s important that we take the time to thank them and acknowledge them for all they do. Because of the commitment and hard work of the Northeast Division and the leadership of Captain Murphy, the Northeast has ranked 1st in crime reduction City-wide with homicides down 56 percent and violent crime down 10 percent. We know that accomplishments like these come to fruition by building strong community alliances. This Open House and Resource Fair provided a safe and fun environment where residents had the opportunity to meet police officers, take a tour of the station, and build the type of relationships that will help improve all our lives. Thank you to everyone who attended and to the many volunteers who made it all possible.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Grand Opening of Fire Station 4

Firestation #4, built in 1948 and servicing the historical areas of Chinatown, Little Tokyo and Olvera Street re-opened today with great community anticipation. Originally only 11,000 square feet, the new facility is now 40,000 square feet, fully Hazmat ready and fully LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. The station is part of the Public Safety Complex which includes the Emergency Operations Center, the Police Operations Center, the Fire Department’s Dispatch Center and the Emergency Management Department. All the firefighters at this station are specially trained to respond to a full spectrum of fire, medical and other emergencies. It is great to see that this newly redesigned facility also has the capability to serve as a grounds for training exercises and also houses multiple rescue ambulances. The men and women who serve with the Los Angeles Fire Department are brave, they risk their lives every day and as a Councilmember, I am honored to ensure they have the resources they need to assist the public.

USC Health and Wellness Fair

On Saturday I was joined by the Consul General of Mexico Juan Marcos Gutierrez Gonzalez and Sheriff Lee Baca at the USC Health and Wellness Community Fair at East Los Angeles Occupational Center. The USC Civic and Community Relations Health Sciences Campus presented the free fair to the community which included informational, health screenings and community booths. This event and partnership is important as it helps connect the resources at the USC Health Campus directly with members of the community. With the participation with the many organizations that partook in the fair, residents received medical services and information that they may otherwise not have access too. There are many things that we can do on a local level to ensure that people receive medical services. I look forward to continuing our partnership so that we can bring additional services to our community.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

LA’s Best & Sunrise Elementary Receive $10k

On Friday, I spent the afternoon with the kids at Sunrise Elementary School and the team of LA’s Best. Thanks to LA’s Best education and community partner, Target, LA’s BEST received a $10,000 grant which has allowed them to makeover libraries and install computers at 6 of their sites, including Sunrise Elementary in Boyle Heights. LA’s Best was also able to provide literacy kits and books to students at 29 other sites. To put it in perspective 4,000 students will directly benefit from this grant. At Sunrise, the library has been transformed with new furniture, new computers and even new artwork. It’s great to see that Sunrise continues to grow and provide such great resources for the kids.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Students at L.A. Central Learning Center #1 will Know Legacy of Robert Kennedy

Pictured: With the mothers that organized when I was on the school board to make sure a new school was built in the community.

This weekend I attended the Ribbon Cutting for two fine new schools built on the Ambassador Hotel site, one of the campuses I fought to get done while serving on the LAUSD school board. The campus is significant to me for two reasons. One, it was ground-zero in our mission to end overcrowding at schools that resulted in year-round calendars and bussing children out of their neighborhoods – both severe detriments to a quality education. And two, the Ambassador is the site of one of the saddest moments in our nation’s history: the 1968 assassination of Robert Kennedy, who at the time of his untimely death represented a new-found hope for change in this country. When complete, the Learning Center will have three separate school buildings for elementary, middle school, and high school students and all the schools will have a social justice philosophy to honor the legacy of Robert Kennedy. I think the final piece of the puzzle now is naming the school in Robert Kennedy’s honor, which I whole-heartedly support.
Enjoy these pictures of the event!

Fighting Graffiti on the L.A. River

On Thursday I joined Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Koontz from the Army Corps of Engineers on the Los Angeles River (near the Sixth Street Bridge) to remove gang graffiti from 100 miles of the flood control channel. We were also there to thank Sheriff’s Deputies for their work, which led to the arrests of some of the alleged taggers responsible for what many consider the largest tag in the U.S. The City of Los Angeles spends more than $10 million a year battling graffiti and I’m working on several solutions, including SB138, my plan authored with State Senator Carol Liu to raise the tax on spray paint cans and felt-tip markers to increase local graffiti funding; a multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency data-base to better track repeat offenders.

On a different perspective, beautifying the community has always been top priority of mine. With the help and recommendations of the residents, last year, the "Art Heals" mural in Ramona Gardens was completed. We made sure that this mural paid homage to our history. The City of Los Angeles has a great tradition of public street art, and preserving the many murals throughout my district and the city requires that we take pride in maintaining them free of vandalism.

Honoring a Great Man in El Sereno – Robert F. Saunders Parking Grove

It was a beautiful day Thursday morning when I was joined by 200 schoolchildren, teachers, community members and family and friends of Robert F. Saunders for a plaque dedication ceremony in honor of the beloved Farmdale Elementary School volunteer. Mr. Saunders, who passed away in 2008, was absolutely instrumental in working with me to pave over a dirt parking lot shared by families of Farmdale students and children who play sports at the adjacent El Sereno Park. I first heard about this troublesome parking lot – which blew loads of dust in the dry season and became dangerously muddy in the wet season – while I was on the LAUSD Board of Education. I discovered then that it was City property, so when I joined the City Council, I worked to find $410,000 in funding to finish this project, which includes new trees and a community garden. I want to thank Farmdale Principal, Teresita Saracho de Palma, and Mr. Saunders' family, who were on hand for the dedication, for their help in making this a reality. Robert Saunders is proof that one person really can make a difference and we all owe a debt of gratitude to him for never giving up on a dream.

City Council Reward Motion Leads to Arrest in Fatal Hit-and-Run in El Sereno

Recently I announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the August 3rd death of motorcyclist Federico Porras. The 29-year-old man, who was raised in City Terrace, was a loved brother and father of a 4-year-old daughter and his family and friends attended a press conference with police officials and me to plea for the public’s help. Within a week of that press conference, police received a tip that led to the arrest of the alleged driver who is now facing felony charges. While nothing can bring their brother back, the Porras family did convey their heartfelt thanks to all whose help led to this arrest, which should bring some closure to them. I want to thank LAPD Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz, Capt. Ron Marbrey and their fantastic detectives for their work on this case. I also want to remind drivers that they are required under law to render aid if they are involved in an auto collision and somebody is injured, regardless who is at fault. If they leave the scene of the crash, they could be facing felony charges.

Friday, October 2, 2009

11th Annual Eagle Rock Music Festival!

Join me and the Center for the Arts, Eagle Rock at the 11th Annual Music Festival! FREE! Tomorrow Saturday October 3rd from 4 p.m. - 11 p.m.

Bring your family and friends and enjoy an afternoon of great entertainment with more than 40 musical acts and great food!
Don’t worry about parking! We have a FREE parking and shuttle service at Eagle Rock Plaza on Colorado Blvd. between Eagle Rock Blvd. and Argus.

This is a great event the whole family can enjoy. See you there!

Donating Surplus Food to Establish a City Food Policy

Recently, I introduced legislation that would allow the City of Los Angeles to donate surplus food to food banks and non-profits. Earlier, I presented a resolution in support of State Senate Bill 35, which would establish a state-wide database linking food banks and non-profits with food service providers that want to donate surplus food. Both actions aim to help those who disperse food to the needy throughout the City of Los Angeles and to establish a comprehensive City food policy. According to Hunger Action L.A., approximately 30 percent of L.A. County families consider themselves “food insecure,” and with the current economic climate, many food banks are seeing increased need while experiencing a shortage in donations. There are many things that we can do to help others, this is only the first step. Read L.A. Times story HERE.
Photo by Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Bracero Workers Remembered at Placita Olvera

I recently co-presented a resolution in Council naming September 29 as "International Bracero Day" for the City of Los Angeles. My father was a Bracero worker during the 1950's and 60's and I truly believe it's important to recognize the contributions of so many families in our American history. There will be a FREE photography exhibit at the Mexican Cultural Institute Gallery at El Pueblo Cultural Monument titled "Recollections from Yesterday and Today of Ex-Braceros" now until Oct. 18. I encourage you to share and celebrate the history of the Bracero workers at El Pueblo, 125 Paseo de la Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Info: (323) 710-3696.