Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Donating Surplus Food – the new Recycling in City of L.A.

Today, we took an important step in changing the way all of us in the City of Los Angeles view surplus food – food that is otherwise consumable but often thrown out. The City Council voted unanimously today to support legislation that I crafted with the help of Hunger Action Los Angeles to have our City departments develop policy to donate surplus food to needy food banks and pantries.

I want Angelenos to view surplus food the same way they view recycling.

With nearly 1 million Los Angeles County residents needing emergency food services amid increasing demand due to a tough economy, the time is now for the City of Los Angeles to ensure that we are doing all we can to make sure good, consumable food ends up on plates and not in dumpsters.

Part of my legislation also called for our Information Technology Agency to implement a database of food banks and pantries, which is now available through the City’s 311 service. The City’s CRA is working with Hunger Action L.A. on literature to give to restaurants and businesses telling them about how they can donate their surplus food. I’d like to see a campaign developed where we create signs that businesses can put in their windows saying they are proud participants of this worthy program.

Special thanks to all those who showed their support for this action, including Councilmember Paul Koretz, who seconded my motion; Hunger Action Los Angeles; the City's Information Technology Agency; Union Rescue Mission; The Los Angeles Regional Foodbank; Jewish Family Services SOVA Community Food & Resource Program; Mazon; The Jewish Federation, Food Finders and others.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Highlighting the City’s First Weather Station in Mt. Washington

Mt. Washington Weather Station

I joined my colleague Ed Reyes and City/County Fire Department leaders and Mt. Washington residents this past Friday to raise awareness about the City’s first Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS), located in Mt. Washington. The weather station, which relays frequently updated weather information via satellite, will enable the National Weather Service, working with City and County fire agencies, to better determine when the need arises for Red Flag Warnings in Mt. Washington and the surrounding region. Councilmember Reyes and I contributed about $7,700 of discretionary funds apiece to pay for the new system that now gives the National Weather Service more accurate information and cut back on Red Flag warning days—which require costly personnel preparation by fire departments and the removal of automobiles from affected hillside communities.

Perhaps most importantly, the Mt. Washington Weather Station will ensure that when a Red Flag warning is issued for the area, residents should heed those warnings. I want to give special thanks to all the partners who collaborated on this project: the Los Angeles City and County fire officials, who worked together to get the system operational; the National Weather Service; and Mt. Washington community members such as Chris Howard and Arline De Sanctis, who made their voices heard on this very important issue.

Click here to see up-to-the-minute weather updates for the Mt. Washington RAWS location. Below is footage of from the press conference highlighting the City’s first weather station in Mt Washington.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Another Positive Step Toward a Boyle Heights' Civic Center

Ben Franklin Library Ribbon Cutting

Today was another positive step forward in my plan to create a mini-civic center for Boyle Heights. After just four months of work, we celebrated the completion of the Benjamin Franklin Branch Library Beautification Project at the Southeast corner of First and Chicago.

My main purpose for the beautification project was to tear down a large fortress-like iron fence that previously surrounded the library, which sent the wrong message to our community. Libraries need to be inviting, particularly to our young people.

The fence said: “Keep out,” and was not at all fitting with the overall improvements on the other three corners of that intersection, which include the new Hollenbeck Police Station; a beautiful pocket-park in honor of Mr. Boyle Heights, the late-great Ross Valencia, and my Boyle Heights District Office housed in the Chicago Building, which is currently being renovated.

I am working on making the Chicago Building a one-stop civic service center for Boyle Heights constituents and hope to house city departments and non-profits there, as well as my office, so people can take care of all their needs in one place.

I want to thank the CRA for today’s $175,000 library improvements, which also included landscaping plants that match those at the Hollenbeck Police Station, as well as a new concrete walk way for better public access, new library signs to better identify the library, new bike racks, more lighting improvements for safety, trees and a new irrigation system for beautification.

Click here to listen to a KPCC report on today’s event.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

City’s First Completely Green Solar Paneled Park in Boyle Heights

In an effort to bring green resources to our City, I joined with Rec & Parks GM Jon Mukri and City Engineer Gary Lee Moore today to announce that Pecan Park in Boyle Heights has received solar panels, which were installed over the newly renovated outdoor basketball court pavilion and will enable the park to go completely off of the City’s electrical grid. This is a major and significant step in helping the City turn to cleaner and greener energy and I will work with my colleagues to ensure that this is the first of many such solar-paneled parks. The new panels will generate enough energy to power 22 homes and will in fact create more energy than the park needs, with the extra energy going to back to the grid system at a lower cost. We also announced several Prop K improvements at the park including new outdoor basketball court backboards, floor stripes and lighting improvements. The solar panels were installed on top of the basketball pavilion this year. In 2009, a new playground structure was completed – previously we opened a new gymnasium at the park. Thanks to Park Director Jose Lopez, all the kids who came out, Sean Rooks and the Clippers who hosted a basketball clinic, and retired parks employee Harry Surmenian, who the solar panels are named after.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ramon Garcia Park Gets a $400,000 Facelift in Time for Summer Program

Ramon Garcia Park SNL Ribbon Cutting

Proud to announce that Ramon Garcia Park, which is part of the Summer Night Lights anti-gang youth program that got under way Wednesday, has received some significant upgrades. Working with Rec and Parks and the Bureau of Engineering, I helped bring $400,000 in improvements to the park, including newly resurfaced outdoor and indoor basketball courts; new basketball court backboards; a new state-of-the-art baseball scoreboard; new grills and bleachers; a newly resurfaced parking lot; a newly resurfaced concrete walk way around the childcare center, and an additional shade structure and improved lighting, which will make it easier to participate in activities while creating a safer environment for kids to play in. The funding was through Prop K and is part of my effort to improve parks throughout my district, which has led to millions of dollars in improvements since I’ve taken office. There’s definitely more to come!

Sign of History Back up at El Pueblo

Yesterday morning Councilmember LaBonge and I had the pleasure to honor Vicente Sanchez, one of early Los Angeles’ most important citizens, when we unveiled a “Sanchez Street” sign at El Pueblo. We were joined by 90-year-old Jack Sanchez, Vicente Sanchez’ great-great nephew, as well as Jack’s son Greg and a host of family members. Sanchez street was opened in the 1860s and runs from Arcadia Street to the south end of El Pueblo, ending in front of the Pico House. Vicente Sanchez was a “Californio” and mayor of Los Angeles in 1831 and his adobe home was the first two-story structure built at El Pueblo and was later used to swear in Manuel Micheltorena as the governor of Alta California in 1842. Jack Sanchez used to take family members to El Pueblo to see the sign named in their descendant’s honor, but on one trip discovered that the sign had disappeared. Councilmember LaBonge brought this to my attention after L.A. Times columnist Hector Tobar chronicled the story and the rest as they say, is history. And in the City of Los Angeles, history matters. Councilmember LaBonge and I created legislation to replace the sign and are also asking the El Pueblo Commission to create a permanent marker to share with visitors the importance of the Sanchez name. Congratulations to the Sanchez family and thanks to the El Pueblo Commission, GM Robert Andrade, the merchants, Department of Transportation (for putting the sign up) and everyone who came out for this great event including our fantastic "musicos."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday America


Today, all over the United States, we celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 with parades, barbeques, concerts, baseball games, and fireworks. We honor our nation’s heritage, laws, history, society, and its people. It warmed my heart to see so many families and young faces yesterday in El Sereno during the parade as well as on Friday for the Boyle Heights fireworks show. I hope you will join me later today for the Eagle Rock 4th of July Concert & Fireworks Show

Happy 4th of July!

Eagle Rock 4th of July Concert and Fireworks Show

o Sunday, July 4th @ Eagle Rock Park, 1100 Eagle Vista Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90041
o Concert begins at 4 p.m.
o Fireworks @ 8:30 p.m.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Council Adopts My Proposal to Put DWP, Port of LA and LAWA Budgets Online


As part of my work on more transparent government, I introduced a motion calling for all of our proprietary departments — the Department of Water & Power (DWP), the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) and the Port of Los Angeles (Harbor Department) — to put their budgets online. You can click here for the motion as well as see it on the City home page (fourth item from the top under Los Angeles Highlights).

In these tough economic times it is critical that our departments share budgetary information with stakeholders so we can all have a robust conversation about priorities and resource allocation, particularly with DWP asking for a 4% to 6% water increase. This comes on top of a 4.5% power increase after a particularly contentious battle with the DWP.

I am pleased to announce that the Harbor Department and the DWP have already put their budgets on the news section of the City home page. I expect LAWA to soon follow suit.

First to call for “Ratepayers' Advocate”

I was also the first Councilperson to call for the creation of an outside, independent official to review DWP proposals for water and power increases in order to create more transparency and to help reduce the chances of unnecessary rate increases. The idea has caught on and is now being referred to as a Ratepayers' Advocate. This position would be modeled after the Fire Department's Independent Assessor, which I helped create, and would be led by an expert in water and energy issues. I am working with my colleagues to determine how best to structure this position and plan to place a measure before voters in next March's elections to make it a reality.