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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Southwest and Autry museum supporters head for an afternoon showdown *

* Update: The Board of Referred Powers postponed making a decision for three weeks to give the Autry Museum and Councilman Jose Huizar time to work on a binding agreement linking the expansion of the Autry in Griffith Park to the re-opening of the Southwest Museum on Mt. Washington.

The battle over the future of the Southwest Museum on Mt. Washington has been going on almost since the first day it was taken over in 2003 by the Autry National Center in Griffith Park. Many residents and organizations from Northeast Los Angeles have worried from the start that the 102-year-old Southwest Museum, which owns a treasure-trove of Native America artifacts, would lose its collection and its identity despite promises by the Autry to keep the Mt. Washington landmark open. This afternoon, before a city panel called the Board of Referred Powers, the Friends of the Southwest Museum will try to prevent the Autry from getting permission to expand its facility in Griffith Park as part of its effort to ensure that the Mt. Washington facility will remain an active museum.

Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents Mt. Washington, is "100 percent behind reopening the City’s oldest museum in its current Mt. Washington location," said spokesman Rick Coca. "The Southwest Museum belongs to the Mt. Washington community and the Councilmember strongly believes that’s where it should stay. Two years ago, Councilmember Huizar secured commitments from the Autry to renovate and restore the Southwest Museum in Mt. Washington and preserve its collection. He expects the Autry to honor those commitments."

The Autry and its supporters point out that the museum has so far invested $7.5 million in improvements and repairs to Southwest Museum. "While its vision for a new Southwest facility is not yet complete, the Autry has made substantial progress on its promises," the museum said in a review of its commitments.

Despite a vigorous campaign launched by the Autry's opponents, many sense that Board of Referred Powers will back its Griffith Park expansion plan today:

"It is a foregone conclusion that the board -- Janice Hahn, Ed Reyes, Tony Cardenas, Bill Rosendahl and Bernard Parks -- will green light the Autry's doubling its size and the Southwest Museum will get fixed up on the cheap and used as little more than classrooms," said Ron Kaye on his web site. "For all I've paid attention to the arguments on both sides, I can't understand why we can't have two wonderful museums dedicated to the artifacts and history of the Old West. The Southwest Museum's vast collection -- now owned by the Autry -- could sustain both museums as valuable community assets if there was the will and the money."

Fans of the Southwest Museum are not giving up. Not only have they launched an extensive campaign to raise awareness of today's vote, they have also arranged to bus in supporters for the 3 pm. hearing at City Hall.

Photo from Friends of the Southwest Museum web site

Monday, June 29, 2009

If you think finding a mate is hard, try attracting a supermarket

The folks behind the community web site for Hermon (What do you mean you've never heard of Hermon?) have launched a public appeal for a neighborhood supermarket to serve their tiny neighborhood tucked between Monterey Hills and South Pasadena. They have an empty, 24,000-square-foot building on Monterey Road already in mind. Here's the pitch:

"Single, hungry community seeking a fresh start with new, financially stable market chain willing to be the center of our life. LIKES: clean aisles and fresh produce, reasonable prices, and a willingness to adapt to a diverse clientele. DISLIKES: spending $25 million in food from stores in other neighborhoods, produce that's not fresh and delicious, aisles not packed with local residents."

If Hermon is also looking for a market mate named "Joe" the community better prepare itself for a lot of competition and rejection.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Was it a sumo match or just another Echo Park neighborhood council meeting?

Sumo fans might be offended about comparing their ancient sport to the modern day wrestling matches involving clashing egos and agendas at the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council. But alternate council member Luiza-Padilla Mavropolous claims that she was assaulted in Sumo-like fashion by the council president following a meeting at an Echo Park church:

"President Jose Sigala bellied me like a sumo wrestler causing me to lose balance, causing me to twist so I wouldn't fall ..."

Mavropolous also claims that council treasurer Francisco Torrero called her a "whore" during a heated argument. "He called me a whore. I'm no ones whore," she wrote in a complaint formed filed with the city's Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.

Backing Mavropolous in her case against Sigala is council member Augustin Cebada, a former Sigala ally who attracted attention early this year for his rants against Jews and Whites. If you want to hear more, and there is much more, about this incident, and other complaints filed by Mavropolous, Cebada and others, drop by tonight's meeting of the GEPENC Grievance Committee.

Photo by Dwasss76 via Flickr

Councilmen left to explain their support for an indicted anti-gang leader

The office of Councilman Ed Reyes gave Alex Sanchez $5,000 while Councilman Eric Garcetti praised Sanchez' nonprofit, Homies Unidos, as exactly what the city needed "to help eliminate its gang problem." Those expressions of support for Sanchez and his gang prevention program based near MacArthur Park now seem awkward at the very least after Sanchez was arrested on federal racketeering and conspiracy charges for his alleged role in a violent street gang.

Reyes was among those at City Hall who expressed shock at the federal indictments that were part of an investigation into the MS-13 street gang. The councilman, whose district extends from Highland Park to MacArthur Park, told the LA Times his office gave Homies Unidos $5,000 in 2007 for a youth soccer program.

"The organization filled a void and addressed the needs of youngsters," Reyes told The Times. "We are all disappointed to see this kind of occurrence amid all these challenges. My heart goes out to the kids and families that worked with him in the past.”

Federal prosecutors must still prove their case against Sanchez and the others who were indicted. It's not clear what this all means for Homies Unidos and its programs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Is Ed Reyes chasing the vegan vote? *

The councilman of District 1 is not a vegan. So, why is the apparently carnivorous councilman hosting what is being called the city's first official Vegan Bake Sale on Thursday afternoon at City Hall? While the worldwide event is focused on promoting animal-free foods, each individual bake sale can be tailored to other environmental or related causes. As a result, funds from Reyes' Vegan Bake sale will go to a group of students who are part of the effort to clean the Los Angeles River, one of the councilman's favorite projects.

"As someone who cares about the environment and worked on the L.A. River renewal, it's hard to ignore such strong evidence showing how profoundly we can impact our own environment, particularly as it relates to water scarcity, simply by adjusting our diets," said Reyes in a statement. " I'd be hypocritical to preach a vegan diet, but for someone like myself and others who are not vegan, I think it’s important that we at least understand all of our options when it comes to protecting our natural resources."

The Eastsider is not clear on the connection between a vegan diet and water scarcity.* But what's totally understandable is Reyes' fondness for his favorite vegan treat: sweet tamales.

* Update: Monica Valencia with the Councilman's staff explains why diet and water supply are connected:

"By water scarcity, the Councilman was pointing to literature he had read about the environmental benefits, including saving water, of a plant-based diet. He was referring to studies comparing the amount of water (between 2,500 and 5,000 gallons) it takes to produce one pound of meat compared to the 25 gallons it takes to produce a pound of wheat.

Water conservation, the L.A. River, as well as the health matters (he has publically spoken about diabetes in the Latino community and in his family) are very personal to him, and just a few of the reasons why he supports the vegan bake sale."

The sale, by the way, raised more than $500 for the Los Angeles River Keepers, Valencia said.

Photo from the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale web site.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Glassell Park NC considers a code of conduct *

The Glassell Park Neighborhood Council will discuss a code of conduct for the board as part of its regular stakeholders meeting on Tuesday night. Also on the agenda are recommendations to donate $1,000 to a Drew Street Block party, to mark the one-year-anniversary of giant gang raid, and $6,000 for the Santa Cecilia Orchestra.

* P.S.: A reader notes that professional conduct has been a sore point with the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council. In May, the council heard a grievance filed by a founding board member named Bradley against Chair Tony Butka for "allowing chaos and prolonging meetings" and a separate grievance against board member Paula Bagasao for sending out cease-and-desist letters to three board members.

Will Councilman Ed Reyes burnout on pot clinics?

The City Council finally got around to closing a loophole that permitted hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries to open despite a city moratorium. Now, comes the tough part. The City Council must now finally wade through the 665 applications from pot clinics seeking to be exempted from the moratorium, reports the LA Times. The review of those applications includes a public hearing before the council's Planning & Land Use committee that could last anywhere from 2 to 3 hours each, said committee chair Councilman Ed Reyes.

"I feel like the guy with the finger on the dam. It's all cracking. I've got to stay focused and not panic."

Photo by Neeta Lind via flickr

Friday, June 19, 2009

Eric Garcetti - still not 40

The Echo Park resident and 13th District Councilman was honored by the New Leaders Council in its annual 40 Under 40 Awards honoring those who "exemplify the spirit of progressive political entrepreneurship." (h/k Fishbowl LA) So, how old is Garcetti? Well, if you have not been eligible for this award in several years, you may not want to hear this: The President of the Los Angeles City Council turned 38 on February 4.

Photo from Fishbowl LA

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Neighborhood council turns the Gold Line into an advertising vehicle

The Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council, which includes Mt. Washington and Montecito Heights, has launched a new outreach campaign featuring ads placed on Metro Gold Line trains, according to CityWatch. The posters for the the "Make A Difference" campaign were created by a local artist and encourage residents to get involved: “Build a community garden. Prepare for an emergency. Support the arts. Hold a festival. Preserve local history. Pay for a school program. Make a difference. Have fun.”

The story did not say how much the posters and ad space on the trains, which carry about 40,000 people daily, cost. However, a Mika Color, a printing company in Hermon, provided a discount on printing and the firm responsible for selling ad space on the trains helped the neighborhood council to "make ends meet."

Photo from the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council website.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Can Eric Garcetti get those council meetings under control?

Echo Park resident and Councilman Eric Garcetti wants to serve another term as President of the City Council, reports the Daily News. While Garcettti seems to get along fine with the Mayor and many of his fellow council members, his one major drawback seems to be keeping the very same meetings he presides over on schedule:

"If there has been a criticism of Garcetti, it is how City Council meetings have run longer and longer - with no time limits on discussions and little control over the number of ceremonial events the council engages in. Garcetti said he is aware of the complaints and hopes to implement some changes."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Councilman Huizar drums up support ... in Sierra Madre?

The Pasadena Star News reports that San Gabriel Valley leaders will hold a "meet and greet" and fundraiser for Eastside Councilman Jose Huizar in Sierra Madre later this month. Why would these folks want to support this "rising star" who lives outside their area? Well, Huizar's recent appointment to the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority certainly has a lot to do with it. The invitation to the event at the home of Henry Nunez reads:

"Yes ... I know that you may not live in the City of Los Angeles," Nunez writes to "Dear Friends and Associates," "but there are many issues that affect our entire region."

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

City blinks in stand off with school district over Echo Park street closure

It looks like the Los Angeles Unified School District will get its way and take over a block-long stretch of Marathon Street west of Alvarado to build a new elementary school. Signs posted near the site say the street will be closed permanently to traffic beginning June 5. School district board member Yolie Flores Aguilar and Councilman Eric Garcetti had been at odds over the street closure, with Garcetti seeking a smaller school and a better design campus before agreeing to give up the street.

"Although he never felt this was the best location for a school, Council President Garcetti believes that through working with the school district and the community, the plans for this school have changed from being something out of scale with the neighborhood and with its back to the street into a model school, making the best out of a site that is not ideal for a school," read a statement issued by the council office. (read the complete statement).

Shutting down Marathon Street removes the last major hurdle to build the new elementary school after years of delays and legal battles with residents and property owners, who were forced to sell under the threat of eminent domain. Opponents of Site 9A said that building the new school did not make sense in light of a steep and steady drop in enrollment, allowing most nearby schools have to return to traditional semester schedules. In fact, a charter school will lease empty classrooms at nearby Logan Street Elementary School and Belmont High School will add middle school grades to take advantage of unused space.

* This post had been updated with Garcetti's statement.