City urges Los Angeles residents to vote in run-off election

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image In any form of democracy, voting in elections is paramount.

That’s the message Los Angeles’ city clerk June Lagmay had Thursday at a media event promoting next month’s run-off election for two municipal seats in District No.5.

The May 17 election will pit Bennett Kayser and Luis Sanchez for a seat on the district’s board of education and Lydia A. Gutierrez against Scott Svonkin for a seat on the board of trustees.

“The right to vote is precious,” Lagmay said. “We see that more and more as we watch CNN and see those countries that don’t have the ability to vote.”

While she admits positions on boards of education and trustees lack the notoriety of a mayor or council member seat, their role is no less important.

“The school board and the community college districts are those municipal entities that set policy for our kids and for our young people as they pursue their careers,” Lagmay said. “It isn’t any less valid than voting for mayor, city council, city attorney or whatever.”

As has been the case since 2007, there will be three different voting options depending on voter preference: the scan-based InkaVote — which prevents invalid or blank ballots — the audio ballot booth geared toward the visually impaired and those who are not primarily-English Speakers and the vote by mail option — which will require voters to turn their ballots in by May 10.

Lagmay says the vote by mail option is becoming more and more popular despite recent technology.

“What we are noticing is more a trend toward vote by mail and even more impressively folks that wish to be permanently vote by mail voters,” Lagmay said. “So they sign up once and automatically get to vote every time.”

Currently, the city’s election division has 6,200 people signed up to volunteer at precincts for the May 17 election.

Lawmakers stand against whooping cough outbreak

A new threat has made its way through the California school system, and it’s not your typical influenza.

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image Los Angeles County’s Director of Public Health, Jonathan Fielding, says the real scare is whooping cough or, more commonly known, pertussis.

“We’re in the middle of a very substantial pertussis epidemic,” Fielding said at a news conference regarding the new law. “We have more cases now than we have ever had since 1947.”

In 2010 alone, 8,000 cases were reported, including four deaths among infants. To thwart the outbreak once and for all, state lawmakers have passed a new law requiring all children between the 7th and 12th grades to show proof that they received their whooping cough booster shot, called Tdap, after the age of seven.

The law will go into effect July 1st.

Fielding hopes parents who usually keep their kids away from vaccinations for personal beliefs will recognize how serious whooping cough really is.

“It’s very important that everybody be immunized, and we would expect and hope that all parents will want to protect their children and protect others in their community by making sure their children are up to date with their immunizations,” Fielding said.

Rebecca Crane, a pediatrician and internal medicine specialist at Kaiser Permanente, believes vaccination and not medication is the best form of prevention against the bacterial disease.

“Even if you are diagnosed with pertussis, there’s not a medicine you can get to end your symptoms and to end your contagiousness,” Crane said.

While the new state law will require every student to have the vaccination after age seven, Crane emphasized that people should get it again after they have they have turned 18 years old. Along with pertussis, the Tdap vaccination also covers vaccinations for dptheria and tetanus.

Los Angeles Police Department offers large reward in couple’s murder

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In the early morning hours of August 4, Jerriell and Sulema Wilborn were driving near the intersection of Slauson Avenue and Main Street. As they pulled through the intersection, the couple was shot multiple times by gunfire coming from outside of their car.

To avoid further shots, 51-year-old Sulema Wilborn accelerated the car forward until she lost control, crashing into a nearby pole on the freeway off ramp in South Park. At 3:43 a.m., just minutes later, officials at the scene announced the couple had died.

image The Wilborns were well-known in South Los Angeles, as Sulema was a long-time activist who worked for celebrity lawyer Thomas Mesereau’s legal clinic and 49-year-old Jerriell worked with The Wrecking Crew Church’s community outreach program.

“If something happened, she was always there,” said Sulema’s daughter Ursila Ventura, reflecting on her mother’s death. “I could call her on anything, from the smallest to the biggest thing.”

After seven months, Los Angeles Police Department investigators David Torres and Louie Calzadillas have not found any suspects connected with the case. Family members have tried to come to peace with the loss of the couple.

“My uncle never had any enemies because he was a straight-forward person,” Jerriell’s niece Trisha Wilborn said. “People loved him, different cultures loved him.”

“We know where she is at even if it doesn’t take away what was done,” Christina Reyes, daughter of Sulemma, said. “I pray that whoever, whether you are one person or three people, will not have any peace.”

With the help of the Los Angeles City Council and Councilwoman Jan Perry, the police department announced today that a $75,000 reward would be offered to anyone with information leading to the identification and apprehension of any suspects in the case.

It is unclear whether the double-homicide was gang-motivated, but officials believe fear could be a factor as to why the community has not come forward with new information.

“The reason we are putting [the reward] out now is because we have been trying to work with as much information as we do have,” Calzadillas said. “We are putting it out to the community, and hopefully they will come forward with some more information to help us with the investigation.”

The hefty reward will be in effect for the next six months following today’s announcement.

Historic South Los Angeles neighborhood breaks ground on new housing project

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University of Southern California alum and renowned Los Angeles architect Paul Williams had a dream for the African-American community around the historic 28th Street district in South Los Angeles.

Williams, the first practicing African American architect west of the Mississippi River, built a YMCA in 1927 that would provide housing and basic social needs for young African American men starting out in the city.

Over the past 80 years, while Williams’ intricate Spanish architecture has remained the signature of the community’s aging center, the late architect’s vision has slowly withered away.

After his death in 1980, the YMCA discontinued providing housing for low-income residents and, in effect, the community around the district began to struggle socially and economically.

Today, though, with the help of Councilwoman Jan Perry, Clifford Beers Housing and the Coalition Responsible Community Development organization, Williams’ YMCA is getting a breath of new life, as ground was broken to begin construction on a new housing project inside the building.

“It’s almost as if he [Williams] is here with us today,” Perry said. “His life touched our lives in so many ways, and that still continues to resonate.”

The project will provide the surrounding community with 49 new apartment spaces aimed at helping low-income residents, mental health patients and emancipated youth.

Perry believes it is the first step in creating a sense of stability in the neighborhood.

“We just need to be able to help people live stable lives,” said Perry. “If we stabilize the people who are in the greatest need, we actually life up the entire community.”

Although the YMCA has teamed up with organizations in the community like Youth Build to promote education, job training and healthy lifestyle choices, members like 19-year-old Joe Serrano believes the new plans help to fulfill an even greater need with the area’s children.

“Today means a lot to the community because there are a lot of people with no homes out there, no where to go and no where to live,” Serrano said. “This is something that is needed in our community.”

The new 28th Street Apartments are set to be unveiled to the community in June 2012.

More stories on housing in South Los Angeles:

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City Planning postpones ruling on luxury apartment complex

Plaza breaks ground in South Los Angeles

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For 13 years, Bishop Charles Blake of the West Angeles Church of God had a vision for the community around the Crenshaw Corridor. His vision was to revitalize the neighborhood with new retail and commercial real estate, something unseen in the past five decades.

While Blake admits his plans for the West Angeles Plaza were on-again and then off-again for the majority of the last decade, with the help of Councilman Herb Wesson of District 10 and the West Angeles Community Development Corporation, today’s groundbreaking ceremony finally came to fruition.

“[West Angeles Plaza] is an entity that could translate the neighborhood’s desire for safe, attractive venues that offer high quality goods and services,” Blake said. “Finally bringing that dream into reality.”

The plaza that is estimated to cost the CDC more than $10 million will be a 45,000 square-foot building that will offer both retail and office space. Among the firsts to partner with the CDC as anchor tenants in the plaza are Union Bank and the Fresh and Easy grocery store.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was on-hand for the event, and feels that today’s ceremony marks the beginning of a necessary development project around the Crenshaw Corridor.

“This isn’t about re-development it’s about smart development,” Villaraigosa said. “One that will create jobs. One that is accessible to public transit. One that will help to re-vitalize the Crenshaw Corridor in South Los Angeles.”

Councilman Wesson insisted that the construction of plaza is the first of main projects in the neighborhood.

“This is just the beginning, this is not the end,” Wesson said.

Among the projects Wesson announced at the ceremony, included a 546-million dollar transit line that will run from the West Angeles Project all the way to LAX. It’s only one small step in Blake’s vision, but one very large step for the community.

More stories on the Crenshaw Corridor:

Redevelopment Hell

Light rail line raises concerns in local city

Crenshaw Corridor transportation debate continues